Book Review: Feminine Threads by Diana Lynn Severance

I literally just finished reading this amazing book (I was finishing it while giving my almost 2 year old lunch just now), and I had to sit down immediately to write this book review before my thoughts get jumbled up with other issues.

The book is entitled Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History written by Dr. Diana Lynn Severance, and my general synopsis is that you need to read 51qsr2xmrkl-_sx318_bo1204203200_this book this year. You’ve flooded your mind with Reformation history for the past year (or more), and this book goes through Church history also, but from the unique perspective of focusing on the roles and works of women in the Church throughout the course of time. So if Church history has been important to you recently, than you need to read this book.

Now, for the convincing details…

Dr. Severance divided her 312 page book into 12 chapters that span consecutively from the New Testament Era to the end of the 20th century. I was impressed by the number of women included in this work that included Roman slaves and aristocrats, Christian queens of Barbarian tribes and countries, martyrs, women devoted to the ascetic lifestyle, ministers, missionaries, and women who organized extremely influential para-church organizations that are still around today. Severance also paid careful attention to women writers throughout history (even including quotations from their works), thoughts and beliefs held about women from society and the Church leadership, and the evolving views of the Christian marriage, family, and home due to cultural and historical influences. I think Dr. Severance did an excellent job retelling a fascinating, although at times frustrating, history of women in the Church in an extremely objective manner. Her writing did not appear to gloss or sugarcoat the facts. She simply told “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in a straightforward manner.

In an effort to keep my words concise here and conclude, I want to highlight five points that made the biggest impression on me while I was reading.

  1. Reading about all of the incredible work done by Christian women throughout the centuries has my mind completely blown. I honestly didn’t know women did that much throughout Church history, and their ability to influence was also unbelievable given the restraints and difficulties they often faced. It was incredible to read about, and I honestly wish we heard more about these faithful saints along with the notable people we hear emphasized continually.
  2. The providence of God throughout the course of history is absolutely undeniable. His hand clearly “set the scene” for many works and acts of women within the Church.
  3. The craftiness and subtlety of Satan’s schemes was also incredibly visible while reading through this book. I can only compare it to the “By-path meadow” that lay alongside the narrow way in Pilgrim’s Progress. While some things women began to pick up were clearly erroneous, many other things were much more subtle and had far reaching consequences. And while some women had natural limits and boundaries in terms of how far they would progress, other women following after them did not yield to those same boundaries and limits, and it appears that theyovercorrect perished in their sins. We have a very crafty foe that we need to be aware of.
  4. When we talk about people falling off into the other side of the ditch, only to overcorrect themselves and fall into another ditch, the discussion of the role of women within the church is always veering off to one side or the other. This pendulum has been swinging for centuries, and after reading this book, the discussion today (especially in the PCA) is only a rehashing of the same discussion that has been occurring for hundreds of years. As the Word tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:10-11:

    “Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.”

    Knowing this, I think that we ought to be shrewd and discerning and search out this history, understand what happened, consider what didn’t happen, determine would should have happened, contemplate the prevailing thoughts and influences (including global, social, and cultural) of the day, ponder the ramifications of the actions and lack of action of all people included, and wisely determine a way forward so that God continues to be glorified in the lives of both men and women in the Church.

  5. Finally, this book cannot but help to stir up the faith of believers. The Church has always been filled with some incredibly broken and sinful people who have done amazing and awful things throughout history, both men and women. Yet and still, the Church is the bride of Christ, and the Spirit of God has and continues His work of building, purifying, and preserving the Church of Christ today. And regardless of how things have appeared, appear to be, and appear to be progressing towards, we have the promise from our Lord and Savior that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

Our history looks really really messy, and women have been the victims, creators, sustainers, and maintainers of a lot of mess throughout the history of the church. Nevertheless, it is a history worth knowing that can only help us to gain wisdom, teach us discernment, show us the importance of holding fast to the truth of God’s Word, help us to stand steadfast against the onslaught of the enemy, and increase our faith in our Sovereign Lord who continues to accomplish His purposes in each of us and in spite of us. As I am equally as confident as Paul when he said to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”


(and get this book!)

Book Review: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel

I wrapped up 2017 by finishing one last Puritan work entitled The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, and I want to share with you my thoughts on the book.

First, if you’re a little unclear on what providence is in the first place, I think the fifth chapter of the LBCF can shed some light on the topic for you. In addition, Reformed Baptista took the time over the past year to expound on every chapter and paragraph of the LBCF 1689, and she covered the chapter on providence starting at Day 81 and continued through Day 103. So I highly encourage you to take the time to read up and understand what Providence is before beginning this book because I believe that John Flavel really jumps into the topic under the assumption that you know what it is (or at least have heard about it and can give a good definition of it).

