Aletheia, part six

(…continued from Aletheia, part five…)

The second truth we will consider now relates to how we can help our husbands. This truth is that, as godly wives, we are called to both ponder and pursue virtue—and this, my friends, is a great help to a husband.

“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-11

That is an extremely familiar passage for many Christian wives, but it is something which ought to be deeply pondered as well as broadly known. First of all, it says “a virtuous wife”—but what is virtue? In 2 Peter 1:5-8, we see the exhortation; “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This tells us that if we are faithfully increasing in these things mentioned by Peter, the result is that we will be rooted and fruitful in the knowledge of Christ. What better endeavor could there be for Christian women? Our goal ought to be to grow in our faith and love for God, and through those avenues we will grow in good works. So back to the question of virtue: a virtuous woman is a woman who exhibits godly character traits, because virtues are qualities that God’s Word defines for us. Of course some virtues may fall out of favor with the world because unbelievers can call evil good and good evil. A modern dictionary simply defines virtue as “conformity to a right standard” or “moral excellence.” For us, God’s Word shines the light of truth! In Philippians 4:8, we read that “if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Virtue is obviously praiseworthy, and we are commanded to focus and fill our mind with it. So we can see that we are to think about virtue as well as pursue it.

And underlying all of this, we must remember to be keenly aware that without the grace of God, none of our labor is worth anything. Our pursuit of holiness, our quest for virtue, is all of grace or it is all for naught. It is of primary importance for us to know and remember that He is the One making us fruitful. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Indeed, I can see why a virtuous wife would be so invaluable. I can see why the heart of a husband could safely trust in a virtuous wife. I can see that her fruitfulness in virtue would overflow to keep him from lacking gain. A virtuous woman would purpose to do good to her husband and to avoid sinning against him.

So in the twenty verses which follow in Proverbs 31, while it does not list out virtues by name, it does describe the characteristics which a godly wife could seek in her quest toward growing in virtue.

What qualities come to mind when you think of the word “virtue”?
Fruits of the Spirit maybe, Purity, Holiness, Chastity, Obedience, Diligence, Contentment, Prudence, Wisdom, Humility, Courage, Kindness, Loyalty, Gratitude, Patience, Domesticity… this is clearly not an exhaustive list. But it is a starting point.

What qualities do you see in Proverbs 31 specifically as you read through 31:10-31? What words would you use to describe her? Going straight through the twenty-one verses in this passage, this is the progression I could see at a glance:
Valuable, Valued, Trustworthy, Productive, Good, Industrious, Resourceful, Diligent, Hospitable, Generous, Savvy, Practical, Strong, Fit, Thoughtful, Confident, Attentive, Creative, Compassionate, Courageous, Prepared, Artistic, Innovative, Respected, Respectful, Capable, Honored, Preparing, Organized, Rejoicing, Wise, Kind, Observant, Blessed, Admired, Godly, Fruitful, Rewarded.

I don’t know about you, but I am simultaneously humbled and have my sails filled by that list. And I think it is a good reminder about two things specifically. One, how broad my calling is—how I could never hit the apex in an entire lifetime—so I ought never have an excuse of growing bored or stagnant. And, two, how narrow my calling is, because I am not called to be all these things to all people everywhere—rather, I am called to be these things right here, at home, with my people, amidst my community.

So this second truth about who we are is that we are called to be virtue-seeking wives. We are called to ponder and pursue virtue, godly characteristics laid out for us throughout Scripture. This is an incredibly vast nuance, covered with a wide lens, not a zoom. Thankfully, we each have the rest of our lives to “add to our faith, virtue.”

(…continued in Aletheia, part seven…)

Holy Week, iv

Holy Week, iv ~ Holy Wednesday, “Spy Wednesday”; plotting against Jesus, anointing Jesus; teaching, resting, fellowshipping.

Discussion Points:
What was Judas doing on the Wednesday before the crucifixon? Who did he conspire with? What was Jesus doing? Where was He resting? Who was He teaching? Who anointed Him, and what is the significance of this offering?
(Here is an interesting blog about Spy Wednesday.)

Art Study:
Study the visual difference between faithful following and plotting following. What is the posture? Where is there light versus darkness?

File:Master of Perea - Saint Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of Christ - 1975.95.1 - Yale University Art Gallery.jpg
Saint Mary Magdalen Anointing the Feet of Christ
Artist: Master of Perea, Spanish, Valencia, active ca. 1490–1510
Dixon, Maynard_Shapes of Fear
Maynard Dixon (American, 1875–1946), Shapes of Fear, 1930–32

Scripture Reading:
Psalm 70
Matthew 26:6-16
Luke 20:19-26
Luke 22:1-6
John 12:36-50
Hebrews 12:1-3

Hymn:

Snack & Stories:
Today we will eat simple bread and fruit, such as Jesus and the disciples may have had while traveling and fellowshipping and teaching. And we will read The Jesus Story by Mary Batchelor.

