Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reading List! (March 31, 2015)

Finished this month:
Counseling the Hard Cases by Stuart Scott, Heath Lambert & others
There are lots of people around us in the world with big problems. There’s bipolar, multiple-personality disorder (known now as identity disorder), anorexia, post-partum depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. A lot of these problems are overwhelming to us… how do we even begin to help these people? Read this book and you’ll find out! There IS hope and you can be better equipped to know how to help! In each case the person grew and changed (although it was very difficult and took months to a year) but they changed so much they no longer had the symptoms of their previous diagnosis! So neat to see how the Word of God is sufficient to help people with any problem they may have. If you question this I challenge you to read this book!

The Gospel’s Power & Message by Paul Washer
This was a really wonderful exposition-like treatise on the Gospel. You can explain the Gospel in 5 minutes, but there’s SO much more to it to be explored, known and that the world needs to know. The depths of sin, the righteousness, holiness, and justice of God, the person and work of Christ (Savior, Lord, Judge), salvation, faith and repentance and how it all fits together! Really great reminders of how much God loves me despite my sin!

The true gospel is radically exclusive. Jesus is not a way, He is the way, and all other ways are no way at all. If Christianity would only move one small step toward a more tolerant ecumenicalism and exchange the definite article the for the indefinite article a, the scandal would be over, and the world and Christianity would be friends. However, whenever this occurs, Christianity ceases to be Christianity, Christ is denied, and the world is without a Savior.” (p. 51, italics his)

“It is this love of Christ toward us that should win our hearts and move us to give Him our full allegiance. It should lead us to conclude that since He died for all, then all should love no longer for themselves but for Him who died and rose gain on their behalf.” (p. 258, see 2 Cor 5:14-15)

The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd by John Piper
You know, I have so many books I haven’t read yet, but this is one the Spirit brought to my mind and I’m so glad I picked it up again! What an encouragement for me to keep persevering in hard times! Piper gives a short biography of each of these men and the immense affliction/suffering they went through. He shows how they struggled and suffered and hurt, and yet they persevered in faith. They fixed their eyes firmly on the gospel and that encouraged and empowered them. This was so very inspirational and one I very highly recommend – especially if you’re going through hard/dark/painful times.

There’s so much I wish I could share from this book, but I will share this hymn that William Cowper wrote (despite the fact that he struggled with mental illness and with a lot of deep depression):

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessing on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Marriage Matters by Winston Smith
This I read for my Marriage Counseling class through CCEF and it was written by my professor. So yes, it’s good – I very highly recommend it! Even though I’m not married it helped me put marriage in a better perspective and it was really helpful in seeing what God’s plan for marriage is and what it should look like. In addition I was able to apply things in here to my relationships with my family members and was challenged to learn to love them more.

Loved this quote: “Whatever pleasure you may have set your sights on pales in comparison with what God offers us in his son. Jesus isn’t a consolation prize for the unhappily married. He’s the grand prize for the married and unmarried alike.” (p. 71)

Currently Reading:
Secure in the Everlasting Arms by Elisabeth Elliot
Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy by Leslie Vernick (Because, yes I do.)

Additional books I want to read this month:
In the Company of Lazarus by Miriam (a biographical account of God's work of physical and emotional healing a woman's life)
Men Who Met God by A.W. Tozer

Friday, March 27, 2015

Biblical Submission: What it DOES mean

In reading this article please make sure you also read part 1 on what Biblical submission does NOT mean.

The first question of the Westminster catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, “…to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The greatest commandment is that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second commandment is that we should love others as we naturally love ourselves. As a wife seeks to submit to her husband it should be in obedience to these two commandments. The ultimate goal of submission is to love and glorify God and secondly, it is to love others, specifically our husband. Submission is not self-centered. It cannot be forced, in fact, Biblical submission is love. It is a choice you make to love someone else more than yourself. As you come to view submission in this way rather than being drudgery it can become something beautiful. I pray you will see this and realize that the blessing it can be in your life!

So, what does submission mean?

  • Biblical submission is “unto the Lord”.

As I’ve already mentioned, our submission is not just to our husbands, our submission is primarily to God, to His Word and His righteousness. It seeks to honor and love God and then love and honor others. It is a reflection of the character of Christ who laid down His life for His people. As you submit to your husband you have an opportunity to be like Jesus, don’t miss this! While we are called to not resist those who persecute us and forgive those who sin against us, that's different from willingly submitting to it. There are times under persecution that we must meekly bear suffering, but our goal in submission is righteousness and truth. It is not weakness, it stands strong on truth and does not compromise.

  • Biblical submission is encouragement.