Flavel organizes his book into three sections. The first section gives the evidence of looking_behind_providence in various areas of life (i.e. sanctification, employment, conversion, family life, etc.), but he has an obvious focus on how God works through providence on behalf of His children. I really enjoyed this section because Flavel pulled so many random stories from the Bible and Church history to give examples of providence, both good and bad, in the lives of people. The second section of the book was on meditating on God’s providence and why we ought to make this a regular duty of the Christian life. I also enjoyed this section, but I felt like it became a little redundant towards the end. The last section of the book goes through some of the practical implications of the doctrine of providence for the saints, and it offers encouragement to all believers to record our experiences with providence throughout our lives for our spiritual good and the good of others. I enjoyed this last section as well, and it was good to see some practical connections between a doctrine we can read about at length and how it can (and should) have an effect in our everyday lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I think I found the book to be slow at times because a lot of things seemed to be repeated so often. Reflecting back, I think he does repeat some things, but I think that the feeling is stronger because there are so many things that he mentioned that I read and picked up on in The Crook in the Lot and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. So in a way, I think I read these three books in a good order, and Flavel’s book was a great summary and wrap-up of everything that I’ve learned over the past year. However, I don’t want you to get the impression that Flavel didn’t really offer anything new in this book, because he expounds on a lot of things that you would otherwise not consider carefully enough. Thus, I still highly recommend this book to you.

In conclusion, there are three things that stood out most to me in this book. Two of those things are quotes that I spent a lot of time thinking about, and I think they are worth sharing with you now. The first quote is this:

O that you would once learn this great truth, that no man ever lacked that mercy which he did not lack a heart to trust and wait quietly upon God for. You never yet sought God in vain, except when you sought Him vainly.

The second quote is this:

O that we would but steer our course according to those rare politics of the Bible, those divine maxims of wisdom! Fear nothing but sin. Study nothing so much as how to please God. Do not turn from your integrity under any temptation. Trust God in the way of your duty. These are the sure rules to secure yourselves and your interest in all the vicissitudes of this life.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe final thing that stood out to me was Flavel’s insistence that we make it our Christian duty to remember God’s acts of providence in our lives. I know my own life is full of memories of God directly intervening in crazy situations, and there are also memories of impeccably timed mercies from the hand of God that brought relief just what I thought I would break and be lost forever. And on the other hand, there are distinct times of providential testing of my faith and resolve and other experiences that, though painful and difficult at the time, ended up maturing and sanctifying me in unforeseen ways. Flavel ended his book pressing home the fact that regardless of how ordinary and miraculous these experiences may be in our lives, we will all forget them as time goes on if we do not take time to record them and go back over them from time and time. And I have taken that idea and started a journal for 2018 where I will be recording God’s gracious and timely providences in my life. I think that alone is something all Christians should do more often in all of the changing circumstances of life, so that like Asaph, we can say:

“I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.

What god is great like our God?

You are the God who works wonders;

You have made known your might among the peoples. –Psalm 77:10-14

Book Review: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

I just finished The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs earlier this week, and I really enjoyed this book and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you about it to hopefully encourage you to get your hands on it soon.

Boston based his book on Philippians 4:11-12:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.

And I think the real question most Christians have is this: How do you get this kind of contentment? How do you get to be at that place like Paul that no matter what, you’re all good? You’re still happy, satisfied, and okay whether things are going great or falling apart at the seams. And we know it’s a valid question because even if we handle most of life’s curveballs well, there is always something that is bound to mess us up and leave us wondering why we just can’t be content and be over our sinful frustrations like we’re supposed to be.

So I approached this book with all of those thoughts (and more) in mind, and I was shocked by what I learned.

1) You can’t get contentment

Contentment isn’t like the love of God. You don’t just receive it and enjoy it. Contentment is something that must be developed in you like gaining wisdom and understanding or like bridling your tongue – you know what you have to do, and you keep making daily efforts to work on it and walk that out in your life as you receive grace for each day. It requires intentional effort. It’s difficult, and you’re going to feel like you’re failing at it constantly. But only time (and the Lord with one of those good providential tests) will prove how disciplined you have been in the matter and how much you have grown.

2) You know more about contentment than you realize

I had so many moments while reading this book where I said to myself “I know that!” And I think that as Christians, we do know more than we realize about contentment. We know to take all of our cares to the Lord because He cares for us. We know that self-denial is a part of the Christian life. We know that we have to remember all of the promises that we have from God and the joy that awaits us at Christ’s return. We know that our hearts are deceitful and wicked and that we have to be transformed by the renewing of our mind…..we know this stuff already! And guess what! Contentment is the product, or the fruit, of holding all of these truths together (there’s way more explained in the book) in your mind and deliberately contemplating on them each day.

3) Murmuring and complaining are sins that we really don’t take seriously enough

Burroughs spent three chapters discussing murmuring and complaining, and I felt like I was repenting every other page as I realized how sinful complaining really was. If you have ever read through the historical books in the Old Testament and wondered why the Israelites just couldn’t get themselves together and live the covenant life God commanded of them, especially after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, then I want to wholeheartedly suggest to you that this book will crush all sense of pride (plus exposing areas of pride you didn’t even know existed) you have in thinking that you are nothing like those people. We are just like them, and we need to realize that and the sinfulness of having a murmuring/complaining heart and attitude before we can make any progress in growing in contentment.

