A Slice of Life: An Invitation

July 31, 2008 at 2:55 pm (A Slice of Life) (, )

Welcome to “A Slice of Life,” where you can read and chew on what God has been doing in my life. I hope it will whet your appetite for the Bread of Life, our Savior Jesus Christ, as well as for the living water which He gives, namely His word.

I have been a Christian, walking with and growing in the Lord, for ten years now. I’m still a young woman (in my early twenties) with a lot to learn, but God has so blessed me over the past decade that I can’t help but want to share what He’s done so that others might also grow to treasure Him more and delight in pleasing Him! Through joys and tears, successes and failures, confidence and insecurity, praise and persecution, encouragement and lonliness, my great God and Savior has, by His word and His Holy Spirit at work in me, taught me His ways. And He’s especially taught me to cling to Him-my heart’s greatest treasure!

It is my prayer that as you see what He’s done in me and taught me through His word, you might be encouraged toward love and good deeds, delighting in God above all else. So I invite you to sample a slice of my life from time to time in hopes that you will then feast on that which is life indeed! 🙂

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Care to join our blogroll?

July 25, 2008 at 5:30 pm (Announcements) (, , , )

We’re about to add a blogroll…you know, one of those pages with a list of blogs written by other pearls and diamonds across the web. Do you have a blog you’d like included?

Here’s how it works:

First, copy and past the following HTML into your website (it’ll show up looking like the image above):

<!-- data banner code begin -->  
<a href="http://www.pearlsanddiamonds.wordpress.com/blogroll" target="_blank">  
<img border="0" width="150" src="https://pearlsanddiamonds.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/pearls-and-diamonds-blogroll.jpg"/></a>  
<!-- data banner code end -->

Then send us an e-mail with a link and a blog title and we’ll add you ASAP!

Update: So, Abigail doesn’t really know how to write HTML, but she tries valiantly. Sorry for the broken links! The HTML above has been changed now and (hopefully) works. (Thanks Amy.)

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Part Three: Seven Principles for FREEDOM

July 19, 2008 at 3:13 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

We all want a solid line, chalked in bright yellow on the pavement. A line to define the difference between obedience and legalism. Between freedom and sin. Once upon a time God drew yellow lines in the sand, but we crossed them anyway. Laws do not keep us from crossing, they only reveal to us that we have crossed. Usually our thoughts have crossed ahead of our feet. Under grace, God has left many lines up to us to draw, with the measuring-stick of holiness to guide us. Always our highest aim should be to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“How will my exercise of freedom most bring glory to God?”

Seven important principles line that ruler, to help us determine where our freedoms extend in each circumstance. Is the scripture silent about the issue? No prohibitions? No commands? Let’s run it through a filter of principles for glorifying God.

F. The Fire Principle (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

When my works come before Jesus, will this be burned away as chaff, or is it something Jesus can reward?

R. The Reputation Principle (1 Corinthians 10:23-29)

Do I seem inconsistent with Christianity to my unsaved neighbor? (“So what? You’re just like us.”)

E. The Evangelism Principle (1 Corinthians 9:1-27)

Does it help or hinder the gospel? Would exercising my liberty allow me to reach farther or would it cause offense or confusion?

E. The Edification Principle (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26)

Does it build up my fellow believers?

D. The Destruction Principle (1 Corinthians 8:7-13)

Instead of simply not building up, could it tear down fellow believers? Could it cause a brother to sin or violate his own conscience?

O. The Obstacle Principle (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)

Does it offend anyone? Create an obstacle between them and the Lord? (We’re not talking about conforming to the heavy rules of others—Jesus wasn’t afraid of offending the Pharisees. We’re talking about honoring the convictions of those who might be led into temptation or caused to blaspheme through your actions.)

M. The Master Principle (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)

Yes, it’s permitted, but is it profitable? Yes, it’s allowed, but is it an addiction? Does it compete with Christ for a place in my heart? Does it enslave me, master me, control me or cause me to do its bidding?

Solid lines, painted by someone else, disguise invisible chains. We’re not to be enslaved again to the weak and elemental things of the world. To empty practices. To forms of godliness with no power. Our freedom in Christ is given, not as an opportunity for the flesh, but to allow us to serve one another in love. By understanding and limiting or exercising our liberty, we find an amazing freedom: to fellowship in unity with Christians from other cultures or backgrounds, to be diverse in our manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to reach out to unbelievers in purity and truth, to avoid addictions and sins and to love as Jesus loved.

Liberty isn’t about being lawless—free from all law. It’s about being free from the dominion of sin—free to choose the right thing to do, and to do it.

Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been shamelessly stolen from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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Part Two: The Pharisee and the Weak Brother

July 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Every coin has two sides. Legalism is no exception. On the one hand we have the legalist who ties up heavy burdens to place on the backs of others, controlling the lifestyles of others directly. I introduce you to the Pharisee. On the other stands the one who is bowed down by an imagined burden (often placed there by someone else), terrified to move or grow for fear he might step over that line into sin. Please welcome the Weak Brother. I’m not creative enough to have invented these characters on my own—we find them in the pages of scripture.

Meet the Pharisee (2 Timothy 3)

Our most dangerous advocate for extra rules is the Pharisee, who mirrors the Jewish legalists of Jesus’ day. Jesus told them, “You nicely set aside the word of God for the sake of your traditions.” The greatest commandment is to “Love Yahweh with all your heart, soul and mind” and the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In creating rules and regulations that go beyond Scripture, the Pharisee becomes an idolater, more interested in legalities (and his own power through them) than in glorifying the Lord or tending His lambs. Jesus said loving Him equals obeying His commands, but His commands are not burdensome. The Pharisee’s rules are heavy and overbearing, while the Pharisee himself, like an unjust lawyer, is always looking for loopholes to disobey God. (Check out Galatians 2:4 on the issue of circumcision.)

While building laws of the letter, the Pharisee misses the purpose of God’s commands. He reads “Don’t get drunk, for that is wasteful” and forbids the use of any alcohol, while wasting time, resources or health in some other fashion. He won’t be seen with a neighbor who drinks, missing opportunities for the gospel, and he refuses to visit a church that uses wine for communion, shutting out fellowship. She wears skirts to her ankles and pins her hair up underneath a veil, but is loud, obnoxious, flirtatious or rude.

Jesus constantly collided with the Pharisees of His day. Thy rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. “You’re harvesting!” The Sabbath had been created as a day devoted to God—and the disciples were in His presence, learning of Him. Jesus told the Pharisees in no uncertain terms that the silly rules they’d made up to define work were legalistic. By the same legalism they would deprive a sick man of healing on the Sabbath. “Can’t I do good on the Sabbath?” Jesus demanded. Did it tire Him out to heal a man? He was worn out only with the Pharisees endless nitpicking. Did the Pharisees keep the Sabbath holy? Tell me, is plotting the death of the Son of God good or evil?

The Pharisee has a deadly disease of the heart. He wishes to appear godly to others, to gain sway over others, to rule by rules. What’s the cure? Jesus spared nothing in His dealings with them. Let the word of God cut and convict. A tumor like the one festering in a Pharisee’s heart can only be removed by the sharp blade of Jesus’ words.

Meet the Weak Brother (1 Corinthians 8-10)

This form of legalism is simply the surfacing of ignorance, frequently fueled by past experiences or traditions, sometimes aggravated by the Pharisee. Paul tells us the Weak Brother simply doesn’t understand the freedom he has in Christ. He feels safer surrounded by rules that may keep him from temptation, but in his mind, breaking these rules has become a sin. How can he, in good conscience, be free to cross his imagined boundaries?

Paul speaks of meat sacrificed to idols. The Weak Brother of our day recalls his days of Rock and Roll and feels guilty when his toes tap time to Christian Rock. He trembles to think of Christian brothers smoking peace pipes in Turkey. For the man with ghosts in his past, avoiding certain things may be necessary to prevent his stumbling. Who am I to condemn him for choosing a path of abstinence? My part is to uphold him and honor his convictions and avoid causing him to violate his conscience.

The Weak Brother desires to please the Lord, so he creates rules that will keep him from displeasing the Lord. At an appropriate time, show him the truth of liberty in scripture. This form of legalism is more of an allergic reaction: give him a heavy dose of the truth and a washing with the water of the word, frequently, until symptoms subside.

Where Do You Fit In?

Most of the accusations of legalism actually spring from a pricked conscience, convicting of sin or calling to obedience and holiness. For those who simply hold personal convictions or practices to keep them from temptation, who am I to judge the servant of another? To his own Master he stands or falls. The choice to limit Christian liberty is personal—it’s between you and God. The choice to obey is not. God is a particular God. He seeks devotion as evidenced by literal obedience, springing from a heart full of love for Him.

Almost humorously, there are those who become legalistic about avoiding legalism. They grow to worship a definition of legalism, giving it greater importance than obeying the Lord or loving others. “Don’t be legalistic!” they shout, and toss out God’s commands. Beware the deceivers, who use the grace of God as an excuse for licentiousness.

