Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter 3, You've Come a Long Way, Baby! by Mary Kassian

This third chapter in the book Voices of the True Woman Movement is a stunning overview by Mary Kassian of how far women have come in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, a long way isn't necessarily a good or right way! She reminds the reader that up until the middle of the last century, Western culture as a whole generally embraced a Judeo-Christian perspective on gender and sexuality issues, as well as the purpose and structure of the family. Having been a teenager in the early 60's, I can attest to that. It wasn't that there weren't sin issues, for there certainly were, but for the most part, everyone agreed on what was right and what was wrong, even if the right wasn't always followed. Differences between male and female were accepted and seldom questioned at that time and most understood the appropriate outworking of gender roles and relationships. But, to quote Mary, we've "come a long way, baby." She reminds us of the cultural image of women in the 1950's as represented by various TV shows, such as Leave it to Beaver. Real-life observations from the 50's included: getting married was the norm, usually in the early 20's; most couples then had children and the husband was the primary breadwinner for the family; the divorce rate was low; sex outside of marriage was shameful; couples rarely "lived together" outside of marriage; having a child out of wedlock was considered shameful; only 30% of all women were employed outside the home; there was no birth control pill; abortion was illegal; men saw it as their responsbility to protect and provide for their families; women saw it as their responsibility to support their husbands and focus on raising their children in a stable, nurturing, loving environment. How things have changed since then! She shows the progression as expressed in other TV sitcoms. The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970's depicted the first independent, attractive career woman as the central character, with the focus being on her career. In the 1980's, we were introduced to Murphy Brown, a loud-mouthed, brash, driven, self-assured, self-absorbed, and highly opinionated fictional journalist and news anchor. She was a divorcee and a proud atheist. During the series, she became pregnant but chose not to marry the father. Then enter Ellen in the midnineties--a women who owned her own independent bookstore, lived with a man, though the relationship was platonic. Over time, it was revealed that she was a lesbian (on camera and off!), and this was to be accepted without judgment. "From children's cartoons to television series to movies, women in popular media are now portrayed as having an 'in charge, don't-need-a-guy, I'm-powerful, traditional-marriage-and-family-morals-are-outdated, I-have-the-right-rule, how-dare-you-tell-me-what-to-do' mentality." She asserts that we've now been thoroughly indoctrinated with the message that when it comes to relationships, women can make their own rules. Who are we to judge? A recent popular sitcom, Sex and the City, is the epitome of this mind-set. Also, in this new worldview, men are depicted as whiny, needy, not too bright, and totally unreliable. Thus Mary shows how in a few short decades, (her lifetime as well as mine!) the ideal of a happy, fulfilled woman has gone from one who values and serves her children, her husband, and her community, to one who serves and exalts herself, sees men as dispensable, and considers children to be optional.

So how did we get here from there? The author asserts that feminism as a distinct philosophy is what shook the underpinnings of society in the early 1960's like a tsunamic earthquake shaking the ocean's floor. This is much more than just a cultural phenomenon of women's rights. Rather it is a distinct worldview with its own ideologies, values, and ways of thinking. Whether we realize it or not, feminism is a philosophy that has profoundly affected virtually every person alive in the Western world today. We have to know where we've come from and how we got to this point to be able to determine where we go from here. She affirms that this is the Biblical way of approaching history. Her desire is that God will raise up a holy generation of women in our day--women who understand our times, but who hold the truth, clarity, and charity of the Word of God in their hands and are willing to stand up for it.

So how did this philosophy of feminism develop and become so integrated into our culture? Geopolitically, the world of the 1950's was witnessing an era of revolution with a fight for individual rights. About this time, a female French philosopher proposed that modern society was also in need of a revolution in gender roles. In the late 1950's, American political activist and journalist Betty Friedan picked up on this thinking and began interviewing dozens of women, asking about their level of happiness and fulfillment in their marriages, etc. In her resulting book, she asserted that women were not happy and fulfilled, but rather feeling empty, and yearned for something more. She suggested that women begin to question, challenge, and rebel against the accepted role of wife and mother, and traditional morality. She asserted that women needed education, career, and work of "serious importance to society." "According to feminism, the only hope for woman's happiness and self-fulfillment lay in rejecting a male-defined, Judeo-Christian worldview." Thus woman set her foot on a path that would rapidly take her--and ultimately the whole of society--in a direction diametrically opposed to the heart and purposes and ways of God. These writings quickly gained popularity among American women. Feminist author Kate Millett, in the late 1960's, named "patriarchy" as the problem. It was used to describe both the dominance of the male as well as the inferiority and subservience of the female. This meant that for woman to gain equality, every aspect of belief and culture would need to be changed. "Only in breaking free from traditional Judeo-Christian roles and rules would woman find meaning and self-fulfillment."

