Luke 8:54

"And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid arise." Luke 8:54

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why You're Unmarried

Spiritual Lessons

Why You're Unmarried

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Recently on a roadtrip to Portland, my siblings and I chanced upon a Christian program where the speaker and his wife were addressing the epidemic of unmarried youth. They blamed the selfishness of the modern generation. And while I agree that my generation is certainly selfish, I think the root stems from something much more complex and deeper.

Every unmarried Christian young woman I know desires marriage. In fact, most Christian young woman I know desired marriage and motherhood since they were five years old. For most of us it was one of our biggest aspirations. Something we played at as children, and something we dreamed of as adults.

So why so many unmarried today?

While there are many factors, my brother and I came to a startling realization that I thought worthy of sharing. We believe that the lack of marriage in Christian circles comes from the widespread attack on manhood.

Today, “Christianity” advocates the taming of men. Spirituality for men is chalked up to a list of “don'ts”. Don't drink, don't cuss, don't smoke...etc. Society backs that up. Give us passive, hairless, manicured robots. Individuality is spurned; and the church goes a-long with it. Conformity is labeled “unity”. Anger, hatred, aggression are taboo. Sit in your pew and be nice men – that's spiritual.

And what has the religious circles made of romance? It too has become a list of “don'ts”. Don't touch, don't look, don't be friends. Women are not something to be won, wooed, pursued or conquered. They aren't a mystery or an adventure. You want to get to know her? You'd better be ready for a commitment for the rest of your life.

Am I advocating no boundaries? Absolutely not. Men without boundaries are men without respect or decorum. Boundaries are absolutely necessary, but outside of not touching a woman, God has given men very little instruction on how they are to treat womankind.

We know the world has it wrong, simply by looking at the hurt and grief and degradation they produce. Women aren't objects and we are meant to be used. So what is the appropriate response of men?

Just as the spiritual life is not suburbia, friendship with the opposite sex is a wild frontier. Unfortunately we've taken the soul out of every experience because we're afraid of “the flesh”. We can't be trusted, so we exterminate all we call wild and unpredictable. “Better safe than sorry” is the motto of conventional Christianity. But is that true? Are we better off safe than sorry? When it comes to living – that motto will bring a secure, cramped, narrow, predictable life. When it comes to relationships – that motto will either create a predictable, souless, cramped friendships, or it might just lead to an epidemic of unmarried people.

Now is marriage our ultimate goal? Should we strive for it? Is it our fulfillment? Our purpose? No. But marriage is good. Man was not meant to be alone. Women were created to be helpmeets. And as far as striving for it – there's a balance. I don't know think we need to go on a head hunt. BUT – I do think we need to realize that “waiting on the Lord” for our spouse does not mean we should wait for an audible voice from heaven and a blinking neon sign. But that's another topic for another time.

Every man is meant to take a quest. To fulfill a purpose. To dominate. Now, it's damaging to make woman the quest, because we cannot possibly fulfill that deep need. But we can be part of the adventure. We're meant to be.

Life is meant to be so much more than “getting your ducks in a row”. Men want to know who they are, what they're made of, and what they're meant to achieve. And the answer can't be found in living the stereotype. And it certainly won't be found in conforming to the box that religion tries to stuff men into. Men aren't meant to be “good boys”. Think about it! What boy grew up wanting to be “nice”? What girl grew up wanting to marry a passive Prince Charming? No – give us dragon slayers.

But look in the sanctuaries and you won't find many dragon slayers. You'll find tamed, bored, dutiful, nice guys. Domesticated, sanitized and suited. Apathetic. There's no battle to fight, let alone a damsel to rescue. You sit in your pew and “amen” your shepherd... sit; stay; good boy. Where are the warriors? Where are the fierce men? Where's the stonewall Jacksons? The solders from Iwo Jima? The King Arthur's? The heroes?

Men are embarrassed to act like men. But deep down they crave it. Look at the movies men watch. Braveheart. Saving Private Ryan. Gladiator. The church though has produced sluggards and the world has produced wolves. Why do you think porn is rampant? In every man there is a desire to appreciate beauty and to win it. But men are no longer required or expected to battle for the heart of woman. Porn is the safe and easy way.

