Review #6: Dangerous Good

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“GOD MADE US MEN; IT’S TIME TO ACT LIKE IT.

There’s a revolution brewing, a sleeping giant awakening from a long slumber. For too long, we have been sitting on the sidelines, minding our own business, nursing our wounds.

We are meant for greater things than these, and the world can no longer indulge our lethargy. Men, it’s time we entered the danger—for the good of ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our world. Led by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can confront and transform the climate of moral relativism with our dangerous good God and his growing army of men who care.

It’s time to rediscover who we are and who we’re made to be.”

Dangerous Good: The Coming Revolution of Men Who Carewritten by Kenny Luck, is a Christian living book with a message to the male population of the world: It’s time to move. Luck talks about large groups of men who are seeking to actually follow Jesus and bring others along with them, and uses their examples as a call to war for the hearts of his readers, hoping they’ll respond with a battle cry.

Before I proceed with critiquing this book, I want to share a dilemma and disclaimer: I am a woman reading a book intended for men; my understanding of issues and struggles brought up in the book will not be totally accurate and will lack some degree of empathy due to natural ignorance and lack of shared experience, but nevertheless, I shall do my best to review it accurately.

ALL THE GOOD THINGS

One thing that made this enjoyable for me as a reader was the excitement over another book written to communicate an encouraging and powerful message for the broken men of the world. I say “another” not with an eye-roll, but with the thought that we can never have too many books that encourage men to be the men God has designed them to be, especially as they walk through a world that is determined to bring them to their knees with blows of emasculation.

Another thing that made this enjoyable was that Luck included chapters designated to women and children and how men ought to see them through this godly lens of masculinity. He touched on the gender war, but tastefully, and in a way that reminds us that the shots fired on either side are merely symptoms of the underlying problem: people are overcome with sin, and the only cure is Christ.

Lastly, and more specifically, I enjoyed Luck’s take on the role of Barnabas in the church of Acts. He uses Barnabas in his chapter titled, “Powerfully Remembered Men,” as an example of what it means to encourage others, particularly those who everyone else has labeled as a lost cause or has rejected due to past failures. Luck personalized Paul’s experience of being rejected by the disciples at Jerusalem due to his B.C. business of murdering Christians, and yet he returned to those same disciples one more time, this time with Barnabas, who vouched for Paul and allowed him to come into God’s ministry for him. This illustrated the importance of the encourager in the community of Dangerous Good men. I’m not a man, but was challenged to figure out from Barnabas’s example how to better encourage others to fulfill the calling God has given them.

ALL THE NOT-SO-GOOD THINGS

Something that made this book difficult for me as a reader is that while the message to men was inspiring and will certainly drive some to action, the message felt flat. There’s a point where Luck writes:

“Fellowships are forming because the King is coming. God is calling together                          sincere hearts, strong energy, and a transcendent brand of masculinity…this                        culture has not seen on this scale since Pentecost.” (pg 38)

And yet we’re not given any statistics or real-life examples (like specific names of men, etc.) to back up this claim that things are moving, and are expected to take Luck at his word instead of allowing our eyes to be opened by evidence.  I finished the book about men who care, and wondered, “Where are they?”

Another thing that presented an obstacle in my full enjoyment of this book was the lack of practical application. What I mean by this is Luck creates an archetype of what a Dangerous Good man looks like (what he does, how he speaks, what his family looks like, etc.) but doesn’t thoroughly explain how men who feel less-than-dangerous can start to join the movement. There’s a message of “There’s this movement of guys who are serious about Jesus; what are you going to do about it?” and my thought is “If I were a guy, I’d respond, ‘I’m going to join! Except, I have no idea where to start.'” Luck did attempt to include some practical points, but they felt lost amidst the inspirational jargon. Also (in minor defense of Luck’s method here), Luck does offer resources on his website for men to access and purchase, but the book in their hands doesn’t seem to be meant as that kind of practical resource.

The last main thing that made this book difficult for me as a reader (though much more as a writer) was the flow of the book. I had a hard time taking Luck seriously due to a writerly tick, which I also have, of isolating sentences in an effort to make them poignant and serious. The effect this tick had on my reading of the content was uncomfortable; I felt like the content would start moving smoothly only to be stopped by an isolated sentence, providing a rocky transition into the next idea. Luck could’ve removed these sentences, which he did several times, and provided smoother transitions between points, which would’ve led to a culminating crescendo of inspiration, which I think was his original aim.

In conclusion, this is a good message for men to hear, and it does offer encouragement to men who are being told they are wrong for their masculinity. I would recommend this to all men as a reminder, as a starting point, and as a challenge to move forward in their walks with Christ in confidence in how God’s designed their masculinity.

About the Author:

Kenny Luck is currently the Leadership Pastor at Crossline Church in Laguna Hills, California. He was previously the Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California from 1997-2014 and is an expert in the field of men’s issues.

He is also the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries which helps churches worldwide to develop and grow healthy men’s communities with the goal to end child abuse, fatherlessness and protect women and children.

He has authored and coauthored 21 books, including Every Man, God’s Man, Every Young Man, God’s Man and the Every Man Bible Studies from the best-selling Every Man Series published by WaterBrook/Random House. Kenny’s last 9 works have been published with B & H Publishing Group and are used by churches for in depth studies.

He is a featured contributor to Christian Post, Charisma Magazine, Christian Mingle, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, New Man Magazine, Men of Integrity, The Journal, and Young Believer Magazine.”

*A complimentary copy of this book was given to me by Tyndale Book Publishers

 

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Let’s Talk About: Prayer

Over the past three years or so, God has been challenging me on my perspective of prayer. It really began when Jake was in Korea, and he mentioned how God answered his prayer to have an active Christian in every battalion at his post there, and I thought, “Well, if God can do that for Jake, then what can He do for me?” It was then I started really sinking my teeth into disciplining my prayer life, believing that certain things in God’s kingdom are designed to be moved by my prayers.

