Uptight, Upright, Homeschool Girls

The latest No Greater Joy magazine was published a few moments ago and I took a look, not expecting to read what I did.

http://nogreaterjoy.org/articles/part-2-want-get-married/

The article was about homeschool girls, you know, the very “spiritual” kind. Yes, I am one of them. Time and life has changed me a lot but that’s somehow a big part of who I am still.

For homeschool girls like myself, we do tend to be very picky and judgmental, not only with relationships but with friendships and a thousand other things. The guys I know from a similar background have a more relaxed approach!

See, there are two contrasting ideas. One is that a Prince Charming somehow exists somewhere out there, someone who meets every one of our expectations to the letter. Anyone who comes along who doesn’t meet these expectations is a distraction by the Evil One.

The other idea, propagated by the Pearls, is that there is no such thing as a “perfect man”. No unmarried man is that mature, they argue, it takes time. Marriage makes a boy into a man (I would differ with that of course). God may have someone for you who is not your “ideal”.

One thing I know for sure, all our ideals that we somehow thing can guarantee us a happy marriage and a righteous husband are just that – ideals. We in the homeschooled movement have learned that people who say all the right things, have all the “right convictions” and tick all the right boxes are just as sinful and flawed as everyone else. Are we not all saved by the grace of God?

Life has taught me to be less restricted and judgmental, to stop putting people and ideas into boxes and making moral decisions about everything.

The Pearls suggest that homeschooled young ladies get out of our bubble, our very limited social group full of people who live and believe exactly the same as we do down to the letter.

For me, socially, this has been a very good experience. I have gotten to know people who are very different, and learned to be a better person because of it.

Don’t take it in a sense that we forget all our convictions and that we don’t rely on the Holy Spirit. Don’t take it in a sense that we should marry any man, as long as he is male, without applying any discernment whatsoever. It just means we have to get out of this boxed-in mindset. God doesn’t just work only in our narrow little definition of what a Christian is and we shouldn’t either.

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Rizpah, the Palace Pariah

Studying the lives of women in the Bible has led me to appreciate their strength in the midst of suffering. Life was not easy for women in ancient times. Their lives were fragile, precarious, and at risk so much of the time. Many women, like Sarah, Rebecca and Elisabeth faced barrenness and the social rejection and stigma that that came with. Some were married to cruel or wicked husbands, like Abigail. Widows faced poverty, desperation, even starvation. And these were the women who were “lucky” enough to be married! Some women were low-born women not considered high-ranking enough to be considered for marriage, consequently, they became concubines. What we know of women who became concubines, like Hagar, Bilhah and Zilpah, they did not enter into these situations by choice. They were servants (slaves) and this was sometime that was decided for them.

We would, of course, prefer not to think about such women, to forget they exist and only consider the “noble”, higher-born, or more privileged women in our estimations. But the Bible includes such women for reasons beyond what we can understand. The Bible attaches no shame, no guilt, and no condemnation on concubines. The writers of Scripture did not erase them (or unwed mothers like Mary and prostitutes like Rahab and Mary Magdelene) from the narrative.They were women of their time, subject to a cruel system beyond their control. Take the story of the woman in the book of Judges, a concubine who ran away from her master and was forcibly taken back from her fathers’ house, only to be raped to death by an entire town. She then had her body desecrated, butchered, and paraded before the entire nation.  Trying to find something redeeming in these accounts is rather a challenge!

Rizpah was one such woman. While she lived, she was the sexual servant or concubine of Saul. She was subject to him, yet was not considered worthy of becoming his wife and queen.

We know from Scripture that Saul was an unstable and mad king – insecure, jealous, raging, She was in a vulnerable women, subject to such a man. We can make a conjecture from the character of Saul as depicted in Scripture that Rizpah probably did not have an easy life. It is very likely that she was abused and mistreated in some way or the other while he lived.

Beyond the grave, however, the actions of King Saul were to reap the most devastating effects. Rizpah had two sons, we do not know their names. We can imagine for a woman in her position, her children would of immense importance to her. We find out from the Biblical narrative just how much.

The account of what happened to Rizpah’s sons is written in 1 Samuel 21:1-14. But let’s view the story from Rizpah’s perspective.  One day, her sons are taken from her by order of the king. Out of the blue, they are given over to the Gibeonites and hanged. They had not committed any crimes. We do not know if anyone explained to them or Rizpah why they were being executed, despite having done no wrong.

On a larger scale, justice was being served. Saul’s actions were repaid by his offspring. Yet, on a personal scale, this was so unjust. Rizpah had her sons taken from her and killed.

