Monthly Archives: November 2011

Week 34: The Vine: Life as it was Meant to Be

John 15

 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

                     As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

 

Amazing symbolism. The Vine. God.

My life has been filled with the irony of the Vine – from the passage written on the kitchen wall at the home I grew up in to the service I played at through Campus Crusade and now the new church we’re planting in Minneapolis…could God be any clearer?

I’ve been studying the passage above for quite some time…at least many times during my eight months in Minneapolis. We (The Vine) recently completed our second and final service at Kingswood Church in Blaine, MN (our sponsor church for those of you just starting on this adventure with me). We’ve each been in the area for different amounts of time (me, 8 months and the majority of our group, just over 6) and I’ve already seen this passage come to life in all of our lives.

Jesus’ reference to the vine provides us with a beautiful scriptural picture of the relationship we can have with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. Through this, one basic truth emerges: Christianity is primarily a relationship between God and man. It is not primarily a theology or religion. Yet, Christians today tend to think in terms of what they believe, the creed they repeat, the doctrines they embrace or the theology they believe. Yes, all of these things have a place in Christianity, along with the words spoken by Jesus in His Word, but if we make religion our primary focus, we may miss the real truth and purpose of the Christian faith. That being the relationship we can have with God through Jesus. 

Without that relationship, all the doctrine in the world will be useless. Doctrine and theology are correct only if they produce the correct fruit. The parable of the Vine reveals the total nature of the Trilogy – the representation of all that is truly God. Through the parable of the Vine, we see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

My own relationship with God didn’t fully take flight until my freshman year of college, even though I had been calling myself a Christian since the age of four. Since that fateful night at Fall Getaway, my life has been fuller than I imagined it ever could be. Granted, there are times when I find myself in rut and wonder why I haven’t been blessed with that desire yet or why a ministry was taken away, but God continues to pursue me most in those moments, forcing me to look around and truly see all that I have. Without that relationship, Christianity loses its purpose and means nothing.

He has done the same for each one of us. Holly has the growth of China in her life, Rick – the many things he’s faced in coming to terms with the fact that God was removing the college ministry and bringing forth a new church, the fruits of which will be absolutely amazing! God has taken Ben on quite the journey as well the last several years since he began following Christ and God will continue to bless that. His promises never fail.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

In a living vine, there has to be sap which flows from the roots, up through the trunk, bringing life into the branches and leaves. If the sap doesn’t reach the branches or leaves, they whither and cannot produce fruit. The sap is the Holy Spirit, which is the life of Christ (Romans 8:10). Jesus is the Vine. God the Father is the Vinedresser and we are the branches.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Just as the care of the natural vine requires pruning, so do we. God corrects and disciplines His disciples, which removes that which is bad. This process can be very, very painful, but that is not pruning.  Pruning means to cut away good fruit to make way for better fruit. That process is not painful, but exciting. Many believers feel that when God prunes the good fruit out of their lives, they are being punished when it’s the exact opposite. We need to learn to distinguish between being disciplined and pruned. Discipline comes when we’ve done wrong. Pruning, when we have done what is right. Many just do not know how to respond.

They feel “put out” when God ends a successful ministry. They do not realize God has been pleased with their efforts and is pruning that ministry, or pruning the good to make room for something better. God only prunes away good fruit when He knows that we are capable of producing better fruit. There may be some time lap between the removing of good fruit and the growing of better fruit (it needs to grow; have time to mature, after all). It’s during periods like those that we become discouraged. We may need to wait a year or two before the next, better, opportunity opens up. During that time, we may feel useless…I’ve been there. I’m sure you have too. I went from serving every week at Oasis, back in Brookings, to hardly playing or singing at all, except within the confines of my apartment or space. I’m learning to continue my worship without being up front. I don’t need an audience that seems to need to be pleased. I just need Him; an Audience of One is better than a room full of on-lookers.

As long we remain in Christ, we are spiritually and eternally safe. If we ever drift away from God and ignore the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we become like the branches that whither up and will need to be removed as they aren’t producing fruit.

