Every Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week I asked Katie to share about a recent book she read that would be helpful for the female readers of this blog.
In Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldridge takes a very practical look at how our pasts impact our present and future, while giving advice on how to implement immediate change into lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit. She is very honest and upfront with her story throughout the book, which makes it personal and an easy read. I appreciate her reliance on the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. Some quotes that stuck out:
- Jesus, come. Guide me. Holy Spirit, fill me. Dream with me and in me. Help me to unlock the desires you have planted in my heart and to write them down. Help me to dream big.
- Ask yourself:
- What would I love to do? What would I love to experience or create or offer?
- What do I want to be really good at?
- What do I want with God? What does God want with me?
- What do I want to be known for?
- Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is too good to be true. And besides, if you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?
- Laying down what we want to protect or are afraid of losing or are terrified we will never have is not the same thing as losing those things. It is surrendering them. It is opening up our clenched hand around them and allowing God access to them and to us. It is actually saying yes to God for them. Yes to his plan. Yes to his way. It is believing that just as his ways are higher than the heavens are above the earth, so his way for the things we fear is higher. This God of ours is a God of life, of goodness. He is the God of the Resurrection. We lay down our fear. We pick up Jesus. He is the only way we can live beyond fear. He is the Way.
- Truth be told, a good part of our becoming takes place int eh sanctifying work of relationships. And not because friendship is always a greenhouse, either. Trees grow strong because of winds; drought forces their roots to go deeper. There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy. When our frail humanity is revealed in some way we and others don’t like, we bring it to God. We ask for forgiveness. We ask for his life to fill us and his love to flow through us. Which means “Christ in me, love through me” becomes a regular prayer. It always comes back to Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
- John and I learned long ago that in cases of suffering, you can have understanding or you can have Jesus. If you insist on understanding, you usually lose both. When suffering enters into your life, take a deep breath. The very first thing to do is to invite Jesus into it. Pray, Jesus, catch my heart. When painful trials come your way, by all means ask God what’s up- ask him to interpret it for you. But whether he provides understanding or not, invite Jesus in. Keep inviting Jesus into the pain. Invite Jesus into the places in your heart that are rising to the surface through the suffering, be those painful memories, unbelief, or self-contempt. Pray, Please come meet me here, Jesus. I need you. Let suffering be the door you walk through that draws you to deeper intimacy with Jesus. Suffering can do that, if we let it. And though it would never be the doorway we would choose, it is one we will never regret walking through.
Recently, I have been asked how I do all that I do. My response is that I probably do not do all that you think I do. At this writing I have clean laundry piled in the playroom and there is toothpaste spattered all over my kid’s bathroom mirror. (As a friend said, you really should wonder if your kid’s bathroom is not dirty, it means they are not using it.)
As a mom, wife - heck as a woman, I feel competition everyday. Are my kids as gifted, attractive, athletic and well-rounded as the kids in their class or down the street? Am I the best wife, with the best recipes, and the best hair that I can possibly be? Are my jeans fitting a little too tight today because of that extra brownie last night and was my mom right, does everyone one I meet actually like me?
I can drive myself crazy before my foot hits the floor in the morning, and this is all before coffee!
After reminding myself that my approval is already complete in Christ, and my identity is not derived from what others around me think about me, I drink my morning coffee.
And I am reminded about the beauty of the church and how diversity is good, but it usually feels like a competition.
How about we all agree to be good at what we are gifted at and leave the rest to someone else. Let’s celebrate the strengths in those around us and encourage each other in our weaknesses, instead of allowing it to be fodder for gossip.
You are not suppose to do all that I do. You are suppose to do all that YOU are wired to do.
Mother’s Day is a big day for most churches. For Revolution, this is the first time we’ve actually met on Mother’s Day as we met on Saturday nights for the first 4 years as a church. While Mother’s Day is a great day, a day to honor the Mom’s in our lives, it is also a difficult day for many. Most pastor’s on their blogs will talk about honoring women, doing baby dedications, giving out gifts to mother’s, etc. on Mother’s Day.
From the first year, we’ve stayed away from that. On Mother’s Day, it is a hard day for many women in your church. For some, it is a reminder of a broken relationship with their mother, of someone who is no longer there. For some, it is a reminder of the loss of a child. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t mother’s, even though their desire is there. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t married yet, when they want to be.
So, be sensitive.
Here are some things we’ve done:
- Honor all women.