That was the beginning. Since then, I’ve been further challenged to use my prayers to open up avenues through which God desires to do “heart work” in the lives of people who are hurting and shattered, whose depths of pain I am unable to reach by mere methods, empathy, and whatever wisdom I might possess.

The next phase, however, was God checking my own heart with this thought: I cannot truly love others unless I’m praying for them. I don’t simply mean that they will be instilled with feelings of love if I pray for them, or that the discipline of prayer in and of itself will be a form of loving them. I mean that God had been changing my own heart and internal state and perspective of people in general so that I am loving them out of an actual love for them, instead of an external, superficial love.

Why am I talking about this?

Recently, I was able to have the experience of speaking about prayer at one of our monthly ladies’ nights, and so I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What I discovered and concluded as I prepared for this talk, is that God intends prayer to bring about change…This might seem really basic, but it was a big deal for me.

Before I talk about that, however, I realized something about myself during this whole prep period: I know absolutely nothing. The more I learn about God, the less I know about Him. I know that I’ve “realized” this several times, but I’m seeing that I actually have levels of ignorance through which I’m progressing the more I seek to follow Christ.

Anyway.

God’s Perspective of Prayer

The first thing I wanted to establish and figure out when preparing this talk is how does God actually see prayer? The answer seemed to pop up in at least two places.

“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’ But He turned to them and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village.” (Luke 9:51-56)

I think Jesus rebukes James and John so strongly here because He knows the power of prayer and the authority given through prayer to those who follow Him. He knows that if His disciples faithfully pray, as a child would, for fire to come down from heaven and destroy the Samaritan city, then it’ll happen! But, ‘The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ So Jesus rebukes James and John, who do ‘not know what manner of spirit [they] are of,’ (they don’t know their own strength or what they’re designed to do for the Kingdom of God), and He refines their understanding of God’s vision for the world before moving on.

The second place God’s perspective on prayer pops up pretty clearly is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, where it seems that prayer, among other things, is part of God’s will for us as believers. He desires and demands that we pray as His children.

So, God has instilled authority and power in faithful prayer, He has designed this to be part of His will for those who follow Him, and desires that change be brought about by the prayers of the saints…But what does this look like? What specific kinds of change did He intend to be brought about by prayer? I think there’s at least three.

Change in Our Relationship With Him

This kind of change feels kind of basic…In order to have any kind of relationship with anyone, you need to talk to them, you know? I can’t really know Jake—his thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, dreams, fears, values, convictions, past, etc.—unless I talk with him about these things. I can draw implications and assumptions from his actions, sure, but that’s only gathering evidence of what I think he thinks. To get his actual thoughts, I need to talk to him. The same thing applies to God. Our relationship with God involves both prayer (talking to God and being vulnerable with Him and opening ourselves up to Him) and reading the Word (God talking to us and sharing His heart), all of it brought to life and made meaningful and applicable by the movement and person of the Holy Spirit.

We see this showing up in at least two places in Scripture: We’ve got John 15:5-8, and Psalm 62:8. John 15:7, in particular, says “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” But the verses around it speak of staying attached to Jesus and treating Him as our life source, like a branch is attached to a vine, our ultimate purpose being to bear fruit and prove ourselves His disciples. So it seems that prayer is part of that sweet experience of abiding in Christ, walking with Him, having an intimate, obedience-driven, sincerity-of-heart-empowered relationship.

Another aspect of that relationship is the freedom with which we can come to God with our hearts. Timothy Keller has a wonderful quote about this:

“The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.”

We see this in Psalm 62:8, which asks followers of God to “pour your hearts out to Him; trust in Him at all times.” Be vulnerable with Him; He knows all about you anyway. He wants you to come to Him and talk with Him, let Him in on your hurts, your loves, your fears, your agony…He wants to deepen your relationship with Him to bring you into a place of greater freedom secured by grace and truth (John 1:17, John 8:31-32)

Change in How We See the World and How We See Others

It was Wednesday morning. I sat at the dining room table, my Bible open before me, my head in my hands. This was three days before I was supposed to give the talk I mentioned at the beginning of this post. While I’d been preparing for weeks, and, as I’ve mentioned, God had been faithfully teaching me new things about prayer beforehand, I came to a moment of sheer panic of getting it all wrong.

“Lord…What am I even supposed to say? What if everything I’ve learned about prayer thus far is actually wrong and will totally misrepresent You? Lord…I don’t know anything. It’d be easy (ha!) if I were sharing my testimony or something…I can’t get that wrong, right? But, Lord, what do You want them to know about prayer? What is the most important for them to understand about praying to You, Lord?”

“I will stand watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.” (Habakkuk 2:1)

It was then that I remembered the crux of what God had been cultivating in my heart since the beginning of last year, since only a few months before Jake deployed:

“‘But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

Right…Prayer changes us, has changed me…I cannot continue hating or judging someone—no matter how they’ve used or abused me—when I’m consistently praying for them…This was that “final” phase mentioned earlier in this post, the phase after seeing that God could do “heart work” in others that I couldn’t. My understanding of prayer moved from distant (God can do things for me) to very, very close (God changes me).

“To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives.” —Richard Foster

I tend to be drawn to people who are deeply shattered, and who require much consistent time, care, and grace, most of which I wouldn’t have without Jesus, and have to reach for in Him to have them at all. The only reason, however, God has enabled be to not get burnt out by the people He wants to heal through me, is by praying for them, lifting the burdens they pour out to me up to Him so that He can give me the rest I need when I am rightly wearied and burdened for them. And praying for them protects me from resenting them, from pulling the whole “Woe is me, I’m such a martyr” even though they’re the ones who are suffering while I am not. Praying for them and lifting their hurt up to God instead of depending on myself to carry it preserves my perspective of them and keeps it line with that of Jesus Christ, and, if I do it right, even improves and shapes it to look more and more like His.