Poetry:
Holy Sonnets by John Donne

Activity:
Playing some spy games (ideas here and here to be a fun mom)
Printable activities:

Listening:

Bach’s Chorales & Partita No. 2 in D Minor—Holy Week festival, Tenebrae (what is a Tenebrae?)

Aletheia, part five

(…continued from Aletheia, part four…)

Because we know who we are and Whose image we bear, what are the truths about how we now live? What are we called to do as Christian women? The demographic I am addressing today is a particular niche of Christian women: those who are wives and mothers. There are many other ways to walk out faithful Christian womanhood, and I don’t pretend that what I am about to say is anywhere near exhaustive. Just the tip of an iceberg. And since I was speaking to a small group of homeschooling Christian mamas when I first wrote this, that is the iceberg I chipped.

So while there is some philosophy here, and definitely distinct theology around it, this is simply basic encouragement for a narrow audience, encouraging specific work. This is nothing new or shiny, but age old common wisdom.

Having previously studied for truth in Scripture about Christian identity and woman, who are we then as Christian wives? How we do know the truth about this? How ought we live as godly wives so that the gospel shines here?

Nancy Wilson wrote that “Faithful Christian marriages are bright lights that defy the lies of a dark, dark world.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p43) We must not be blind to the barrage of lies about marriage which face us in this dark world, and ask God to open our eyes to His truth about Christian marriage.

First, the smallest, most basic truth we see right in the very beginning of Scripture is this: marriage is between one man and one woman. Marriage is a covenant made between the man and woman, and God—it is not just a legal contract, although in our culture it does include that. But a covenant is deeper, and has associated with it specific blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. I like to pull a bit of Paul in here by saying that it is a mystery: for marriage is meant to be a picture for us of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:32 reminds us, then, that we are to be singleminded in marriage: pursuing the good of our one spouse, husband loving and wife respecting and both mutually serving one another—because this is the plainest way to show the mystery of Christ. His love and sacrifice for us. His singlemindedness toward His chosen people. Of course, Ephesians 5 is where we can learn about headship, leadership, responsibility—and the complements: submission, obedience, and shelter.

But something that seems less often described is perhaps one of the best verses on marriage in the entire Bible. Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” A brief comment about rottenness in bones: this is where an ungodly wife literally tears down her home from the inside out. In the very marrow of her husband, the rotten fruit of an ungodly wife will fester and become putrid. But an excellent wife? An excellent wife is a crown, and she makes her husband kingly. Think about that: the godly wife is not described as a queen, but a crown. 1 Corinthians 11:7 puts it this way: “the woman is the glory of the man.” Crown! Glory! These are royally superior words, ladies. Here is what makes this such a fantastic verse, according to what one of my old pastors used to say: “God has so designed marriage that a husband can not outgive the wife. She is where his strengths are manifested, and come back to bless him.” The husband provides, the wife glorifies. Let me give you just a couple of examples:

The husband provides a house. The wife makes it home.
The husband assures it is livable. The wife assuredly makes it lovely.
The husband makes it secure. The wife makes it habitable.
The husband brings home the groceries. The wife makes a feast.
The husband gives the wife a seed. She gives him a baby.

Our husbands are responsible to love and provide, but we are responsible to respect and glorify. We take even the meager and make it into an abundance.

The first man and woman were given to one another after God said in the second chapter of Genesis, “it is not good that man should be alone.” He said that He would make a helper comparable to him. I know two of those words can tend toward stumbling blocks for some. “Helper” and “comparable.” Helper = someone who helps, aide, advisor, colleague, partner. Comparable = suited, fit, corresponding to. A wife is called to be a complement to her husband—his counterpart, a balance, one half of the pair. This is how God designed it from the very beginning, and this is what it means to be the helpmeet to your husband. Not that being a helper is lesser. Not that needing a helper is lesser. But that being his helpmeet means you are the counterpart, filling in your husband’s gaps, taking what he does and making it even grander.

1 Peter is one of my favorite epistles, and the exhortation to wives reads like poetry in many ways. We are told that “wives are to be submissive to your own husbands,” “not to let your adornment be merely outward, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” And what proof does Peter give us for these things? He says “in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” So we are given a strong indication that we are to be submissive—to our own husband—and we are given the encouragement of being like Sarah in Scripture if we pursue goodness with courage. (1 Peter 3)

How does that word “submissive” make you feel? I think a lot of people in our modern age find it makes their skin crawl. It rather makes me feel safe, comforted, covered, provided for, lead. But ultimately, I don’t honestly care how it makes any of us “feel”—because here it is plainly in Scripture, and I am not allowed to construe the Word of God if it makes me uncomfortable. I am called to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), and not to be conformed to this world—in fact, Romans 12:2 says that I am to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Wow. I am to renew my mind and to be conformed to the image of Jesus. And it’s very plain in Scripture that it is good, acceptable, and God’s will that I would be submissive to my husband.

