I learned it from my husband: The Bible as the Standard of Truth

“I learned it from my husband” is a regular tribute to all the ways my husband is fulfilling his role in my sanctification process as described in Ephesians 5:25-26 “…cleansing her by the washing of water with the word.”

When my husband and I first started getting to know each other, I was a walking contradiction.

conten t1On the one hand: I fully believed in the God of the Bible. I believed that God created everything. I believed that sin entered into the world when Eve bit that apple, and I believed that I was born as sinful as the rest of mankind. I believed that as a result of my sin, I was separated from God and condemned to an eternity in hell. I believed I needed a savior. I believed that Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to earth to live a perfect life and die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I believed that I had been born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believed that the Holy Spirit welled within me and that I would spend an eternity worshiping the only God of the universe. I believed that God called me to strive towards holiness and be obedient to His commands.  Finally, I believed that the Bible was the divinely inspired Word of God, or so I claimed.  My entire knowledge of God and my salvation rested in the belief that the things found in His Word were divinely inspired and true.

On the other hand:   I was picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that were acceptable to me, and leaving the rest to be ignored.  Sure, there were parts of it that I loved and studied with joy and passion. There were also parts that I didn’t quite understand, and didn’t care to understand.  And then there were parts that made me completely uncomfortable, even angry.  I chose to suggest there were alternative interpretations, or consider them as no longer relevant or necessary to Christianity.  In one moment, I would acknowledge that scripture was God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), but in the next I would be providing reasons that we could overlook or disregard parts of it.  What could it hurt to leave out a few minor details in scripture?

This should have been a crisis in my faith.

After all, if any one part of the Bible is flawed or false, one can easily suggest the entire thing is flawed or false, right? And who got to choose which parts were right and which were open to loose interpretation? John Owen once said, “If the Scripture has more than one meaning it has no meaning at all.”  Mr. Owen and I had not yet met.  At this point in my Christian walk, I based the core of my beliefs on a book that I treated like a choose-your-own adventure novel. I was quite at peace with my ability to interpret the Bible in whatever way made me most comfortable and freed me from feelings of guilt.  In fact, I assumed everyone looked at it in the same way.  Any scripture that would make someone feel bad was probably not worth keeping, right?  I just wanted everyone to agree and be happy.  Isn’t that peace?  Jesus wanted peace, right?

God brought a man into my life at that time that just might have descended straight from Mr. Owen himself.  Or maybe Martin Luther, who said, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” (Totally kidding about the descendent thing!)  Still, I was not shy about sharing my modern interpretations of the passages I had difficulty swallowing.  I think I might have actually assumed he would go along with whatever I had to say on the matters.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and he was not shy about correcting me.

This is how things went down at dinner:

I would say something that conveyed a very flexible view of the Bible as a standard of truth.  Whether it was my acceptance and advocacy for homosexuality or traces of my feminist upbringing translated into a Christian-y flavor, I had no shame in re-writing what scripture had to say about right and wrong.  Many times it was simply refusing to acknowledge that God might consider something sinful that I wanted to defend as being perfectly acceptable and good.  He would challenge me on the matter, often referencing multiple parts of scripture to back up what he was saying.  When I challenged the scripture, he would consistently fall back on the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible in its entirety.  I would listen, quietly planning to go home and find a way to prove to him he was wrong.  I would stubbornly argue my point, bringing in as many worldly emotions as possible, and finish the conversation shakily holding to the belief that my personal moral compass surely was correct.

I would return home at the end of the night and open my Bible and concordance looking for something useful to me, but found nothing that helped my case.  If I was using the Bible as my standard of truth, he was right and I was wrong.  Of course, being someone who HATES to be wrong, I would not quickly call him up to notify him that I knew he was right.  I would actually do my best to avoid the topic in the future, for fear of needing to admit to him that I was wrong.  (I am even giggling right now as I imagine him reading this, because I am confident it is the first time I have admitted these moments to him!)

Praise God, I was not a lost cause.

Slowly but surely, I was absorbing more and more scriptural truth through my conversations with this man.  God was using our discussions to send me into Bible study with a mission to find God’s standard of truth with a humble heart.  The Holy Spirit was at work in me, and I was feeling the weight of conviction for my inconsistent views on scripture.  Through it all, God’s Word never failed to prove consistent and true.  If I believed any of it, I had to believe all of it, even the parts that made me squirm.  I was learning that I could not count on my own feelings and fleshly desires to point me towards right or wrong.  Once again, I was learning that God’s ways are not my ways.  Through this process, the Holy Spirit guided me to understand that choosing parts of the Bible to love and others to ignore was not only sinful, but a denial of the perfection, value, and purpose of scripture.