Worried about appearing legalistic to others? First: it is God whom you serve, and those who are serving the world (“believers” or not) will not appreciate your obedience because it convicts them. Second: if you are seeking the Lord and desiring obedience to Him, you’ll find yourself upholding the greater commandments. The Pharisees were legalistic, tithing dill and cumin but neglecting mercy. Legalism can’t abide with love, since its very nature dishonors God and others. Seek the Lord devotedly, study His word diligently, interpret it carefully, apply it faithfully and teach others to do the same and you will stand approved and unashamed at the coming of our Lord.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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Part One: Let’s Not Be Legalistic

July 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , )

Posted by Abigail

Start living in radical obedience to the word of God and, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself slapped with that infamous label: legalist. Because anything beyond Christian Status Quo is unnecessary. Threatening. Convicting. Legalistic.

“We’re free in Christ,” comes the popular complaint. True that. We are free in Christ. Not from Christ. Liberty does not equal lawlessness (check out Romans chapter six). Our Christian liberty boils down to freedom from three things: sin (both penalty and power, see Romans 3-6), the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:1-6) and nonessentials (Colossians 2:16). Does our freedom mean we have no master? Not at all. Sin is no longer master over me, but I’ve become a slave to righteousness. I’m no longer under the Mosaic Law, instead I’m under grace—the law of love. The commands of Christ are given to be obeyed—no longer in a spirit of fear, leading to slavery, but in a spirit of love, springing from our adoption as sons.

It’s that last freedom—those nonessentials—that seem to be troublesome. Where is the line between many commands of scripture and the nonessentials? When have we crossed from modest to immodest? From pure to impure? From sober to drunk?

The overwhelming fear is that we may become “legalistic” in drawing our lines. That we might build a hedge around the commands of Christ, just as the Pharisees built a hedge around the law. That we might come to enshrine and worship obedience instead of Christ. In our fear, we push aside obedience and seek to worship freely—meaning, freestyle. But God seeks for those who will worship in Spirit and truth.

I couldn’t find any “legalism” terms in my Bible, but what I found was the description of something that expresses neither Spirit or truth. Simply stated, legalism is clinging to law. Expand the thought and it looks something like this: the dangerous habit of creating rules that go beyond Scripture—and claiming they have the same (or greater) authority as Scripture, usually for the purpose of forcing them on others. Often these are personal convictions that are healthy, holy and honorable, as long as they are held in secondary importance. We are commanded to flee temptation. Any guidelines we make for ourselves to help us stay out of the way of stumbling are pure and not to be criticized. We are to be holy as God is holy, not to walk as close to sin as possible in order to prove that we are strong enough to resist it.

Issues arise when our personal convictions become laws that bind us—or others. I try to force my personal convictions on others through my words or actions insinuating that, did they love Jesus, they would come to the same personal convictions. I look down on those with differing convictions as “less spiritual”. My convictions hinder fellowship because I am unwilling to lay them aside for another’s sake, or am unaware that I have the freedom to do so. In this, behold the legalist.

Legalism, like most sins, is a disease of the heart. It’s not the fruit of devoted love for Jesus or radical obedience to His commands. Instead it is a devotion to my own religious zeal. Its root is pride and its fruit is division. But the cure is simple: study God’s word—what it actually says—and obey it. Seek to understand God, His commands, His principles and His desires. Plead for His Spirit’s strength to be like Him. And, above all else, exercise love, which is the perfect bond of unity and will cover a multitude of sins.


Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been loosely adapted from teachings by my father, Lane.

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

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Sunday Best

July 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , )

It’s 7:30 on a Sunday morning. You roll out of bed and stumble to the closet to pick out your cutest clean outfit (that you haven’t worn for at least a month) to wear to church. This is an important and godly thing to do, of course, since you know that you are supposed to show up in your “Sunday best”—for God. Generally, the only thing weighing on your mind is that you have this oh-so-important responsibility to look good—for God. So you pick out a very cute, very colorful summer dress. All the other girls will be so impressed that you would wear such a nice-looking, stylish article of clothing—for God.

If that resembles your typical Sunday morning routine, you may be missing the point in your preparations to go and worship God with His people.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for putting aside the command of God for the sake of their traditions (Matthew 15:1-9). Do we do the same when it comes to modesty and dressing for church? There is nothing wrong with the tradition of dressing nicely for church. But it isn’t commanded in God’s word. It is a tradition of men. So when that becomes our foremost goal on a Sunday morning to the neglect of the clear command to dress modestly and discreetly (1 Tim 2:9-10), are we not doing the very thing that God hated to see the Pharisees do?

