6/30/10

Choosing to Say “Yes” to God
Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 5)

What does a God-centered woman look like? I’ve heard the story of Hannah many times, but never as powerfully as when Janet Parshall spoke at True Woman ’08. Her message, “A Woman after God’s Own Heart,” is recounted in Voices of the True Woman Movement.

The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb. Parshall makes it clear that there was a sovereignty issue at the core of Hannah’s story, told in the book of 1 Samuel. The Lord chose infertility for this woman of God (1 Samuel 1:5), and as a result, Hannah suffered another woman’s insults (1:6). Hannah may not have understood the reasons for God closing her womb, or that any good could come from her infertility, but she did not become bitter. That did not mean she didn't feel pain and frustration.

As her earthly enemy mocked her, Hannah stood and left for the Temple; she wanted to be in God's presence. Even there, she was mocked by a priest who misunderstood her actions (v. 14). But God saw Hannah's heart. She asked God for a child, and in her desperation for God to work (her desperate faith), she trusted him for the outcome. But Hannah's turning point of faith was wrapped in a vow. If God chose to give her a son, she would choose to return that son to God, to serve him for all his life (1:21-22).

God answered Hannah's plea, and in time, when little Samuel was weaned, she returned to the Temple to offer up her sacrifice, Samuel. He became a servant of God, His prophet. But year after year, as she returned to the Temple with a little robe for her son, the implications of her sacrifice returned. Though God blessed her with other children (2:20-21), Samuel was her first, and now He was God's.

God knew what Hannah was going through. "But he also knew that she was a true woman," Parshall said. "She was God-centered, not self-centered. ... She trusted God. ... She surrendered She said, 'Yes, Lord.' And in so doing, she became a magnificent role model for the true woman." She no doubt prayed for her little boy through the years; and Samuel grew to influence the entire nation of Israel as a wise, respected prophet (3:20).

Hannah's story offers us a model for making many possible choices:
(1) Accept God's will for your life right now, even if it's not what you want. This is an act of faith, but also recognition of God's sovereignty. Let go of your plans, and come to God with an open heart and open hands.
(2) Learn to respond toward God when people mock or persecute you. Recognize that God sometimes allows obnoxious people into our lives for His own purposes.
(3) Loosen your grip on the people and things in your life. All we have, even the people we love, belongs to God.
(4) Pray for your biological (or spiritual) children. Be a true woman of prayer for those God entrusts to your care. "Our prayers for our children can make a supernatural mark on our nation."

Parshall describes motherhood as one of God's refining fires. "The reality of motherhood," she said, "is that it's a place to learn surrender, letting go, trusting and believing that God is God."

Messages like this one will be a part of True Woman '10 in Indianapolis and Fort Worth this fall. To register for a conference, go to: True Woman Conferences.

6/23/10

Courageous Choices as a True Woman of God
Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 4)

“In all of life, it’s important to recognize that there are always two stories going on at the same time—two perspectives, two worldviews, two ways of looking at life. There’s the drama you can see, and then there’s the drama behind the drama. There’s the obvious plot, as well as the plot beneath the plot.” So says Nancy DeMoss, founder and director of Revive Our Hearts.

A woman called by God “for such a time as this,” Nancy wants Christian women to understand that they, too, are called to make a difference, not only in the kingdom of man—the culture of today—but also for the Kingdom of God.

In Chapter Four of Voices of the True Woman Movement, Nancy recounts the story of Esther. God used this young woman to display His glory in her unholy surroundings as she stepped forward with courage to fulfill God’s purposes for her life. The story is familiar to most of us who grew up in the church. (If it is new to you, read the 10 chapters of Esther—it’s a great adventure story!)

Esther is not the star of the story, however, although the book bears her name. She is “simply a player in the heavenly drama being acted out on an earthly stage,” Nancy explained. Bottom line—God raised this young girl to her lofty position alongside the pagan king, Ahasuerus for a reason. Though she had no idea of the role she would play in the redemption of her people, God had prepared her heart and life, and at the heart of the story, there is a crisis of faith. God was not dependent on Esther’s choices, but He sovereignly placed her in the right time at the right place and with the right counselor at her side (wise Mordecai), and her choice to trust and obey God—to “go for broke” in commitment to His will—changed the course of Jewish history.

“You, too, are a tool in the hand of God, being applied to situations that may just feel like ‘everyday life” to you, but are actually backlit stages where the purposes of God are being put on display from your address,” Nancy said.

She shared lessons that we can glean from the story of Esther, and I want to tweak them a bit to offer choices “for such a time as this.”

Keep your focus. We are in a spiritual battle—fighting on a higher plane—even when we can’t see the eternal significance.
Use spiritual weapons and tactics. The battle is the Lord’s, and His children fight with humility, prayer, fasting, truth, and love.
Rest in God. He is behind the scenes, and He will prevail.
Move forward with courage. Be willing to step out in faith.
Never give up hope. There is no situation so desperate that God cannot redeem it.
Don’t judge the outcome of the battle by current circumstances.