Mary goes on to describe the first phase of feminism: women claiming the right to name themselves, to redefine their own existence. Their goal was to become more like men. New groups, such as NOW, sprung up, which led to lobbying for the feminist agenda, and eventually resulted in the Equal Rights Amendment. "Consciousness raising" began as small groups of women gathered together and were encouraged to vent their bitterness and unhappiness. Feminism spread even more by the power of word-of-mouth. By 1970, 20,000 women marched proudly down New York's Fifth Avenue, identifying themselves as part of the women's liberation movement. Then came the explosion of woman-centered analysis and women's studies in the 1970's. Educators began to modify kindergarten books, grade-school curricula, etc. to reflect a feminist worldview. "The values and beliefs of feminism began to be presented in newspapers, periodicals, newscasts, and television programming." By the end of the 70's, feminism had influenced every member of society, and by the 1980's, a second phase began when even God was renamed as "she", rather than He. New Age philosophy, Wicca, and goddess worship are all expressions of the feminist spirituality that arose in the 80's and 90's. "According to feminism, each woman is her own goddess, part of the elemental, female creative power of the universe."

Contrary to the message of the Bible, feminism teaches that women ought not to bow down and submit to any external power. But the Bible teaches otherwise. God created us--male and female. He intended there to be essential difference for a reason, and these differences are to be honored as part of God's great design. By refusing to honor this, we are claming the right to define our own existence. God's word says though: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?"Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21 NIV) God fashioned the two sexes differently for glorious purposes--the primary one to teach us about the relationship between ourselves as God's people (the church) and Christ.

So what's the answer to all of this--what is going to bring women happiness and fulfillment and joy in their lives? Is it returning to the 1950's--looking for the perfect man to make one happy? Or is it relying on the feminist formula for fulfillment--freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want? Neither will ultimately satisfy. Even finding the "perfect man" and being a wife and mother cannot satisfy our deepest needs. They can only be fulfilled as we turn to the One for whom we were created--the Lord Jesus Christ--and say "yes!" to Him. Mary ends this chapter by saying that 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. Feminism promised women happiness and fulfillment, but hasn't delivered. Today's women are still searching for answers. And the answer is in embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ and a Biblical understanding of manhood, womanhood, and gender relationships. "The time is ripe for a new movement--a seismic, holy quake of countercultural Christian 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."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chapter 2, From Him, Through Him, To Him, by Nancy Leigh Demoss