I did vow to be obedient to my husband when I married him, and I remain confident that this is biblical and right. In fact, in Titus 2:5, we specifically read that women are “to be obedient to their own husbands.” There is no question that as Christian wives, we are called to submit and to obey. We might as well embrace this reality with joy and gratitude. If you are married, thank God that you have a leader, someone to follow, somewhere to find comfort and shelter. And ask God to give your husband a wise and generous heart that longs to see his wife flourish, his family blessed, and God glorified. Now, if you do not have a godly husband, please seek counsel with older, wise, godly women, and with the elders of your local church. Ungodly and abusive husbands are all too common, and they ought not be the norm. We are all married to sinners—but godliness is shown by repentance and forgiveness and grace and kindness. The best way to be a godly wife to an ungodly man is by prayer and an excellent witness, according to Scripture. But you are not to be abused. Remember that you are an image-bearer of God AND a weaker vessel. Therefore, walk in wisdom and with circumspection. Do not be blind, but seek godliness with wisdom.

My dad has said that most often, when he has made a less-than-great decision in life it has been when he has not heeded the wisdom of his wife. I have also heard him lament that it is a fool who does not seek his wife’s counsel and respect her input. Mark Chanski, in his book titled Womanly Dominion, wrote, “I desperately need a wife who is well-educated, well-read, precise thinking, culturally aware, financially shrewd, and theologically mature. Such a wife is a potent force of inestimable value.” (Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski, p149) He just flat-out admitted that he needed a wife. Not a mousey wife with no backbone, not a doormat to walk upon. A skilled helper.

And lest you think that it is demeaning to be considered even a skilled helper, consider this from G.K. Chesterton, for he said: “Feminism is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

So the first truth is that you were given to your own husband as his complement: a glorifying helpmeet, to obey and submit to his leadership. You are in the charge and care of your own husband—not men or husbands in general, but YOUR own husband. And you are called to be his particular helper—not to obey and submit to men or husbands in general, but your own particular husband. Nancy Wilson says, “A wife is to be a helper to her husband, not a blind follower.” (Building Her House, Nancy Wilson, p45)

You are comparable to your husband: not just physically created in such a way as to physically fit together, although that is a particular glory of marriage—and could have been discussed previously in regard to our female qualities—but God also tends to delight in putting marriages together where we balance one another out in a variety of ways. Our differences and similarities challenge, encourage, match, or make allowances for one another. And this is good. This is part of being comparable to your husband. This is part of being his helper.

This is part of meeting your description as your husband’s wife.

(…continued in Aletheia, part six…)

Holy Week, iii

Holy Week, iii ~ Holy Tuesday: parables and people

Food:
Tilapia packets with asparagus; brown rice with lemon & Parmesan

Activity:
Excellent resource on parable studies for older kids:

Art Study:

Jesus Preaching by Tissot
The Prodigal Son by Rembrandt van Rijn
The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 49:1-7 (or the whole chapter!)
Psalm 71:1-17
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
John 12:20-43

Poetry:

Hymn:

Picture Books:

Listening:
J.S. Bach Cantata on the Parables

Aletheia, part four

(…continued from Aletheia, part three…)

The Bible doesn’t actually expand a whole lot on the idea or specific realities of our femaleness, but rather emphasizes the femininity which follows. I think at the very least, Scripture indicates that while males ought to be masculine, females ought to be feminine. In fact, we ought to be undeniably feminine: no question about it! Scripture speaks to women in our different roles: as wife, as mother, as servant, as disciple, as older women, as younger women. Women in the Bible are also described with a vast array of adjectives: beautiful, skillful, tender, refined, delicate, loved, worthy, discerning, wise, wealthy, gracious, receiving honor, precious, trustworthy, interested in doing good, pleasing her husband, prudent, strong, diligent, generous, kind, excellent, worthy of praise, faithful, fruitful, worshipful, sacrificial, worthy of remembrance, bearer of a faithful testimony, uncondemned, believer, worshiper, glory of man, quiet learner, submissive, weaker vessel.

As you peruse that list of descriptions, do you have a feminine picture in your mind? What words stick out to you? Are they good words?

There are also numerous negative ways the Bible describes certain women: drunken, perverse, rebellious, desolate, cursed, wicked, idolatrous, barren, forbidden, adulteress, evil, wily of heart, without discretion, quarrelsome, fretful, heart of snares and nets, deceived transgressor.

