Biblical Womanhood

With Love, Your Single Daughter

This is a beautiful and personal piece on embracing the gospel as a single woman, by Rachel Dinkledine. I was moved by it, struck by it, encouraged by it, and I hope you are too.
"There are more than enough 'Why Singles are Marginalized in the Church' articles floating around cyberspace. My aim is not to add to their number. By God’s grace, there are also many pastoral and theologically-sound resources on singleness. My aim is not to improve upon these (I don’t think I can!). So what is this article all about?

Whether you are single or married, your theology of singleness will profoundly influence the life of the church. Instead of writing a five-point essay defending this statement, I submit to you a letter, a letter inspired from the experiences of many godly single women, from 20-somethings to 70-somethings. While the letter is written to parents, most aspects can be profitably read as addressed to a congregation from a single sister. May the Lord use this to propel you to develop and live out a biblical theology of singleness."

Why Does My Husband Get to Be the Leader?

I highly enjoyed this excerpt from Barbara Rainey's book (Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife) that was posted this morning on True Woman. Barbara answers this question: 


You're good at letting Dad take the lead and you being the helper. But I'm not. I feel like I know better than my husband does. How come he gets to be the deciding factor? Sometimes I think the whole man as leader thing is more than a tad old-fashioned. Women today are working as hard as men, competing in the marketplace, contributing just as they are. What's up with marriage? Why are we supposed to come home and be the "little woman"?

Dearest Daughter,

Okay, prepare for a blunt answer to such a blunt question!

To add a little perspective, women have worked as hard as men since time began—unless they were born into the nobility at Downton Abbey. Your great grandmother worked hard on the farm with conditions that would make all of us wilt—no air-conditioning or appliances for starters.

She grew and canned all their food, sewed their clothes, served a very bitter father-in-law who lived with them, and took in ironing to help make ends meet. So keep in mind that your generation of career-minded women isn't the first to seek balance in work and marriage.

Follow me with a music analogy that I'll use to help explain. When your dad and I got married, I was eager to begin making beautiful music in my marriage. I wanted to play my part well to harmonize with him. I knew helper was the title of my sheet of music, but what did that mean? Other than cooking and doing our combined laundry, I couldn't think of many helpful tasks, which for me—a task-oriented woman—was my approach. Honestly, I had no idea what helper really meant.

The only way to figure it out is to go back to the original score in Genesis.

Of Sin, Self-Deprecation, and Vulnerability

My first job interview was for a small children's clothing boutique in my local mall. Few things do I remember so distinctly about that interview as the manager telling me this: "Everyone loves shopping for kids. It's not like a clothing store for women where you hear, 'I'm so fat,' 'I'm so ugly.' No, seriously. Everybody loves shopping for kids." At the time I just smiled and said, "Sure," because, theoretically, I got what she was saying.

And then I started working at a women's clothing store and everything changed. No longer merely conceptual, self-deprecation became a part of my everyday world. Every shift I hear it.

"This makes my arms look fat."

"I would look good in this if I just lost twenty pounds."

"I've gone up a size and I hate myself." 

Especially during and after the guilty pleasures of Christmas and Valentine's Day, the self-deprecating talk becomes more prevalent.

What breeds this is insecurity, a universal parasite that invades every woman's life in some shape or form, something that makes her lash out in defense. But as I reflected upon this, I realized that I have equally heard Christian women (and men) speak self-deprecatingly, whether it's about their looks, their actions, their attitudes, or a dozen other things - myself included. And I have to come to see that it looks both out of place and ugly on them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I believe it is sin.

Self-deprecation is a form of false humility. Some people harp on themselves just for the sheer pleasure of hearing you contradict them. But others don't realize that this sort of talk draws prideful attention to the speaker.

Furthermore, it makes others feel awkward! I can't count the amount of times I've not known how to respond to self deprecation. Do I make a joke? Offer sympathy?

But self-deprecation is also a defense against vulnerability, a thin veneer over our insecurity, something that is equally important to recognize. We think that if we're open and talkative about our flaws that it somehow makes us invincible to the pain they cause us. But this is a dangerous and unhealthy way for the Christian to manage her fears and struggles. Self-deprecation is a form of pride, but at its root lies a need for godly wisdom on how to deal with our insecurity and shame.