Nancy bases this chapter on the wonderful doxology of Paul in Romans 11:33-36: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen." Throughout the first 8 chapters of Romans, Paul has laid out the basic doctrines of our faith: the sinfulness of man, the amazing grace of God, the salvation that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Then in chapters 12-16, he gives practical application of all this. In between in chapters 9-11, he explores the mysteries of God's sovereign, electing grace, and God's plan for redeeming both Jews and Gentiles. As Paul concludes this section, he breaks out into the above hymn of praise. So, how does this relate to us as being true women of God? Nancy believes this passage provides a framework and context for our lives by giving us a fixed reference point for our hearts. She affirms that it tethers us to God's ultimate, eternal purposes and gives us a perspective for responding to His sovereign choices in our lives, especially those we cannot understand or explain. Oh, the depth.... Though we can never reach the bottom of God's unfathomable ways, we do know what it's like to reach the bottom of our own strength. She says the true woman knows that deeper than her own limitations and problems is the bedrock of God's riches, wisdom, and knowledge. His unseen yet sovereign, eternal purposes are underneath it all. "The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deut. 33:27) Oh the depth...of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God... God's riches are limitless, inexhaustible. There are the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience (Romans 2:4), the riches of His glory (Romans 9:23), the riches of His mercy (Ephesians 2:4), the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7-8). God also has complete wisdom and knowledge of everything about our lives: our past, present, future; our thoughts and words; our family structure; our financial situation; our physical and mental challenges; our motives; our sins, fears, and insecurities. Regardless of how complex, convoluted, or impossible our situation may seem to be right now, the wisdom of God is more than adequate to walk us through it. How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways..... Inscrutable--past finding out. We simply cannot know all that God is doing or why He does what He does at any given time. John Piper once said, "In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know." We can't yet see the outcome. But He is God, and He is working. For who has known the mind of the Lord? No one! ...or who has been His counselor? No one! God possesses limitless wisdom. He doesn't need us--we need Him! We are utterly, totally, absolutely dependent upon Him. Believing this leaves no place for doubt, or fear, or anger, or second-guessing, or disputing God's choices. He is God, and we are not. God's ways though may not always make sense to our human reasoning. His plan may include various challenges or afflictions, or unfulfilled longings. But God has an eternal purpose in mind--a plan for the display of His glory throughout all the universe, and we are a part of that plan. He knows and cares for us deeply--we can trust Him. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.... We find our true meaning and purpose only in God's meaning and purpose. That's why true womanhood results in a God-centered life and perspective, eternally tethered to who God is and His sovereign, inscrutable ways. God is the source and origin of all things (from Him). He is the one who sustains all things, the one who "upholds the universe by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3) (through Him). He created all things for Himself and His pleasure and glory (to Him). Therefore, nothing is beyond His ability to control, to transform, and to use for His glory and for our good. So what is our response? Him be glory forever. Amen. We wholeheartedly affirm the Word of God. We submit our entire lives to His holy, eternal purposes. So again, what does all this have to do with being a "true woman"? Nancy asserts that this is where we find a refuge for our hearts. As we embrace these truths, we discover what true womanhood is all about. She concludes with 3 applications that she prays we will grasp and seek to orient our lives around them. 1) A true woman lives a God-centered life. She lives for God's glory and pleasure, not her own. "Every day and every moment of every day, she seeks to live with His purposes in view." Most of all, she is enthralled with the Lord Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price, the supreme treasure of life. This gives her real, genuine hope in a world filled with pain, loss, and uncertainty. 2) A true woman trusts God. She can smile at the future (Proverbs 31:25), because she knows of a God whose depths never reach bottom, whose ways are beyond finding out. "He has a plan we would not have scripted, a plan we may not understand, but it is His plan, and His plan is good, wise, and can never be thwarted." She can trust Him in times of prosperity, joy, and plenty, but also in times of pain and hardship. She can also trust that her past failures are not beyond the reach of God's redeeming grace. 3) A true woman says, "Yes, Lord." Paul begins Romans 12 with this admonition: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, living and holy and acceptable to God." A true woman knows that her life is not her own. She has been bought with a price, and now lives for the glory of God. She affirms that His purposes are good and wise, and therefore she can follow His leading with the "yes" of full obedience and submission. She is grateful that He has made her a woman, and is thankful for the privilege of serving and giving and fulfilling His holy purposes. She lives intentionally, asking what will please the Lord? what will further His kingdom? what will display His glory? She says with Mary, "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word." (Luke 1:38) For now we walk by faith, not by sight. But one day, we will see all things clearly and the sight will be glorious. Our hearts will cry out, "Oh, Lord my God, You have done all things well...How great Thou art!" For now though, when the summit seems hopelessly far away, when we can't see what He's doing, we recall Romans 11:33-36--the depths, the riches, the wisdom, the knowledge of God. We can fall back into His sovereignty, sure of His love, and proclaim with Paul, "To Him be glory forever. Amen."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter 1, The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood, by John Piper