That really adds some weight to the conversation. May the Lord protect us from turning to the ways of those women. And wouldn’t you weep to have any of those words attached to one of your daughters? These are not lovely, godly, or remotely feminine words.

After just quickly running through those things relating to various women in the Bible, can we see what kind of women we ought to be? How would we pursue that kind of femininity in order to shine the light of gospel truth? Is there a way to proclaim the Gospel simply by living my life as a faithful Christian woman? By being undeniably feminine?

In general, we can see that a biblical woman should be discerning, gracious, generous, and kind. A biblical woman should be focused on serving the Lord and serving her neighbors—her closest neighbors being those with whom she shares her home. Godly women also pass on their faith through evangelism and discipleship. They sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him, to serve Him, to beg for His mercy, to praise His name.

Proverbs is one of the best places to learn about womanhood and femininity—and I’m not just talking about the beautiful portrait of queenly grace in Proverbs 31. Lady Wisdom is someone I long to emulate (read Proverbs chapters 1-9 to see why). We want to avoid being quarrelsome or worrisome. We do not seek to ensnare, capture, or deceive men. We ought not dress seductively or act thoughtlessly. We must work hard and work broadly. Our feminine touch ought to reach beyond our families and homes into our communities and industries.

We have touched on our gender and our feminine affect, but what about the cross-section of those two things, which would be the femininity of our physical bodies?

As female, we have the honor of bearing womanly bodies. What does this mean? And is it significant? Elisabeth Elliot asks, “Is there invisible meaning in its visible signs—the softness, the smoothness, the lighter bone and muscle structure, the breasts, the womb?” Let me ask you: have you read Song of Solomon lately? What does most of that poetry bring to mind? Most of it does not evoke images of a masculine body, for sure. Now, to be honest, I’m not quite certain I understand enough about Hebrew poetry and wisdom literature to really get a handle on things like gazelles and does—but at least clusters of grapes and a heap of wheat make some sense to me.

But having the body of a woman is not just romantic metaphor. It is also sacrificial and painful, even downright gory. I think as a small child, I would envision the woman with the flow of blood who touched Jesus’ hem as someone who simply had a wound that wouldn’t scab over. Of course I later learned that Scripture is full of stories including menstruation and social uncleanness, lots of sexuality, even menopause and barrenness. And until I understood how breastfeeding and milk ducts work, I don’t think I grasped why Pharaoh’s daughter would have given Moses back to Jochebed his mother. I now understand wet nurses and menstruation and endometriosis and polyps and childbirth and miscarriage.

I know something about having a woman’s body. But how do I treat this body as uniquely feminine? And how ought my body be used to proclaim the truth of the Gospel?

I would like to read a rather lengthy little quote from Mark Chanski’s book Womanly Dominion (which is not my favorite book on the subject, but has some good snippets):

“The false stereotype of a Christian woman being a helpless and frail mouse, who passively shades herself under the parasol of her soft femininity, and adoringly waits for her husband to do all the heavy lifting, is shattered by the Scriptures. Yes, the godly Christian woman wears beautiful ornaments that are precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4), but her jewelry is not only the necklace of a gentle and quiet spirit, but also the bracelets of strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17, 25).”
“It’s absolutely and wonderfully true that women are rightly designated in the Bible as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7) who are to display a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4). But such soft and tender qualities do not tell the whole story. There’s much more to the challenging mission assigned to the godly woman by her Maker, Redeemer, and Lord.”

Let us be reminded now that Eve, like Adam, was called to take dominion. To dominate over something. As women, we are called to imitate the God whose image we bear, by dominating the world over which God has placed us. (Genesis 1:28) We were given work to do with our physical bodies. If I may be so bold as to say it, I think God even assigned to us, women’s work. Let’s ponder the fact that in our womanhood we are given specific strength, specific limitations, and specific honor.

1 Peter 3:7 says that “husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel.” I know this isn’t necessarily speaking about the physical vessel of our bodies, but bear with me for a moment.

I remember the wife of my former pastor saying to be honored rather than flummoxed by being called the weaker vessel—after all, I would rather be a crystal goblet than a 5-gallon bucket. Both are worthy vessels, but they are made for different purposes. I would no sooner drink wine from a 5-gallon bucket than I would haul grain to the cows in a crystal goblet. Yet it makes sense for each vessel to hold water. Made differently for different purposes, but made of equal value for the Maker and His kingdom.

Perspective really makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Elisabeth Elliot writes, “The special gift and ability of each creature defines its special limitations. And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird—up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom—so the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling—wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God.”

We must be unequivocally fervent in our Christian womanhood. Fervent in being unabashedly female and undeniably feminine. What should Christlike fervency be for us, so that the Gospel shines through us as women?