So open up the conversation. We can all be guilty of craving attention and succumbing to the shame of insecurity. Repent and be honest. Seek out godly mentors. Talk to your pastor. Most importantly, bury yourself in the Word.

For the follower of Christ, we have been freed from the bondage of self-belittlement and loathing. We have been deemed worthy because of the blood of Christ. He has made us His. That should cause us to bask in humility.

And that will make us beautiful.

Five Red Flags to Watch for in YA Christian Romance Fiction

This is one of the most beneficial, edifying, and interesting articles I have read in a while.

Janie B. Cheaney:

I remember when Jeanette Oke and “deliverance” stories were about the only options teenage girls had if they wanted to read some Christian romance. The inventory has greatly expanded and almost every secular literary genre now has its Christian counterpart, especially for girls. Does she like historical, cozy mystery, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, lighthearted chick-lit (all with a romantic angle)? Chances are, Zondervan, Bethany House, Tyndale, or Thomas Nelson has published a title for it. Since the explosion of faith-based novels in the 1980s, writing quality has improved, and the plotlines are more realistic and relatable. 
Still, there are certain problems in the overall category that are difficult to grasp, much less overcome. When you think about it, “Christian fiction” is itself something of an oxymoron, splicing absolute truth with an art form that stops being art as soon as it starts stating absolutes. And if fiction is not allowed to preach (which it isn’t), what “Christian values” can it communicate, especially in an area that the secular world gets so wrong (i.e., love)? With the best of intentions, faith-based fiction can even communicate some un-Christian values. 
Before I get to that, let’s think about why we reach for books in the library stacks that are labeled with a fish or a cross (or why we steer our teenagers in that direction).

The Perverted Madness That is 50 Shades of Grey

The trailer's out and it's a little over a week until it hits theatres. 50 Shades of Grey has been hailed as "Mommy porn," and after leaping onto bestseller lists has now made its way onto the silver screen. The depravity in these books (and presumably in the movie) is expressed in manifold ways, particularly in its positive portrayal of the degradation and despicable abuse of women. It is bitterly misogynistic.

Two very helpful articles have recently come to my attention that give a needed Christian perspective on these books (and the forthcoming movie). Though most Christians, doubtlessly, will not see the movie, it is making a cultural splash and we need to perceive its meaning so we can assess the ripple effects.

The first article is by Tim Challies (co-written with Helen Thorne), titled simply, "7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Grey." Challies and Thorne write:

The trailer is smoldering temptingly on computers around the globe. Fans of the book are checking their diaries and booking tickets online. Reviewers are readying their pens and preparing their remarks. In just a few short days 50 Shades of Grey will hit the big screen, just in time for Valentine’s Day. 
On one level, this is just another in a long line of films with a storyline that portrays sex and relationships in ways far removed from God’s design. But it is so much more than that. I believe that 50 Shades of Grey can serve as a kind of cultural barometer that alerts us to the colossal changes that have been occurring in recent years, and to the consequences they bring. 
So what can the 50 Shades phenomenon teach us today?

Read the rest here. 

The second article is by Douglas Wilson for Huffington Post, called "Fifty Shades of Prey." Here he highlights what 50 Shades means for women and how it is just another part of a cultural movement that is reshaping how women see themselves. He hearkens back to another literary (and later, big screen) phenomenon: Twilight. 

Now as many know, the publishing phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan fiction. This is no accident at all. The train not only leaves one station, but it usually arrives at the next one. The two publishing phenomena are using the same basic device -- women who learn to view themselves as prey. And it's working (like crazy) this time around as well.

Read the rest here. 

And pray for those ensconced in the darkness of abuse and the mires of depravity and pray that God would use the darkness of 50 Shades of Grey to make people see sin for what it is. And pray that Christians would stand up and shine the light of redemption into this dark, desperate world.

The Intangible Lure of the Forbidden

Ever since we were toddlers we have known the lure of the forbidden, that intangible enticement to a thing we are not supposed to have. It started with a cookie or your brother's blocks. But really, the lure of the forbidden started long before that.

It started with Eve and the twisted words of a snake. You know you want to eat from the tree; it's the one thing you can't have. God had given Adam and Eve freedom and domain over every other tree in the Garden of Eden. There was only one tree they were not allowed to eat from: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Immediately, this tree became desirable and Satan knew it, and he used that to tempt Eve to disobedience.

