April 16, 2014

The New Covenant


And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood..." ~Luke 22:20 NASB
Despite the fact that an average American wedding now roughly amounts to a whopping, heart-attack inducing twenty-five grand, back in the day, God's people--the Israelites--really knew how to throw a wedding bash. Our weddings look rather small and undramatic compared to theirs.

In the Jewish culture there was a 3-4 step process to become married: pledging, betrothal, ceremony, consummation. Pledging was the groom gifting the bride and her family with money; the buying of the right and the opportunity to propose to the girl. This was completely the opposite of other middle-eastern cultures and countries, where it was the bride's family who was expected to pay a dowry to the groom. Israel didn't roll that way. Instead Israel, quite beautifully I think, reflected God's order and heart in having the groom pursue the bride. A reflection and reminder to honor, cherish, and treasure God's daughters (not sell them off to men like property).

Betrothal, a twofold process, then marked the point of the couple's binding commitment to one another: First, it was a promise, the creating of a covenant, and vowing to keep it. The groom would pour a glass of wine, drink from it, then put it before his bride, who would either reject his proposal, or drink from it herself, signifying her acceptance. It was the initiation of their marriage covenant.

Throughout all of scripture Christ is called our heavenly bridegroom; the lover and husband of our souls. We are his individually as sons and daughters, and collectively as the church, the bride of Christ. And on the evening before his death he proposed to us. He gathered his disciples, his followers, together and they shared a meal. Jesus reached for a cup, poured the wine, drank, then gave it to those with Him, initiating the new covenant.

To this day, in church and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we partake of communion. We echo as well as respond to that covenant--the betrothal--we've entered into in our relationship with Christ.

Remember how I said betrothal was twofold? First came the promise, but then came the preparation. After the two drank the wine they would part ways for a period of time: She'd go back home to wait, and he would go back home to begin building a room off of his father's house as their new home. It was only until his dad checked all the boxes off the home inspection could the groom go get his girl. She had no clue when or what day it would occur, and the only means of communication with one another was usually through a male friend of the groom (the best man essentially) who'd run messages back and forth between the two.

Finally, when the home was done and approved, the groom would gather up his boys, they'd run to his bride's home, and blow these trumpet-like instruments, shofars, to announce the groom's coming and the start of the wedding. Everybody would party it up like crazy for days. Note the plural there: Days! The couple would have the ceremony, and finally to seal the marriage, the groom would take his bride back to their new home where they'd consummate their relationship. (And simultaneously, enact the threshold covenant as well, hence the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold... fun fact for you.)

We, the bride of Christ, are still in that season of waiting while Jesus is preparing a place, a home for us...
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ~John 14:3 ESV
It's a promise we hold onto until Christ returns for His bride, us, in splendor as told to us in the book of Revelation. Then we too will hear the shouts and trumpeting of His coming, our heavenly Bridegroom. And at last, the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place.

Until then, we have His best man with us in our waiting this side of heaven that He has sent us: the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49 and John 14:26).

April 14, 2014

Extravagant Love

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ~John 12:1-3
If there's a woman in scripture I'm jealous of it would be Mary, because she gets it. Like she genuinely, with her whole heart gets Jesus. Even more than Christ's band of brothers, the disciples, ironically enough.

At this time in history only four people were anointed: kings, prophets, priests, and the deceased. And how perfectly did Christ fit all of these? He is the King of Kings, our great High Priest, THE prophet, and the shadow of the cross, of His coming death is casting itself at this dinner party to honor Jesus. And Mary knows this.

There's something about this moment though for our girl Mary here. It's here that she is so overcome by her love for Christ, her Savior, that she takes the most extravagant, costly, valuable thing she owns, breaks it before Jesus feet, and pours it all out upon Him. A significant, tangible way to express this generous, precious kind of love for Him. This was the love He'd shown her, which beget the same love from her to Him. Love begets what it sows. None of that oil would be left when she was finished, because true love gives it all to the recipient.