As always, there is a lot that can be said about this book, but I want to conclude my thoughts with this:

picture-1If you’ve ever had a large jigsaw puzzle to put together, you know that you always try to get your border pieces put together first. But oftentimes, you see other pieces that go together, so you end up with little sections of the puzzle coming together before the border is even complete…..understanding contentment is a lot like that. The truth is, we have lots of small things that we know and have learned over time in our Christian life. But this book puts your border together so that you can take all of these small sections and assemble them together the right way so that the whole puzzle is complete. Consequently, I finished this book realizing that contentment is not some sort of ‘mysterious’ Christian fruit that only the ‘super pious’ Christians have. While it may be rare to see it in Christian lives, it is not mysterious at all. It takes holding lots of smaller lessons together. It takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes consistent work. It takes patience. And above all, it takes the Spirit of God granting you grace and opening your eyes each day to repent of your sins and diligently apply the lessons you have learned over the years in a way that brings encouragement, peace, and joy to your heart.

So I hope that you choose to add this book to your reading list soon. I pray that you are encouraged to work at the difficult discipline of developing contentment in your Christian life, and I pray that the Lord grants you grace and blesses your efforts exceedingly.

Book Review: Edification and Beauty by Dr. James Renihan

This week I finished a book that I truly enjoyed written by Dr. James Renihan entitled Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705, and this book is also a part of the Studies in Baptist History and Thought series.  I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Renihan and a small portion of his family in December, and so I was excited and interested to read this book (which also happens to be his dissertation, but it’s still very readable).

In a nutshell, this book is a history book, but a very intriguing history book about Particular Baptist history in England through the late 17th and into the very early 18th centuries. It is divided into six chapters (with plenty of subtitles….which I love) all expounding on the formation of the Particular Baptist churches (including the adoption of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689), church government, the officers of the church, the practice of the regulative principle of worship, and the formation, necessity, and activities of church associations.

Now, I say this book is more intriguing than you would expect because Dr. Renihan spent countless hours examining old church records, minutes from church meetings, and lots of other primary sources that we wouldn’t even think exist today. Some specific topics that I found particularly interesting were

  • the demographic breakdowns of various congregations
  • how churches formed (especially in less populated areas)
  • the question and outworking of who holds the authority and exercises the power within the church
  • the role of “gifted brethren”
  • the outworking of “the communion of saints” among the churches
  • and all of the actual examples of how these Christians handled problems within their churches.

And after reading, you can’t help but be left with the deep impression that these Baptists were extremely serious about what they believed and equally as diligent to practice their faith very carefully. Faithful precision was of the utmost importance.

In terms of reviewing this book, if I had to capture my thoughts with a verse from Scripture, I would use Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, which says:

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.


And this passage comes to my mind because I think that books like this can help us. It’s important to remember the past, and it’s even more important to learn from the past, especially Church history. And I know that there is a plethora of books out about the Reformation and the history of various Protestant denominations, but as Reformed Baptists, we should make sure that we’re learning our own history too so that we can continue to grow in wisdom, understanding, and Christian maturity as knowledgeable Reformed Baptists.

Now I confess that this is my first time reading anything about Baptist history, but I enjoyed it and want to read more. It reminded me of my own upbringing in a Baptist church, and although my church wasn’t Reformed, they practiced many things that I read about in Dr. Renihan’s book (i.e. the yearly review of church history and being active members in the local Baptist Church association). In particular, I remember when I came to faith as a child (around age 6), and most members (including my pastor) did not believe that children could truly come to saving faith in Christ. But my mother made me get up near the end of the service and go to my pastor to tell him that I believed the gospel. My pastor stopped before he gave the benediction to actually question me on the gospel and what I believed in front of the congregation. He was surprised and satisfied with my responses, and then he told the congregation that unless there was an objection from anyone, he was putting me forward to be a candidate for baptism. Thankfully, there were no objections, but they made me take foundation classes for a while before my baptism. And when I participated in the Lord’s Supper the Sunday of my baptism, I had to stand beside the table to receive “the right hand of fellowship” from every member of the church. Later, when church meetings were convened, I stupidly thought that I could run around and play with all my friends outside, but my mother made sure that I knew that as a member, it was expected that I would be in the church meeting and paying attention, although everyone else my age was outside playing. In fact, as the youngest believer in my church, everyone had a hand in “rearing” me and making sure that I was not thinking and behaving like the other children (my actual peers) in the church because I had made a confession of faith, and my whole life was changed and dedicated in service to the Lord and my church.

My church took membership very seriously, and even from childhood, they made sure that I was involved (i.e. serving as an usher, cleaning before and after services, serving in the choir, teaching Sunday School, helping with Vacation Bible School, helping with fellowship meals, and much more) and they made sure that I knew that I had to be involved because I was an actual member of the church. I believe this is one of the lasting impressions I have from this book: the need and duty of every member of the church to be actively dedicated and involved in the edification and sustainment of the church. And I am grateful that this tradition and practice was passed down in such a way that I was able to see it modeled faithfully in my church as a child.