What is the purpose of the Vine? What does God require of us, as “branches” of the Vine?  The purpose of the Vine is to produce fruit for the glory of the Lord. Without it, all of its efforts are wasted and the vine has no purpose. God requires that we produce fruit (the fruit of Christian character); not just good fruit, but excellent fruit. In Matthew 7:16-27, Jesus teaches that others will know we are His by the character displayed in our daily lives. This doesn’t exclude every other day of the week, preserving Sunday as the day we are holy. We cannot hit up the bars on Friday and Saturday nights and get drunk, then turn around and lead a worship service (or attend church) on Sunday morning and expect to have credibility in our witness for God. Remember, we are accountable for our actions and will one day give an account for all that we’ve done or said. God commands us to be holy and righteous…all the time.

Colossians 1:10 reads, Walk, that is to live and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. We are to be witnesses to the unsaved, both in word and action; working hard to bring people to the Kingdom of God. We are also to be fruitful in the lives of our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

God is primarily looking for the fruit of love in each of our lives. Jesus commanded that we love God first, with all that we are. We are then to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. John 13:34 reads that we are to love each other as Jesus loved us.  

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Love is not an option. It’s a command. If we do not love, then we are being disobedient and not bringing forth the fruit God requires of us. Love always comes first. The fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 reveal manifestations of love, with love leading the way: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace , patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is the Christian character that God requires in us as being fruitful branches of the Vine.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We must remain in Him. If we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. We don’t have to spend our time focusing on religious activity or programs; we have to focus on our personal relationship with Jesus primarily. He has guaranteed that if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. Fruit doesn’t come by our own individual effort. It comes as a result of remaining in Him – maintaining that close relationship with God. We only have eternal life through Jesus, not through the creeds we recites in church or the doctrines we live by.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

It is one thing to say that we are Christians. It is another to prove it by the way we live and serve God. This proof is shown by the bearing of much fruit; good fruit.

What does this mean for our church, The Vine? The Vine Church needs to remain in Christ as we patiently wait for a facility, more members and on God’s timing for all things in regards to this venture. We need to remain in Christ as we each individually deal with the junk in our daily lives (our past and present) so that we can grow as He needs us to. Through Him, we can do all things.

We also need to learn to love one another and focus on the community that we’re building within this church as well the community that we will be planted in. We want to see and believe that God will come through 100%, as He always does, the community in southwest Minneapolis changed for the better.

I mentioned before that God would require us to give up one ministry, or something, (a good one, at that) so He can bring us into a better ministry. I truly believe that The Vine Church will be just that. It’s bigger than any of us could have dreamed and, although some of us feel like we’re along for the ride (personally, I pray that God will show those who do that He has a greater purpose than, for example, my just  being the keyboardis), I know that God will use this venture to the greater good of His glory. May His light shine brighter in Minneapolis!

A Resolution to Excel at Biblical Femininity

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

 

It is time for women of biblical faith to reclaim our territory. We know the Designer. We have His instruction manual. If we don’t display the Divine design of His female creation, no one will. But if we do, it will be a profound testimony to a watching, needy world. – Susan Hunt.

Upon completing the second portion of this scripture infused book and digging deeper into the topic at hand by reading related articles and random chapters from books covering the same in depth, I found myself reeling from an informational overload…a tad bit too much to cram into one afternoon. Research has brought back multiple memories of college…the hours spent pouring over books and articles at the library, note taking both in long hand and on the computer (thankfully, Microsoft has that awesome little highlighter icon standard on Word now!) and essays. I’ve come to discover that writing isn’t complete without research. To completely debunk and rehash everything I’ve contemplated would take a considerable number of separate entries. I’ve opted to do the best I can and not cram everything into this. It may be a lot to take in, considering the plethora of information, viewpoints and biblical truths around this topic, but I will do my best to keep the resolution listed above in mind as we proceed.

“Feminism encompasses much more than the cultural phenomenon of the women’s rights movement. It’s more than women having the right to an abortion, the right to vote, or the right to pursue a career. Feminism is a distinct world view with its own ideologies, values, and ways of thinking… [The feminist movement] was a period of time during which feminist ideas were proposed, developed, articulated, promoted and accepted into society’s collective mindset” (Mary Kission; author of  The Feminist Mistake;  interview).