To the onlookers this was a ridiculous display of oneself. For Judas it was impractical, illogical, and wasteful. But God's view of what is practical and logical is always seemingly different than our own. And nothing, nothing poured out for Christ goes to waste. It was ridiculous by all Jewish traditional accounts, for this was an act only servant preformed. And it most certainly would've been seen as inappropriate at this time, because only promiscuous women would've let their hair down. It's an uncomfortable scene for these onlookers because of it's sensual undertone really. (Perhaps there's a great deal to be said here in regards to feminine sensuality... but I'll save that for another time.)

Two things: Jesus wasn't uncomfortable with this extravagant, truly female and emotional, act of worship on Mary's part. In fact he says that it is wonderful. And Mary, so secure in her love and acceptance in Christ, no longer cares what the cost is or what others may think or say about her. She's free in her love for Jesus. 

During this passion week I want to reflect and think on how I can be more extravagant in my love for Christ, as he has been above and beyond extravagant in his love for me. And in turn how am I showcasing that to others? With fear with what onlookers may think? Or in abandoned freedom? Maybe you'll join me in asking the same questions.
I want to be more of a person that would do things that are inappropriate to other people for the sake of it being appropriate to Jesus. ~Amena Brown Owen

April 3, 2014

Quotable


Don’t ignore the Spirit’s attempts to engage you, my friend. The conviction, the stirring, is the call of your Father, drawing you back to Himself, inviting you to put an end to your running, to start what needs to happen for things to get turned back around. ~Priscilla Shirer
We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love. ~Lori Deschene
Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room. ~Marc Hack
God, forgive me. I believe a lot of lies from a lot of good liars, namely me. ~Levi The Poet 
You don’t need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfection. ~Wilson Kanadi
The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship. ~Unknown
The female doesn’t want a rich man or a handsome man or even a poet, she wants a man who understands her eyes if she gets sad, and points to his chest and says: “Here is your home country.” ~Nizar Qabbani
We need women who are so strong they can be gentle, so educated they can be humble, so fierce they can be compassionate, so passionate they can be rational, and so disciplined they can be free. ~Kavita Ramdas
Shallow relationships exhaust me. Unpack the bags under your eyes and let me stay a little while—please, let’s be empty here together. ~Unknown

March 31, 2014

Another Rant About Modesty, Beauty, and What Would Happen if We Actually Brought Jesus into this Conversation

I sat to write this with one intention, but by the time I got to the end, it sorta morphed into something else I guess you could say. This could also be the longest posts I've written too... see what happens when I get riled up?! And Sometimes I just have to indulge myself and use long titles. 

I was going to open up this post with saying I have a love-hate relationship with modesty discussions, but that would be lying, because I like pretty clothes, but I'm not really what could be called a 'fashionista,' and that would be giving the love side of this too much credit. It seems that last year there was a swarm of posts on modesty flooding my inbox (or maybe that's just my particular feed). Pretty much all of which had me banging my head against my keyboard for one reason or another.

A little fact about myself: I've been told I have an over-simplistic viewpoint on modesty.
I'm actually quite pleased about that.

There is No Universal Code on Modest Apparel. I'm sure there are people who wish there was, but that's not the case. What's considered modest in Africa probably isn't what's considered modest in Brazil, or America, or China. And what's considered modest in California or Florida, isn't necessarily the same here in the Midwest. (Then again, in the Midwest we have cold, bitter winters, so what we may promote as 'modest,' in reality is our way of saying death by hypothermia is just dumb when it's due to a mini-skirt.) That's what makes modesty sorta hard to pinpoint, which is why when I do on occasion converse about modesty there are only two or three key things I mention...

It's All About the Context. I don't dress the same way I do for school and work, as I do for a date or if I'm just running errands. Truth be told, we shouldn't wear whatever we want whenever we want. I know for that's a tough pill to swallow, but when you're in the professional field you and I are to dress professionally. When you're home alone with your dog, music blasting with the hairbrush turned microphone, you can run around in your underwear for all I care.

Point being, modesty changes in the differing circumstances and environments. That means there are times when you're going to have full-freedom in choosing what you wear, but then there are equally just as many times when out of consideration and respect for others and organizations, we'll have to cover up more and be somewhat limited in our dressing. This does not mean that your outer beauty and attraction are 'sinful' and you're being 'shamed'. Outer beauty is not sinful and there's nothing wrong with your body. I want to scream that truth, because there are people within the Christian culture who in an effort to get girls to dress more modestly resort to doing so through shaming, and that is sinful. Wardrobe decisions made out of fear or shame, are based out of wrong motives.