- Acknowledge Mother’s and the role they play. While you are being sensitive, don’t ignore that it is Mother’s Day. It is, it’s on the calendar, everyone knows it. You can be sensitive while acknowledging and honoring Mom’s.
- If you give out a gift, give it to all women. We’ve given all women flowers in the past. This year we are doing free pictures for families, couples or groups of friends or individuals.
- If you want to give a gift to Mom’s, give it out in your children’s ministry so as to not draw attention to it.
- Encourage those who Mother’s Day is a difficult day to come forward for prayer with a leader.
- Acknowledge that Mother’s Day is a great day for some and a hard day for others. This goes a long of way of letting all women know they matter and that you see them.
- Preach the gospel. You should do this every week, but especially on Mother’s Day. Remind women that their only hope regardless of where they are on Mother’s Day is Jesus.
Lastly, don’t preach to women on Mother’s Day. More than likely, the women you will be preaching to will be back the week after Mother’s Day. Preach to the men they drug to church that day. But, if you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you should already be preaching to men clearly.
What do you do to be sensitive to women on Mother’s Day?
Every Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Letting Go of Perfect: Women, Expectations and Authenticity (kindle version) by Amy Spiegel. Instead of me writing this review, my wife Katie was kind enough to share her thoughts on this book hoping to serve the female readers of this blog. You can follow Katie on twitter here or friend her on Facebook here.
I let go of perfect quite a while ago, with four kids 7 years old and under, perfect is not a word that I would use to describe my life or a standard that I strive for much anymore. A better word may be awake or present. I was excited to read this book because although the backdrop of my life is not perfection, there are times that I expect much more out of myself and life then actually happens. Those are the things that I was hoping the book would address. Letting Go of Perfect, although not entirely what I expected, covers some great topics.
From the first page of the introduction Amy Spiegel is transparent with her past and the struggle she is facing, “My life: one minute I love it and know I am right where God wants me; the next minute I loathe it and feel that I have been misplaced and forgotten.” A place that I think every wife and mother feels. Each chapter chronicles a topic in which she trying to lay hold of the freedom she knows is promised through a life in Christ.
Chapter one deals with marriage and kids, and how God uses these close relationships to sand off the rough edges and make us more like Him. “Rather then seeing them as obstacles to be removed or reshaped, we must embrace them as instruments of grace being used for our own betterment. Our identity as God’s children isn’t one of perfection, yet, but a picture of His grace. This perspective, along with a firm grasp of our own sinful nature, should humble us in the face of relational difficulties but also encourage us in the face of adversity.”
I really enjoyed the second chapter, and Amy’s spin on modesty and values. “Going to the gym or the neighborhood pool may be a challenge for men to keep their thoughts pure and lust-free. But I would venture to guess that just as many women struggle to keep their thoughts free of envy and pride.” Too often this conversation is left to the wandering eyes of men, and totally downplays the responsibility we have to other women. “I have a responsibility not to create a competitive or hostile environment for my fellow females. By dressing more conservatively, we lessen the temptation to envy and compare, allowing the spirit to overrule the flesh, so to speak. I have noticed for myself that both my inner and outward dialogue tend to be more edifying while chatting in baggy sweats rather then in my ‘skinny’ jeans.” “Whatever the focus of your vanity, there is nothing wrong with looking nice, but we need to consider our motives and the impact our actions have. …We are called to swallow our pride and vanity for the good of the body or push away our freedom in order that others might not stumble.” “I try to concentrate on whether or not this outfit makes my values look small.”
This next chapter deals with parenthood, and although difficult, we give our children what they need, not what they want or will make them happy. The author relates this to our relationship with God. “So why does God bring these hiccups and monsters into our lives if all they do is make us feel bad about ourselves and make us question whether or not He cares? Why doesn’t He simply shower us with sunshine? The answer to that goes back to giving birth. In order to bring forth the greatest blessing in my life, save Jesus and my hubby, I had to voluntarily enter a room labeled “labor and delivery.” I suppose given the choice at the time I might have been tempted to go back, to reverse course and head for the hills. But were that possible, I would have done so empty-handed. In order to get the blessings, I first had to do the labor. For it is through the pain and the blood that I was delivered.” “This is true of our spiritual labor too. But the amazing thing is that the labor has already been done for us. When Jesus groaned and suffered on the cross, He was bringing us out of death and slavery; He was paying for our lives with His own. Whatever pain we suffer here is just the extraction of our new selves from the old. The pain is real and certainly nothing to joke about, but it is fleeting and simply part of the process of giving birth to our new nature. It may hurt like heck, but it will pass. And in our agony, we are not alone. Because He suffered, we can cry out for relief and be heard. It may not stop the pain but it will give us the strength to carry on.”