I will confess to you that the physical, bodily aspect of womanhood has been surprisingly difficult for me. I have not always fervently embraced this. As someone who struggled deeply with body image for decades, and then as someone who struggled to bear children, I still struggle with emotional scars—at the same time, I also recognize others’ myriad struggles that come with size, weight, physical abilities or disabilities, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions from psoriasis to acne, surgical scars, menstrual complications, infertility, disease… it seems as though bearing the body of a woman can be an ever-changing and challenging task. But what I remind myself, and what I want to briefly say here, is that this is the body God knit in my mother’s womb; these are the hands and feet that serve Him; this is the voice I was given to raise for Him; this is the body He gave me to carry 14 babies and safely deliver and nurse 5 of them; this is the skin, the hair, the height He crafted just for me; this is the body He gave me to offer to my husband; this is the body He provides for my children to find cuddles and comfort; this is the body which will someday die, decay, and fertilize a bit of dirt; this is the body that will leap from the grave when my Savior returns to bring renewal to all of creation! This is the body that He will resurrect, restore, and remake.

One of the most potent things we can do to treat our bodies as Christian women is to offer them up in thankfulness to the Lord. To acknowledge His creation and creativity in each unique design. To remember that each part of my body is to be used for Him. To honor this body as a dwelling place of His Spirit. To joyfully give my body for my husband to enjoy and for my children to be nourished by.

Another surprisingly potent way we can treat our bodies as Christian women is to adorn them in a feminine way. Yes, of course, I know that we are to pursue and prize the adornments of a meek and quiet spirit—yes, amen, and absolutely. But if you revisit Proverbs 31, or think about Rebekah or Ruth or Esther—the Bible quite plainly and without apology talks about the beauties and adornments and cleanliness of lovely women. Dress yourself and your daughters in feminine beauty. There ought to be no question about it: yours is the body of a woman. Female and feminine and fervent.

As Elisabeth Elliot said, “You are, by the grace of God, a woman. This means you have responsibilities. You are fully a woman, and this means you have privileges. You are only a woman, which means you have limitations. Thank God for this, and… live it to the hilt!”

So I encourage you to remember who God made you to be. We find this right from the very first chapter of Genesis when God said He made man in His image—male and female. He made you female in every cell of your body. He made you feminine and womanly. You are called to fervently, boldly embrace your female reality and joyfully pursue femininity.

This is the truth we rest in as Christian women: we are to take dominion and bear fruit, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made, skillfully wrought by God who has a great sum of precious thoughts toward us—we rest in Him, for we belong to Him.

Father God, I ask for Your blessing upon each woman who reads this. Please bless each of us as we seek to honor You with our very selves. Help us to meditate on Your truth, and to rest in who You are as well as in who You created each one of us to be. Enable us to be creative in the pursuit of femininity so that we stand as light in an increasingly dark world. Make us more like Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.

(…continued in Aletheia, part five…)

Holy Week, ii

Holy Week, ii ~ Holy Monday: Cleansing and Cursing, Children’s Hosanna

Foods:
Figs! I love dried figs, and they are adequate for our day, but if there were any way I could get my hands on fresh figs and lamb, I would be excitedly cooking these skewers for dinner.

Activity:
Today we are just printing paper activities to keep little hands busy while I read to the children.

Art Study:
We will be pondering many of the details in this Jacob Jordeans painting. Facial expressions, imbalance, animals, bare feet, carrying a basket atop the head, gilded columns, coins. This one is rich.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and  selling in the temple, and overturned the table… | Jacob jordaens, Painting,  Jesus painting
Jesus Cleansing the Temple by Jacob Jordeans (1593-1678)

Scripture Readings:
John 2:13-22
Matthew 21:12-22
Joel 1
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Psalm 1

Articles worth reading on the temple cleansing and cursing of the fig tree: Gospel Coalition and Sabbath.org and OliveTree as well as Wolfmueller below.


Songs:


Poetry:

Create:

Listening:

Aletheia, part three

(…continued from Aletheia, part two…)

We have thus far considered truths in Scripture about our identity as Christians, and now we will ponder the reality of living as physical representations of God’s image.

So what does it mean to be a woman, a female?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our womanhood, our femaleness?

In answer, I have three succinct categories. We are to be unabashedly female, undeniably feminine, and unequivocally fervent.
Female, feminine, and fervent.

The fact that I am a woman does not mean that I need to be a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does mean that I need to be a different kind of woman. A woman who is actually rather countercultural in our day. A woman who recognizes that God made me specifically who I am, right down to how He coded every miniscule detail of my DNA—the red hair, the blue eyes, the XX pattern on every single cell in my body.

Nancy Wilson writes, “Christian women, of all women on earth, ought to think and dress and act in a manner that is completely contrary to the world.” This is currently a hot-button topic in our culture, yet in reality it is biblically very straightlaced and plain.