This really brings me to something that came to mind to me a few months ago: Have you ever noticed how Jesus didn't talk about modesty... um... hardly ever...?

*Crickets*

That sorta has to make you think a bit. Because maybe, just maybe, modesty is something that's best conveyed when it's modeled... lived out in everyday life. And maybe we need to realize that modesty for the most part is way more about a person's demeanor and character then the pants and top they pick to wear on a given day. (After all that is what Paul was actually getting at in 1 Timothy.)

Here's where people like to throw in the stumbling brother who struggles with lust bit, so can we chat about that?

Jesus was around women. Jesus was around godly women... and he was around women who weren't so godly, like prostitutes. You know those women who probably were not well adorned in an appropriate manner (inmodest)? And yet... we have no recorded words of him scolding them for their dress. More importantly, he didn't make a judgement on anyone's value or worth based on what they were or weren't wearing.

Follow me here, because if you're cued into the web dialogue that's been circulating you know that often we want to say how a person dresses as a Christian reflects the state of their heart. And I want to say yes... and no. Do clothes express? Yes, they do. Should Christians steward their wardrobe decisions and bodies well with wisdom? I think you can easily argue, again, yes.

But let's be weary of just how far we're taking our assumptions about what other people are "expressing" through dressing. There's an element of balance here I think. And when people want to avoid having a balanced approach, we have the killing of graciousness towards one another. We no longer give someone the benefit of a doubt. It becomes a maddening game of sizing one another up with some assessment we've created with our own human brains.

No one single person speaks for all of us. Some guys think yoga pants are immodest and stumbling blocks. But I have guy friends who when they see a girl in yoga pants just assume she's going out to get a gallon of milk or getting ready to go running, and honestly, nothing more. (On some level that likely speaks to how men are conditioned and trained to think... but I don't have time to get into that today.) This is why modesty is a tension issue. As a female, I cannot cater to every walking male I come across. That's impossible and unrealistic. I can only dress keeping in mind that I have Christ's gaze upon me, and knowing my circumstances for the day, which means their are yoga pants days (hello, PMS), then their are slacks and blouses for work days, and nights on the town where I might just pull out that dress with sparkly shoes.

Realize that the girls who do dress merely to be affirmed by male counterparts, are (not always, but many times) hungry. They're starved for affirmation and attention in all probability because some man or many men in her life haven't loved her well. And because for whatever reason they have been left starving for that nourishment, at some point along the way she will learn that she can get what she (rightly so) desperately needs by dressing a bit more "promiscuous" on the outside. The need, the craving, isn't wrong, except now in an effort to dull the pain, she's turning to the wrong treatment. That shouldn't make us mad at her; that should make us sad... and compassionate. 

There's something bigger to this... I think really all women in general are starving in similar ways... because let's be honest, we live in a culture where women who are young and gorgeous are the ones who have their praises sung. The expectations of outer beauty are off the charts, and cannot be achieved. I was recently reading an interview with some singer who was in her 50's, and she was talking about how she had gotten really low one day, and in the moment where her husband prodded her a little too hard she finally blurted out "that men get age and are still noticed; women age and they become invisible." I'm only in my early twenties now, but I get where that's coming from. It creeps up in me and manifests itself in other ways.

We live in an age where men do so little affirming and honoring of inner beauty... I mean good, grief! I can count those times only on one hand myself! So I believe, hope, and pray, that men who love Christ will recognize the larger problem at work here. It's so much bigger than modest clothing and trying to control lust. More importantly that they would recognize how much power they have to change our culture's perception and beliefs about beauty. 

Christian man, you were called to fight against temptation and seek victory in your struggle. It's hard, and painful. But know that you were also called to be like Christ, which means you acknowledge that your sister's fight is hard and painful too. Neither one of us is getting off easy in our battles. We have insecurities alike, and they show no preference to gender. So please, men, watch your life: Make sure your mouth and actions preach the same thing. For all the verbiage and exhortation of wanting girls to dress modestly, if you hold outter beauty as the holy grail or (and I'm just going to flat out say it) if you're viewing porn... there's a major disconnect there. We see it. We know it. And you make it very difficult to take you seriously. Then watch the lives of the women around you: When you see any kind of pain, seek to bring healing and redeem. I think that's what Jesus would want. 