Chapter four discusses the practical matter of simplifying our life. “Our life’s work is to be just that- work. I want to run into the gates of heaven out of breath and dripping with sweat not because my effort gets me in but because it is the destination I have been running for all along. May our lives reflect the words of the classic film Chariots of Fire ‘I believe God made me for a purpose… and when I run I feel His pleasure.’ While the film refers to physical running, I think it can be applied to any effort we pursue for the right reasons.”
Chapter five deals with the delicate balance we have to follow God’s commands without becoming legalistic or blasé. “The fruit we bear in our lives should blossom out of a deep trust in God’s provision, not an attempt to repay the great debt we owe.” I love her description of trying to muster change in ourselves by picking and choosing what characteristics we want to add or change in our lives. “When I attempt to take life not from its true source-my Father’s will and purpose- but my own, the results are not pretty. Like some mad Frankenstein scientist, I frantically create the person I think I should be. I look at those who I admire and respect not with appreciation for God’s work in their lives, but with green eyes of envy seeking to acquire what is not mine. I piece together all these enviable attributes and sew them on, not in the spirit but in the flesh. The result is not the new creation I am called to be but a hideous monster of rotting flesh that roars in frustration and despair. I create not a better version of myself but an enemy to my very soul.”
Friendship and relationships are the topics discussed in chapter six. She states that we can us truth to combat our feelings of ungratefulness and being left out and come to a place of gratefulness. She reminds us that it is in the hands of God that we are truly transformed and that it is often through human relationships that we are sanctified.
Chapter seven focuses on sifting through the opinions of others through books, blogs, people’s advise, etc. to find our true identity in Christ and allow the Bible and His opinion of who we should be shape us. “Keeping the goal, to glorify God with our lives… … helps us to practice discernment when processing influences and advice.”
Chapter Eight deals with relationships, a struggle everyone knows. “As Christian women, you and I desire to be defined ultimately by our relationship with Jesus but so much of our satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) with our lives comes from our earthly-rather than heavenly- relationships. …But how do we maintain a healthy balance between investing and nurturing relationships-especially with our male counterparts- and still stay rooted in our identity as brides of Christ?” This chapter delves into boundries in relationships before marriage as well as a few truths about marriage.
Chapter Nine deals with the job description of a mom. “This is when I have to remind myself that it isn’t really my kids that I am making all these sacrifices for. They are not my Employer. They are merely the tools He uses to mold me into His finished produce. Too often, I treat my relationship with Him like a union negotiation rather than a covenant based on mercy. I feel entitled to certain wages for the hours I have put in. But this isn’t Let’s Make a Deal; this is about servanthood and death to self.”
Counter culture living is addressed in Chapter Ten: “When we truly set our eyes on Heaven, it will put us at odds with the culture around us, but if we do so in humility and faith we ultimately have nothing to fear.” She lists and expounds on 3 principals in which we consider being counter cultural: stewardship, discipleship, and the importance of the mind.
Chapter Eleven starts with a lighthearted example of breaking away from addiction and the idols that we so easily turn to, specifically materialism. “I can live my live like that, filling it with so much activity that it’s hard to see God’s hand in it all. I say I am living for Him, but in the end I am just going through the motions and failing to remind myself for Whom all the motion is supposed to be. Though I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic, if I tend to value the material over the immaterial I might need to rethink that assessment.” This chapter had some bite that was appreciated and appropriate
Chapter Twelve talks through standard for yourself and family as to how you approach pop-culture. She lists some very practical guidelines for decision making. And encourages you to make your own decisions, knowing that there will be consequences to the choices that you make.
The final chapter is all about your calling as a mother and how to rest well. “True, God-focused resting might feel like self-indulgent inactivity as well, but that is far from the truth…” “Reading the Bible and praying aren’t the only ways we can seek God and the power His presence and blessing bring. The truth is like a spring of water which bubbles from God and flows in many directions. It can be found in the laughter of a friend, the witty turn of a phrase by your favorite author, a touching scene in a well-made movie. WE all need to drink from this fountain but while the water is the same, our ways of collecting it differ. A big part of maturing is coming to understand what activities or disciplines you personally find refreshing. I have friends who come back from a weekend with friends beaming with energy, having been refreshed and encouraged. I am more of a one-on-one girl and enjoy spending time doing physical activities like hiking or riding bikes.”