There is an intangible lure to the forbidden.

And this clicks lock and key into our sin natures. As human beings we are born with hearts intent on evil, natures fastidiously prideful. We are captains of our own destinies. Do not tell us what to do - or, more accurately, what not to do.

We are drawn to the forbidden because we don't think it should be forbidden. We don't like to think that someone else knows better than us. Something forbidden appeals to our vanity and arrogance.

Eve's obedience toppled under the pressure of the lure of the forbidden and the promise of fulfilled desire. It was a strong pull but she didn't have to give in.

As Christians we are daily tempted by the forbidden - the seemingly easy, cheap, pleasurable opportunities of cheating, fudging the truth, keeping the extra change, viewing pornography, wasting time, speeding, listening to that song with lyrics black and ugly but a tune overtly catchy, overeating, avoiding our devotions, pirating the movie everyone's talking about, sinning.

But Eve's story did not end well. She got what was forbidden all right, but then she realized why it was forbidden. Suddenly crushed under the weight of sin, perfect communion with God was shattered, healthy community with man was splintered, and she and Adam were banished from the garden. Tasting the forbidden has consequences. There's a reason that it's forbidden.

So when you feel the intangible lure, the enticing pull, think of the reality of the result. Think of the pain that sin causes and realize that what has been forbidden for Christians is for our good and for God's glory. And rejoice in that.

My Friend, the Perfectionist

I'd like you to meet my friend. I know her very well. She's nice and has a nearly implacable public aura. She's also a perfectionist and rather proud of it. She often thinks to herself (while rarely saying out loud) that perfectionism is a condition of the over-achiever, a singularity of the assiduous. She has come to think of perfectionism as an advantage, not a foible.

But I think she's lost her way. Her perfectionism is not an attention to detail and a drive to do her best for a worthy reason. Oh, she's deceived herself to think that this is the case, that perfectionism is making her a better student, person, and Christian. She thinks that as long as she thanks God for her A's and the praise that others give her that her perfectionism is somehow glorifying to Him.

She doesn't realize that her perfectionism is all about her. It's about feeding her pride and crafting an image. Really, it's not about striving to be perfect; it's about striving to look perfect and have others think of her as perfect. She's a perfectionist and a people-pleaser, a man-fearer, not a God-fearer. She's obsessed with image and wanting to feel good about herself. She is proud.

Like I said, I think she's lost her way.

Maybe you know someone like her. Maybe you are her. What my friend needs to know today is that masquerading perfectionism as a noble character trait is deception; perfectionism is sin. Surely paying attention to detail and striving to do our best for the glory of God is not sin. That is a careful Christian's virtue. Perfectionism is a drive to look perfect, a vice of arrogance.

The perfectionist has no time for the beauty of grace. As Hayley DiMarco writes,

The perfectionist has no time for grace, and in the path of perfectionism lies battered relationships that experience the prideful wrath of the moments when perfection fails.

But know today that there is also freedom from the pressures of perfectionism's chains. That freedom comes in humility and submission and repentance, an active acknowledgement of self-reliance and pride and a confession of man-fearing over God-exaltation. Furthermore, it comes through a pursuit of gentleness and worship of the only perfect Being. DiMarco again:

Gentleness carries with it a sober understanding of who we are, broken and frail, fallen and unrighteous. It agrees with God and can claim that only Christ is perfect. It doesn’t, in pride, demand more of itself, as if it were better than others, but instead agrees with God that we are sinners saved by grace and unable to make ourselves perfect, no matter how hard we work.

Know that there is forgiveness and relief for the perfectionist today. And for my friend, there is freedom.

The Death of the Classy and the Depravity of (Wo)Man

I was about fifteen minutes early for work yesterday. I had just picked up a book from the library, so I parked and then opened up the book. I had read maybe three sentences before a series of sharp, staccato horn honks lifted my head. Before me were two SUVs and two middle aged women driving them.

The first SUV was at a stop line in the parking lot but she hadn't stopped. The other SUV was driving through and had been nearly cut off by the first SUV. The woman who was driving through slammed on her horn a few more times before irately rolling down the window and shouting at the other woman, "That's a stop line! That means you're supposed to stop! Didn't you see it?" The woman who should have stopped proceeded to display some colourful hand gestures and some even more colourful language to her new friend before angrily honking her own horn and driving off.