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, and  exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure  sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you,  always be sober-minded,  endure suffering, do the work of  an evangelist,  fulfill your ministry.”

This passage is my theme verse for this lesson learned.  As an early Christian, the Bible was an encouraging book of God stories with a happy Jesus filled ending, useful for feel-good and inspirational teaching.  I recognize now that I had itching ears and sought information that suited my feelings and kept me comfortable. I turned away from truth by refusing to acknowledge all of scripture and its authority, and I wandered off into myths.  As much as I had hoped, no where in scripture did I find that it is acceptable to disregard the verses you don’t like.  No where in the Bible will you find a choose-your-own-definition-of-sin option.  I wrote that part in for myself, and by writing it in myself it enabled me to avoid the difficult (and conflict-ridden) responsibility of using the Word of God to reprove, rebuke, and exhort others, and it crippled my work as an evangelist.  After all, one can not convince another of their need for a savior if the sin they are supposedly guilty of is open to interpretation.  A perfect standard can only come from a perfect God, and it can only be communicated through His perfect Word.

By the Grace of God, I got to know a man who (whether he realized it or not) was ready to preach the word, in season and out of season.  He was bold in his convictions, and he did not shy away from conflict or compromise the integrity of scripture.  The consistency in his teaching, paired with the Biblical accuracy of his arguments have been used by God to slowly lead me away from the myths and rest in the confidence that God’s Word is everything He claims it to be.

Fun Friday: Let me tell you a secret:

For this edition of Fun Friday, I want to take a break from the weight and seriousness of this last week’s posts and share with you something you might not know about me yet:

I have a sense of humor!

conten t2

If you know me outside of this blog, I am certain this does not surprise you.  It is always a priority of mine to be as “real” as possible in my relationships, and that includes the relationships I form through blogging.  In some ways, this is easy for me because I am not good at pretending to think and feel differently than I actually do.

I realized this week, as I was publishing yet another “serious” blog topic, that I have been hiding a bit of my personality in the midst of some heavier topics.  So here is today’s confession, and I swear to you it is true even in the midst of my serious moments: I am ridiculous.

What do I mean by ridiculous? I have no shame in making a fool of myself for the enjoyment of others.  As long as it is God honoring in an appropriate setting, my silliness has no limits.

For the record, my best teacher in the art of ridiculous is indeed my husband.  If you were to peek into the privacy of my home (or better yet a long family car ride), you would not always find a deep conversation about Christ, sin, or the Bible.  You are quite likely to find two grown adults putting aside all maturity to do things like newly invented dance moves and crazy faces or pointless rhyming games followed by silly song writing.

We are insanely happy people, and we love to laugh.  God has blessed me with a husband that loves to laugh with me.  I have always loved to make others laugh, and I can become such a jokester that at times my sense of humor will even rear its head at inappropriate times.  Sometimes it gets the best of me, and I need a solid reminder to join in on “grown up time.”

So there you have it.  The girl you’ve been trusting to speak serious truth to you is in fact a clown in hiding.  Praise the Lord for laughter, and thank you in advance for not using this secret against me in the future!

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your weekend!

God’s plan is so much bigger than a “lesson plan.”

Why? It’s a question we love to ask, and a question we love to provide with a comfortable answer.  When something tragic happens or a trial comes our way with intent to linger, we hear people question God.  They question his love.  They question his goodness.  They question his power.  They question his existence.  As believers, this can make us squirm.  We see someone we love that is hurting, and we want to have comforting answers for them.

I’ve been there, too.  I’ve looked back at poor decisions, unpleasant consequences, and life altering struggles and asked, “Why, God, didn’t you stop that from happening?”  Tragedy struck, my sister died unexpectedly at 22, and I wanted God to answer me. ”Why would a loving God bring me, a follower of Jesus Christ, through such a troubling experience of loss and grief?” I wondered.

Recent tragedies – from mass shootings to natural disasters – have left our entire nation asking, “Why?”

As Christians, Christ’s ambassadors here on earth (2 Cor. 5:20), we might be put on the spot to answer this question.  As Christians, Christ’s ambassadors here on earth, we might feel obligated to provide an answer.  As ambassadors, we need to speak for God, right?