Shortly after starting this book, I figured that it was a good idea to read The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment so that I would learn to be content and patient with the providence of God in my life currently, and that was a good decision. But I can honestly say that this book does not exalt Particular Baptists or their practical ecclesiology over and above other denominations in any way. It just gives you a brief window into Particular Baptist church life in the late 1600s, nothing more and nothing less. The picture that you see looks amazing and promising at times, and at other times, it’s difficult and disheartening because even with all of the hard work put into it, things don’t always end the way we want them to. Nevertheless, it is the Lord who is building His Church, and this book shows you His faithfulness in that work among the Particular Baptists. I heartily recommend this one!

Book Review: The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston is a real Puritan classic that I just happened to put in my Amazon shopping cart to get free shipping last month, but I am glad that I did! And I want to encourage you to get a copy of this one, and treasure it for the true gem that it is.

Boston wrote this book as an in-depth contemplation of Ecclesiastes 7:13, which says:

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?

As Christians we encounter a variety of difficult circumstances and situations in our lives (or our ‘lot’). For some people, the difficulty in our lot may be seen in physical problems with our bodies (i.e. health problems, illness, deformities, weakness, barrenness, beauty, etc.). For other people it may deal with their honor, or the failure to receive the honor and respect due to them. Still others may deal with difficulty in their vocations and stations in this world, whether it is ongoing difficulty on their job, frustrated hopes and expectations, or even a desire to do something else while you have to remain where you are. And another area of difficulty for many people lies in their relationships with family, friends, the world, and even the Church. However, as Boston continuously points out, it does not matter where your ‘crook’ is in your lot of life, it is of highest importance that we, as Christians, have the proper view of these difficulties and look upon them with the eye of faith, not just by our natural senses. And with a proper view, these difficulties will become advantageous to us as we learn how to adjust our deportment (loved that word) under them.

If I had to capture the main points of this book, they would be:

  1. The hand of God is unmistakably involved in every aspect of our lives, both small and great. If He has decided to put a crook, or a difficulty, in some aspect of your life, you will not be able to change or alter that difficulty until He wills it to change. So you ought to quiet yourself with the knowledge that regardless of the difficulty, God is directly involved and is using this for your good in Him.
  2. Humility is of the utmost necessity in the Christian life, and if you will be loved and cared for by God, you must learn humility. However, humility is oftentimes very hard to come by in the Christian life because we wrestle with lofty opinions of ourselves and what we are due. Thus, God teaches us humility through the crooks in our lot, and His aim is to make this a thorough work. So, though we may be content to just deal with our various difficulties in life and work through them, looking for better days ahead, God desires that we learn how to lower our spirits down to our lots so that we indeed calm and quiet our souls as a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131). The lowering down of our spirits in the midst of crooks is probably the hardest lesson to learn for the Christian; however, it yields the sweetest fruits.
  3. As we perform the duties of humility, we have this promise from the Lord that He will raise us up out of our difficulties (straighten the crooks) in due season. The due season happens at different times for each Christian, as the Lord sees fit. And there are some crooks that will not be straighten until we close our eyes for the last time and take our last breath. Nevertheless, we can trust that the Lord will exalt the humble at the appointed time, not a moment too late and not a second too soon.

There is so much more I can say about this book, but I will just end with this last point:

In these days, there is so much discontentment and dissatisfaction among people with their lot in life, even among professing Christians. Protests, rallies, blogs, and social media blasts abound as people take to voicing all of their problems with a variety of things around them that may or may not be actually affecting them. Nevertheless, the issues of fairness, equality, privilege, and rights dominate the news, and I found this book to be an extra tether for my soul, a balm for my aching mind, and a sweet, familiar melody to my heart that reminded me of the very basic things that I learned at the very beginning of my Christian walk. That is, we may not understand the ‘why’ behind all of the things in our lives right now, but we will understand them all better by and by.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you get your hands on this book soon, and may you see with the eyes of faith in all of your crooks that the Lord has allotted to you.

He’s our Father

My husband and I welcomed a new baby girl into our family in February. And we have been experiencing the highs and lows of having a newborn since then. In addition, dealing with the inevitable sibling jealousy and regression in behavior from our oldest has led both of us to our knees many many times this year, and it has caused me to reflect a lot on our family, my own family, and the family of God.

Presently, I am reading through J. I. Packer’s wonderful book Knowing God. (I can’t begin to tell you how great this book is, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to read it if you have not.) Andabba-father he has a great chapter on the topic of adoption, or being sons of God. Without a doubt, we know that once we have been born again, we become members of the household of God, and we see this clearly expressed in church membership and our fellowship with other brothers and sisters in the faith. But what of God? How is calling Him, Father, changing us? How has it changed our lives, our perspective on things in this life? Is it changing anything? Are we thinking about long enough for it to make a difference?