In our so-called politically correct society, it is essential that we think biblically, speak the truth in love, and honestly laugh out loud at the modern absurdities regarding gender roles and the fluidity of sexual identity.

I find it incredibly ironic that gender reveal parties seem to be all the rage, in this era when our Mister Potato Heads are being stripped of their titles, and in a web search I could find as many as 22 genders listed. Yet the most basic gender science of all is on wild display every time a baby is born—the baby is either a boy or a girl. I have to laugh at National Geographic type discoveries of ancient remains where they isolate DNA, declaring the body male or female; or a recent Nova article where cremated remains were deemed identifiable as female. The inconsistency of progressive modernists is absurd.

I remember a tiny niece of mine watching me change my baby boy’s diaper, and she marveled at his physical difference from her. She looked up at me in awe: she both saw (pointing from my baby to herself) and spoke the difference: “boy, girl.” As Psalm 8 says, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, You have established strength because of Your foes.”

From the very moment of conception, we are created and then subsequently born either male or female. Now, I am a doctor’s daughter and I have had enough exposure to pregnancy and infancy complications that I do know there are genetic mutations and complications which are not simply XX or XY. But I don’t think we need to go into those rarities for this conversation—God’s typical way of creating healthy image-bearers for Himself is by creating them male or female. Beyond the scientific, genetic, built-into-our-very-DNA and observable with our own eyeballs… Scripture (which inerrancy and efficacy we established earlier) tells us that this is so. In Genesis 1:27 we read “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And then after He gives them work to do and purposes to fulfill, we read in verse 31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

God certainly was pleased with Himself over what He made, for it was only after He created the first humans in His image that He proclaimed His creation very good. Nancy Wilson says we ought to be “delighting in the way God has made us male and female and not blurring the distinctions.” God wants us to be unabashedly female.

We ought to revel in a humble awe over the divine creation of sex and gender. We are not just to acknowledge or accept our gender, and we are not to somehow seek to overcome our sexuality. We ought to go so far as to affirm it and rejoice in it. Elisabeth Elliot says, “We seek to be faithful to it as we seek to use it as a gift of God. Unfaithfulness to one’s sex is unfaithfulness to everybody… The husband who is not faithful to his masculinity defrauds his wife, and the reverse is equally true.” Elliot also says, “If you can understand your womanhood, you will know fullness of life. Hear the call of God to be a woman. Obey that call. Turn your energies to service. Whether your service is to a husband and through him and the family and home God gives you to serve the world, or whether you should remain, in the providence of God, single in order to serve the world without the solace of husband, home, and family, you will know the fullness of life, fullness of liberty, and fullness of joy.”

You are female. Rejoice in that. Unabashedly.

(…continued in Aletheia, part four…)

Holy Week, I

Holy Week, 1 ~ Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entry


Special Foods:

Pax Cakes with fig butter

Special Activity:

Palm frond crosses

Art Study:

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anthony-Van-Dyck

Scripture readings:

Zechariah 9:9

Psalm 116

John 12:12-13

Song:

All Glory, Laud, and Honor

Poetry:

The Donkey, by G.K. Chesterton

Ride On by Henry Hart Milman

Create:

Hosanna lettering & coloring tutorial

https://www.pzazzonline.com/blog/diy-hand-lettering-easter-art-full-tutorial-p-zazz-art-studio

Listening:

Cantata for Palm Sunday by J.S. Bach, “Himmelskönig, sei willkommen” BWV 182: I-IV

Aletheia, part two

(…continued from Aletheia, part one…)

As a Christian, then—as someone who belongs to Christ—what is it that I profess and proclaim?

If I say to my children, “children, what do we believe?” they will all answer with a loud, confident recitation of the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles Creed

Like my children, I was raised on Bible verses, Bible stories, sermons, and songs. As I have grown, I have learned catechisms alongside my children—which are essentially miniature creeds, broken down into question and answer format, to teach myself and anyone else who listens to me, what I do profess and proclaim. The New City Catechism is the third catechism I have memorized in tandem with my children, and I continue to learn and grow and deepen in my knowledge of Christ and Christlikeness and Christianity through this pious practice of catechesis.

But going back to Scripture, we see in 1 Corinthians 15:3, that the Apostle Paul begins writing what Alisa Childers (of Another Gospel?) called one of the earliest creeds. He says that the most important things are our beliefs that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve—and then on to more and more witnesses. So the most basic tenets of the faith are right there: Christ truly died and Christ was truly resurrected.