The feminist revolution was supposed to bring women greater fulfillment and freedom, states Nancy DeMoss in A Call to Biblical Womanhood. This period of time occurred during the 1960s and moved right on through to the turn of the century. In her research, DeMoss found that this movement did not begin as a massive revolution. It started “in the hearts of a handful of women with an agenda—women who were determined and intentional in their efforts.

In the last ten years, our culture has transitioned from that feminist era to a post-feminist era where these ideas have now been completely developed, known by all, carried as common knowledge and have completely integrated into our worldview. Kassion states that “feminism has seeped into people’s systems like intravenous drugs into the veins of an unconscious patient. The majority of people in today’s churches are feminists and they don’t even know it.” A vast majority of Christian women have bought into the world’s way of thinking. It promises freedom and fulfillment to all who embrace their philosophy and many have ended up disillusioned, wounded and in bondage. Shirer points out that “being a woman was never a curse to be endured or a trait to be tolerated. It is a gift to be treasured and esteemed” (pg. 40).

These ideas have infiltrated our views on manhood, womanhood, male-female relationships, sexuality, marriage and family, just to name a few. “Prior to feminism, culture upheld many of [these ideas]. During the feminist era, all of these ideas were challenged and deconstructed. This upcoming post-feminist generation has absolutely no concept about God’s plan for gender and morality…truths were generally ‘caught’…now, they must be ‘taught.’

In today’s society, the assumption that everyone attending a church holds a biblical understanding of these ideals is incorrect. All of these ideals have become primary discipleship issues with the last ten-twenty years, and it continues to get worse. These truths are essential in combating our culture’s current views on what it means to be a woman, to be a man, or have work male-female relationships.

Shirer argues that “while we may possess an appreciation for many of the rights and recognitions that have been hard won by courageous women of years gone by, we want to balance it with our simultaneous desire to protect the venerated definition of womanhood as it is presented to us in God’s Word. This is not a cop-out. It is a commitment to honor the One who created us female and who knows us best, who has proven time and again that only in obedience to His plan for us will we find ultimate fulfillment.”

DeMoss points out that much has been given up in the midst of this upheaval: “the beauty, the wonder, and the treasure of the distinctive make up of women…Yes, the feminist revolution has come to the church…and, women have been the losers. As have their husbands, children and grandchildren. As has the church. As has our lost, unbelieving culture” (A Call to Biblical Womanhood).

Kassion points out that in today’s society, girls are growing up thinking that the “essence of womanhood is the exercise of personal power” in all forms. They are encouraged to be initiators and pursuers in male/female relationships. This form of thinking has had no small impact on both marriage and family life in our culture. Relationships are strained, marriage is often delayed or put off all together, and because feminine ideas about womanhood stand in direct opposition to whom God created man and woman to be, it has become increasingly difficult to make those relationships work. DeMoss states “little attention is paid to the kinds of accomplishments that the Word of God says women should aspire to” (based on 1 Timothy 5:10, Titus 2:3-5, and more).

DeMoss challenges: What would happen if a ‘remnant’ of women were willing to return to the authority of God’s Word, to embrace God’s priorities for their lives and homes, and to live out the beauty and the wonder of womanhood as God created it to be?

A Christian woman – one who proudly wears the badge of womanhood given by her Father – must resolve to go against the tide. She must stand for what she believes based on her confidence in the One who has delivered eternal truth to her in writing. She must return to God’s design and definition for women and then joyfully embrace, accept, and experience its blessings…You, God’s woman, are designed both strong and vulnerable. Powerful yet tender. More than able yet willing to yield. You are smart, wise, capable, equal in worth, and secure in yourself as you relate to others yet content in your God-given role. You are a paradox – a potent mixture that surprises with your controlled energy, who inspires and entices by your mysterious grace, whose lifestyle causes others to reconsider and refocus their presuppositions, drawing them toward the God who makes a woman so reach, deep, and captivating…(Shirer).

You can rest assured in knowing that our leaders in the church are very aware of this and are taking steps to defend God’s principles in these areas of our lives. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the understanding of God’s design for gender roles. God created man and woman for very a very specific purpose: to put His gospel and His glory on display. A new women’s movement has begun in churches across the nation; a quieter counter-revolution where women are committing themselves to say “no” to the world’s ideas about womanhood and saying “yes” to God’s design.