If you are reading this with hopes that I will provide you with the perfect one-line response, I apologize for letting you down.  There have been many incredible blog posts after the recent shooting in Colorado that try to tackle our nation’s echos of ”why?” but this will not be one of those posts.

Instead, I want to draw attention to a common response that is not the answer.

It might be the most common response I have heard.  It’s the line that seasoned Christians like to fall back on when faced with another puzzling “why?”  And it usually comes in one of these forms: “God is trying to teach us something” or “These things have to happen so that we learn what God is wanting us to learn.”

A lesson.  A personal, man-centered lesson.  Not just a lesson, but a lesson that could not have been learned any other way.

I’ve heard it used to explain just about everything.  “Why did my son and his girlfriend have a baby as teenagers?” God wanted to teach them something.  “Why did God let our house burn down?” God wanted us to learn through the experience.  “Why didn’t God provide the money we needed?” God wanted us to learn how to live with less.  I often hear it from believers as they share their testimony of hard times, “I know now that God wanted that to happen so I would learn [insert lesson learned].”

When we minimize God’s intentions to nothing more than ”teaching us a lesson,” we are neglecting several important truths:

1. The Bible is complete and sufficient. (2 Tim. 3:16,17)  It is false to believe that God needed to allow tragedy to teach me something.  My circumstances might be used to point me to God’s truth found in scripture (see Romans 15:4), but they never create “new” truth to be discovered or written (See Revelation 22:18).

2. God’s plan is centered on God’s glory and his purposes.  What I learn over the course of His plan might bring glory to God in many ways, but His plan is not about me and my human understanding.  God’s plan will come to fruition whether I “understand” everything or not.

3. God created us to love Him and worship Him.  Boiling our purpose on earth down to nothing more than a life of learning experiences is placing the focus on ourselves.  Christian living is indeed a journey of learning and refining, but the primary goal is not to simply become wise.  The goal is to worship and love God to the fullness of our capabilities.  Wisdom from God will inspire full and right worship, but your wisdom is a gift meant for that very purpose – not reason to boast.

4. I am but dust. To believe that God’s plan is centered on teaching his people little life lessons, one by one, is to ignore that God’s plan is an eternity long. It is so much bigger than a lesson plan for my life.  There are many things that will happen in my lifetime that I will not understand or learn from, but that does not mean they do not have eternal significance.

5. We are sinful people.  It’s possible that the answer to my “why” question is simply this: I am sinful.  I enjoy sinning.  I pursued sin rather than things of God, and there are sometimes earthly consequences.  By claiming that God allowed for a time of trial to happen to simply teach me something, I might be splashing a bit of paint on the ugly truth of the matter: I am more sinful than I want to admit.

6. A sinful act is not redefined as “good” simply because we learned something from it or because we see God use it for good.  This is true: God will use ALL things for his glory.  Just as we read in Genesis 50:20 regarding Joseph’s brother’s sinful acts: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”  Even sinful times in our life will be used for good, but that does not mean they are any less wrong or permit us to go on sinning in that way.

7. We are called to trust in the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and soul – leaning not on our own understanding.  By focusing too much on the question “What does God want to teach me through this trial?” we may be neglecting what is more important than our intellectual understanding: our faith and trust in God himself.

I pray that you will not mistake my points as an argument against personal growth and learning about God through our trials.  Undoubtedly, we are going to learn lessons from God throughout our trials and those lessons are going to be a life changing part of God’s plan.

God has used times of hardship, trials, and brokenness in my life to teach me more about Him than any blog, sermon, or conference ever could.  God is so gracious to use these things to teach me, and I treasure those lessons.  I am confident that God desires us to learn and understand Him better at every opportunity.  Still, I would never claim that those experiences happened for the primary purpose of teaching me a lesson about God.  This is a comfort to me, in many ways.  It comforts me to know that the tragic loss of my sister was part of God’s plan, and the impact of that event for God’s plan and His people stretches beyond my own understanding.  It comforts me to know that I serve a God that is in control of the master plan, and though I might not recognize the greater purpose of suffering during my lifetime, His hand will still use it for the good of those that love him (Romans 8:28).  It comforts me to know that in moments where I have no understanding to offer, in moments when children have been shot and mothers are laying in critical condition, my understanding is not what matters.

Have faith that God’s plan stretches beyond our human understanding and is so much bigger than a “lesson plan.”