And I just watched. It was kind of like a train wreck, something truly horrifying that you can't take your eyes off. These women were about forty or fifty, my elders. Yet I couldn't believe how immaturely they acted. Their behaviour was so deeply ugly and so unclassy. Somehow I could never see Audrey Hepburn rolling down her window and flying off the handle at another woman for not stopping at a stop line in a parking lot. Then again, there are few women with true class left in our society today.

But it's not really about classiness. It's about the depravity of our society, the depravity that has held every human society in its sway since Adam and Eve's descendants.

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ... There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:10-12).

And without Christ, that was us. We were those ugly, frustrated, cursing women in the parking lot, our identity wrapped in our sin. We were, as the song goes, "lost in darkest night, yet thought [we] knew the way ... [running our] hell-bound race, indifferent to the cost." But then in a mighty miracle of grace, God looked upon our helpless state and we were plucked out of the darkness by the power of the cross. We were saved from depravity, given new identities in Christ.

Yet the darkness still surrounds us - in our parking lots and workplaces and schools and neighbourhoods. We see depravity almost daily. That's part of living in a fallen world. But seeing that depravity reminds us where we were. That depravity reminds us where we are no longer. And that depravity spurns us to dissipate the darkness around us.

As Jonathan Edwards reminds us, we are sunshine to the dark world because we reflect the Sun of Righteousness. We are the good in the face of depravity.

I'm a Stereotype (And I Wouldn't Have it Any Other Way)

They would call me a stereotype. I like pink. And makeup. And baking. I'm better at English than math, and I don't play on any male-dominated sports teams. I babysit and I read and I love to shop and I can't beat my brother in a foot race. I appear to be a stereotypical teenage girl, about as textbook case as they come.

The modern heroines in the movies would probably slam me for it. Gender stereotypes are pretty old-fashioned these days, outmoded and regressive. We've gone through a massive cultural confusion regarding the roles of boys and girls and we're left with a mess. And I think that's pretty sad.

Why don't we let boys be boys and girls be girls and celebrate that? I'm not saying that girls who hate pink need to learn to love it, or all boys need to play sports. There are a few things that are rather unstereotypical about me - I love to talk about and read theology and watch football movies, for example. Those aren't things intrinsic to being a female; they're what make me an individual. But I'm still a girl and my strengths and weaknesses and desires are shaped around my femininity.

My gender was not a choice. I am a female because God made me one. I'm not as strong as my brother. My mind works differently than his. I am more emotional than he is. We are different. He loves destruction and eating and weight lifting and swords. What fuels his strengths and weaknesses and desires are shaped around his masculinity. He is a boy, and I am a girl.

Gender stereotypes are not as dangerous as the media would have you believe. There are certain things that are beautifully different about boys and girls. Maybe instead of trying to erase gender we should embrace it. Maybe we should celebrate the way that God made us, as male and female in His glorious image. Maybe the stereotypes aren't so destructive after all. Maybe they're just norms, because that's how God made us.

What Makes Women Happy?

The Women's Movement, also called the Feminist Movement, began in the 1960's with the purpose of making women happy. Betty Friedan concluded that women's traditional role (as married housewives) was imprisoning them and they needed to be liberated. They needed to be economically independent. They needed to be in the world.

And it was all because of the question: What makes women happy? Friedan and the feminists thought the answer lay "out there," in the world. A recent study published in TIME says something different. Mary Kassian explains that the answer to what makes women happy does not lie in world, or economic independence. It lies in a relationship with Jesus. Watch Mary Kassian below:

What Makes Women Happy?
from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Welcome to the Culture of Youth

I have grown up in a culture that trumpets a strange theme: young is the ideal and old is an insult. This theme is deeply entrenched among the mires of the images and beliefs the culture transmits to me. Media shouts it from the roof tops, both explicitly and obviously implicitly. The workplace tells me. The government tells me. Simply put - this culture places an overwhelming devaluation on age.

I don't think I could ever count all of the anti-aging products sold at a cosmetics shop, or how many Ellen DeGeneres Cover Girl commercials I see on TV. This culture is obsessed with youth. Why do you think calling someone "young" is at the height of compliments, while calling someone "old" is offensive and tactless? This culture, unlike most in the past, values young over old.