According to the website created for this movement, a true woman is “willing, serious, and determined to reflect the beauty and heart of Christ to her world.” She seeks to “live a God-centered life, trusting Him and saying ‘Yes, Lord.’” A true woman “knows this is only possible by His grace, and seeks to do so in community” (www.truewoman.com). God made us, He loves us, and we can only be whole and functioning when we follow His design for our lives.

This revolution does not require women to march the streets or to contact their Congressmen to make their point. It requires that we “humble ourselves, that we learn, affirm, and live out the biblical pattern of womanhood, and that we teach the ways of God to the next generation” (DeMoss). The movement will never be the majority position and it is likely to make some women uncomfortable.

It requires a sincere, deep and constant study of His Living Word. From Genesis, we learn and come to understand that God is purposeful in His creation. Genesis 1:27 reads, God created man in His own image…He crated them male and female. As women, we are worth neither less nor more than our male counterparts. We are different only in function, not value. We are equal partners in the created order and have been called “good” and necessary by the Creator Himself.

…from the beginning, God placed a mark of importance on women. They were 1) good because they bore His image and 2) necessary in the achievement of His purposes on earth. (Shirer, pg 38)

God did not design human relationships to be a raw contest of power and strength, but rather a self-controlled acceptance of clearly outlined roles.

From the Gospels, we learn that God is purposeful in His redemption. Shirer points out that in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, the story highlights just one of many remarkable occasions when Christ demonstrated His regard for women and their inherent value:

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her. John 4:7

The arrival of this woman at the well posed an extreme problem. In ancient, Jewish culture, it was not custom for Samaritans and Jews to exchange a friendly conversation. First century men also didn’t initiate conversation with women in public, not even their own wives. You can imagine the scandalous uproar when Jesus was found speaking with this woman. And He not only engaged her in casual conversation, but invited her opinions on theological issues that men of His historical age would never have expected a mere woman to be capable of entertaining. And despite the cultural disdain for women and this act, Jesus treated her like a human being, a “person of intelligence, someone who mattered, someone who was as worthy of the Messiah’s ‘living water’ (v. 10) as anyone else (Shirer, pg 40). Jesus offered a gift of which most all others would think this woman unworthy: His grace, His covering…Himself…to cleanse her, keep her and sustain her.

Through this gospel, we see that women are both “important and worthy, as well as fully qualified to be entrusted.” Jesus didn’t only bestow on her the gift of His salvation, but He entrusted her with His message to share with others.

And there’s the question of submission. Many equate the term to being a slave to something, but that is far from the truth of the Word. Submission, where “everyone finds ultimate freedom” is a universal principle. Take the following for example:

  • Colossians 3:22: Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. In other words, employees must submit to their employers.
  • 1 Peter 2:13: For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority – whether the king as head of state… The citizen must submit to the governmental authority.
  • 1 Peter 5:5: In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” The believer, male and female alike, must submit to spiritual authority.
  • Ephesians 6:1: Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. The child must submit to the parent.
  • Ephesians 5:22-23: For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. Yes, the wife must submit to the leadership of her husband.

After all, Jesus led by example:

Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 NLT

Surrendering provides “a framework in which your potential can be truly flourish…your strength can best be displayed, its benefits most fully experienced when you choose the trusted, effective boundaries of God’s established order…women experiences life to the fullest extent as they exert their influence through God-trusting submission” (Shirer, 46).

A woman’s strength is best seen not in the demonstration of her power but in her ability to harness it under the authority of God-given leadership.

Hearing that truth should make me want to take a stand for the biblical role of womanhood in our amoral culture. Because I was created “good…necessary…important…worthy…trustworthy” (Shirer, pg 40). God made me female, and He has specific tasks and roles for women that would glorify Him to an unbelieving, yet watching, world. I must become concerned with His glory rather than my own.