Let me share one final thought from Packer’s book that’s worth thinking about:

One more thing must be added to show how great is the blessing of adoption – namely, this: it is a blessing that abides… The depressions, randomnesses, and immaturities that mark the children of broken homes are known to us all. But things are not like that in God’s family. There you have absolute stability and security; the parent is entirely wise and good, and the child’s position is permanently assured. The very concept of adoption is itself a proof and guarantee of the preservation of the saints, for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation; and God is not a bad father, but a good one. When one sees depression, randomness and immaturity in Christians one cannot but wonder whether they have learned the health-giving habit of dwelling on the abiding security of true children of God.

Thinking Critically About Complementarianism

Recently, I’ve finished a 12-part blog series offering, largely, a thoughtful critique on complementarianism. Having been raised as an egalitarian, I had no thought that my inherent disposition toward my role in marriage was ungodly or unbiblical. However, in desiring to have a God-honoring marriage, I spent a lot of time studying the proper role of women and men in marriage, sought advice, read books, etc. I understand and accept that complementarianism is biblically consistent and the God-given design for marriage; however, I still wrestle with some things that complementarians do, generally believe, and sometimes teach.

This blog series largely examines those contestable points from the viewpoint of what Christian egalitarians believe and try to foster in their statement of beliefs, with the hope and intention of promoting more critical thought and precision among complementarians. The latter part of the series offers some very important points that complementarians believe that are absent from egalitarian beliefs, with the hope and intention of also promoting critical thought and self-examination among egalitarians. Finally, the series ends with some lessons that I have learned during my short journey in marriage that may offer some insight and encouragement to other complementarians, mainly women, who are striving to glorify God by fulfilling their own God-given role in marriage.

Part 1: Sliding Into Complementarianism

Part 2: What Do Christian Egalitarians Believe?

Part 3: Egalitarian Beliefs: The Use of Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Egalitarian Beliefs: Public Recognition

Part 5: Egalitarian Beliefs: Addressing the Sense of Inferiority Among Women

Part 6: Egalitarian Beliefs: Voices in the Home

Part 7: Egalitarian Beliefs: Valuing and Protecting Self in the Marriage

Part 8: Egalitarian Beliefs: Clarifying What We Believe

Part 9: Complementarian Beliefs: Addressing Cultural Influences

Part 10: Complementarian Beliefs: Biblical Consistency

Part 11: Complementarian Beliefs: Tackling the What and Where of the Problem

Part 12: Lessons for the Developing Complementarian Journey




Lessons for the Developing Complementarian Journey

Along this journey of examining the beliefs of complementarians and egalitarians, I’ve gone through a bit of a personal transformation. But mostly, I’ve learned a lot about myself, the pressures of this world, and how truly difficult it is to be changed by the Word of God and conformed to the image of Christ in this age. It is very difficult, but we know that with God, all things are possible and that He always accomplishes His purposes. So, I would like to offer some brief lessons that I have learned during our short course of marriage so far that may be of some benefit to Christian women who are struggling with their own native egalitarian tendencies while growing in grace as complementarians.

  1. Determine the source of your current beliefs and feelings

The first lesson I have learned is to figure out where the things that I believe and the feelings I have regarding my role in the marriage come from, and I think this is important for every person to consider. Do your views come from how you were raised? Perhaps, your views come from your larger cultural/societal upbringing? Do your views come from past responses to bad experiences and circumstances? Maybe they come from the Word of God? And possibly, do they come from several different places all at once?

Wherever your beliefs and feelings come from, it is important that you are able to identify them properly because this greatly aids you in being able to discern whether or not those beliefs and behaviors should be changed, discarded, or kept as you move forward in your Christian walk. Moreover, going through this process of asking and answering questions will allow you to begin to deal with past issues that you may have stuffed deep into the recesses of your mind and never wanted to deal with in the first place.

  1. Accept the past as the past

Now that I’ve mentioned dealing with the past, I’ve remembered how important this lesson has been to both my husband and me: accept your past as the past.

Having worked at a women’s college and being as chatty as I am, I’ve heard countless stories from people about their “past” throughout my life. And I can honestly tell you that there are a lot of hurt people walking around this world, and I am included in that number. I’ve gone through situations that have caused me to walk in fear for most of my life and had me wrestling with paranoia, extreme anxiety, burdensome guilt, a seared conscious that would not heal, and haunting memories that always stole the peace away from my heart and mind. But I had this one blessed truth to hold on to:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

And I quickly learned to hold onto this truth as well:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

I pray that if you are finding yourself struggling to let go of things, especially guilt, and even when you feel accused and condemned in your own mind that you would cling to the truth of the gospel, the very good news that we have in Christ. If you have truly repented of your sins, you have a brand new life in Christ…a brand new life that you are fully able to live to His glory by His grace alone. So by His grace, cling to this truth, believe it, and continue to confess it.