Now make no mistake - the physical effects of aging are no blessing. They're a curse, one which resulted from the Fall. But the underlying maturity and intense societal value of those older in age is a blessing that no young person can have. Yet culture mocks. With an obsession over looks, the remarkable role that the elderly play in our society is brushed aside. Young people are prettier than old people - so in the eyes of this culture, that somehow makes young people better.

I began this post by calling this cultural theme strange. And it is. This idea has only become mainstream in the last few hundred years, and compared to the Bible, it is shown to ring sharply false.

Over and over throughout the Scriptures, we see the model of the old training and teaching the young (e.g., see Paul's counsel in Titus 2:1-10 and Solomon's (among others) wisdom in Proverbs and Song of Solomon). The older generations are given the greater tasks and responsibilities, and the young are meant to watch them, learn from them, and grow because of them. The older are the wiser and the more godly; the younger the more foolish and spiritually immature. That is the way the world works. Yet in God's economy that doesn't make the old necessarily better as people than the young. We are all of equal value and inherent dignity in God's sight.

That is how God designed it - older should be greater in wisdom and spiritual maturity and the younger should respect and grow from them.

"Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)

That doesn't mean that there aren't some young people who are wise and mature beyond their years or older people who lack that maturity. But it does mean that with more years comes more wisdom. And we should praise that! We should rejoice with age and celebrate the birthdays that mark more maturity.

But recently I've discovered that this peculiar cultural theme is not always just "out there" in the world; rather it has leaked into the church. May we strongly combat this! Age is not a curse. Scripture shows us that with it comes wisdom and abundant blessings.

This strange cultural theme has had a massive impact on how we (even as Christians) view age. Let's reject this false trap that youth is the ideal and growing older is a curse. May we shun the devaluation of age. May we embrace the ideas presented in Scripture that with age comes blessings and maturity, and may those of us who are still young seek out those older than us and learn from the wisdom that they have

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Modest: A Review

Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by R.W. Glenn and Tim Challies is a book I had greatly anticipated reading. Like most other Christian women, young and old, I have read much on the subject of modesty. I felt very much like Gloria Furman when I picked up the book. In her review of Modest, she wrote:

I have never read an entire book devoted to the subject of modesty, but I’ve read several articles and chapters on the subject. These articles and chapters focused on things like bathing suits, movies, wedding dresses, and lipstick. And none of the articles ever began like this book does: “In the pages that follow, we will not focus on your wardrobe.

And that's one reason I found this book refreshing. It was so different than much modesty material today. Instead of focusing overly and only on clothes, these two sage pastors showed how modesty is a part of all of life and must be rooted in the gospel. They wrote in what was the heart of their message:

When it comes to modesty, we [today] define the term too narrowly (our first mistake) and then surround ourselves with rules like "only this low," "at least this long," "never in this combination," and "never so tight that _____ shows." In fairly short order, the gospel is replaced with regulations. Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel - a gospel of bondage rather than freedom. The truth we are missing in all this mess is that the gospel of grace informs and gives shape to what it means to be modest."

And I agree. I absolutely believe that modesty is first an issue of the heart and, like all other areas of choice in a Christian's life, must be rooted in the gospel. I echo Gloria Furman again wholeheartedly when she wrote,

I’m thankful for this book because I've personally come to a greater appreciation of how my personal behavior and choices are an outflow and entailment of the gospel.

Modest is less about clothing than it is about the heart, less about one area, more about all of life, less about law, more about grace. And that's what I love - but also have a bit of a problem with. At the beginning of their final chapter, Challies and Glenn wrote,

Despite everything we've said in this book - even after all the language about how modesty can't be captured in a set of rules - be honest with yourself. At some level, don't you expect us now to give you a set of rules? Or at least a list or some really concrete, specific guidelines? At some level, don't you wish we could? ... For our own sakes and for the gospel's, we will not go there. To give you any kind of list would simply replace immodesty with legalism; you might feel better for a while, but we'd all be missing the heart of the issue."