In almost every story ever told there's a hero and his lady. A Juliet for every Romeo. Men desire to be a hero TO someone. FOR someone. And conveniently, we women yearn to be fought for. We want to be needed. We crave to be rescued. Cherished, pursued, won. It's a built-in nature for a reason. (Though the church may tell us we've fulfilled our lives by spending every ounce of energy in ministry, I guarantee you – there's more to womanhood than running Sunday school, volunteering for nursery and cleaning toilets.) We are meant to be part of man's adventure! We want to be beautiful. We want to reveal ourselves. We want to be lovely. Some of us were the stereotypical princess in lacy dress who paraded about the living room. Others shyly shared ourselves through writing.

My mom remembers as a little girl, being overwhelmed one holiday when many family members came and she sneaked away to some other room. And waited. She remembers thinking how it would be nice if someone missed her, and came looking for her. I think every girl has had one of these (if not many) moments where we realized we were waiting to be wanted. It's natural. We aren't meant to simply be “good girls” either. To be “good servants”. There IS a grand adventure. We are beautiful. We do have something to offer. We are worth fighting for. It's just that men have forgotten how to fight. They've been duped and told that the extent of their spirituality is Sunday pew sitting and nodding. That to be a man, they'd better get that number in the bank account, buy the car, get the steady job. Get life under control – that's the plan. A model Christian man is safe, sensitive, and certain. But to attain such perfection means forfeiting the soul. For God has made man in HIS own image. And God is dangerous, unpredictable, a King. God isn't safe. Certainly Christ is romantic and caring – but He is the Son of God. Men of old used to present themselves with their name followed by their fathers name. They were the son of “so-and-so”. There's power in knowing who you are. And there was power in being the son of a noble man. Christ is the Son of the highest authority. The King of kings. And so is every man of God. You are the Son of the Lion of Judah.

Christ is the heavenly Braveheart. He has led captivity captive and won freedom for mankind. And men are meant to be just like Him.

I've always laughed to myself when the men I know express the spontaneous desire to simply leave. They threaten to drop everything and explore the states for a year or two. Or maybe take off for the middle east. Join the military. They'll spend all day exploring a ridge of some mountain. Stake their lives on one business venture. They'll talk of absurd impossibilities. A “good time” involves risk, danger and absolute craziness. A challenge to the law of physics. I finally get it. It's a result of being a man. And it's good.

God risked everything when he gave us free-will. And love is one of our greatest opportunities to practice being Christ-like. Loving someone involves high risk. When a man pursues a woman he is offering his strength. He is saying – this is who I am, will you be part of my adventure? And when a woman loves – she is vulnerably exposing her tender heart and willingly sharing who she is. She is saying – this is who I am, here is all of me. This is partly why marriage is such a perfect image of God. God has risked all to offer Himself. God also wants to be loved. He wants to be chosen. He waits to be wanted. But He also pursues. He's also woos.

God gave man deserts, jungles, icelands and oceans to explore and conquer. And God also gave man, woman. Women are meant to be explored. Albeit, there must be boundaries. But morality and decorum does not look like ignoring woman. Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you can't be a friend to the opposite gender. Now what this looks like practically is left to personal convictions. And I'm not about to say being a friend to the opposite sex is easy or simple. But if men weren't scared of being men, their relationship with women might become more balanced.

The gospel needs men like you. We women need men like you. Life's a battle and an adventure – and we are willing to follow you into it, as sisters, as friends, and even, if God wills, as wives.

And it is not coincidence that the desires of man match the yearnings of woman. And yes, Adam and Eve failed – and we have too, as a whole and even individually – but we don't have to. Ladies, we do not have to give up our dream of a Knight in shining armor. They aren't fairy tales, their just rare. Simply because godly men are rare. We are meant to be cherished and fought for. Don't compromise.

And men – you're meant for greatness. You are meant to win and conquer. The world will sneer at you and the church may find your scandalous – but for your sakes, for our sakes – please be wild. Please be dangerous. Please unchain your minds. Please risk being men.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Quote of the day

"In seeking the will of God, I risk everything that is safe and secure about my world. But in doing the will of God, I find an even greater security."

-Charles Ringma

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spiritual Correctness

Spiritual Lessons

Spiritual Correctness
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Society encourages a new image for manhood. A hairless, manicured and tamed servant. The world blurs the lines of gender differences, praising the modern man for coming in touch with his sensitive side.