Shirer points out that “we are all on a platform every day, a position entrusted to us each morning when we swing our legs out of bed. From atop this daily rostrum, you and I remain constantly in the spotlight, where the life we’ve resolved to life will either champion or demote the beauty of biblical femininity. We will cause our daughters either to desire it or fight against it. We will encourage our sons either to appreciate it or take advantage of it…this platform has been entrusted to us. As a result, an audience of friends, family, loved ones, children, and public acquaintances are all watching not only to see how we live but to ascertain our attitude as we live it” (pg. 35). She goes on to state that the people God has surrounded us with are in need of us. The “touch, experience, wisdom, and feminine heart you bring into these arenas are all required if their outcome is to be what He has purposed it to be…without your participation and input, much will be lacking. This was God’s intention” (pg 38).

I’ve been fortunate enough not to have been raised with the mindset of today’s post-feminism. God blessed me with a mother who prays daily to live out Proverbs 31 and has shown me what it means to follow her husband’s lead. I’ve also been blessed to see these biblical truths lived out in the lives of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ at my church.

God has indeed blessed me in being single during this season of my life, but I’ve seen (Scripture) lived out through men who sacrificed their own preferences and pleasures to make sure that their wives and children were cultivated spiritually. They took their position as leaders seriously and didn’t view marriage as a trap or children as a hindrance to the pursuit of their own agenda. Instead, their families are seen as gifts worthy of their hard work. My married female friends seek to respect and build up their husbands. And…they’re free in doing so. The teamwork shared in those relationships mirrors in the church. It is “God’s chosen way for us to relate to Him as Creator and Father and to demonstrate, along with our male counterparts, the unfolding love story of Christ’s relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5:22-31). It is our special way of experiencing Him and his love for us in a harsh, critical, deconstructive world. And it is our gift to our generation and the world in which we live” (Shirer, pg 40).

I’ve seen wives submitting to their husbands’ leadership and I’ve seen the same men submit to the spiritual leaders God places over them.

My greatest role model for submission is Jesus Himself whose obedient submission guaranteed my redemption. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Hebrews 5:7

Titus 2 teaches seven qualities Paul urges Titus to have the women teach to one another; two of them are directed towards married women and one to mothers, the other four, however, I can actively apply to my life now, in this season.

  • To love their husbands: I can service my married sisters think biblically about their marriages and to think the best of their husbands. I can serve unbelievers in being prepared to explain the mystery of Christ and the church in the institution of marriage. God’s Word equips me for wise discernment regardless of my expertise and/or experiences. And, lastly, if God should bring the gift of marriage to my own life, I want to love my future husband now by developing a biblical perspective on love, marriage, and a wife’s role well before our wedding. Proverbs 31 states that a wife of noble character brings her husband good, not harm, ALL the days of her life – days before and days after marriage. I want what I do with my life now to bring blessing to my husband. I want it to primarily bring glory to God, no matter my marital status.
  • To love children: Whether I have children of my own one day or not, I am called to nurture the new life around me in various ways. I can be a leader and set an example to kids in my neighborhood as well as the children with my extended family when that day arrives. I want to be a relevant relative, not a distant aunt. I want to be involved in their lives.
  • To be self-controlled: My greatest challenge to self-control as a single woman lies in the areas of men and marriage. I know I’m not alone in this. I am called to wait and trust…easier said than done. Women have a tendency to manipulate circumstances in our favor, to day dream about what he said (thus, taking it out of the situation at hand…and, being creative, my imagination tends to get the better of me most often than not), and complain when others are blessed in one area while they are left empty. To exercise self-control means to put reasonable limits on excessive writing/journaling and the types of conversations I have with my girlfriends. Self-control is to limit those types of conversations to my accountability partners and spiritual leaders over me.
  • To be busy at home: This one gave me pause, but I eventually did come to realize that I can be busy with advancing His Kingdom with the walls of my own home. My small downtown apartment provides a place where I can pray with others, counsel girlfriends in need, evangelize to my neighbors and serve with hospitality. Romans 12:13 reads when God’s people are in need; be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. And that command does not differentiate between married and single women.

Shirer closes with pointing to the fact that we, as women, are responsible for how we function within our submitted roles. We can accomplish this by putting our trust in God’s faithful love and goodness by obeying Him against any urge to the contrary.

Do you take seriously the need to pursue a biblical heart for marriage, should you one day become a wife? Are you even now pursuing a spiritual covering by seeking by seeking accountability with those whose lives you respect, those whose godly maturity can provide you with strong, helpful counsel and direction as you navigate life? Does this call resonate with you? If so, set an example for those your life impacts. Excel towards biblical femininity.