In our “dressing up for God” do we cause our Christian brothers to stumble? Do we show even more skin in church than we do at school? If anything, we ought to be even more considerate when gathering with God’s people to worship Him. Our goal should be to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible! We want our brothers to worship God, not our bodies! Think about it, ladies. Why wear anything that could possibly cause a brother in Christ to stumble? This should be our heart’s priority at all times, but perhaps even more so when we come together as the body of Christ.

Another thing to think about is the fact that when you pray with other believers in a church meeting, you are coming together before the throne of grace—which we are to do confidently, but also with reverence and humility (Hebrews 4:16, Isaiah 66:2, James 4:6, 10). We aren’t to dress to impress—God is not impressed with our styles, He looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). If anything, we should recognize who our God is, and out of reverence and humility, see to it that our bodies are well covered.

Shouldn’t our “Sunday best” refer to our best efforts to please God and care for our brothers in the way we dress?

Check out this modesty survey to find out what specific items of clothing might cause a brother to stumble. The survey doesn’t contain any rules, but it does allow you to get feedback from Christian guys so that you can be informed enough to make wise decisions.

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Questions and the Future

July 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm (Flowers of Thought) (, , , )

I’m at a pivotal place in my life and find myself often thinking about the future. I know that’s a good thing…most of the time, but it can also be a distraction from what the Lord is trying to work into my hard heart now. I catch myself daydreaming, wondering, asking what God’s will is for me—meaning, what exciting plan He’s got for me in the future—instead of focusing on what He wants me doing now. Because now is simply never exciting. Such foolishness! Getting ahead of the Lord, trying to guess His gifts before they’re finished, wrapped and presented, trying to make decisions that haven’t even come up in my life yet! “What should I do if…” “What should I say if…” “I just can’t handle it if…” I should be seeking what the Lord wants me doing now—today. His will isn’t some mystical feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s not a voice whispering in the back of my mind. It’s not revealed through visions and premonitions. He doesn’t lead through impulses, or even through the well-plotted schemes of people. He leads through my obedience to His known will—as laid out in His word.

“Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

As I’ve been studying His word, seeking His will, and looking back at my own life, I’ve been convicted, encouraged and comforted with His ways. If I focus on obeying Him today, I’ll find I’ve been preparing perfectly for tomorrow!

He’s always got it under control and He’ll lead me across every bridge—as I come to it.

I gaze at the future and try to decide
A question that’s not yet been posed.
Between here and there stands a powerful door
That may be left open—or closed.

The light I have now leaves my choices too dim.
I worry, I fret—and I pray.
The question unanswered is unanswered still,
But it begs not my answer today.

I focus on Jesus. The future grows pale.
He points me to look at my past.
I know there’s a question that waits undefined—
But I won’t seek an answer ‘til asked.

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Biscotti–Twice baked tea biscuits

July 9, 2008 at 7:52 pm (Counter Culture) (, , , , , )

Ingredients:

2/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease/flour baking sheet. in a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar; add vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix thoroughly. Spoon mixture onto baking sheets forming strips (about) 13″ long by 3” wide and about 3” apart. Wet fingers and smooth sides. Bake about 40 minutes (or until firm). Turn oven down to 275 degrees. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes. Cut into 1/2” thick slices (diagonally). Stand 1/2” apart on baking sheets. Bake in cooler oven for 20-25 minutes (or until toasted). Cool. Serve with a hot drink!

Options:

Add dried fruit, spices, dried coffee, flavorings, nuts, chocolate, candy, coconut or seeds. Or coat, dip or drizzle with chocolate.


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Inside and Out

July 7, 2008 at 8:30 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , )

This morning I washed windows. The outside, of course. Proudly I surveyed my work, expecting an aura of beauty to emanate from the “clean” glass. Instead I noticed smudges, smears and spider webs—on the inside.

When it comes down to the topic of modesty, we grope for specifics, details, style revues, check-lists. “Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Bible came complete with Simplicity patterns?” one friend asked me. But a law can never express modesty, since every law can be circumvented by obedience to the letter, not the spirit.

I’ll never forget a Mennonite wedding I attended. During a quick pit-stop in the ladies restroom, one girl caught my eye. Dressed to the T as every Mennonite girl should be—long sleeved dress, buttoned up the front to her proper collar, belted tightly around the middle, her hair tucked up into a black skull cap—she primped in front of the mirror. She was tugging the front of her hair, puffing it up so that as much as possible showed around her pretty face. And her dress! I’d never seen anything like it. Sure, it was the exact same pattern every other girl was wearing. But it was leopard print! I’d never experienced leopard print and Mennonite in the same room before. When she finally finished and made her way out of the bathroom it was with a mincing, swinging gait and a gaze that scanned the full room as if measuring every other girl present.