This is where I disagree. A list is not legalism, and asking ourselves (and other women) "how low is too low" and "how tight is too tight" can be very appropriate. In fact, I highly recommend a practical list of clothing questions called the Modesty Heart Check by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters. Yes, I understand the point Challies and Glenn are focusing in on (i.e. that modesty is about the gospel of grace, not the lists of legalism), and I recognize that when offering a criticism, it is difficult for one who has never read the book to understand the proper context of just one quote, but this is a theme that has weaved its way through the whole book. I understand Challies and Glenn's point, but, unless I'm misunderstanding them, I believe their ardent desire to stay away from any kind of modest clothing guidelines is ultimately unhealthy. Just because modesty is rooted in the gospel of grace does not mean we can't ask practical questions about what clothes we wear. I believe it is honouring to God to ask these questions! It's true, lists can be legalistic. But they don't have to be.

So would I recommend Modest? Yes. There's much good stuff in here. I particularly loved their chapter, "Why We're Not Modest," and their biblical reasons for the rampant immodesty today. But I would caution anyone reading it to be aware of Challies' and Glenn's biases and to recognize them accordingly.

Buy Modest here.

The Feminine Mystique at 50

Jessica Hong wrote this insightful post at the Gospel Coalition blog, in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Betty Friedan's best-seller, The Feminine Mystique.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, a freelance writer for women's magazines and a suburban housewife, wrote for a generation of post-World War II women she claimed had bought into the image of the "feminine mystique" and, as a result, suffered from the "problem that has no name." This mystique, reinforced by magazines, advertisements, and popular culture, was "the suburban housewife—the dream image of the young American woman . . . healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home." Friedan argued that this image promised true feminine fulfillment.

Read the rest here ... 

The Conference I've Been Waiting For

Today is the day. I've been waiting for it for months. It's conference day! More specifically, it's the Grace Baptist Church Women's Conference with renowned speaker and author, Martha Peace. If you recognize that name, it's probably because I've put quotes on here by this lovely author from her lovely book, Damsels in Distress. And this weekend will be her first time in Canada!

The conference (both tonight and tomorrow) is going to be fantastic! This is what the promo said about it:

Ever wondered how God's Word should intersect your life? Join us as Martha shares insights on issues that impact many of us personally as well as those we love. Conference sessions will focus on Salvation in Jesus Christ, Responding Biblically to Manipulation, Overcoming Depression and Anxiety, and Gaining a Gentle and Quiet Spirit.

Over one-hundred-and-forty ladies are scheduled to attend, including a big group from my own church. It will be a fun evening and Saturday of fellowship and teaching. We're going to dig into the Word and see how that intersects our lives, how the gospel impacts every area of our lives. And then we're going to apply it together.

This is definitely the conference I've been waiting for.

Confessions of an Obsessed Teenager

I have a confession to make: I'm an obsessive person. And that's not particularly good. But when I go into something, I go into it full-throttle. If I'm reading a book, I get totally immersed, and I can think of hardly anything else. If I watch a movie I love, then I'll watch it every day for a week and eat, sleep and breathe this movie. I can get obsessed with lots of things, from certain songs to a good artist, from an author to a type of food, from a piece of clothing to a dance. If there's something I like - well, it just becomes a passion.

By definition, obsessed means,
"The domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent image, idea, desire, etc."
And when I really think about it, if my thoughts or feelings are dominated by clothes, music, books or TV, how is the focus on God?

This realization struck me the other day: We need to be obsessed with God.

All throughout Scripture, we see people who are obsessed with God. One example is David. David was rich. He was king. He had all the worldly pleasures that could be afforded. Yet he wasn't obsessed over them. He was obsessed with God. You see this from Psalms, the prayers, that he writes to God.

"On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate." Psalm 145:5

"For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation." Psalm 62:1

"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. ... Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. ... My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:1,3,8

See, my obsessiveness can get me into trouble sometimes. The reason for that is because I focus on unimportant things that get me unfocused on other more important things. And my obsessiveness is always on the trivial things, like a sweater or a novel.

But if I strove to focus all my obsessive energy on God, I'd be like David and spend all my time thinking about the most important Being of all!

Another thing about my obsessiveness - what I'm obsessed with comes and goes. I get over that novel I couldn't put down. I stop thinking about that movie so much. I don't listen to that song a thousand times anymore. My sweater eventually gets donated to the Canadian Diabetes Society. My obsessiveness is actually fickle; it wavers.

But obsessiveness with God is different. That is something that would (and should) stay. If every thought is dominated by Him, His commands, His promises, His praise, that's not something that's fleeting. It won't burn up for a while, and then fizzle away. It's lasting and liberating.