Jesus was around prostitutes, and that's what He did. He never had a conversation about how they were dressed. He didn't write a blog post about how he was going to have to block her friendship request on Facebook because of her photos. He didn't turn the other way or divert His eyes from her and then give a sermon about how she's not "right" with God. Nope. He looked those women in the eyes, and tenderly began to healing work of their hearts. To make them more lovely and beautiful. (I'm not saying that men should take the place of Jesus in a woman's life or that he will be perfect in his effort to serve and love, but God does and can use imperfect men to redeem parts of His creation.) Women treated like this flourish... and I suspect they feel so confident and assured that they're loved, that slowly their wardrobes do change... and for THE right reason: They have the gaze of the Heavenly Bridegroom upon them, and that's what makes all the difference. And men, you need to start seeing the honor and opportunity you can have in playing a role that showcases and mirrors these truths to women in and around your life.

Women, It's worth repeating so I will: You have the the gaze of the Heavenly Bridegroom upon you, and He created you beautifully not just on the outside, but he continues to cultivate your inner beauty which is of far greater value. 

I think if you just rest and take root in that... yeah... I don't think I need to tell you how to dress.

Anytime I write on modesty, I always recommend what Jeff Bethke's has written on his blog. He's got it down better than anyone else I know, and he's a dude...
Other Stuff I've written on the matter...

March 28, 2014

Charting Our Sails Through Gray Waters


This post probably won't make a ton of sense if you've yet to read part 1 and 2 of this mini blog series previously. 

In navigating the gray we have to have a framework, a map of sorts in which to decide how to act. Here's mine (complied from listening to the resources below):

Questions and Thoughts to Consider...
  1. Does the Bible speak clearly to this circumstance or situation? If it does, then it's a black-and-white issue. If it doesn't then it's a gray issue, in which case...
  2. Does this break the law? The scripture teaches us to honor the authorities/governments God puts over us. The example previously given: drinking alcohol underage. (If you don't like it, feel free to move to Europe.)
  3. Is this just my personal preference? In other words, is this a non-sinful issue that is just an annoyance to me personally? I cannot turn my preference into to a rule that others must abide by.
  4. Does this tempt me? Note that I'm talking about each of us personally here. What may tempt me, may not tempt another, and what tempts you, may not tempt me. It's unwise for us to "flirt" with that which tempts us personally, but it's also foolish to think that everyone has the same temptations we do. The mantra here being, "Just because you can't, doesn't mean I can't, and just because I can't, doesn't mean you shouldn't." (Steven Furtick)
  5. Would I be mastered by this? Would it bind me? In the second half of 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul says, "I will not be enslaved by anything." If the issue is one in which I would be enslaved by, then the voice of wisdom and reason would commend me not to indulge in whatever it is. But, as stated before, just because I would be mastered by something, doesn't mean everyone else would be as well. 
  6. Am I allowing my personal preference to interfere with building a relationship with this person? This question is killer, and God loves to put this one right in front of my eyeballs. What I've learned so far about letting personal preferences interfere with reaching out to others is that it always ends is sheer, stupid pettiness or selfishness. Christians miss so many opportunities to extend friendship and participate in community when they operate under this mindset. I don't have to agree with a person's view on alcohol or Halloween in order to be friends with them. I don't think preferences should prevent us from relationships. In fact, if you only surround yourself with people who think and act exactly like you, then that's a problem. When preferences have precedence we take our eyes off the mission and the real priorities.
  7. Am I Presuming That My Experience is More Important Than Other Peoples Experiences? Sometimes we assume our experience with a certain thing/or situation is the "norm" and then proceed to expect everyone to approach it the same manner we would because it should be their norm too. Finally...
  8. Is it best? Is it helpful (1Cor. 6:12)? Is this wise? Answering these questions changes with each individual scenario and circumstance. What may have been best in one situation, may not be in another.
What do you think may be some other great questions?