Esther was an ordinary woman caught up in the drama of her day. Her challenges could have easily derailed her from becoming a true woman of courage and faith, but she answered God’s call—the call to surrender and be used to accomplish His will.

“And we, like [Esther], must live in light of that calling,” Nancy said, “giving this world a vision of [God’s] reality, power, and grace.”

What is your "calling" from God? What are your roles? Are you a wife? A mother? A single woman? What season of life are you in right now? Be sure your heart is surrendered to God concerning these roles and circumstances—that you are saying, “Yes, Lord!”—and consider the intentional choices you can make as a tool in God’s hand.

NOTE: Registrations are open for two True Woman conferences (Indianapolis and Fort Worth) where you can learn more about the concepts in Voices of the True Woman Movement.

6/16/10

Choosing to Be a Counter-Cultural Woman

Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 3)

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” Remember that ad campaign? It symbolized the women’s movement of the 1960s, when feminism etched its agenda into women’s hearts and rewrote the rules of womanhood, marriage, parenting, and more.

Mary Kassian, a distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, spoke at True Woman ’08 in Chicago, explaining the foundations of feminism and how it replaced the image of sweet June Clever, happy at home and caring for her family in “Leave It to Beaver.” America watched the evolution of women under the influence of feminism on television. The new mindset changed the choices women made in their personal and public lives.

By the 1970s, Mary Tyler Moore—the perky, independent career woman—proclaimed womanhood’s sufficiency without a man. The 1980s brought us Murphy Brown, a loud-mouthed, brash, driven, self-absorbed divorcĂ©e and atheist. Her show focused on Murphy’s “self-actualization.” In the midnighties, America discovered Ellen, a woman who defined her own sexuality and morality as a lesbian. With the sitcom Friends, women were given options—live together, hook up, get divorced, get pregnant, have men as roommates, etc. “Selfhood and sisterhood” were promoted in Sex and the City. Kassian said of the women on that show, “...the height of empowered womanhood is to live a self-serving, self-righteous, neurotic, narcissistic, superficial, and adulterous life.”

How different this all is from the biblical image of a happy, fulfilled woman who values and serves God, her family, and her community.

The system of ideas that feminism encompasses is “a distinct worldview with its own ideologies, values, and ways of thinking,” Kassian said. She described that worldview, discussing the philosophies of Simone de Beauvoir, who proposed a revolution in gender roles; Betty Friedan, who wrote The Feminine Mystique; Kate Miller, who opposed “patriarchy” as a force against women; and other in the movement. “According to feminism,” Kassian said, “the only hope for woman’s happiness and self-fulfillment lay in rejecting a male-defined, Judeo-Christian worldview.”

Kassian’s message is spelled out in Chapter Three of the book Voices of the True Woman Movement by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her conclusion? “The heart of true womanhood is to understand and agree with the purposes of our Creator ... A woman is a true woman when her heart says yes to God. ... The new generation is disillusioned. They can see that feminism hasn’t brought women the satisfaction it promised.”

What are the choices Kassian suggests that will bring women the answers, fulfillment, and freedom they seek?
(1) Embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(2) Embrace a biblical understanding of manhood, womanhood, and gender relationships.
(3) Join the countercultural movement of women “who dare to take God at His Word, who have the courage to stand against the popular tide, choosing to believe and delight in God’s plan for male and female.”

Note: Mary's message at True Woman '08 was based on material from her book, The Feminist Mistake (Crossway Books, 2005).

Mary is one of the keynote speakers at two True Woman conferences in 2010: In Indianapolis, September 23-25; and Fort Worth, October 14-16. (I'm attending the Indy conference and would love to see you there!)

6/9/10

Choosing a God-Centered Life

Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 2)


Revive Our Hearts, led by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, mentors millions of women, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Nancy birthed the True Woman Movement in 2008 in Chicago. Her message at that conference, “From Him, through Him, to Him,” is Chapter Two in Voices of the True Woman Movement.

Nancy’s message is based in Romans 11:33-36—“an odd place,” Nancy said, “to launch into a discussion on true womanhood.” In this passage full of amazing, magnificent doctrines, Paul explores the mysteries of God’s sovereign, electing grace—His plan for redeeming Jews and Gentiles. Paul’s words provide “a framework and context for our lives as women,” she said, because it gives “a fixed reference point for our hearts. It tethers us to God’s ultimate, eternal purposes” and provides “a perspective—a grid—for responding to His sovereign choices in our lives,” [emphasis mine].

Our choices, then, as women, are to be based in God’s choices for us; and the most important choice is to be sure God is central in our hearts.

“The true woman knows that deeper than her own limitations and problems, is “the bedrock of God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge” and His eternal purposes are underneath it all. We can safely dwell in Him (Deut. 33:27). Whatever our need or lack, God richly can supply (Phil. 4:19). However impossible our circumstances seem, God’s wisdom is sufficient (1 Cor. 1:25).