Is it any wonder that a passive Christian is now culturally expected? We are allowed to say “love”, “peace”, “joy”; we're even allowed to ask “What would Jesus Do?” But when it comes to acting like Jesus would – now that's unacceptable.

Society is diseased with political correctness. What political correctness means today is: being nice. Or what has been labeled “nice”. Extreme measures to restrict the potentially offensive person. No radical opinions. No sure convictions or absolutes, or calling bad “bad”, or good “good”. Only appropriate nice words. And for those who are too rough and rude: Sensitivity training. You ask conservatives why political correctness is rampant today, and they will tell you that political correctness is shutting people up. People have been bullied, shamed and silenced. To represent a dissenting view is primeval, ignorant and offensive.

Political correctness oppresses by redefining. Look at what is considered politically correct and see the twisting lies. Tolerance is now acceptance of evil. Diversity is now segregation. Free speech means I can infringe on your rights, choice means I can plan to murder my baby. Those who can see pass the subterfuge are repulsed. Political correctness only reigns because of our compliance. People would rather set up their fortress and hide there. It's safer. They soothe their conscience with mental dissent to what goes on about them. The world's atrocities are easily bemoaned at the dinner table.

Why bring up Political correctness? Because a similar epidemic has spread inside the church. We're diseased with Spiritual correctness.

Spiritual correctness oppresses by redefining. Good works: flesh. Warning of judgment: condemnation. Obedience to God: Self righteousness. Non-conformity: Disunity. Disobedience to limited authority: rebellion.

It has pressed Christians into a tiny box of acceptable worship. A check list Christianity. It's a broken system. Someone recently asked me if we can find a good church and be okay in sticking with the system? Of course. God can use anything. He could use a tyrant to bring about good things: but does that make tyranny a good system? Of course not! And does that mean we should do nothing against tyranny just because it's potentially useful? No.

Western Churchianity has created groupies instead of disciples. Blind Yes-men, instead of a body of individual members. It has tamed Christianity into predictable acts, set apart for a certain time in a certain building. Christians are now the “nice guys”. A sensitive servant with all the nice vocabulary and motivational cliches.

The all-so-often-ignored truth is that Jesus was not only meek, but also a non-conformist; unafraid of confrontation, he called men what they were. And someday He is coming back as a lion, with the tongue of a two-edged sword. So many talk of a gentle Jesus. Was He gentle? People today confuse meekness, compassion, and love with weakness, softness, gentleness. “Be like Jesus” and you're not going to become the passive pew potato that conventional “Christianity” manufactures today. It's a feel-good Christianity. Even in our self-denial we worship feelings, because in our “death to self” we now feel spiritual.

We give homage to traditions because we've never taken the initiative to discover the difference between biblical practice and man's expectation. Spiritual correctness touts “peace at all cost” and promotes compromise.

Once upon a time, Christians were lights on the hill. Now churches are trying to mimic the dark to appeal to the world. The church has failed to BE the church because they are obsessed with GOING to church. It has become a community of hidden lights. The Christian now condones national disobedience – sin that will bring about the judgment of God. Apathy empowers and condones evil. We can't really be called soldiers of Christ when we act like non-confrontational incrementalists. “Onward Christian soldier” while standing by as our neighbors are massacred? Spiritual correctness has idolized “Love” to the point of redefining Him into another god altogether.

Comparing conventional Christianity to tyranny is not that off the mark. Spiritual correctness has tyrannically bullied it's captives with threats of God. Our way or: you're out of God's will. You don't conform to the system and you're an outcast. Suddenly somehow Satan is gaining victory in your life. Comply or be excommunicated. Opinion is rebellion if it isn't the authority's opinion. You're against God if you don't agree with Pastor So-and-So. Tyranny.
Evil prevails when good men do nothing. We will make little difference in our culture if the majority of us are silent. Our society has a sin problem way beyond petitions or the ballot box. The laborers are few. The church is stunted by spiritual correctness. Satan has us fractured, distracted and enslaved – and it looks and feels so spiritual.