Did you know that by submitting to your husband you are encouraging him? This encouragement may not be verbal- you can encourage others in many ways besides using your words, although I would definitely recommend you are verbally encouraging as well! Your husband has a God-given responsibility to lead (whether you like it or not) and even if he’s slacking in this area that does not give you the right to put him down. 1 Thes 5:11 says we ought to “encourage one another and build each other up”. To criticize or put down your husband is sin, repent and seek to grow in love towards your husband. Your husband will make mistakes, but hopefully he is seeking to lead to the glory of God. If he is an unbeliever or not leading as he should this makes this much harder for you, but remember God will give you what you need to obey Him. This is not primarily about your husband, this is about you obeying and glorifying God. Simply deferring to his leadership is a way of encouraging him to lead and fulfill his God-given responsibility as a husband. You are saying to him, “I value your opinion, I think you are gifted by God with the ability to make decisions and lead and I respect that.” (Please refer to the first part of this series and remember that you should not be submitting to your husband while he is sinning against you in an abusive manner. That is encouraging him in his sin, not towards righteousness.)
For a book with helpful advice on how to better encourage your husband, I recommend this one: http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Communicate-Respect-Your-Husband/dp/1938945026/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

  • Biblical submission means having an agreeable (non-argumentative) spirit.

1 Cor. 13 says that love does not “seek its own” as Biblical submission is an expression of love we seek to serve them rather than our own desires. It is willing to yield and willing to trust even though you may not completely agree. There will be times when you will disagree with your husband but there’s a difference between respectfully disagreeing and being argumentative. By all means talk it out - even seek wise counsel from someone outside if needed (be careful with this that it’s not gossip!). But at the end of your discussion, advice-seeking and prayer, if you still disagree and it’s a situation where it would not be causing you to sin, wives, we are to submit to our husbands. We need to first of all trust God that He’s going to watch out for us and then choose to trust our husband and allow him to lead in the way he believes best. Remember that your trust is primarily in God as your husband will disappoint you. But if your trust is in God, He will not forsake you. For sure husbands will make mistakes, but sometimes you need to let them. It is not your responsibility, your responsibility is to submit to God and then to submit to your husband. Biblical submission is willing to yield and allow another person to take responsibility.

  • Biblical submission seeks to win over the husband to Christ.

Peter writes, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Basically this is saying that if your husband is an unbeliever, and he observes your love and service to him, he will see that there is something different about you and be won to Christ through your example. Biblical submission does not timidly follow, it actually leads! I will point out that the “fear” she has in this passage is not fear of her husband, rather it is a fear of God. As you love God and pursue Him you will also grow in your love towards him. And as you love him you point and lead him closer to Christ. Win your husband, with love and with one more weapon: Ladies, you should be praying for your husband! Not just that he will be who you want him to be, but pray that he will know Christ, that he will grow in Biblical wisdom and maturity in Christ.

In summary, Biblical submission is an expression of love that seeks to serve, encourage, yield and win to Christ. Remember that Christ is your all-sufficient portion and is all you truly need. I encourage you to pursue Christ and grow in love for Him and as you do you will grow in love towards others as well. May you be blessed and fruitful as you seek to walk in love!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Biblical Submission: What It Does NOT Mean

When most people hear the word “submission” they often link it with the following words: superiority/inferiority, head/feet… Well, let me tell you straight out that this is NOT a Biblical understanding of submission!

In the context of a Christian marriage (where both husband and wife are believers) there is a deeper relationship than just marriage. Marriage, as wonderful as it is, is temporal. In other words, your husband/wife will not be that same role in heaven. In heaven he/she will simply be your brother or sister in the Lord. Understanding this is very important because it allows you to see that your spouse is more than just your spouse, they are your brother or sister in the Lord. Further, your marriage is to reflect the perfect union of Christ and the church! 

A word to husbands: Husbands, you are to love your wife. You are to love her selflessly and sacrificially as Christ loved the church. Love, as 1 Cor 13 tells us, does not “seek its own”. In other words, it does not demand its own way, push for its own agenda, or control things according to its own desire. Love is patient, kind, gentle. It is considerate and respectful of others feelings and opinions. It does not push, it is not selfish. Men, you will ALL struggle with this because you are sinners and you naturally want your own way. It may look different from person to person, but you will all struggle to love your wife more than your own way.

Now, we get to the point of this article. Wives are called to submit to their husbands. But what does this mean? Submission is a Biblical command, but it is not one that we usually like. However, simply put, submission is love. Similarly to husbands, wives, you will struggle with this because you will often desire your own way more than doing what is right. Often loving others requires putting yourself in second place and this is what we are called to do for our husbands. In a sequel post I will get to specifics of what submission does mean, but for now….

  •   Never disagreeing.