The home school Forensics league I was a part of during high school had a dress code, too—for the sake of modesty and professionalism. One of my friends always wore a hot pink suit—on par with dress code, of course. Modest, by the letter of the law. When her name as “Hot Pink Suit Girl” became well established, she confided that she was thinking of switching to an electric blue suit. “Just to shock people,” she said. “The pink suit—well, everyone’s used to it now.” At one tournament she washed her almost-black hair a bleach blonde and delighted in the stir she caused. “I tried squirt-in blond highlights,” she told me another time, in disappointment. “But no one really noticed.”

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with leopard print. Or hot pink. Or blond hair. And yet, something is wrong with these pictures. Terribly wrong. These girls both conformed to all the rules of modest attire placed upon them. Their demeanor trumped their dress. Their goal was to stand out from the crowd. To be noticed. To make waves. To turn heads. Their attitude screamed, “I want attention!”

Both claimed to be advocates for modesty.

Have we boiled modesty down to a checklist for clothing?

When it comes to the nitty-gritty reality of godly living, having an imaginary line across my chest or wearing skirts past my knees is easy, but modesty is much fuller than the idea of “covering what needs to be covered.” At its root, modesty is moderation, humility, lack of pretension, not seeking to put itself forward or demand attention. Even dressing to conceal can become a point of self-righteousness, meant to point out how holy or devoted to God I am—because I dress modestly. As Lauren said, the motive of our dress should be the glory of God. To dress for the glory of God, we must first desire to see Him glorified—while we are diminished. We must pray that He would increase, while we decrease. We must be not only willing, but eager to be eclipsed by His beauty. Modest apparel flows naturally from a modest heart.

Jesus rained down a fiery sermon on the hypocrites of His day who sought to appear righteous on the outside, for the praise of men. “You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

As you are reassessing your wardrobe, reassess your heart. As you are washing the outside of the windows, be sure to wash the inside first so that when you are finished the light may flow through unhindered by smears or cobwebs on the inside or the outside.

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Hard Things and Me

July 5, 2008 at 8:44 am (The Book Shelf) (, , )

I recently posted a review of the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. This was a great read and I would like to share, in addition to the review, some of what I have taken away from this book.

I remember back in my late teen years sitting in the dentist’s office one day while the assistant was preparing to do X-rays. “Are you pregnant?” She asked me. “No,” I said calmly. This was routine. They always asked that question. But this time she probed. “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” she asked again with an accusing glance. My eyebrows arched and I said with a very emphatic look on my face, though trying to hide my shock, “There is NOT a CHANCE that I am pregnant.”

Later, when the dentist walked in, he asked how I was enjoying my first year at college. I said it was great. Then he and the assistant proceeded to joke about college students drinking and messing around. I felt rather disgusted, and maybe even made a face, but said nothing.

I know all too well the statistics of teen pregnancies and drug and alcohol abuse. But these adults—professing Christians—assumed that everyone my age was involved in that stuff. No doubt they were sending the message that they expected teens to get into trouble. And if you said that you didn’t, they didn’t really believe you. No wonder teens in the church are statistically no different than teens outside the church—even many Christian adults don’t expect better from them. My parents had high expectations for me, and that made all the difference in the world.

I walked out of the dentist’s office that day rather perturbed, wishing adults would expect more out of my generation. If they expected more from us, they might find that kids would at least try to live up to their expectations!

So when I first heard about the book Do Hard Things, it struck a chord in me that hadn’t sounded for quite a few years. I was excited and eager to read what the Harris boys had to say.

Being out of college and reading a book for teenagers was a new experience for me, but also an incredibly profitable one. I’m a good example that the irresponsibility expected in the teen years does not magically go away when you hit your twenties (in fact, despite my academic success, I became LESS responsible during my college years). This highly motivational book has been extremely helpful to me to catch a vision for how God can use me to do more than just “get by”. That I can honor and glorify Him by my attitude and diligence in my responsibilities as a wife and homemaker—and that as I learn to take care of those primary duties in a timely manner, I can invest in others, be they in my neighborhood, in my church, across town, or across cyberspace! Reading this book has been part of the catalyst in my joining Abigail to start this blog. I’ve always wanted to write, and since my teen years, I’ve always wanted to reach out to other young ladies—to encourage them in the Lord. So here I am. Finally taking the initiative to do so!

I hope and pray that you, too, will be blessed and encouraged both by and to Do Hard Things.

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Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Appeal

July 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Submission, W.O.W.) (, , , , , )

The contrast between the fates of Esther and Vashti is as wide as the chasm between their respective upbringings. Tradition tells us Vashti was born into royalty. Scripture tells us she fell in disgrace from the highest position a woman of her time could have held. Her crown was bestowed on one “more worthy”—little Esther the orphan Jewess.