Another aspect of this appears in Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” There’s a supernatural, spiritual exchange going on in this passage: through prayer, petition, with thanksgiving, I am giving up anxiety to take on peace. I think this exchange can happen with anything I feel that is not of God, trading those things of the flesh for the things of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Change in External Circumstances and in Others Outside of Ourselves

I feel like this is the aspect of prayer with which everybody is most familiar. It’s like the beginning lines of that Laura Story song Blessings

“We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.”

There’s different ways this shows up. In my life, it’s shown up primarily as intercession, though it’s been changing and evolving the more I learn about what it means to disciple others.

There’s a passage, Ezekiel 22:30-31, that speaks of the importance of interceding on behalf of those who cannot pray for themselves:

“‘So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land (sinful Israel), that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord God.”

This seems pretty bleak…And yet the implication is really exciting: God would not have “poured out [His] indignation on them” if He’d found a faithful man standing in the gap on behalf of the land. Similarly, I think God has given us a responsibility as believers to be priests to a broken world, to call down mercy on behalf of those who deserve violent judgment, as we would deserve if not for God drawing us to Himself. These people could be: believers who are willingly living in sin, those trapped by the claws of addiction, unbelievers in general, believers experiencing deep suffering, people blinded by the weight of depression or the heightened fear of anxiety…The list goes on. If you are a follower of Christ, you are able and are called to be “priests to the world,” and pray for those who don’t understand God’s grace to become aware of His mercy.

A crazy thought came out of this for me: The unchangeable God has created a system of Christianity in which we can affect His decisions through obedient and faith-filled prayer…He’s allowed there to be room in the carrying out of His unthwartable will for us to change it through prayer. How does that even work? How does God do that? Mind. Blown.

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The idea of intercession, I think, is closely related to the idea communicated by James 5:16, which says “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” This is that spiritual healing that can only come through the confession of sin and the prayers of other believers. I’ve experienced this in my own life through my awesome, epically cool, spiritual giant of a sister, Grace, and through confessing some sins and wrong perspectives to Jake and Hannah and having them pray for me, though at the time I didn’t think that prayer would be the answer. I think this is where the spiritual practice of “healing prayer” comes from.

A final way I think this happens is in that process of discipleship, where you’re desiring the “perfecting and completion” of another person. What I’m thinking of comes from Colossians 4:2-4, 12, and Ephesians 6:18-19. Colossians 4:12 in particular says, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Link this with Colossians 1:28-29, and you have a way in which we can “[labor] fervently” in discipleship, in “warning…and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ…” This is another element of “heart work.” Not only are we praying for spiritual healing, but we’re praying for spiritual transformation in the lives of the men and women into whom we’re pouring our time, energy, resources, and spiritual disciplines for the sake of the Kingdom, walking in obedience to Jesus and His commissioning of us (Mt. 28:18-20).

The End of the Spaghetti Noodle

Needless to say, I’m still learning a lot about prayer…Like, I’m not sure where God’s unthwartable will for the lives of men meets/opposes the God-given authority of my prayers…Exactly how much am I able to affect God’s will? How much room has He given me in prayer? Is there a way to pray ineffectively?

Just yesterday, I was reading Kayla Aimee’s testimony written out in her book In Bloom, and it led me to a desperate, crying prayer for both Jake and the baby presently growing in my womb. Desperate and crying because I was convicted about how little I’d been praying for my husband and our child. I felt like I’d shirked a responsibility that comes with the role of being the lady of our family. Again, just showing I’m still learning about prayer and how to apply it: God teaches me lessons multiple times, with more grace.

With this, I have yet to leave a solid time of prayer without peace, fulfillment, and refocus, without being further established in truth and grace, and without being challenged in my own perspective of the world.

Pray long, and pray often, my friends. And expect God to meet you there.

“‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.'” (John 15:5-8)

 

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The Hopeful Onion

It was one of the hottest days of the week, the initial coolness of the month of May finally giving itself over to the sweltering heat of a North Carolina summer. Hannah, Anna, and I sat under the carport at Anna’s house, drinking bubble tea and talking. Today was one of those days when I felt particularly pregnant, although I’m not really sure how to describe my feelings beyond that.

There was a point in the conversation where Hannah started sharing how God had recently brought up a sin issue in her life that she thought she’d dealt with some time ago, and yet, instead of being discouraged by “still” struggling with it, she shared the thought of the Onion.

Smelly, Sinful Layers

So, not a physical onion, but think of the movie Shrek (if you don’t know the movie or think that it’s totally vulgar, just bear with me). There’s a point where Shrek (the ogre and main character) is trying to explain to his “friend” Donkey (the donkey and adorably annoying side character) that so many people judge ogres based on their appearance, when there’s way more to them than people think.

“Ogres are…like onions!” Shrek says as he holds out the onion he’s eating.

“They stink?” Donkey says.

“Yes. No!”

“Oh, they make you cry?”

“No!”

“Ooohhh, if you leave ’em out in the sun, they get brown, and start sproutin’ little white hairs?”

“No!” Shrek says, exasperated. “Layers! Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it, they both have layers. Ugh.”

Donkey then goes on to name off many other things that people like more than onions that also have layers (cakes, parfaits, etc.) in order to improve Shrek’s illustration, but the point still stands. Hannah’s point, however, was not that ogres have layers and that they’re misunderstood. Her point was that our sin has layers.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The idea beneath this idea of “layers of sin” is that, while we may be struggling with the same type of sin (worrying, or pride, or lust, for example) years into following Christ, we’re not struggling with it nearly to the same level as we were when we first started following Him.

Thankful for the Layers

The next evening, at Tuesday night Bible study on post, my small group went through an illustration called the Prayer Hand, which basically looks like this:

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I’ve been trying out modeling my prayers after this illustration, and it’s been really cool, particularly as I look for scripture with which to praise God, and deliberately evaluate my heart as to what sins I’ve been treasuring, which need to be confessed to God.

This illustration and its use combined with the conversation with Hannah about the “onion layers of our sin” led me, for the next day or so after Tuesday night study, to thank God for all of the ways that He’s changed me, and to reflect on the testimony of God’s transforming power in my life. At first, I thought this might lead me to think too highly of myself, but it ended up doing the exact opposite.