He whose life is one even and smooth path will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelations of God… but they who ‘do business in great waves,’ these see his ‘wonders in the deep.’ Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man… your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Mosses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. -Charles Spurgeon
I appreciate the author’s desire to create an atmosphere where you feel like she is walking alongside you, but this is the part of the book that I had the hardest time with. In doing this I feel like the great gospel truths that are discussed in the book were short lived… and overshadowed in some of the stories that quite frankly came across as whining. I assume that it was in jest, but whenever anyone jokingly makes fun of someone else there is a sliver of truth to it. It really bothered me and set my teeth on edge when she called her kids barbarians. I realize that this may seem nitpicky, but God has moved mountains in my own heart to lovingly train my kids and enjoy it. And so it seems like she is belittling them through this one statement.
One of the things I’ve grown to love about preaching is preaching through books of the Bible. By doing that, you get a larger picture of what is going on in a passage. It may seem obvious, but preaching through Ephesians, seeing the identity piece, how much Paul talks about the love God has for us through Jesus, put a different spin on Ephesians 5 and the topics of dating, marriage and submission.
This gets missed a lot in the discussion, I know I’ve missed it when I preached on it in the past.
Paul uses the word love 6 times in Ephesians 5:22 – 33. The idea of a unconditional, irreversible love. In our culture though, love is an emotional, uncontrollable force. Thankfully, Jesus does not love us in an emotional, uncontrollable way. The church in Ephesus, much like us knows that Jesus loves the world, we read that in John 3:16, but we struggle to believe that He loves me individually. Because of that, what Paul calls us to in Ephesians 5 does not feel like love or freedom, instead it feels like slavery.
This flows right into Paul stating for us that marriage is a picture of the gospel. That in a marriage, the world around us should be able to see how Jesus loves us and how we should respond to Jesus. This is why Scripture takes what many see as a hard stance when it comes to homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and divorce. The reason is that they are distortions of the gospel. The world around us is not able to see a clear picture of the gospel when we distort it with sin.
With this backdrop of the gospel, Paul lays out what a husband is to be like and what a wife is to do in response to that. Next week, I’ll talk about men, but this week I spent the majority of the time talking about what submission is and is not in a marriage.
What submission is not…
- Submission doesn’t mean putting a husband in the place of Christ.
- Submission doesn’t mean giving up independent thought.
- Submission doesn’t mean a wife should give up efforts to influence and guide her husband.
- Submission doesn’t mean a wife should give in to every demand of her husband.
- Submission is not based on lesser intelligence or competence.
- Submission does not mean being fearful or timid.
- Submission is not inconsistent with equality in Christ.
What submission is…
- Submission is an inner quality that affirms the leadership of the husband.
- Submission acknowledges an authority that is not totally mutual.
- Submission is seen in respect.
I often get asked about resources I’d recommend when it comes to dating, marriage, sexual addiction, healing from abuse, past relationships, meeting your spouse’s needs, etc. To go along with the series Man vs. Wife, we also published a list of recommended resources to help you. Here are some of the resources:
- Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by John Piper & Wayne Grudem
- Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney
- Shopping for Time: How to Do it All and NOT be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney
- Biblical Womanhood in the Home
- Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood by John Piper & Wayne Grudem
- What He Must Be…If He Wants to Marry my Daughter by Voddie Baucham
- Sex, Romance and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know by C.J. Mahaney
- Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission by Darrin Patrick
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
- Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
- The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
- His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage by Willard Harley
- God, Marriage & Family by Andreas Kostenberger
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper
- Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us More Holy Than to Make us Happy? by Gary Thomas
- Going all the Way: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance by Craig Groeschel
- Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
- Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris
- The Sexually Confident Wife: Connecting with Your Husband Mind, Body, Heart & Spirit by Shannon Etheridge
- Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique & Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage by Ed & Gaye Wheat
- The Sexual Man by Archibald Hart
- Secrets of Eve: Understanding the Mystery of Female Sexuality by Archibald Hart
- Sex and the Supremacy of Christby John Piper
Porn & Sexual Addiction
- Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free by Tim Chester
- Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who are Sick of Porn by Tim Challies
- Wired for Intimacy: How Porn Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers
- Sex is not the Problem (Lust is) by Joshua Harris
- Pure Eyes
- www.covenanteyes.comand www.xxxchurch.com 
- Gospel Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley
- Gospel Centered Family by Tim Chester
- Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons & Daughters who Walk with God by Voddie Baucham
- Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations about Biblical Womanhood by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Mahaney Whitacre
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Paul David Tripp
- Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Margaret Meeker
- Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- Big Truths for Little Kids
- The ESV Student Study Bible
- The ESV Illustrated Family Bible
- Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers
Moving from Your Past
- Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall
- You Can Change by Tim Chester
- Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols we Worship and the Wounds we Carry by Mike Wilkerson
- The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
- The Grace of God by Andy Stanley
- How to Forgive Ourselves Totally by R.T. Kendall
 This website is a resource for those who need accountability or are looking for help in being free from a porn addiction.