Though we wonder, at times, whether God is working in our lives—usually because we cannot comprehend “the means He has devised to fulfill His holy purposes”—The Lord is truly working for us and through us. He owes us no explanations, but one thing is sure: we desperately need Him. God cares for us completely and loves us unconditionally. “Believing this leaves no place for doubt, or fear, or anger, or second-guessing, or disputing God’s choices,” Nancy said. “He is God and we are not.” His ways for us may not make sense to our human reasoning, but we can take comfort knowing that the all-wise Sovereign One knows what He’s doing, and He is working out a plan for the display of His glory that includes us.

Paul’s conclusion in this passage is: “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36). “This is why true womanhood results in a God-centered life and perspective, a God-centered worldview,” Nancy said. If we miss that, we miss everything. He is our source, our sustainer, and our supreme purpose, the “sum and whole point of everything there is,” Nancy said. “Therefore, we submit our entire lives to His holy, eternal purposes.” And that includes our womanhood.

So, how do we submit our womanhood to God? We make at least three choices.

(1) A True Woman lives a God-centered life. She is not self-centered. We live for God’s glory and pleasure, embracing the purpose for which we were created. We are “enthralled” with the Lord Jesus, and our hope is in Him (Rom. 11:36; Ps. 33:18).
(2) A True Woman trusts God, and does not give in to fear (Prov. 31:25; Ps. 27:1). The woman of God “accepts [God’s] plan as good, though it may not be the way she defines good," Nancy said. She knows that God can be trusted to know what He is doing; she can relinquish control to Him.
(3) A True Woman says, “Yes, Lord,” recognizing that her life is not her own. She resolves to follow Him in full obedience and submission. She embraces God’s design for biblical womanhood and the roles for her life, and is, Nancy said, “willing to be like a salmon, swimming upstream, living a counter-cultural life in an unholy world for the glory of God.”

Is God the center of your life? How do you know? What choices can you make to insure that you keep Him and His purposes central and valued? Have your read the True Woman Manifesto?

6/2/10

The Choice to Embrace Biblical Womanhood


Voices and Choices of the True Woman Movement (Part 1)

Voices, voices everywhere—in television and radio, literature, the movies, the Internet, and relationships—all competing for our attention. It’s hard to hear the voice of God in this cacophony of sound; but women desperately need to hear from God. His is the powerful voice of wisdom and sanity (Ps. 29:4; Prov. 3:5; Is. 55:8-9).

Our choices are often determined by the voices we respond to and obey, and in those choices, we affect our relationships, ministry, health, and future. Look around American society today and you’ll see the results of listening to wrong voices.

In this summer series, based on chapters from the book Voices of the True Woman Movement, I want to focus on the choices that are possible when we heed the heart and voices of this powerful new women’s movement, and specifically, what women can do to influence others to return to biblical womanhood today.

In the fall of 2008, John Piper—pastor, author, and family man—addressed the True Woman '08 conference in Chicago with the message, “The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood.” Women across the auditorium first smiled and then grew thoughtful as Piper said, “Wimpy theology makes wimpy women.” He was not arguing for the brash, loud, manipulative female, but rather, a woman of stamina, spiritual strength, and submission to God—a woman with scripture coursing through her veins.

“Wimpy theology does not give a woman a God that is big enough,” Piper said. Wimpy theology forgets who God is and His sovereign purposes. “From the very beginning,” he said, “God’s design in creating the universe and governing it the way He does has been to put the glory of His grace on display in the death of His Son for the sake of His bride.” In other words, true, biblical manhood and womanhood—masculinity and femininity—are at the center of God’s agenda. They were not an afterthought, but His personal, sovereign choice.

True womanhood, Piper said, is a distinctive calling of God. It is more than physical features or biological functions. The married woman displays the Church’s part in submission to Christ by her willing choice to submit to her husband's leadership (Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-7), while the married man displays Christ’s love for His bride. Single people are not left out of this beautiful picture, because, as Piper noted, “Marriage is a beautiful thing. But it is not the main thing.” Singles who are content to walk with Christ are an even “greater witness that He [Jesus] is a better husband than any man, and in the end, will be the only husband in the universe.”

What choices do we have when we hear Piper’s words? (1) Consider the voices you are listening to, and ask God to help you seek His voice above all others. (2) Don’t settle for wimpy theology about God or His design for your life. Appropriate His power to be a God-honoring woman. (3) Discover the beauty of biblical submission as you meditate on key scriptures. (4) Don’t waste your womanhood. Become creative in ways to glorify the Lord, no matter your stage of life. (5) Live out your roles in womanhood with focus, contentment, and joy. If you are married, affirm your husband’s leadership and encourage his success with your spiritual gifts and talents. If you are single, encourage God’s family in the church. Biblical womanhood is the choice that leads to true freedom.

I encourage you to attend one of the remaining True Woman '10 Conferences for encouragement in embracing biblical womanhood; and read and sign the True Woman Manifesto.