“Lord, thank You for all that You’ve done in me, since even before I chose to follow You; You were working even then…Lord, thank You for the fact that I am no longer as consumed by my emotions, or as easily driven by my moods as I used to be. Thank You for Your lordship and sovereignty over my emotions, for training me to rightly separate myself from my emotions, that I might rightly see them for what they are and submit them to You. Thank You for how much less anxious I am, and for how I’ve grown in living out the idea of ‘I’ll/we’ll figure it out,’ actually trusting that the unknown of the future is in Your hands. Thank You for how You’ve trained and continue to train me in being faithful to You here and now.

“Thank You for the very small practices of not quieting my Christian conversations with Christian people in public places, of mentioning You to the cashier yesterday even though she didn’t acknowledge it. Thank You for Your grace toward me, and yet thank You also for Your loving discipline of me, for loving me enough to expose the darkness of my heart and the sin that I allow to enslave my members, particularly that sin to which I am blind. Thank You for how much more selfless I am since You drew me to Yourself, for training me to be better at considering others as more important than myself, regardless of how I feel at the moment. Thank You for teaching me how to pray, for using Jake to show me what discipleship could look like, and for letting me be a part of the lives of other women to disciple them and to be discipled by them, even though I’m still such a mess in You, Lord. Oh, God…I don’t deserve You, or deserve to follow You, even to speak of You, much less know You…” (prayer journal entry, 5/23/18)

While every one of the things I thanked God for could be followed by “Even though I still struggle with these things to some degree,” the way I was led to thank God was not, “thank You, God, for the fact that I am now completely selfless/patient/peaceful/etc.,” but rather thanking Him for what He has actually done…I realized that I wasn’t thanking God for what He’d done in my life because I wasn’t perfect yet, functioning within the thought of “When I’m perfect at all of these things, then I’ll thank God.” I was robbing God of credit due to Him, simply because I didn’t want to look selfish or prideful.

And all of this led me to feel very small…I haven’t changed or “gotten better” at all of these things because of something I have done. I can’t take credit for whatever change has happened in me. There are no methods I’ve followed or books I’ve read or actions I’ve taken that have magically changed me, but rather His “transforming [me] by the renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2) to make me look more like Him.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30, italics mine)

And so, this thought is really encouraging! Not only have I changed (however little in comparison to how perfect God is), but when God brings up a new layer of a sin I’ve been dealing with for my whole life, it’s “because He’s ready to work on it” (Hannah’s thought), not to remind me of how much I’m sucking at being perfect. He’s showing me abundant grace by opening my eyes to something that prevents me from more completely and wholeheartedly following Him.

So, to encourage you, reader: If you’ve been running hard after Christ and you’re coming up against sins that you feel you should’ve “gotten over” already, remember that your Lord is working things out in you, and reflect on how He’s changed you in that area of sin, and be excited that He’s “ready to work on” this new layer, that you may experience greater freedom in Him.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” (John 8:31-32)

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(Not) For Argument’s Sake

When I first gave my life over to Christ and actually tried to start following Him, I became really prideful and sought after knowledge of God as a way to competently argue with others about the hot button topics of the day. When I say “argue,” what I really mean is “fight against as an offender.” Needless to say, I quickly established myself as the good-Christian-know-it-all, and I was ignorant of what it meant to really love people. This was all in my sophomore year of high school.

Shorty after that transition into following Christ, I ended up transferring to a local Christian school, where I was still a know-it-all, but now God was convicting me about how little I was doing to really love people. I could argue all I wanted and could read all the books and memorize all the Scripture, but if I didn’t love the people with whom I was arguing, what was the point?

I eventually graduated high school and went to college, where I realized that arguing was normal, and debates were as common as pigeons in New York City, and something more was required of me. The simple message of the Gospel, and how I lived it, needed to be enough. And so for the three years I was at college, I certainly read a lot of theological books, but spent most of my reading (outside of school reading) on just knowing the Bible, praying through it, asking a lot of questions of the mature Christians in my life, and talking to people about what God was teaching me, whether they were Christians or not. I didn’t look to argue or fight, and often times didn’t pursue discussion unless an obvious and God-approved opportunity arose, until about the last year or so, when I started a Bible study for the purpose of discussing our beliefs, reading the Bible together, and praying for one another. So I dropped my argumentative side, assuming it would never be useful, and it would be wrong to ever entertain it again, since I’d only argued from a place of pride.

Now I’m at Ft. Bragg, a married lady, expecting her first child, pursuing a life of discipleship with her husband. Recently, the issues of race, feminism, abuse, and others have come up in conversation with non-Christians in the community, as well as with the Christians by whom I’m being discipled, and those whom God has called me to disciple. “More” theological topics have come up also, like spiritual election, the second coming, the definition of Church, works-based salvation, and others. And these conversations have pulled me into deep waters without a paddle (the paddle here will represent the ability to use knowledge skillfully and with wisdom) or a boat (the boat here will represent confidence in and knowledge of God’s thoughts on these matters), and made me realize that I’ve gone from one extreme to the other: I saw a dark side of myself when I argued, and so I gave up trying to use arguments as a way to reach the lost and encourage the brethren, but now I have mis-stewarded an ability with which God designed me, so that I can’t go to deep, difficult places with the people who need to go there in order to heal, grow, and help others grow.

The actual definition of the word “argue” (or reason, as a verb) is, “to present reasons for or against a thing; to contend in oral disagreement; dispute. Also, to persuade, drive, by reasoning.” So when I use this word henceforth, this is what I mean. I do not mean my previous, distorted definition of “fighting against as an offender.”

God, in His faithfulness, has brought several things into my life as of late to remind me that there is a place for argument and a proper use of argument in reaching the lost and encouraging the brethren, but I can’t just jump in, thinking I know everything. I have to let Him teach me. And so He is!

Demolishing Strongholds

The first thing He made me see was the need for awareness of what’s going on with difficult topics (like the ones listed above, others being things like abortion, premarital sex, homosexuality, war, the Christian’s place in politics, etc.), the need for prayer concerning these things and complete submission to God on these issues, and how these needs are tied up with the Great Commission.

“Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the New Testament Epistles, the apostles (I know that not all of the authors of the Epistles are apostles, but bear with me) spend most of their letters answering the deep, difficult questions of the faith that arise because of the presence of false teachers, disputes among the members of the Church, or because people who are made new in Christ are still ignorantly keeping their “old man” practices. There are other reasons for the issues brought up, but these are some of the big ones.

It seems that, as these apostles are responding to the confusion of the Churches and individual believers in their day, and as they’re writing out encouragement and challenge to those who have not deliberately reached out to them, they are seeking to eliminate as many strongholds in the minds of their readers as they possibly can, so as to spur the readers onward in their walks with Christ and encourage them to keep fighting for the Kingdom.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

I always read this Corinthians passage as one concerning my own thought life. “Yes, I should take every single thought that passes through my spaghetti-noodle brain and conquer it for Jesus, forcing it to its knees before His throne. Yeah.” But I was recently challenged to look at it differently. What if “pulling down strongholds” is referring to the strongholds in the minds of others, and “casting down arguments” is referring to actually casting down vocal arguments about important things between parties?

This thought came from a book by Nancy Pearcey, titled “Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning.” The main thrust of this book is to encourage believers to understand other people’s worldviews so that they can accurately and effectively proclaim Truth.

“The answer is that the ultimate goal is to preach the gospel,” Pearcey writes. “But the gospel is not simple to those whose background prevents them from understanding it. Today’s global secular culture has erected a maze of mental barriers against even considering the biblical message. The goal of worldview analysis is to knock down those barriers—to ‘demolish strongholds,’ as the apostle Paul puts it (2 Cor. 10:4-5), so the Word of God can be heard in all its fullness. The term stronghold in the original Greek literally meant a castle or fortress. Paul used it as a metaphor for the arguments and ideas that build walls around people’s minds and prevent them from knowing God…Christians are called to tear down mental fortresses and liberate people from the power of false ideas.” (page 15)

While Pearcey is specifically referring to people completely outside of a biblical worldview, and even a Church upbringing, I think this still applies to discipleship, and working through hard stuff with Christians and non-Christians alike. Does this mean, however, that you should actively avoid preaching the Gospel as you interact with non-Christians, until you’ve demolished all of the strongholds? Heck no! It does mean, however (I think), that it might take a bit more loving work and time and effort to reach people than we think.

The “Reasoning” in the Book of Acts

On top of God showing me the need, He showed me the practice and the success in His Word.

“But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22)

“And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.” (Acts 9:29)

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” (Acts 17:1-4)

“Therefore he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the market-place daily with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17)

“And he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)

“And (Paul) came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” (Acts 18:19)

“And when he (Apollos) desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 18:27-28)

“And he (Paul) went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)

This time and culture in Acts was not that different from our time right now. Tons of philosophies and sciences and ideas are circulating, all of them and yet none of them claiming to be thoroughly true, and even the very definition of “what in tar-nation” is truth anymore is under attack, and people are deeply confused while feeling dangerously confident.  Yeah, Acts was not all that different.

Paul in particular had a practice of going to the synagogues of whatever cities he visited to reason with Jews inside, and Gentiles outside. My probably inaccurate mental picture is Paul sitting in an imperfect circle as he talks from the Scriptures about how they (the Scriptures) prove Christ’s messianic identity, lay the foundation for the Gospel he’s preaching, promise hope and purpose and freedom-giving Truth, and show that “Guys, we’ve had it all wrong…But this is right.” The actual definition of the word reasoning (also translated into dispute) is dialegomai, which is defined exactly as it’s translated: “to think different things with one’s self, mingle thought with thought;to ponder, revolve in mind; to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss.”

But what’s the point?

So, there’s a precedent in the Bible for taking time to talk through difficult things. Granted, Paul might not have been talking about abortion or homosexuality or anything like what we might have to talk about today, but in his Epistles he certainly dove deep into topics like philosophy (Colossians 2:1-10), what roles for husbands and wives should look like according to God (Ephesians 5:22-33), definition and establishment of morality through Creation (Romans 2:1-16), questions about why the world is the way it is (Romans 1), even government politics (Romans 13), to name a few. And Paul is not the only apostle who seeks to disciple the Church in this way. Peter, James, and John also seek to do this by addressing deep issues within the hearts of the members of the Church, things like suffering (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 3:13-17) and spiritual warfare—yes, spirits and demons and junk—(1 Peter 5:8-10, 1 John 4:1-6).

The challenge I’m taking in reading these is that I need to not only be fiercely willing to go deep with people in the issues that keep them from encountering Christ (and thus being willing to be used by Christ to demolish those strongholds), but I also need to not be afraid of being equipped with the knowledge of those issues, and an even deeper knowledge of God and the Scriptures.

How do I learn how to go deep?

Along with showing me the need, showing me the precedent in Scripture, and even challenging me through authors like Nancy Pearcey, God has placed a number of people in my life that not only want to go deep and talk through difficult things, but they need to go deep. So He’s almost making me apply what I’m learning, and reminding me that I can be confident that His Truth will win out in the end.

Granted, it’s not simply my words that win people over or demolish their strongholds. It’s the Holy Spirit doing His work of “guiding into all truth” (John 16:5-15) and drawing non-Christians to Jesus (John 6:44). I’m just the conduit through which God does that. That’s why, in my mind, the ultimate obstacle is choosing to be willing to be used by God in going deep with people, because even if I don’t have the knowledge I think I should, God still uses my willingness (hopefully that makes sense…). And the cool thing? I’m figuring out my faith even more than I thought I could as I seek to go deep with others, and feeling much more confident in the reality of God’s Truth than I have been before.

And prayer…I’m learning through the Word and through experience that God has designed prayer to not only deepen our relationship with Him, but to change our hearts toward others and our perspective of the world, and even to transform the people around us as He desires. So, I’m finding that prayer for those I argue with (or “go deep with”) is also really helpful and vital to their growth and God’s growth of me.