  1. Read and understand the Word the right way

I think that the worst thing I ever did was to read all of the passages in the Bible that pertained to wives and women and try to just live them out. It was dumb. And it is incredibly disheartening. I mean, just take a look at Proverbs 31:10-31, and try to start doing everything on that list today. You will wear yourself out!

What I’ve learned is to rightly read the Word of God. Don’t just read a couple of verses here and there to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, but read the whole chapter or even the whole book/epistle to get a clear understanding of what the Lord is saying. If you are reading Ephesians 5:22-24 alone, without considering the foundation that is laid in Ephesians 1-3 and the subsequent call to walk worthy of what we have received in the Lord beginning in chapter 4, then you won’t understand why submitting to your husband is important, and you definitely won’t have a good reason for why you are doing it in the first place. I encourage you to read all of God’s Word, and especially remember to read in context.

  1. Talk to your spouse

If my husband and I ever wrote a book offering marital advice, every other chapter would be entitled: Talk to your spouse! I know it sounds funny, but it is really easy to get advice from other people about what works in their marriage relationship (or what didn’t work) and apply it to your own marriage. And I just want to tell you to STOP!!! DON’T DO THAT!!!

Ladies, if you are married, you are the wife of one man…not everybody else’s man. Talk to your husband. Seriously, talk to your own husband. Get those kids distracted, get a good dessert, and sit down and talk to your husband. Talk about each of your expectations in the marriage. Talk about each of your desires. Talk about what you each want from the other. And I’m not going to tell you those conversations will go perfectly smoothly, but it is far better to have those conversations than to have unmet expectations and feeling unappreciated because you’re doing things that your spouse generally doesn’t like or never wanted you to do in the first place. (Been there, and done that.) Just go talk. It always helps your marriage, and it will help you.

  1. Don’t be afraid to work

One thing that I had to learn was to stop expecting personal miracles once I became a wife and especially after I became a mother. Just because I was a Christian and desired to have a godly marriage and become the perfect, godly housewife did not mean that God just snapped His fingers and changed me overnight. In fact, I haven’t experienced any miracles at all. I wasn’t transformed in a day, or even a week, few months, or years.

Instead, by God’s grace and through divine providence, I’ve learned to challenge myself over the years to do things I never wanted to do. So I’ve learned to make basic dresses for my daughter because it was cheaper than buying new clothes every few months for every growth spurt while we’re paying off debt. I’ve learned how to make bread (without a stand mixer or bread machine, I should add), and I even have a nice burn mark on my arm as a reminder of when I caught the dough on fire in the oven. I’ve expanded my repertoire of things I know how to cook well while also compiling a list of dishes that came out really badly and never ever need to be done again. It’s been hard work, and I’m accepting the fact that it will always be hard work. I encourage you to embrace it.

Challenge yourself to learn something new. Better yet, challenge yourself to get better at the things that could benefit your family the most. Use your family as your motivation to keep pressing forward and learn as you go. Some of you may feel motivated to start a garden to cut back on your food budget. Others might want to try cooking more to cut back on spending money at restaurants. I’ll be learning how to navigate the stock market and make wise investments because that’s something we want to do in the future. I say all of this to say, stop expecting overnight miracles. You are going to have to work at it.

  1. Don’t be afraid of changing

Let me perfectly honest here: Marriage will change you. Parenthood will change you. Your priorities change. How you want to spend your free time changes. Your definition of ‘fun’ changes. Even my love languages changed before and after marriage and after having our daughter. In a nutshell, I’ve changed, and I know that I’m going to keep on changing as the years go by. And so will you.

Now, we can bemoan these changes, or we can accept the fact that God is always at work within our lives. Through His mysterious providence, He brings things into our lives and removes things from our lives to force us to change, to cause us to bear fruit for His glory. And His way of doing it is absolutely perfect and fail-proof. Always remember we serve a faithful, omnipotent God who is mighty to save and relentless in accomplishing His own purposes in our lives for His own glory. And that means that we are all being changed.

In conclusion…

Ultimately, as Christians, we know that the world is opposed to God and His way of doing things. We know this to be true because we once also opposed it. However, we have been brought into the household of faith, and we are called to walk worthy of that calling that we have received. I encourage all of you, but most especially my fellow sisters in the faith, to keep on walking faithfully to the Lord. Be fully convinced in what you believe and why you believe it. Endure the hardships, the backbiting, the insults, and the lack of support from loved ones as you strive to glorify God through your marriage and in your role as a wife and mother. Remain encouraged by the knowledge that you do not strive and labor alone because many are striving with you and many have gone on to claim their reward in heaven. Finally, I pray that this series has been encouraging for all of you, and that the short lessons provided in this blog offer you some encouragement as you continue in your walk. Blessings!

Complementarian Beliefs: Tackling the What and Where of the Problem

I am long overdue for wrapping up this series, and I apologize for the longer than expected delays if you are following this. But in this blog I will offer one more critique for egalitarians, and prayerfully, I will finish up in one more blog with some meaningful suggestions that I can offer to any woman who finds herself struggling between her natural egalitarian tendencies and submitting to the authority of Scripture on the matter.