One thing they held in common: beauty. It could not have been her beauty that bought Esther the favor Vashti had lost. It was her attitude—a deep desire to please the King. Summarized: submission.

Esther’s submission did not equal allowing herself to be trampled on. She recognized who her authorities were, and offered submission to them, receiving their protection in return. Submission didn’t mean she had to keep her mouth shut and never express her concerns or doubts or fears—or seek to save her life. The story of Esther showcases her submission in a sticky situation, one requiring her action in making an appeal to the King: an art we would do well to learn.

I have not been summoned (Esther 4:11)

When Mordecai’s urgent command came to the Queen, she answered with an explanation of the situation—she understood the King’s rules, his demands and the protocol that surrounded him. She had taken time, made the effort to study and understand his work, his schedule and even his own preferences. She understood a man who was known to swing to extremes. She understood that to go before him would be to threaten his authority. Go before him she must. Present unpleasant facts, she must. And, she must do it in a manner that would be pleasing to the King.

Esther put on her royal robes (Esther 5:1)

Instead of immediately flying to the King, tearing her hair, wailing, distressed, Esther took time to compose her thoughts, her heart and to prepare herself to be a lady. The King had been proud of Vashti’s beauty. He was proud of Esther’s. She would come to him in such a way as to make him glad and proud to see her. She would seek to be pleasing to him.

When the King saw Esther (Esther 5:2)

Even robed as Queen, Esther did not waltz in and demand an audience. She didn’t shout, “We need to talk!” Instead, she stood quietly, waiting for the King’s pleasure, outside his rooms. Clothed with care, her face earnest, yet not downcast in his presence, she obtained the favor she craved, and accepted it graciously.

If it pleases the King (Esther 5:4)

The first words out of her mouth betrayed her heart—“If it pleases you.” Submission. Humility. Vashti had been banished for disregarding the King’s pleasure, for denying his authority. Esther’s attitude made it obvious that her matter was urgent and her heart humble.

I’ve prepared a banquet (Esther 5:4)

The King had shown her grace, spared her life and now asked her petition, but Esther would not put him on the spot or shame him by making her demand in front of a court of attendants. Her appeal would be put to the King in privacy. She employed another pleasure—the King loved banquets—to set a tone of relaxation and ease in which to make her request.

I would not have troubled the King (Esther 7:4)

At last Esther could make her request. Quickly and concisely, she stated the issue. No accusations against the King for allowing such a monstrosity. No reprimands for having never asked who were her people. No anger at his having not consulted her. Then her addition, “if it had been anything less, I would not have troubled you.” A demonstration of her understanding of his busyness, her appreciation of his interest and time in listening to her plea. Even at this point, Esther did not tell the King what he should do. She only made her request for her life and those of her people.

The success of Esther’s appeal was almost nauseating. She gained favor, not because she was manipulative, like Haman, or demanded her own way, like Vashti, but because she understood her King and made her appeal in such a way that it appealed to him. She sought to please him, and in her desire he recognized submission. Her interests became his.

Friends seem aghast when they hear that I frequently e-mail my father—particularly requests or appeals. It sounds odd to us to think of Esther throwing two banquets just to ask the King for her life. Submission doesn’t mean you can never express something contrary to the plans of your husband or father—your man. It simply means you seek to please him. You seek his goals. You understand his desires, his pleasures, his rules. You work to achieve these to the best of your ability. When you come with a request, you come in a way that he can appreciate. I e-mail my father because he is very visual. He likes to have everything laid out logically in front of him where he can come back to it and consider it. He likes to have time to think it over, without an expectant face waiting for an answer, without extra people listening in on his reply. He likes to know why it’s important, what will be the effects, what will be the constraints. Esther threw banquets because the King loved banquets. He needed time to relax, time to calm down.

Your man may not be a King with weighty matters of state, but you can crown him with your devotion. He may not be my father, who likes a written proposal, but you can learn his preferences and seek to honor them. Esther’s wisdom was in understanding her man—his goals, desires, pleasures and even what he took pride in. Her discretion was in seeking a private audience to explain her dilemma, restraining from offering accusations or counsel. Her beauty was in humbly imploring the King’s favor and quietly awaiting his verdict.

Vashti had refused a summons to King Ahasuerus court, mocking him, and brought disaster upon herself. Esther appeared uncalled, risking her life—yet found favor because she’d learned the art of appeal.