There are other ways to be ready to go deep with people, like daily studying, reading, meditating on, memorizing, listening to, and praying through the Bible, letting God through the Spirit change your heart and mind and further establishing you in Him and allowing Him to demolish the strongholds in your own mind. There’s also plenty of books on what tactics to use in communicating with people during arguments, what questions to ask, what things to bring up. And all of these are really good things to look into and figure out. But the foundational things you can do, upon which you can certainly build without ever replacing them, are to know the Word, thoroughly submit yourself to the Spirit’s leading (He’ll bring to mind Scripture, help you use discernment, and keep you level-headed…After all, He is God in us, which is pretty cool, ya know?) continue learning about God, and pray for yourself and the freedom of others.

And I’m still learning what all of this looks like…Something I haven’t quite figured out is using the “wisdom valve” on the knowledge I gain (I just really love reading books…), and finding the balance between being equipped through reading books and the Bible while also being fully submitted to God in the moment…Because there is a place in my walk with God to read extrabiblical material, while standing on the foundation of Scripture and trusting Him to use it all to change and challenge and grow me…But how are all of these connected and is there a way to mess it all up?…To be continued.

What this DOESN’T Mean

“I have a right to argue with people, and I need to make sure people know how wrong they are. I need to protect my beliefs.”

This is the exact opposite of what I think God thinks. The point of being willing to argue is to love the other person by hearing their thoughts and offering Truth in exchange. I want the person with whom I’m arguing, whether they’re a Christian or not, to be set free by God’s Truth, not placed in further bondage because of my insolence. Also, the goal of arguing is not to protect my own beliefs. God is Truth. The Truth, and Truth is called by no other name. He is more factual and accurate than any science, and His reality is the only reality in a world full of fake. I do not have to “protect” what I believe; God’s Truth will stand whether I protect and defend it or not. The goal of arguing is to show people the freedom they can experience in seeing that Truth. I have that freedom. They do not.

“I can now push my own political views because I believe God supports them.”

This is also not the point. The point is to figure out what God thinks about all of these things, establishing that in our own minds as what is true, and then reasoning with others concerning these things. You’re not asking “Does God support my views?” but rather, “Am I in support of God’s views?” “Christian” is not always synonymous with “Conservative” or “Republican,” and “Non-Christian” is not always synonymous with “Democrat” or “Liberal.” Do these parties often parallel the respective belief systems? Yes, absolutely. But I hesitate to put God in the limited political boxes we’ve created for ourselves.

“I will only win people over to the Gospel through spending time in arguing with them.”

This is not true, specifically the isolating word “only.” Sometimes, like while I was in college, people are not won over by arguments. They are more won over by how you live and how your beliefs affect how you treat others and see the world. If what I’m arguing doesn’t reach my feet as I walk through life, then how valid are my arguments, really? This is the trap I fell into from the very beginning. I was so caught up in arguing with people that I didn’t take the time to learn how to love them. The concept here is to be willing to argue and lovingly capable of going deep with someone if that’s what it takes to bring them to the Gospel.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” (John 8:31-32)

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“Same Team!”

Hello, my name is Hunter and I’m finding out that there’s a lot of things about Jesus-focused marriage that I didn’t quite think about.

*cue sarcastic “nooooooo”*

Yes, yes. I, Hunter, know nothing. But! This is great! Why, you wonder? I shall tell you. 🙂

Jake and I have been following Jesus semi-separately for most of our lives, and now we’re trying to really figure out what it looks to follow Him together, specifically in the area of discipleship. Jake’s led Bible studies. I’ve led Bible studies. He’s sought to disciple new believers and evangelize unbelievers. I have done the same. His “ministry time” has been in the army. My “ministry time” has been among college kids and mostly civilians. God has grown us in different ways through all of these experiences.

But we’re not just doing our own thing anymore. While we were dating and engaged, we sought to do ministry together as much as possible, to serve together, to disciple and counsel and pray for others as much as possible, to feed off of each other’s knowledge and experience to add to our own ministry style so that when we got married we’d at least have gotten our feet wet…But it’s not the same as actually doing ministry as married couple.

“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

HOW TO SPEAK

One of the recent conversations we had was about how we even talk differently to and teach individuals about Jesus, and we’ve noticed that we sometimes insert thoughts into each other’s thoughts which interrupt the original thought and confuse or distract the person to whom we’re talking. And so working through our own styles of speaking and ministering to others, as well as overcoming walls of pride (which I have really noticed in myself lately, as we’ve invited people over to our house for fellowship and deliberate training in following Jesus and helping others follow Jesus) has been a conversation and prayer for us as of late.

HOW TO SERVE

Since coming back from block leave (that would be the time spent going to Paris and VA Beach), Jake and I have started hosting a Bible study in our house every Friday night for the guys in Jake’s unit that he’s been praying for and reaching out to over deployment. Remember my mentioning Jake leading Bible studies and my leading Bible studies, and how those practices were predominantly separate until we got married?

Yeah.

So, on top of talking through it with Jake, I’ve been picking the brains of all the ladies in the Navigator ministry here at Ft. Bragg who have hosted Bible studies in their homes. “What was your role in hosting the study? How did you and your husband work together on this?” Jake is the leader of our home, and therefore the teacher of any men who come into the house. My role, as I see it, is to support him in all that teaching and contributing vocally when appropriate. Which is really cool! Because Jake feels very respected and honored by this, like he can really work as God has designed him to. He does something similar for me when we invite ladies in as well.

I’m rambling…

The advice I got from the ladies to whom I spoke, however, is that I can take care of all of the behind-the-scenes details (cooking the food, cleaning the house, setting up chairs and making sure people have places to sit, taking care of any kids they might bring, etc.) so that Jake doesn’t have to think about them. My mind is bent much more towards thinking about several things all at once, so I can take care of those logistical things and be mentally and emotionally involved in the actual Bible study as well. Which is really cool 🙂

But before getting married, I didn’t have to think about any of this. It all feels very new.