A place of freedom and peace awaits every woman who aligns herself with God’s design. It’s up to us to expose the lies of our age and to remind this generation of the true beauty and value of the submitted woman. – Priscilla Shirer

 

Sites for your own perusal:

http://www.truewomanhood.com
http://www.girlsgonewise.com/
http://www.reviveourhearts.com/

A Resolution to be Surprisingly Satisfied

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

 

What is contentment? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, content means to limit (oneself) in requirements, desires, or actions. God’s Word shows that it is so much more than that (Philippians 4, Psalm 23, 1Timothy 6:6-8, Hebrews 13:5 and more). Based on His Word, contentment is the confidence of faith in the suffiency of God’s provision for our needs and it is the confidence of God’s grace for every circumstance.

I recently started reading a book titled The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer and have found myself on solid, but unsteady ground. I say solid because of the foundation I have found and built in Christ and unsteady due to the fact that the truth of scripture combined with the wisdom God has given this author are enough to brew up a storm. Care to join me on this journey as I muddle through my own dark closets, clear cobwebs of misunderstanding and seek truths yet to be discovered?

On a side note before I delve into this experience, I would definitely recommend this book. There is one for men as well and you could probably find it at your local Christian book store or on cbd.com. I won’t be lending my copy out as the margins are quickly being filled with my own personal notes, portions of it have been underlined or highlighted, and some pages may be covered in coffee stains and have tattered edges…all due to the inner battle I find myself in. Granted, I do believe in the in power of another’s insight, but a friend of mine once said: If you find a book that you find yourself marking up, don’t lend it out. If it’s that good, the person asking to borrow it should buy it for themselves. So true.

In the first portion of The Resolution, Shirer points to the call that all women should be surprisingly satisfied in who we are in Christ and what He’s provided for us in this season, here and now. It’s a resolution to be satisfied. She goes on to tell a portion of her testimony where she spent the majority of her time not living in the here and now. She was focused on the next thing or event in her life. Ever find yourself there? I know I have.

Sure, I have happy memories from my childhood, some from kindergarten and many from time spent with family, but I also have many that I would rather not think about and those that I just simply passed over because I couldn’t wait for the next moment to arrive. The latter, it would seem, forced me to focus on the future. If I could just get through this year, next year will be stellar. I’m starting over in a new place/again…maybe this time, it will be better! If only I could acquire that, then maybe… anyone can finish that thought. Maybe you find yourself in the same spot I was in when I read those words. I’m just like her! Looking back, I can’t remember most of my time before college. I was in such a rush to move on and leave the past behind me and driven enough to make it happen (or so I thought). I was present during those moments in my life without actually being there. I don’t recall the emotions or specifics of those instances in my life. I was not content.

I’ve since learned that in my discontentment, I chose to hurry through parts of my life in order to escape the parts I disliked and ended up missing all the things I actually did like about that particular season. Shirer points out that in doing so, we devalue “those around” us “and the experiences” we are “involved in not appreciating the importance and significance they bring to” our “life at this very moment, not grasping” our “ responsibility for holding dear and treating well these gifts God has entrusted” to us…”before you know it, you’ve missed out on the joys in the journey, the growth that comes from battling through the difficulties, the sweet and savory experience of creating the memories.” Ouch…

I realized then that I don’t want to live my life in that way. I’ve slowed down some since college. I’m more at ease with who I am, or rather, the me I’m discovering through this amazing relationship I have with my Creator as well as the relationships I’ve built with those close to me. God has blessed me with brothers and sisters in Christ who challenge me on a daily basis. I’m so thankful for them! God is revealing things I didn’t know or realize about myself before. I’m finding that I have dreams, gifts and aspirations that match His will…not just His will for me, but His will for His Kingdom.  I’m learning that I have no reason to be insecure in who I am now or the woman He’s molding me to be.

Shirer then explains the secret is to be content. We live in a culture that lives on the philosophy of happiness that trains its followers not to be happy. According to Shirer, “there’s always something else, something more, some additional requirement we need before we can really enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed.” Since the fall of man, lies like the following examples (provided by Shirer) have been spun and are still told today – through your group of friends at school, through Hollywood and, yes, even in most churches.