Read the story: Queen Esther: If It Pleases the King

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Women of Wisdom: If It Pleases the King

July 3, 2008 at 7:10 pm (W.O.W.) (, , , )

Adapted from the Book of Esther

Once upon a time, a beautiful little Jewish girl lived in a huge city in the middle of the Persian Empire. Her envisioned happily ever after must have included migrating back home to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city, marrying a wiry man with dark eyes and a curly beard who would come home smelling like fresh air and fields. He’d catch up his little children in his arms, smiling at her over their dark heads and say in Hebrew. “Hadassah, as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.”

Then her parents died. Taken in by a kind relative, she still clung to her dreams for the future. Until the day she wound up in the palace as one of many candidates to become the new queen. Stripped of her heritage, her hopes, her identity, even her name, Esther faced a future no Jewish girl would desire.

This was no mere beauty pageant. It wasn’t a moment of fame, crowned Miss Babylon, given a scholarship and pointed toward success. Ahasuerus was known to be a wild man and a partier, prone to extremes. He’d banished his beautiful queen not long before for refusing to appear before his dinner guests. He’d just suffered defeat in a battle and come home to seek solace in his harem—a harem full of fresh faces. One would be his new queen, the others would retire after a single night to the house of concubines, likely to live out the rest of their days in pampering, laziness and obscurity. No husband. No children. No future. The one chosen as queen would be his royal consort—when he called for her. When he wasn’t too busy with matters of state. When he wasn’t too busy with concubines.

Why would Yahweh send a daughter of His into a Persian King’s boudoir?

He did.

Esther’s desire was to be a pleasing sacrifice. She sought to please her guardian, Mordecai, as he whispered counsel in her ear. “Don’t tell anyone you’re Jewish.” She sought to please Hegai, in whose custody she was placed, and gained his favor and guidance as she learned to please the king. Her desire to be pleasing crowned her queen, for Ahasuerus was more pleased with her than with any other woman.

And they lived happily ever after.

Until Haman the Agagite came to power, a hatred for God’s people smoldering in his breast. Matters of state become pressing on a King’s time and soon Haman saw more of the king than Esther did. With little difficulty, the Agagite obtained the King’s permission to command the destruction of every Jew in the capital city of Susa—including the Queen.

Esther writhed in agony when she heard the news. Where was the beauty in her gilded cage now? Her death certificate was written in the irreversible ink of the Medes and Persians and stamped with her husband’s seal. Then came Mordecai’s quiet urge: “Go to the King.”

Esther had expended her energy and emotion in learning to be pleasing. She’d studied the palace protocol, the King’s tempers, his wishes, his desires. Vashti had been banished for refusing to come when summoned. Coming without a summons could mean her death. “Very well,” the Queen said. “I’ll go. If I perish, I perish.”

But her desire was still to please the King. She could have come before him writhing in agony, tearing her hair, weeping and accusing him of her murder. “You don’t love me!” she could have shrieked. “You don’t care what happens to me!”

Instead she fasted and prayed. Then she sought to make herself pleasing to the king. He’d called for Vashti to appear in her royal crown. He’d ordered the queen candidates to be bathed and beautified for a year. He admired beauty. She dressed beautifully. Yet this breach of policy could appear as though she were mocking him—even as Vashti had done. She entered the royal hall, attired to delight him, yet with an air of pleading, hoping for his pleasure. And received it.

“What do you seek?” he demanded, extending the golden scepter of life.

To make her appeal in front of the whole court would have been to make a fool of the King. “What were you thinking? You signed my death warrant!” The crowds would buzz. “The King is rash and injust!” Instead, Esther had carefully planned her appeal. She remembered that the King loved banquets. “If it pleases the King,” she whispered. “Let the King and Haman come to a banquet—a private one.”

Later, alone with the King and her assassin, she finally answered his question. No accusation. No remonstrance. Simply, “I ask for my life and that of my people.” She hastened to add, “If it were anything short of our lives, I would not have troubled you.” Her thoughts were always to please him. To consider his preferences. To seek his grace.

Before Ahasuerus sat his queen and his counselor, in a silent struggle for his favor. No doubt Haman had served him well to be promoted to second in the kingdom, yet Esther received his approval. Esther found a champion. The King’s reaction to the accusation left no doubt in either mind who had pleased the King—who would live and who would die.

Did Esther get her happily ever after? Even though Haman was hanged and his position and possessions bestowed on her protector, Mordecai, Esther would never fulfill the dreams of a Jewish woman. She would never dedicate her firstborn in the temple of Yahweh, cover her eyes at his circumcision, knead unleavened bread for Passover or pour wine for her husband on the Sabbath. Her lineage would dissipate into the chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia, swallowed in the vast history of a pagan nation. But her willingness to be a pleasing sacrifice had far-reaching effects: not only did she save the Jewish people from annihilation, tradition tells us her son became the king who ordered the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Her desire to please the King, her man, made her pleasing in the sight of Yahweh.