AND IT’S PRETTY AWESOME 🙂

Jake and I have been sitting here at Barnes and Noble, and I’ve been reflecting on all the work that’s come about in our marriage because of our work for the kingdom, I’m really grateful for Jake…Because his focus is on how to better work together in ministering to others instead of on how I need to change, it’s made it much easier to not be consumed by emotions and woundedness, and to instead trust God to change me to better fit Jake, and Jake to fit me, as we seek to do this together out of faithfulness to Him.

Take these still-newlywed-Jesus-follower thoughts for what they’re worth. I’m sure God will continue to reveal many other layers of working together as a team for Him, and it will be very uncomfortable (that seems to be a theme lately…) and there will definitely be growing pains (there already has been), but regardless, welcome to the beginning.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

 

 

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De Paris!

Greetings internet friends!

Hi 🙂

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it’s just because there’s been so many crazy things going on…

Jake and I traveled to Paris. Yep, we did that. It was amazing. We of course ate all the crepes and all the baguettes and saw all the things and spoke all the French. Yes. We walked along the Champs-Elysees and the Seine. We toured the Army Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb and l’Hotel des Invalides (these were my favorite places :)). We sat on the Champs de Mars before the iron grandeur of the Eiffel Tower, were overwhelmed by the size and majesty of Versailles, and enjoyed touring the Louvre, particularly the sculptures.

And of course while we were there, God picked at my heart and mind to reveal things in myself that I didn’t know were there. I’ve never been overseas before, and the only time I’ve been outside of America is attending a high school French club field trip to Montreal and Quebec, Canada. That being said, before heading to Paris I’d never been immersed in a culture where English wasn’t commonly spoken and where the majority of signs and instructions were in a foreign language, never experienced jet lag, never had to go through customs…There was a lot to experience on this trip.

Going to Paris showed me, along with many other things that I’ll talk about in a moment, just how little I actually know about France, French culture, and the French language, as well as how comfortable I was in my American bubble. To some degree I expected this to happen. I guess I just didn’t realize how much it would affect me.

The American Identity

The summer before I went to Pratt in Brooklyn, NYC, and long before Jake and I started dating, I spent a week at the Brocks’ house, helping them repaint two of their rooms and playing left-hander’s badminton with Patrick (he’s the only left-handed one in the family, and, behold, me too! So we bond). There was a point while I was at their house, however, when I got really sick, and spent most of my time sleeping or holding my head over the toilet in the upstairs bathroom. I remember a moment when I was so tired and nauseated that I’d taken to drifting in and out while lying on the bathroom floor. At one point of consciousness, I talked to God.

Me: I just want to be home, around familiar things, with my mom.

God: You need to understand that familiar things are not your home. am your home, and I’m going to take you places where you know no one but Me. You need to understand that nowhere but Me is truly your home.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

What does this have to do with Paris? Well! Going overseas, this grand adventure of exploring Paris, continually brought up a longing in me for America, for being where things are familiar, where Jake and I know people, etc. (sound similar to the moment in the bathroom?) and God poked at that, showing me how deeply I identify America as being my home. But even America, the place in which I was born and raised, in which I still live and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to live, is not my home. I was challenged once again: I need to be able to be ripped from places that are familiar to me and grafted into a brand new space, able to cope and eventually transition and thrive because God is a constant home, even if my surroundings constantly change.

The Truth of Being Grateful

Another thing that struck me while I was in Paris was just how different things were economically. What I mean by this is that I felt a lack in a superficial sense. There just weren’t as many things. The portion sizes were smaller. It wasn’t common to buy things in bulk. So many things were just different. All of these things of course not being negative, merely observations. But what this led me to realize, particularly when Jake and I returned to the States, is that Americans have so much. 

When Jake and I did return, landing in Ft. Lauderdale, FL to catch a connecting flight to Norfolk, VA, we had Denny’s for breakfast. And I was amazed at how much water was offered to us—that water was offered at all, since in Paris, wine and beer are cheaper than water, and it is not brought to your table automatically—, how much food was on either of our plates, how big Jake’s coffee was.

And then when we finally got home (we spent another few days in Virginia Beach before heading back to North Carolina), I was overwhelmed by the abundance in our own home. As we showered and unpacked and got comfortable, I looked at our closet and thought—after living out of a suitcase for two weeks in unfamiliar territory—“Wow! There are so many clothes!” and looking in the guest bathroom—“Wow! There are so many towels!” and moving around our bedroom, living room, the whole ranch-style house, thinking “Wow! I can move around and spin and there’s more than one room to move about in! There’s so much here!” like it was all new and yet, right.

And God, in all of His graciousness to me, made me think that this might be what heaven is like. “Wow! There are so many mansions here!” “Wow! I didn’t know the Son could shine that bright!” “Wow! There’s so much room in this place!” You know? And all of it is so grand and new and strange, and yet, right. And so while we’re here, no place will really ever feel like home, because we’re made for a different, better country.

“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Romans 8:23-25)

What Now?

These thoughts, however, didn’t lead me to mourn over our abundance, or to grieve at our possessions, but instead led me to a level of excited gratefulness that I’ve never before experienced (or that I can’t remember ever experiencing in the span of my very short life). It led me to remember that God has blessed us with a spacious home to use for His kingdom and not for our own pursuits, that we are guests in our own home, servants “keeping the house” until their Master returns…And yet, though He’s blessed us, He doesn’t promise any of it. In fact, in the New Testament, it’s said over and over again that persecutions and a number of devastating things will come upon those who are truly following Christ (2 Cor. 6:1-10, 2 Tim. 3:12, John 15:19).

So my perspective of “our” possessions has shifted: How do we use these things better for the kingdom? What can we give away? How does God want us to be generous with all of our resources? My prayers have switched up a bit as well: Lord, make us uncomfortable, and bring persecution on us, that we might grow and better follow; help us be bold enough to warrant persecution. Help me be okay if we’re left with nothing, and prepare and train me to be content and joyful in You regardless of what possessions we have and where we’re living at any given time.