So I hope you get obsessed. I hope I get obsessed. I hope we get obsessed. With God.

Modesty and Self-Control

Well it's that time of year again. Time to take out the shorts and swim suits, grab the suntan lotion, and hit the beach! Surfing, swimming, sunbathing - whatever your summer plans are, I think no summer would be complete without the annual modesty reminder! I had been thinking about this post for a while (ever since we first went to the beach a few weeks ago, in fact) when in my devotions this morning I found myself in 1 Timothy 2, where in verses nine and ten it says:

"Likewise also [I desire] that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works."

Now I'll admit, I've read this passage many a time, but what really stuck out to me this time was the connection between modesty and self-control. Right in verse nine, Paul desires that women should dress "in respectable apparel" and then he explains what that means - "with modesty and self-control." What I find interesting about those two things is how they are so tightly bound together. For example, you can't have modesty without self-control - to be modest is to be self-controlled. But you can't have self-control without modesty - if you are self-controlled you will also be modest. Yet here we are at the age-old question, "What is modesty?" And then, in the same vein, "What is self-control?" Let's take a brief look.


The dictionary defines modesty as "to have or show regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc." So modesty does not just relate to clothing (though that is a big part). It also relates to how we act and what we say. But modesty in speech and action will quickly leak into how we dress as well. Now I'm not going to give you a neat little document telling you exactly what clothing I think is modest, what stores you should or should not shop at, what brand of bathing suit you should buy, or how low your neckline should be. That's not something I can decide for you. In a post on modesty I wrote a few months ago, I pointed out that as Christians, the biblical requirements for our clothes are that we should dress to reflect our inner beauty (1 Peter 3:3-4), encourage our brothers in the faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and, most importantly, exalt Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31) So if your clothes do that, then you are certainly modest. (For a modesty checklist that takes a more practical look at your clothing, have a read of Carolyn Mahaney's Modesty Checklist.)


But as I've already mentioned, modesty and self-control are so interweaved, you can't have one without the other. As to the definition of self-control, it's pretty self-explanatory. It's control of self. If you have self-control, you know how to control your emotions, desires, senses, actions and ... yes, clothing. In the eleven times self-control is mentioned in the Bible, it is always exalted or praised. Someone who has self-control is considered wise and discerning. (Proverbs 25:28) So let's seek to cultivate a spirit of self-control. (1 Timothy 1:7)

So, this summer, whether we go to the mall to buy a bathing suit or if we're off to the beach, let's think about the way we dress, the message we give through our clothing, and decide if we're really dressing with modesty and self-control.

Who Is the Fairest of Them All?

Mom and I are reading a phenomenal book right now by Martha Peace, called "Damsels in Distress." We recently read a chapter titled, "Who Is the Fairest of Them All?" This chapter talks about inner beauty, outer beauty, and a topic not too often discussed - vanity. She first takes a look at what vanity is:
"Vanity is something that is 'empty, futile, vain, or worthless. Vanity (in the sense of the love of beauty) is an inflated pride in one's appearance.' It is a universal problem, but it especially plagues women. The Jewish women during Isaiah's time offer a vivid example of vain women. They were living examples of how decadent their society had become."
After this she counteracted that with Scripture's emphasis on true beauty.
"The New Testament describes the adornment of a truly beautiful woman as one who is adorned with modest and discrete clothing, good works, and a "gentle and quiet spirit." (1 Peter 3:3-4) First a woman's clothing is to be modest and discrete. ... A woman who loves the Lord will have a heart to be modest with her dress in order to not cause men to be tempted to lust. A second emphasis for a woman who claims to be godly is that her beauty is to be seen in her good works. ... The third biblical emphasis for true beauty in a woman is that she should have a gentle and quiet spirit. That does not mean that she whispers when she talks. It does mean that she is not given to anger or fear, and that she accepts God's dealing with her as good."
Martha Peace next goes on to look at the biblical view of a vain woman:
  • "She is not grateful. (1 Thess. 5:16-18) 
  • She is not content. (1 Tim. 6:6) 
  • She thinks too highly of herself. (Rom. 12:3) 
  • She has a lust for beauty. (James 1:14-15) 
  • She is not motivated by love for God or others, but by the love of self and others' approval. (1 John 2:15-17)"
Finally she looks at Scriptural warnings regarding vanity.
  • "Beauty is vain. It is a depressing pursuit, ultimately hopeless and empty. (Proverbs 31:30) 
  • Beauty is one of the ways the adulteress draws her prey. (Prov. 6:24-25) ... 
  • Satan's heart was lifted up because of his beauty. (Ezek. 28:14-15, 17) 
  • Outward beauty without inner beauty is a monstrosity. (Prov. 11:22)"