Grab my button!

Grab the code at the bottom of this post to display my button on your blog! (Please let me know if it doesn’t work!)  Though I created this blog in May, I have only been blogging consistantly for about a month now. I decided it was time I practiced my HTML skills by creating a button. I must say that my HTML days are far behind me, and I wish I’d paid better attention in college. I survived it, though, with the help of several tutorials.
siebar2The text box has been the hardest part, however, and I have attempted several codes that were supposed to give me a neat little box to display. Sadly, every code translated into the original image code once I placed it into WordPress. If someone has experienced this and has a suggestion for me, I would greatly appreciate your input! Thanks!

Caution: Child at Work

Equipping your child with the tools to get the job done!

Did you know that your child is a professional at work?  It’s true.  No matter their age or experience, they have been employed their entire life as a top-of-the-line, professional imitator.  Qualifications for this job include: Acute observation skills, heightened awareness of mom and dad’s subtle movements and expressions, strong desire to perform tasks exactly like mom and dad do, willingness to practice all day long.

My educational and professional background is in Sociology and social services. I love to study and learn about people, how they develop and grow, and the factors that seem to influence their development and behavior. Child development is especially fascinating to me, and I am particularly interested in the role of play time and toys in a child’s social and intellectual development. Through play, a child is able to take what they have learned and practice it, processing the information they have gathered while imitating what they have seen.

As professionals, they are quite good at what they do.  Not only are they good, but they are also continually looking for opportunities to expand their skills and expertise.  They start small, immediately following their birth, when they are already capable of imitating your facial movements.  (This is seen as nursing mothers are demonstrating an open mouth to entice their baby to latch.)  Their resume expands as they learn to imitate emotional expressions, such as smiles and laughter, and quickly to follow are the sounds they begin to make.  Small motor skills are soon exercised, followed by full body mobility.  It’s inspiring to see how dedicated these little ones are to their craft.

As moms, we deeply desire to foster these little skills in any way we are able.  From practicing their roll-overs at tummy time, to holding their hand as they take their first steps, we are their biggest fans.  In the first year, so much fun is had while we watch them achieve the physical milestones we’ve been waiting for.  The physical development is often the focus of that year, and many of their toys are designed to encourage their small and large motor skills.

Throughout their journeys to full mobility and beyond, we try to be intentional with helping them learn.  We read.  We teach them that everything has a name.  We identify colors.  We explore sensory objects.  We sing.  We communicate.  They learn.

One aspect of helping your child learn as a professional imitator is deciding which toys are most beneficial to their learning process.

This can be a daunting task for a mother.  There are probably two major factors that influence your thinking when selecting suitable toys for your child: 1) Is it cost-effective?  and 2) Is it beneficial for my child?

The last thing you want to do when buying a toy for your child is spend too much only to realize it will rarely be used and have no benefit to your child’s development.  After your child is into their toddler years and beyond, determining which toys are beneficial can become more complicated.  There are many toys on the market that are both overpriced and poorly designed, yet they are promoted very well and make claims to be educational.

So how do you find the best “tools” for your child to get to work?
Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for “real life” toys to help your child learn:

1. Your child is a professional imitator and learns best through observation and opportunity to imitate real life activities.

2. Ask yourself the question: Does this toy represent real life activity?  Examples of real life toys: Cooking gear and food, baby dolls and accessories, toy vehicles, animal figures, doll houses with life-like family members, pretend cleaning supplies, tools, or basic objects that can serve as a variety of pretend objects (cardboard boxes are PERFECT.)

3. Popular toys might claim to resemble real life objects, but in reality they neither look or function like the object they are made to imitate.  Example: We were given the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Workbench.  While this toy plays fun songs and provides opportunities for little ones to pull levers, slide bolts, and hammer pegs, it does not resemble a workbench closely enough for my child to understand that he is pretending to “work” like an adult would work at a real bench.

4. Select toys that fit well with your individual family life.  Example: My husband is a musician, so my child observes him often behind a piano or other instrument.  For Christmas last year, we decided a piano with real keys was something that would benefit our son by giving him a new way to imitate his daddy.  If your husband is a carpenter who is often wearing a tool belt, your child would probably benefit from a pretend tool belt with tools.  Also, toys that fit your child’s individual interests are great ideas as well.  My child is in love with shopping carts, so we opted to get him a life-like shopping cart for his birthday this year.