  • If you’re single, you should have the security of marriage.
  • If you’re married, you should have the freedom of singleness.
  • If you live in an apartment, you should own a home by now.
  • If you own a home, it should be bigger than the one you’ve got.
  • Your clothes should be from this vendor.
  • Your appearance should like that trend.
  • You kids should be more like those kids.
  • Your standards of success should be measured by these standards. (pg. 18)

You get the picture. And this why it is such a refreshing surprise when we meet people who are content. Take Paul, for example.

Being content was the secret to his life’s success. It was part of his testimony. Shirer states that “it was a skill he had chosen and adopted, then had mastered and applied to his tumultuous life experience.” In Philippians 4:11, Paul writes, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. He learned, realized, acquired the skill, developed his discipling and honed that ability.  He wasn’t in denial. He just knew a secret; one that “gave him peace and serenity in the teeth of his ominous difficulties.” He had resolved to be content:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.
In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance
or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

We can latch onto this same secret when things seem to be as bad as they can get or when “they’re simply just not what we prefer.” God can be trusted to grant us the supply we need to excel at His purposes. He loves us too much to “withhold the good from those who live with integrity” (Psalm 84:11).

What happens when we don’t follow the path of contentment? Shirer sums it up wonderfully in this: “…whenever we operate that way, the ‘every good work’ that Paul outlines – the truly important tasks and relationships of life, the ones that promise blessing to us as well as to others – go unattended and undone. We’re not able to fully participate, much less excel in something, when we don’t feel like we have the proper amount, the proper brand, and the proper type of resources with which to participate in the first place. So the ‘work’ misses out on our touch, and we miss the many ways the ‘work’ could touch us – the impact, the memories, the lessons, the experiences that God is knitting together to become a key part” in His story.

He has given enough. He always does.

It’s only when we choose to recognize this and trust Him and His unending supply that we’ll finally be able to engage in life in a way we never have. We’ll be living life to the fullest. Jesus came so that we could have life to the full (John 10:10).

Shirer culminates her summary in the following, a statement that gave me pause and forced me to review what I had originally thought it meant to be content.

“Contentment is the [holy] equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come. Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild. It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don’t have instead of a fully engaged participant with what you do. It is the faith-filled belief that what God has bestowed now is worthy of gratitude and appreciation, not merely because it is enough but because it is good.

By choosing contentment, you’re not getting rid of your desires; you’re just demanding that they assume an appropriate, humble position in your life, not bossing you around like a tyrannical dictator forcing you to submit to his ever-growing and ever-changing list of demands. It means you no longer allow your yearnings and aspirations to control you, to rob from you the full use of and gratitude for what you’ve currently been given, leaving you unable to enjoy this because He hasn’t seen fit to give you that.

…this resolution of contentment will offer you an opportunity to look forward to tomorrow with peace and ease and an appropriate level of anticipation instead of the frustration and hurriedness that often accompanies our glances toward the future. It will be your ticket to live with goals and ambitions inspired by His expansive, mind-blowing will, without having to sacrifice today’s blessing.

In staying surprisingly satisfied, you actually receive the best of both worlds. You give yourself permission to enjoy fully the things you have, the person you are, and the life you’re currently living while continuing to harbor the dreams that keep you growing and stretching into the future…

…It’s a balance…A genuine gratitude for what the day brings, all the while maintaining a controlled anticipation for
what tomorrow may offer.

That’s the safe, healthy place where contentment allows you to take root and take up residence… [Contentment] keeps your mind clear. Peaceful. Settled. Undisturbed. Happy to be here, and when God determines the time is right, happy to be there. (pg. 28-30)

Finally, when you have “concluded that what you already have on hand is enough, that it’s adequate – that it’s been deemed by God as sufficient—then you’re equipped and empowered to participate fully in the tasks set before you during this season of life (emphasis mine).

What have you been rushing through? What have you been running to reach? What have you missed along the way? How many needs has God already met in your life that you’ve been discounting? Don’t succumb to thinking that only if you access this or that, only then, and only then, will you be content. Learn what it means to be content, realize what it means to be content, acquire the skill of being content, develop your discipling and hone your own ability to be content. Be content.