If you do not have creeds or catechisms as part of your Christian practice, please allow me to highly commend them to you. The Apostles’ Creed and the New City Catechism are both approachable and Scriptural and truthful (but there are lots of other similar resources that could equally bless your family). The Apostles’ Creed is from the early church fathers themselves, and the New City Catechism is a modern tailoring of historic catechesis. I would be more than happy to share more with you about these things any time. Creeds and catechisms are a beautiful way to develop the heart of a disciple. And as someone who belongs to Christ, I am His disciple. And children—particularly the littlest ones—are hardwired for memorization and recitation. They thrive on it, they love the process, and it is good for their souls. The martyr William Tyndale in the early 16th century encouraged all Christians to memorize the entire book of Romans. Wow! But that is where the beauty of concise things like catechisms and creeds really shines. Work your way slowly into larger portions of Scripture. I was pretty pleased when my children and I memorized Psalm 103 together a couple of years ago… but the entire book of Romans would definitely require practice and perseverance.

(Check out Crossway and ChristianityToday for more information on the practice of catechesis.)

I know that I belong to Christ, and I know what I profess and proclaim… so how do I then live as a Christian, letting the light of the Gospel shine here?

Two of the things that should flow from our lives as Christians are evangelism and worship. We need to be evangelists—and there are many ways to share the Gospel with others, whether you deliver tracts to doorsteps, spend time on mission trips introducing indigenous tribes to Jesus, show hospitality to your neighbors through acts of mercy and generosity, or invite unbelieving family members to join you in services or events at church. Regardless of how this plays out in your individual life situation: you are called to share the love of Jesus, and tell others about Him, share Scripture with them, and give a defense for the faith and hope within you.

Paul writes wonderfully about these things in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

If anyone loves God, he is known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24). Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Do not be contentious (1 Corinthians 11:16). Suffer together and rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26). Pursue love (1 Corinthians 13), and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Be infants in evil, but think in maturity (1 Corinthians 14:20). Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26).

In 1 John chapter 4, we read more about Christian life being one called to love. This is where we really see the truth of who God is, who we are as His children, and how the Gospel light shines here:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and He in God. We love because He first loved us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

And how do we know what the commandments of God are? Luke 10:27 teaches us that the law or commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Micah 6:8 says, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If these things inspire me to do anything, it is to worship Him. To reflect upon His massive mercy, and return praise to Him. As someone who belongs to Christ, I am called to be a worshiper. You are called to be a worshiper. Worship corporately, worship privately, worship alongside your children, worship in quiet, worship aloud. Worship by declaring the holiness of God and rendering due praise unto Him.

This is the truth we rest in as Christians: we belong to Him because He chose us in Him to be His people. We love Him because He first loved us, and now we are called to walk forward in love and good works for His glory and in His image. We are to be disciples learning from Him, evangelists sharing about Him, and worshipers giving honor and praise to Him. We can fully rest in the knowledge that we belong to Him, and that it is because of what He has done for us—not because of what we do for Him.

(…continued in Aletheia, part three…)

Aletheia, part one

I was really delighted to be asked to speak at a local retreat! When I was asked if I would speak on “truth that shines,” I simply began to pray that God would lead me to the topic that the women would need to hear. I had no idea who would be attending this event, the background or baggage, preconceived notions or presuppositions that would be coming along for the ride.

In the end, I decided to focus on a very high-flying, broad view of how to discern truth from Scripture about who we are as Christians, women, wives, and mothers—and how we ought to live in light of those realities of Truth. The Greek word for truth is a beautiful term: αλήθεια (aletheia). In ancient Greece, this was used in a lot of philosophy, to designate full disclosure and the reality of being unconcealed: truth.

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
    (homemakers)
  • as mothers
    (homeschoolers)

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

In case you are new around here, I will briefly introduce myself. I’m Melissa Joy, and I have been married to my husband Steven for almost fourteen years. Ten years ago we built our house on a plot of land beside my parents’ property in the Pacific Northwest—there, my husband runs his Bible software company Olive Tree—there, I plan annual Paideia Northwest conferences to encourage moms in the Christian education & upbringing of their children—and, most importantly, there we seek to raise our five children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I am a second generation homeschooling mama, and I love spending my days delving into stories, songs, histories, sciences, and messes of all kinds with my always-too-precocious children.

I am also a who-knows-how-many generations back Christian mama. I was raised with five generations of Christians alive at once, attending the same church (we regularly filled two long pews in the balcony) & having Sunday evening dinners together every week at Grandma’s house. The faithfulness of God to my great-great grandparents and beyond is astounding. Having such a long standing line of faithful Christians to stand on is a humbling thing, but a glorious heritage to follow. We take up our cross to follow Him, but His burden is easy.

As we look together now at the subject of discerning truths, those are just little pieces of truth about me as an individual. Telling the truth about me allows you to know me. The truths that we now turn to are what allow us to know God. He is truth, and so my hope is that by time we are done here, we will all know our Lord a little more intimately. These truths are not new—they are as old as creation. And they are graciously, generously both broad and simple.