Church – I will do what's right, even if it means it's only me. But I will not stand by and accept your tolerance, you're apathy, your hardheartedness, your disobedience, your spiritual correctness. Why? Because I care about you. I was once there not so very long ago. You are a slave and I would show you freedom. And because God wouldn't want me to stand by. He meant for us to exhort and rebuke one another. I'm praying that you will join the harvest. Because your collective disobedience is hastening on God's judgment on a nation filled with lost souls. And because I will not give-in to spiritual correctness. I will not be the "nice person" at the cost of freedom. Even your freedom. Repent Church. Stand up Church. Let's conquer some giants!

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love....It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: He does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"God never promises to soothe every pain, resolve every difficulty, heal every heartache, and fill every void in our lives. The unresolved issues in our lives become the opportunity for us to pray, persevere, adjust, and grow to become more open, caring, patient, and giving. And when there is no resolution, the delicate plant of hope can grow."

- Charles Ringma

Friday, December 2, 2016

Guys and Girls

Spiritual Lessons

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Girls and Guys 

 "Is it alright to text guys?"

"What do you think about holding hands during courtship?"

"Can I be a guy's friend?"

"What does submission really look like in this circumstance?"

Thankfully I'm not doing a post to answer these questions.  In fact I think these questions have to be answered on an individual basis.  The older I get the more gray areas I realize there truly are.

But what I do intend to share in this post is what I've been learning on what men and women are meant to be to each other...and what they are not.

Men can be our best friend, our protectors, providers, leaders, supporters. But they are not meant to be our source of strength, confidence, self-worth – or even our source of love.

Likewise, we aren't meant to be men's affirmation. We cannot “make” a man. We are not his source of masculinity – we were never created to be. We aren't supposed to be the “center of his universe”. We can be their best friend, an inspiration, supporters, co-laborers, followers – but we cannot be their mission any more than then can be our emotional security.

We ask men to be God when we rely on them as the validation of our worth. And we present a stumbling block to manhood when we offer ourselves as the answer to a man's quest. Men need a vision, a purpose, an answer to who they are. And only God can supply them with that.

This isn't to say that our beauty isn't to be appreciated and we have nothing to offer. And I'm not saying we have to shy away from what men have to offer us. We just have to be diligent not to depend on these things as our validation. And why not? Because people fail. Because we could hurt them. And because our true source is God. We set ourselves to fall hard when we rely on men to be our everything.

Jesus is meant to be our knight in shining armor. He is our pursuer. He gives us our worth. He no longer sees a deceitfully wicked heart – as a child of God He sees you how you're meant to be. He sees who He created. He is captivated by you. Don't believe me? Go and ask Him yourself. Ask Him to show you – you'll be blown away. He is the source of your confidence. His love inspires femininity in our hearts.

Men can make the mistake of turning to us. We emanate God's mercy and comfort as women. Men have wounds just as deep as ours, and they too need to be shown forgiveness and assurance. But we'd be liars if we said we were meant to be this for men. We know better. This isn't to say we should cut off being merciful and comforting. I'm simply saying we shouldn't advocate ourselves as being our men's sources of these things. Whether they be our husbands, fathers, brothers, or our friends. Men search for beauty, for ecstasy, a goal – and if we play damsel in distress we can be a tempting trade-off for what God actually intended. God is the only one that can truly fulfill these needs.

Here comes yet another disclaimer: We are worth winning. God gave us the nature to meet needs, to encourage and inspire with our beauty. We are meant to be captivating. And we are meant to be wooed and pursued. It's good that men strive to be warriors. They are meant to be protectors and pursuers. And men and women can meet each others' needs on a certain level. We're meant to! Women were created to be helpmeets. Men were created to be leaders.

What I've seen though, is a tendency to twist this duty into something beyond that. We kind-of take God out of the equation. Especially when it comes to falling in love with someone. And this is where we will certainly fail, disappoint and grieve one another.

But when God is the wellspring that we turn to for all our needs, suddenly we can have a healthy relationship with the opposite gender.

Men can be confident in their manhood, pursue us and invite us to share their journey – instead of expecting us to be it. (We won't have to worry about being a short-lived disappointing journey! We'll get to be part of something much bigger than ourselves.).

And we women can be confident in our womanhood. Secure in Someone who never changes. And suddenly we legitimately have something to offer that stems from an everlasting Vine. We are neither the needy woman who sucks life out of men with our high expectations, or the cold unfeeling woman who has determined never to hurt again.

Like always – God is the answer.