Now, if you have read Christian’s for Biblical Equality’s statement, you will immediately recognize the emotionally-heavy language this is used throughout the document. You will read about “devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female” and “becoming the perennial loser” and even freedom from what they believe is “unbiblical ‘traditionalism’”. And to think about these things like any normal person, I don’t believe that any woman wants to see herself as being inferior just because of her sex or always feel like she has to give up everything about her life just to fit the mold of what history and tradition say a woman should be. Basically, no woman wants to feel oppressed, and you surely don’t want to feel oppressed by the Bible and its teachings. So the question comes down to this: How do you deal with the thing that is seemingly oppressing you and forcing you to do and become someone you are not?

Short Story

Growing up, I was the middle child sandwiched between two brothers. We lived in the country, and outside of school, we spent most of our days playing outside. I enjoyed most of the adventures my brothers and I went on, and we had a lot of fun. But I HATED being a girl! I couldn’t stand it. I hated wearing dresses, and I especially abhorred the tights my mom made me wear during those hot Virginia summers. I didn’t like ribbons in my hair because I thought they looked stupid. I hated getting my hair done at all, and training bras were the bane of my existence. If you couldn’t figure it out, I just wanted to be a boy like my brothers.

In my opinion, their lives were far better than mine! Haircuts took 10-15 minutes, and all they had to remember was run a brush over their heads in the morning. They got to wear pants or “dress shorts” to church (I despised them for those dress shorts). They never got in trouble for playing or showing up a little dirty. They could play contact sports (my mom wouldn’t let me try out for the football team). And overall, they seemed to have far more freedom in their life than I did as a girl. I hated the difference, and I wanted to be a boy. I even told my mom that one day….I’m guessing she didn’t take that well. But it was how I felt, and I continued to feel that way as I grew up. Even with having crushes on guys, I just hated having to be “feminine”. And I wasn’t sure what it would mean for my future (i.e. would I actually get married, would I want to get married, would I have to change and be more “ladylike” in the future, etc.), but I knew I just didn’t like it at all.

Addressing the Conflict

The internal conflict with my feelings was always there because I was raised in the church. I read the Bible. I saw Christian women, and even as a child, I had a general sense of what was expected of me as a female. I just didn’t like it, and eventually, I realized I had a major problem. Let me bring in this excellent quote from Dr. Al Mohler:

Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What the gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution – a righteousness that is not our own.

I soon realized that my problem wasn’t being female and getting the short end of the stick. My problem was that I didn’t like God. I felt like His way of designing and ordering things was really unfair. I didn’t understand why He had to make male and female different and then say that they are of equal value in His sight. I felt like men got all the perks, and I didn’t understand why He would make women deal with periods, childbirth, and not being in charge at all. It just didn’t seem fair to me. But as I would read my Bible, I kept coming across passages like Job 38-41, Isaiah 40:13-17, Isaiah 55:6-9, and my favorite, Jeremiah 17:5-10 (verses 9-10 are below):

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

Eventually, I realized that my problem was my own sinful heart. I needed to change. And the more I thought about these things, the more I realized that I had always had problems with things I read in the Bible throughout my life. There were lots of things that I didn’t think were always fair, but I knew that they were right to do because God had commanded them. And my reasoning finally came down to the question of what made being a woman and embracing my God-designed role any different than any other command I had ever learned and obeyed from Scripture. I reasoned that there was no difference. Even if my feelings were stronger, there was no difference, and I still needed to obey.

Coming Around Full Circle

So let’s come back around to the question presented at the beginning: How do you deal with the thing that is seemingly oppressing you and forcing you to do and become someone you are not?

First, you must identify the thing that is opposing you. As Christians, one of the main opposing forces we must fight against is sin (aside from Satan and the world). We also know that sin has penetrated to the very heart of our beings, and it affects every single area of our lives, including the way we think about things. Yet, our Christian duty is to strive and fight against sin all the days of our life. This leads me to my critique of the egalitarian position.

In explaining their position, egalitarians never addressed the root problem of sin. They didn’t address the fact that sin has affected each of us, nor did they consider how sin has affected their own attitudes, predispositions, feelings, and willingness to obey the Word of God on the matter of the roles of men and women in marriage. Egalitarians rightly determine that the whole Bible is “the liberating Word”, but they have failed to rightly identify what the Word is actually liberating them from. As Christians, we cannot get around the fact that sin exists, and we are totally depraved because of it. The difference between us and the rest of the world is that we have been set free from the slavery of sin to become slaves of righteousness (Consider Romans 6 – I would read the whole chapter).

In answering the question, the final thing you must consider is whether or not you should succumb to the thing that is trying to oppose and change you. When it comes to sin, we are obviously exhorted to stand firm against it and not yield to it many times in Scripture. But when it comes to the matter of the roles of men and women in the marriage relationship, the assignment of the roles and the responsibilities attached to the roles were predetermined by God. The Bible is clear on the matter. You only continue to fight against it if you are not willing to accept it. But as Christians, we are called to accept the teaching of the Bible as truth from God for our lives today.