We turn to Scripture in order to seek truth. I believe in (and love) 66 fully inspired and Spirit-breathed books in the canon of Scripture. When it comes to certain topics especially, I just don’t even see the need to try saying anything eloquently because the Word of God is right here at my fingertips! My desire is to thumb through the Scriptures now in search of Truth, beginning with this Psalm 139:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Something that really strikes me in this particular Psalm is the way David writes about both our spiritual selves and our physical selves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the glory of God is expounded when we contemplate His hand in both our spiritual and physical life. Those are the two things we will begin contemplating—who are we spiritually and physically?

The majority of people who would read my blog, probably including you, are Christian women. That is both a spiritual and a physical designation. Fearfully and wonderfully Christian. Fearfully and wonderfully female.

So what does it mean to be a Christian?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our Christianity, corporate and personal?

I would like to suggest that three ways we ought to shine truthful light as Christians are by being disciples, evangelists, and worshipers. We are disciples when we seek the face of the Lord to learn at His feet, like Mary the sister of Martha, in Luke 10. You know the story, right? Martha was bustling about the house, and fretted because Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but Mary was singleminded. In fact, Scripture says in Luke 10:42, “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” She was taking the part of a disciple, and Jesus says that this is good. So we must begin with being disciples, eager to learn truth at the feet of Jesus, saturated in His Word.

Throughout the history of the church, true ideas and false ideas have grown together, and it’s up to faithful Christians to be watchful and diligent to compare every idea with the Word of God—we must prayerfully consider His Word as we discern everything else life and culture throws our way. Especially in this world of having a “31 flavors of ice cream” kind of Christianity smorgasbord, we must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

On an average Sunday, my family drives almost an hour to reach our church. I have not tried to count all of the churches we pass directly on our way, but it is undoubtedly dozens—including my parents’ church, my brother’s church, and multiple churches where good friends of ours worship. And the point is this: there are countless houses of worship even right in our county. Many of them are definitely preaching Scripture, gospel truth, and pursuit of faithful living. (Amen! Praise the Lord!) But many of them likely are not. How are we to discern the truth of the Gospel? How do I even know what it means to be a Christian?

According to Scripture, the term “Christian” was first used in Antioch—Acts 11:26 is the first place where the Greek word Χριστιανός was used. It is a noun which literally means “one who is like Christ.” It is not a casual participle saying that those folks over there are kind of Christ-ish. It is its own designation. Christian. One who belongs to Christ. One who is part of His body. There are multiple ways this can be nuanced, probably according to which church tradition you study: and, often, it can be associated with the time of baptism or some kind of conversion experience.

So, the truth is, I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was baptized in 1996—I can tell you the jumper I was wearing (it had sunflowers on it) and some of the people who were in the room—because that is the time when I visibly joined the Church.
Or I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was a toddler—I don’t remember it, but my parents have told me that at bedtime one night while my daddy was playing guitar and singing to me, I said I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart—so that is probably the time where I prayed some semblance of “a sinner’s prayer.”
Or I could tell you that I was a Christian by the time I was born—I had faithful Christian parents, (some) faithful Christian grandparents & great grandparents—and I was raised in the church from the womb, not ever knowing a single day where I was not taught to sing and pray and read my Bible and repent and forgive and trust in Jesus.
But then again, the truth is, it was two millennia ago when Christ died at Calvary, thus atoning for my sins and sealing His promise of everlasting life to me… and it was long before even that when God chose me to be one of His children—in fact, Ephesians 1:4-5 says that He chose His people before the foundation of the world, predestining us for adoption as His children.

But what does this mean or why does it matter? How does this tell me anything about the truth of who I am as a Christian?

At its most basic level, to be a Christian is to belong to Christ.

I think a lot of times, we think that being a Christian means doing certain things, living a certain way, checking off certain boxes—like reading your Bible, believing in the dual nature of Jesus as both God and man, attending public worship on Sundays. Or maybe even legalistic things like dressing a certain way, avoiding certain substances, praying certain prayers.

But here is the thing: too often we focus on what we are doing as Christians. We need to focus on what Christ has done for us.

We don’t belong to Christ because of the things we do, the theology we believe, or the way we live our life.

Rather, we do the things we do, believe the things we believe, and live the way we do because we belong to Christ. Who we are is Christ’s! What we do flows out of that reality.

When we belong to Him, we walk in His ways, we seek to become more like Him, and His Spirit produces fruit in us. These things, like salvation itself, are by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is not procured by our good works, it is a gift of God. He gives us this salvation and eternal life as a gift to receive with humility, thanksgiving, and joy. We can not boast about it, except for boasting in Him (Galatians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:31).

(…continued in Aletheia, part two…)