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Making First Impressions a First Priority

July 3, 2008 at 12:38 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , )

I’ve had many discussions on the subject of modesty lately, including one with a mother of teenage daughters who has asked if we would address the issue of modesty on this blog. We have links to other sites that are helpful on this subject, but still there are questions concerning the practical application of modesty—and what it looks like. In this article, I’ll just touch the tip of the iceberg by addressing the importance of dressing for God’s glory and not our own.

Judging. Stereotyping. It’s what we do. When we notice someone walking into a room, we immediately begin to categorize them, making assumptions as to what kind of person they are. We classify them based on their dress, their body language, their facial expression, the amount of noise they make. Perhaps it would be helpful to avoid this kind of thinking, but we do it none the less.

Now think about it on the flip side—YOU are the one walking into the room. What does your “first impression” (your appearance, the way you carry yourself) tell others about your character? The mindset today is that clothing is a form of self-expression. So what are you expressing? Does your clothing scream “look at me!” or does it display the qualities of godly character you possess and are pursuing—purity, confidence in the Lord, a readiness to serve, and gentleness and reverence to name a few?

Do you make heads turn when you enter a room because you are trying to look like a model (whether you succeed or not)? Or do they stare because you dress purposely out of touch with the culture so that you’ll feel more holy? I’ve been there—on both ends of the fashion (or non-fashion) spectrum.

A Christian woman should be neither an eye-sore nor eye candy. When we place as our primary goal either conformity or nonconformity, we have missed the target completely. Our ultimate goal in everything is to point to our great God and Savior (1 Corinthians 10:31)—and in our clothing, as Christian women, this means we desire to reflect both His beauty and His purity. We are to be an adornment to the gospel of God—making Him the good news we deliver by our appearance rather than promoting ourselves.

So are first impressions really that important? To a daughter of the King, given the privilege and responsibility of representing Him to a lost world, you bet they are!


Much more to come…

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A Review for Rebelutionaries

July 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm (The Book Shelf) (, , , , )

Here’s our first book review!

Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris

Book Type: Teen, Motivational, Christian Living

Rating: 10 out of 10

Recommended? Yes!

Overview:
When I was in high school, Joshua Harris called young people to redeem romance, and now his twin brothers are calling teens to reclaim responsibility. Pointing out that the advent of youth culture and the teenager are fairly new developments, Alex and Brett Harris deliver a knock-out punch to the status quo that modern culture imposes on teens (and no wonder—none other than Chuck Norris wrote the forward for the book!). Not only do they rebel against the expectations of our society, but they raise the bar to challenge teens to live up to what God expects of them—to be what He has created them for. Similar in theme to John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, the Harris twins call young people to take on God-given responsibility with a godly attitude—for His glory. This book is about rebelling against low expectations—a subversive movement, not against any person or institution, but against the world’s way of thinking and living. Full of stories, examples, Scripture references, and well-organized thoughts, this book is not deeply theological, but immensely practical.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Lots of good, nothing bad, and nothing ugly.

Praises:

Though I am a bit removed from the teenage years (product of the mid ‘80s), I have benefited greatly from this book. Much of what the authors promote is godly character that shines forth in the way we do the tasks set before us. They deal with our excuses, our selfish and lazy nature, and offer something far better. Alex and Brett have done a world of good by giving direction to an otherwise directionless generation. Christian teens aren’t really satisfied with just getting by and chasing after a good time—and no wonder! God has created them for so much more! Teens are challenged to view this time in their lives through the lens of Scripture—an invaluable gem of advice! And they’re encouraged to dream big for God, but also to excel at seemingly smaller but highly important things, such as obeying their parents. The twins promote discipleship and fellowship across generational barriers—a strongly biblical component that is lacking in the lives of many teens. To top it off, there is an appendix at the end of the book that clearly shares the gospel, which I much appreciated—and which is much needed.

Concerns:

Not a lot to be concerned about here. I have no reservations in recommending this book.

Tips for getting the most out of this book:

As always, read with an open Bible and prayer. Have a pencil and paper in hand, too, to jot down ideas that come to mind, areas in which you want to grow, etc. Before setting firm goals to “do hard things”, be sure to search God’s word and talk to your parents or husband for guidance, support, and accountability. As Christian women, we strongly recommend getting acquainted with biblical roles for men and women, so that the goals we set, the “hard things” we aspire to do, will line up with God’s stated will for our lives. Enjoy!

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