But then you may ask: Why should I allow the Bible to change me when God accepts me for who I am?

And in response, I can only say that you are sadly mistaken. We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, because God no longer accepts us for who we are. He is too holy to accept us poor, miserable, sinful creatures. And Christ came, lived, died, and rose so that we could partake in His perfect righteousness and be able to stand before God while not facing the eternal wrath and judgment that we are due. So yes, the Bible is extremely liberating for the believer, but the thing it liberates us from (that is, the dominion of sin) is not something we naturally want to be freed from (consider Romans 6-7). And yes, the Bible will force you to change, to become someone you are not. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being conformed to the image of Christ, as Romans 8:29 tells us. And in the language of Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, we are constantly exhorted to “put off” our sins and old manner of living and thinking and “put on” the deeds of righteousness, pursuing holiness and godliness in this life. Oh yes, as Christians, we are forced to change all the time, and we do well not to resist the work of the Spirit of God in the matter.

Ultimately, we will all face moments when we have a problem with something we read in Scripture. I mean, the Word of God is offensive. It tells us the truth of our condition…a truth we out rightly reject and often delude ourselves in denying. But it is still the truth. And as Al Mohler pointed out, we can act like the rest of the world and believe that the things outside us, including the Word of God, are the real problems. And we can even make up in our own hearts and minds the proper solutions for remedying these things and ‘liberate’ ourselves from these problems. But ultimately, we have internal problems that can only be remedied by God alone. With these thoughts in mind, I challenge my egalitarian brothers and sisters to consider the weighty problem of sin in their own beliefs and perspectives on the roles of men and women in marriage and in their willingness to accept the plain teachings of Scripture.

Complementarian Beliefs: Biblical Consistency

Picking up from where I left off, the next main point that grabbed my attention were the shifting definitions/words that egalitarians used to defend their position. Formally, this is called the equivocation fallacy, and if you read through Christians for Biblical Equality’s statement, you will see this fallacy a lot. But here is a more formal explanation taken from the book A Pocket Guide to Logic & Faith by Dr. Jason Lisle:

When debating on any topic, it is very important that we pay close attention to the meaning of words and how they are being used in the debate. Most words have more than one meaning, but only one of these meanings will properly fit the given context. When someone shifts from one meaning of a word to another within an argument, he or she has committed the fallacy of equivocation.

Now, my husband likes to call the equivocation fallacy a ‘bait and switch’, and I think that this is a good way of thinking about this fallacy in general and also in considering the egalitarian arguments. For a brief example, consider this tenth point under their Biblical Truths section:

The Bible defines the function of leadership as the empowerment of others for service rather than as the exercise of power over them (Matt 20:25-28, 23:8; Mark 10:42-45; John 13:13-17; Gal 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2-3).

On the surface, it is kind of easy to agree with them. However, you have to consider their word choices and why they used the words in the way they did. For instance, they speak of the “function of leadership”. Does the function of leadership nullify the role of a leader? Or does the function of leadership change the fact that leaders, by definition, have authority and rule over the people they are in charge of? (Why else would you call them your leader?) And if not, why would they say that the function of leadership is meant to empower others for service rather than exercise power over them?

This is just a small example of what you will see as you read through their document, and the matter becomes worse when you actually read the Scripture references they have listed in support of their positions. When you read those Scriptures, I encourage you to read before and after the verses for a better context and understanding of what those verses mean, and then, think about whether those verses are really applicable at all to their point.

Let me look that up…

Ultimately, it is crucial for Christians to recognize how easily people change words or equate the same meaning to different words to further their own arguments. When it comes to what we believe from the Bible, being firm and confident in our understanding of the Scriptures is paramount in living a victorious Christian life, and it keeps us from being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Consequently, as Christians, our only safeguard against this error is to know the Word of God for ourselves and to be willing to tear down faulty arguments that stand against the truth of God’s Word, recognizing that we must be prepared to not only work the defense, but also the offense in this spiritual war (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

This is also why I commend the complementarians who crafted the Danvers Statement and appreciate the fact that they pointed out this serious concern in their rationale statements:

8. The increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;

9. The consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;

The issue that is ultimately at stake is the authority of the Bible over the Christian life. If we say that Scripture is not clear enough, or if we underhandedly change the meaning of scriptures, distort the context, or read things into the text that are not there, then we are undermining the fact that the Word of God was given to us by God Himself to be the “only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience” (LBC 1.1)

Therefore, I encourage all of my egalitarian brothers and sisters to carefully examine the Scriptures again. Consider the fact that God is immutable, His Word is never contradictory, and “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which are not many, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.” (LBC 1.9)

My final encouragement for my complementarian brothers and sisters (and all those people who waver or find themselves moderately in the camp) is that you would also carefully study and examine the Scriptures for yourself. Know why you believe what you believe, and be able and ready to give an answer for your beliefs and your choices in living out this Christian life.