Biblical submission is not the obligation to stay silent and never disagree with your husband. You are an intelligent person and may have much to contribute to the situation at hand. Many times women have great insight to offer in making decisions and a husband should be wise enough to listen. Perhaps your husband does not allow you to do this. If that is the case it's a clue that something is not quite right... keep reading. As a human being you have value and worth before God, you are given wisdom and insight, but remember you have weaknesses too. Don’t assume that you know better than your husband (just like you don’t want him to assume the same about you!). Each of you will have strengths and weaknesses and can learn from one another. Don't be afraid to disagree, but love says be humble, willing to listen, and willing to yield.

  • You exist to serve your husband.
 Some women will claim that they feel like a doormat because they feel as if exist just to serve men. This is certainly not true. You exist to serve and glorify God first and foremost. However, as a wife you were intended by God to be a “helper” to your husband. A helper, not a servant. If your husband does expect you to serve his every whim and wish there's a problem (see next point). At the same time you do need to realize you have different roles. In most cases the husband is working a job to provide for the family and the wife is at home taking care of the household. These roles may be somewhat different in your situation, but whatever the roles are they need to be clear and defined otherwise there’s confusion and disappointed expectations. There are various ways of helping your husband and one of those is serving him, showing him respect, honor, etc. There may be times where you feel like a “doormat” but that doesn’t mean you are and he’s likely not doing it intentionally. Better communication is needed. Perhaps you are struggling with being at home, you would rather not have to make dinner and do laundry and would rather be doing something else. Look at your heart… are there selfish desires driving you to be discontent? Would you rather be pursuing your own interests than the interests of others? Our purpose in life is not to seek happiness and feeling good, it is to glorify God wherever we are. This is selfishness and that is where your battle is – not with your husband. Be careful not to trust your feelings too much. See the enemy as what it really is… unfortunately it’s often our own hearts!
  • Giving into abuse. 
Unfortunately in our fallen world there are cases where husbands are abusive. But Biblical headship is not domination and Biblical submission is not forced. Sometimes they may require things from their wives that are legitimately unreasonable. Perhaps he pressures her have everything “just so” and the way he likes it. Maybe he is in control of nearly everything, she feels threatened and manipulated into doing things and has limited freedom to make her own choices. If she feels like a doormat then, it’s probably because he IS actually treating her like one. If this is the case with you please realize that this is not healthy relationship. Pray and seek counsel on what you can do. (Keep reading, and see below!) For anyone to use force, manipulation, threats of violence or violence itself is SIN and you should not put up with it.

As you seek to communicate a disagreement/sin pattern with your husband here are some helpful pointers:
Talk to your husband. The best thing to do is make sure everything is the way he likes it, get dressed nicely, make him his favorite meal (or take him out to his favorite restaurant) and then afterwards ask him if you can talk to him about something. Encourage him in some ways first and then in a gentle, kind and non-judgmental way share with him your concerns. If he will not listen to you than seek counsel for your specific situation. 
Ask him if you can read a book together. Find a book that addresses both husbands and wives that is balanced. Remember you both need to grow. Ask someone you trust for a recommendation.  
Find someone to disciple your husband. Talk to an older, more mature man or a pastor (someone who you trust has a good marriage) about befriending your husband and inviting him to do some Bible study with him. They could study various things including how to love well, marriage related studies, etc. and this would eliminate you getting involved. For a husband to be told by his wife he's not doing his job is hard for a man to take. He needs patient and gentle teaching from another man.
If he is still resistant, stay and pray or take action if needed. If your husband is a believer but is resisting the idea that he should be treating you with love and respect he is in sin and you have two options. 1) Stay and keep praying for him. Continue to speak the truth to him, but love and serve him as long as he is not causing you physical harm or causing significant emotional distress. 2) If he is causing physical harm, or emotionally damaging you (see footnote) than he is in a sense “forcing” you to leave and seek safety. It is alright to separate from your husband under these circumstances BUT you must do it only after you have first tried previous steps. Sometimes in order for him to wake up and realize that he is in sin there needs to be consequences and marital separation is a big consequence. Go to your pastor (or a trusted Biblical counselor) for advice before acting. In cases where he will not repent and work on changing, you will need to follow the process of Church discipline laid out in Matthew 18.

In summary, Biblical submission is not forced, it is an act of love. Check back soon for my sequel on what Biblical submission does look like!

Footnote: Emotional abuse is often hard to define and sometimes women can think they are being emotionally abused because they are having difficulties in their marriage. Now, your husband is a sinner and will sin against you, however abuse is when there is a pattern of abusive power and control. It’s often progressive, it gets worse over time, becomes more frequent over time. If he is dominating you to the point where you are “walking on eggshells” around him or you are not free to be yourself or have responsibility and control over some things within the jurisdiction of your role than you could be in an abusive relationship. See this site for more resources and advice: http://leslievernick.com/free-resources/ Or you can take this test: http://www.leslievernick.com/pdfs/Relationship-test.pdf