5. Does this toy come with a script, or does it allow for imagination to lead the way? Example: A character from a popular TV show might excite the child and they may love to play with it, but it comes with a name and personality already associated with it as well as possible story lines to act out with it.  A neutral, nameless doll or action figure will encourage your child to use their imagination as they give that toy an identity and story they have thought of themselves.

6. Never underestimate the power of puppets.  Puppets are extremely useful in helping children learn.  From finger puppets to large doll size, they provide endless possibilities for teaching your child a story in a memorable way and also giving your child a way to role-play and “live-out” a story of their own.  When I did therapy with small children, puppets were invaluable in helping little ones open up and tell me what they were thinking about.  While it was scary to tell me, the strange lady at the office, what was bothering them, it was comfortable to grab a puppet and let the puppet tell another puppet what was on their mind.

7. Often the simplest, least expensive objects are the biggest hits!  As parents living in a materialistic culture, it can be tempting to believe that the price tag is indicative of the quality and desirability of a particular toy.  In reality, the price tag is often an indication of the marketing power of the manufacturer, not the power of the toy.  (Though there are many high quality toys with higher price tags simply because they are well made and extremely durable!)  If it’s a choice between an expensive electronic device and a $10 set of pretend cleaning tools, you are not giving your child “less” by choosing the cleaning tools.

By no means would I claim that these points should inform ALL of your toy purchases, but I encourage you to consider them next time you are out toy shopping.  Ask yourself, “What toy will become a tool for my child to imitate and pretend?”  We serve a creative God who designed us to be creative people.  Help your child to use their creativity by selecting toys that encourage their imagination!

I learned it from my husband: Test Everything

“I learned it from my husband” is a regular tribute to all the ways my husband is fulfilling his role in my sanctification process as described in Ephesians 5:25-26 “…cleansing her by the washing of water with the word.”

content4For the last two weeks, I have been using this series to share with you some of my background as it relates to learning from my husband.  I think it is important to always note that the willingness to learn from him and be teachable towards him was a process, and I did not accept him as a trustworthy teacher blindly or in ignorance.  In fact, it was quite a struggle in the beginning to even trust that a man was capable of being trustworthy.

It has also been a journey for me to understand that while I learn from him, I am always using scripture as my source for discernment on what is true.  As I wrote last week, he opened my eyes to the importance of accurate biblical and systematic theology, and that understanding is at the foundation of every lesson learned from him.

I wanted to address these things because the last thing I would want someone to conclude from this series (or my series on submission) is that I am a blind follower, or that I am somehow being manipulated or brainwashed to accept my husband’s teaching as true and good.  As a women with a feminist background, I am well aware of the many opposing views on gender roles within marriage, and I recognize that embracing the words of Ephesians 5:25-26 is extremely counter-cultural.  This awareness has left me thinking about how my past professors of feminist theory would react if they read the things I was writing at this stage of my life.  It has left me thinking about how I would react if I were reading this blog as my former self.  They [including former self] would without a doubt conclude that I was in a controlling, male-dominated relationship.  They would classify me as “oppressed” for embracing such conservative views of man and wife.  It is by the grace of God that I now know the freedom and peace there is in living life for Him and according to His standards, especially in our marriage.

Thinking about these things has brought me to share the next important lesson I have learned from my husband, and it comes out of 1 Thessalonians (A book I have been enjoying much lately.) Consider 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22:

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”

If there is one thing that my husband has consistently taught me, it is this: test everything.  He is a great example for me of someone who truly seeks to discern what is good from what is evil through the lens of scripture.  He is the last person in the world that would want me to listen to his teaching and follow it without intentionally discerning that it was in line with biblical truth.  He does not desire to be my moral compass or my source for all that is true and good.  He desires my compass to be the Holy Word and the Spirit of God, and to do everything he can to point me to those things in a faithful way.

All of this to say, while I trust my husband’s teaching, I am also a critical thinker and I do what I can to keep him on his toes.  I ask questions, raise objections, challenge assumptions, and let him know when what he is saying seems inconsistent with what God has shown me in scripture.  I will admit, though, I am rarely the one who is right when it comes to a disagreement on God’s Word.  It took me several years of stubbornness and pride to admit this and recognize that I am indeed the weaker vessel when it comes to biblical understanding.

My husband has taught me to test everything and be sure it aligns with the truth of the Bible.  I am careful to remember this in whatever context I am learning, even when it comes to learning from my husband.