I’m not sure where God will take all of these thoughts and lessons, but I know I’ve been trying to practice “use of the house” for discipleship, and I’ve been learning how to support and submit to Jake in keeping our home prepared and ready for hosting Bible studies, having people over for meals or hangout time, putting on Prayer Breakfasts, and being a “hospitality house” used by anyone…As God grows me in these things, I expect to be made very uncomfortable…And it’s kind of cool 🙂

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48)

 

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The Proverbs 31 Watchman

It seems like all of the great spiritual revelations God brings about in my heart happen in coffee shops…This particular thought came about as I was at the North Post Commissary Starbucks and was talking to God about the remnants of fear concerning motherhood (no, I’m not pregnant). I say remnants, because over the course of Jake’s deployment, as I’ve lived with different moms and watched them be moms and wives and daughters of the High King all at the same time, every major aspect of fear in me about motherhood was whittled away until just some corroded stubs were left. Being a mom and being a wife and doing ministry is just so doable…It’s really hard, but very doable. As I anticipated Jake’s homecoming, however, Satan poked me incessantly with the stubs.

After some solid prayer time with God, I thought it might be a good idea (as was suggested at one point by Jesse, one of the ladies discipling me) to just read what the Bible has to say about motherhood. After all, the truth will set me free, right?

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The first place I went was Proverbs 31. While reading through it, I was trying to ignore the bitter stigma placed on this passage of the Bible. Many women of the Church have been scorned or made to feel guilty through teachings on this passage, as they feel they can’t measure up to the standards listed here. I don’t think I’ve ever felt insecure as I look at the woman described here, but I’ve consistently been both encouraged and challenged in my service of God as a woman, and taken the specific things the Proverbs 31 woman does as general instructions for how to glorify God as a woman (“girding herself with strength/strengthening her arms” communicating that she takes care of her body, “making tapestry for herself/having clothing of fine linen and purple” communicating that she rightly cares about how she dresses, etc.). Another thought I’ve had is that this list of attributes is not communicating “This is who you as a woman/wife/mother ought to be,” but rather “This is who you are in Christ as a woman/wife/mother. This is your position, whether you believe you ought to be or are able to be this person.”

I started going through the chapter, highlighting any of the times that the position of mother is mentioned. Some of these include:

“The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.” (v. 1) —note: okay, so the mother is a kind of teacher of wisdom.

“She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household.” (v. 15)

“She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet.” (v. 21)—note: similarly to v. 15, she is active in the lives of her children and her husband (in the context probably her servants as well), and is active in providing for and taking care of them (which, as far as I’ve observed in most moms, seems to be a natural motherly instinct).

And then, while I read, I hit verse 27, which says, “She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” This verse consistently sticks out to me when I read this chapter because it’s easy for me to fall into idleness, particularly when there are consecutive days when I’m at home alone and Jake is at work. I have to be deliberate in making the best use of my time during those day patterns and not “eat the bread of idleness.”

But this time it stuck out differently. The “watches over” caught my eye, and I wanted to know what that meant exactly. So I looked up the word using Blue Letter Bible and saw that this Hebrew word was consistently used in the Old Testament to describe the position of a watchman in battle (1 Samuel 14:16, 2 Samuel 13:34, 18:24-27, 2 Kings 9:17-20), and it’s defined as one waiting expectantly and with readiness (1 Samuel 4:13, Job 15:22, Psalm 5:3, 37:32).

This was important to me, because I’d always seen the “watches over” as simply being a facilitator, or someone who just makes sure everything is running smoothly. But this is a watchman. The most basic definition of a watchman is “a person who keeps watch; a guard.” As far as I understand, the watchman’s position throughout history has been to be the first person to see danger when it was coming, and if the watchman failed to do his job, everyone else died, were pillaged, etc. The watchman could not fail.

Even jumping over to Titus 2:5, in the passage instructing older women within the Church how they ought to be discipling younger women, the word for “keepers at home” is translated first as “guard.” So, even the older women who are training the younger women are training them to fill the an important position on the battlefield in this spiritual war; the watchman.

This is kind of a different look at motherhood, isn’t it? We live in a culture that certainly acknowledges that motherhood is an important and trying occupation, but the extremes are weird. One extreme is that “Of course being a mom is important, but you should also, on top of being a mom, pursue the career that you want and have a full time job of some kind so you can earn your keep and prove that you’re not a doormat,” with the other extreme being, “You are a doormat, and your needs and feelings and desires will always come last.” Oh! These are not true…this is not the way God has designed the role of mother.

Here’s the verse again:

“She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)

It seems like the way God desires moms (and wives and women in general, according to the context) to be and even see themselves is as watchmen…God does not see moms as doormats, and the lies that the enemy seems to feed them about their identity are not true. There is battle language in Proverbs 31, which implies that much more is at stake here than fitting a mother-mold created by the world and by misinterpretations of God’s Word. Moms, you are the watchmen of your family.

The way this particularly relates to me is through prayer. While I’m not a mom, I am still called to be a “virtuous wife” and a “keeper of the home,” and am therefore called to be one who “watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” God is teaching me a lot about prayer and the power of it (I feel like He’s always teaching me about prayer…), and so the idea of “watching over” reminds me a lot of Colossians 4:2, which says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” The idea of watching over things, for me, implies a state of vigilance, “waiting with readiness.” And so this might be suggesting another role for the mom/wife within the role of watchman, that role being prayer warrior. Another verse that comes to mind in this idea of “watching over” is 1 Peter 5:8-9, which says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” So, to combine these thoughts, there’s an element of waging spiritual warfare in prayer as the watchman of the home.

But I digress.

The point is that, hey, moms? It has delighted God to make you the first line of defense for your families, the steward of your home under the headship of your husband, and you are important. If you go down, everyone goes down with you. You are not a doormat, at least not by God’s standards, and His opinion is the one that matters most.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, with guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

 

 

 

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