Here are the 10 theses about Christianity and homosexuality:
- The point is really not homosexuality; the point is the Lordship of Jesus.
- Our stance on this issue may be one of the most important tests of faithfulness in our generation.
- The loss of gender identity has devastating consequences for society.
- God loves the homosexual.
- God doesn’t send people to hell for homosexuality.
- We speak as redeemed sinners, not saints.
- Just because you’re ticking people off doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong.
- Avoid pat answers or simplistic statements.
- We can and should be friends with people who are homosexuals.
- Sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity.
Question: Do you agree? Disagree?
If a woman comes to Revolution with a church background, at some point they usually ask, “Why doesn’t Revolution have a women’s ministry?” This is not an accident or an oversight, in fact, it is a very specific decision we made when we started.
3 Reasons we Don’t Do Women’s Bible Studies
The first reason has to do with a desire to be simple. Our goal from the beginning has been to stay away from becoming the church that does a thousand programs, keeping people at church every night of the week. I was on staff at a church that said, “Our goal is to have people at church 6-7 nights a week.” Having options, while it can be helpful, also very quickly muddies the waters of what matters.
The second has to do with our desire to reach men. One of the things that happens with a women’s ministry, for married women, is that they no longer need their husband for their spiritual or relational needs. While many women join a women’s bible study for this purpose, the bible study actually keeps her husband from stepping up and fulfilling his role to pastor his wife and lead her spiritually. Men are good at doing as little as possible, so if a man’s wife is getting her spiritual needs met somewhere else (a women’s bible study), he will sit back and do nothing. I’ve seen this in a variety of couples, but also in looking at many of the women who attend women’s bible studies.
The third reason has to do with splitting couples up too much. Often, as I stated above, many women who attend a bible study, her husband does not attend a bible study. You actually begin to create an atmosphere where a husband and wife are growing at different levels, learning different things and ultimately, you start to move them in different directions at different speeds.
What we Do at Revolution
The first thing we do is challenge men and women to be who God called and created them to be. We challenge the men of our church to step up and lead their homes, to be servant leaders, pastoring their families. We challenge single men to have integrity, lead themselves well so they are ready to lead a women well. We provide resources every week for families to dive into scripture together, for couples to open the bible and for the husbands to lead them well. Instead of throwing men into the deep end of the pool alone, we hand them resources.
The second thing is in our missional communities. Our MC’s study the sermon in more depth. Instead of learning something new, couples sit together in church, hear the same sermon, then talk through it during the week in community. One of the reasons men often don’t lead their families well is they are afraid they won’t do a good job at it. This is the benefit of the resources we create each week and studying the sermon in MC’s.
The third thing is what we call DNA relationships. In the context of an MC, people will begin to get to know each other. In that context, we encourage 2-3 people of the same gender to meet together outside of an MC for shepherding, encouragement, prayer, accountability and deeper community. For me, the benefit of DNA cannot be overstated.
What if I really want a women’s bible study?
After talking through this with couples, some women are skeptical and ask, “What if I really want a women’s bible study?” My answer, “Go to one.” We have women who go to other churches for MOPS, meet with women on the air force base for this.
As a church, we just don’t do it.
One thing I always tell people about this topic or anything associated with our vision and values. You may disagree with it, but you can’t tell me it doesn’t work. What we’ve seen are men (single or married) step up and lead well. Learn to have integrity, shepherd their wives well, disciple their kids. We’ve seen single women get discipled in their MC through the couple leading their MC or another woman in their MC.
While it is different than many churches, our desire for life-on-life discipleship, the benefits and the results have been incredible.