How NOT to Be a Mrs. Norris

When my thoughts go to the biblical idea of a woman after God's own heart, somehow I never think of Mrs. Norris. In fact, it is only when I think of the exact opposite type of woman, do my thoughts finally wander to poor Mrs. Norris. You fellow Jane Austen fans out there know what I'm talking about. In Mansfield Park, Mrs. Norris is the cantankerous, meddlesome, busybody aunt of heroin Fanny Price. Throughout this novel, Mrs. Norris shows the many qualities that quickly slide her into the dear places in my heart as 1) my least favourite character in the story, and 2) the woman I most certainly do not want to be. Here are just a few of her character flaws.

She's selfish, vain, a gossip, a slanderer, worldly, malicious, a liar, concerned only about the temporal, living to please people, and that's only to name a few!

Of course, Mrs. Norris can't be wholly evil. She does love people in her own way ... but often that love is only because she can gain something or be rewarded. No, as a young woman who seeks to glorify the Lord, I do NOT want to be a Mrs. Norris.

So who do I want to be? Well, I'm sure I could give you a list of a godly women who have modeled a great love and desire for the Lord and who have many godly traits that I seek to emulate, but when it comes down to finding a woman after God's own heart, I think the best place to go is the Word of God itself. These traits and Scripture passages illuminate the woman I want to be:
  • Generous. "She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy." (Proverbs 31:20)
  • Self-controlled. "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." (Proverbs 25:28)
  • Pure. "So that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:10)
  • Not lazy. "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31:27)
  • Gentle. "But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (1 Peter 3:4)
  • Strong and confident in the Lord. "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." (Proverbs 31:25)
  • Always seeking and desiring God. "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1)
  • Kind. "Older women likewise are to ... teach what is good, and so train the young women to ... be ... kind." (Titus 2:3-5)
  • Speaking with wisdom. "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." (Proverbs 31:26)
  • Trusting in the Lord. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)
  • Fearing the Lord. "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:20)
And if we can be all those things, we will be a woman after God's own heart ... and NOT a Mrs. Norris!

Men, Women and the Trinity

At this morning's Systematic Theology class, we found ourselves in chapter 22 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: "Man as Male and Female." We started with a discussion on their "harmonious interpersonal relationship" and then went on to talk about the equality of men and women before God and then their different, yet both important, roles. But after a discussion on being created in the image of God last week, Dad asked a question that I had never considered before. He asked us what the harmonious interpersonal relationship between man and woman was in relation to being created in the image of God. Well, the answer to that question is something that I think makes a huge difference for Christians involved in the man-woman-equality-different-roles-women's-lib-debate. And it is this: the harmonious interpersonal relationship of a man and woman in marriage is a model of the Trinity. Let me explain ...

The Trinity is one God, but three persons in one. There is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. These three work together as one, but they have very different and distinct roles. You see, God the Father has authority over the Son, and we see this throughout Jesus' earthly ministry when He would submit to the Father's will (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; John 6:38) and recognize that it was the Father who sent Him to earth (John 5:23, 36-37; 6:44; 7:16; 8:18). And the Spirit is also called "the Helper." (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) So the Father has the authority in the Trinity, just like man has authority over his wife. And Jesus submits to the Father just like the wife is to submit to the husband. And the Spirit is the Helper, just like the wife is the helper of her husband. Yet you wouldn't say that Jesus is unequal to the Father, or that the Holy Spirit is inferior to the Father. Every member of the Trinity, like men and women, are completely equal, yet they simply have different roles.

Isn't that cool? Now the Trinity and biblical marriage are obviously not exactly the same, but there are certainly things we can learn from this example. And with all this stuff going on inside and outside of the church on women having the right to reject their God-given role and men choosing to submit to their wives instead of taking authority, I thought this biblical insight from Mr. Grudem extremely helpful.