Beginning this chapter, John Piper writes: "My aim in this message is to clarify from God's Word the ultimate meaning of true womanhood, and to motivate you, by God's grace, to embrace it as your highest calling." He then states his main assumption: wimpy theology makes wimpy women. Who are non-wimpy women? They are women who are willing to stand for Christ in the midst of adversity, women who praise the Lord in the midst of tragedy, women who have experienced tremendous physical challenges in their lives and yet have remained faithful to their Lord. These women know a great God and have "the granite foundation of God's sovereignty and the solid steel structure of a great God-centered purpose for all things." He then asserts that to know God's ultimate meaning of true womanhood, we must first know His ultimate purpose for the universe. And what is that? According to Piper, it is to display the glory of Christ in its highest expression--that is, in His dying to make a rebellious people His everlasting and supremely happy bride. So how does the ultimate meaning of true womanhood fit in with this? He shows that womanhood and manhood belong at the very center of God's ultimate purpose-- they were not an afterthought in His plan. Rather, God designed them precisely for the purpose of displaying the glory of His Son. Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 in Ephesians 5:31: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Paul then adds: "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." So, from the beginning, manhood and womanhood were designed to display the glory of Christ in His relationship to the church, His bride. That's quite mind-boggling, don't you think??!! As a result, Piper concludes that the ultimate meaning of true womanhood is a distinctive calling of God to display the glory of His Son in ways that would not be displayed if there were no womanhood. Wow! This means that true womanhood is indispensable in God's purpose to display the fullness of the glory of His Son. And this is true, Piper asserts, whether we are single or married. For the married, looking to Ephesians 5:22-24, he points out that marriage is meant to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church. This is seen in headship and submission. Headship is defined as the following: "the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home." Submission is: "the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts." Marriage is meant to display, though in a mirror dimly, something of the glory of the sacrificial love of Christ for His bride, and the lavish reverence and admiration of the bride for her husband. This is a calling of infinite significance. And for singles, there are some truths about Christ and His kingdom that can shine even more clearly through their singleness. For example, a single woman can spend herself for the gospel and Christ be mightily glorified in her life; she can give herself to creating God's family in the church; she can be a great witness, showing that Jesus is a better husband than any man, who, in the end, will be the only husband in the universe. He concludes with this challenge: don't settle for a wimpy theology. "God is too great. Christ is too glorious. True womanhood is too strategic. Don't waste it. Your womanhood--your true womanhood--was made for the glory of Jesus Christ." This is so counter cultural and yet so life-giving and freeing as we realize how we have been designed specifically by God as women to bring Him glory. May the Lord increase our vision of His purposes and may we, by His grace, fulfill the special role He has designed for us as true women of God.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Voices of the True Woman Movement, Intro

As promised, I've begun reading the above book and will prayerfully write a bit about each chapter. Nancy Leigh Demoss begins by reminding us of the great challenge of the vast number of voices in the world vying for our attention. Which ones will we hear and heed? Much depends on that for those we listen to will determine the ultimate outcome of our lives. Conflicting voices began in the garden when the voice of the serpent questioned God's voice to Eve. Eve listened to the serpent, Adam listened to Eve, and sin entered the world. To reject the voice of God brings disastrous consequences. Nancy, through her ministry to women for more than thirty years, has witnessed firsthand the fall-out of listening to the wrong voices. She calls us to heed the voice of the Lord, which is powerful and full of majesty (Psalm 29:4). Years ago the Lord began to lay on her heart a burden for a new women's movement--a counter-cultural revolution, in which women would reject the seductive voices of this world and would instead incline their hearts to listen to Christ and follow His voice. Through Revive Our Hearts ministry, she has sought to faithfully proclaim the Word of God to women and to point them to Christ, to hear and to heed His voice amidst the confusion of the world's voices. True Woman 08 brought together over 6000 women to hear God's Word and to affirm His mission and purpose for their lives. This book is a collection of the messages that were presented there and represent the heart and voices of the True Woman movement. This is a movement based on the authority of the Word of God and involves women seeking fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in their personal accomplishments. May we hear and heed His voice this day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hello! Well, I just created my own blog, but I have absolutely no idea what to do now or how to get it to look like others I've seen!! I'll need help from my 2 daughters (who unfortunately, live out of state!) This title, though, is special to me, as my name, Susan, means "full of grace," and that is definitely how I view my life in the Lord. He saved me 30 years ago when I was 33 (well, I just told you how old I am, didn't I!), and every day since (and before, though I didn't know it) has been a total gift of God's grace that comes to us through His Son Jesus. I'm excited to share more about my life as soon as I know more what I'm doing with this!