Her love for her sons, and her shock at their untimely deaths must have been . She mourned their bodies, shielding their corpses day and night like a woman gone mad with grief, as if she had nothing to live for (and it is probable she didn’t).

What did Rizpah have left? What little position she had as the palace concubine was not gone. Saul’s line was destroyed, his dynasty replaced. It is likely she was shunned for her association with the house of Saul and lived in a precarious position as it was.

And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.
(2 Samuel 21:9-10)

Her actions, however, were brought to the attention of the king. Something in what she did, what her position was, must have touched David’s heart. Without her dedication, her sons would probably have rotted to death in the open field, devoured by animals.

And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa: And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.
(2 Samuel 21:11-14)

It said that “David went and took”, as if he personally saw the matter done. He also took the effort to bury them on their ancestral land, almost as if to make amends and definitely to show respect to the bodies.

And it was only after Saul and his offspring were buried in this was that “God was intreated for the land”.

So you see, Rizpah played a role in bringing an end to the famine, in restoring the land. Her sorrow touched the heart of the king. While it is an incredibly tragic story, it is sobering and also a reminder of the extent of a mother’s love.

Something we can learn from this is to have a heart of mercy. Instead of being prejudiced and resentful against Rizpah for all the wrongs done by the house of Saul, David perhaps saw her as a person, a mother. When his actions hurt someone, even inadvertently, he took care to set things right as well, despite the face that his hands were also tied in this situation.

I Must Decrease

https://countingmyblessings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/KneelingAtTheCross.jpg

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
(John 3:26)
He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:30)

The verse above offers a lot of food for thought. It is something to meditate upon and apply in our own lives.

How often we long to increase, to expand, go gain power and authority! And yet, how often do we need to learn to decrease. If we had the humility of John, what a great thing that will be!

John saw his role was to decrease, to pave and prepare the way of Yeshua to come. He was the opposite of the men and women at Babel, who sought to create a monument for themselves, to be praised and exalted for all time.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
(Genesis 11:4)

And yet, we are to live as “dead” to ourselves but “alive” to God. How powerful, yet how profound!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20)

 

Royal Daughter #1: Jehosheba

Screenshot (3)We’re going to kick off the series by looking at a very special woman, an actual royal daughter. Her name is Jehosheba (Yehosheva in Hebrew), which means “YHWH’s oath”.

The Bible passages are: 1 Kings 11 (the whole chapter), and 2 Chronicles 22:10-11 and 2 Chronicles 23.

What the Bible tells us about Jehosheba was that she was born into a prominent position – she was the daughter of a king and sister of a king. She was also the wife of the high priest.

Jehosheba had a place in the royal household, and when her mother arose the Lord put in the position to save the live of an infant, Joash. We can imagine that if all the royal princes’ lives were in danger, Jehosheba was also risking her life in saving Joash. In this she showed herself courageous and willing to sacrifice herself. Like Esther, Jehosheba was placed by God in the right place at the right time, “for such a time as this.” In that moment, in the chaos and upheaval, she chose to obey God and fear God rather than save her own skin.Image result for jehosheba

But when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest, (for she was the sister of Ahaziah,) hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not.
(2 Chronicles 22:10-11)

It really matters not it Athaliah was Jehosheba’s mother or stepmother. Either way the Bible shows us a contrast beyond the two women. One, a power-hungry woman who would do anything to seize the throne for herself, another, a woman who respected God’s anointed and sought to restore Judah’s true king. One was a murderess, the other was a woman who saved lives. One was an idol-worshipper, the other, one who helped restore the worship of YHWH.

Jehosheba was willing to defy the queen’s orders. Rightful or not, Athaliah had made herself ruler of the land. This passage shows us that we are obedient not to manmade decrees and rulers but ultimately to YHWH. As Simon Peter said, we need to obey God rather than man!

The Bible showed time and time again how God uses women to save lives. The very first woman, Eve (Chava in Hebrew), had a name which means “life”. Jochebed saved her son Moses, and Mary saved her son, Jesus our Lord. Esther saved her entire exiled people. The Bible shows us that murder and widespread killing is a work of the evil one, while saving lives is of God.

As a result of Jehosheba’s actions, the nation of Judah turned back to the true worship of YHWH, away from the worship of Baal, the false god. She did more than save a king – she helped bring about revival in the nation of Israel together with her husband, Jehoiada the priest. Indeed, what we see hear is a god-fearing couple who were both powerfully used by God.

What can we learn from Jehosheba? What other women do we know of, who were courageous in the face of evil and whom God used to save lives and restore a nation?

Royal Daughters: Introduction

Screenshot (3)Welcome to the new Scripture study series, “Royal Daughters in Training”. This series is about learning what it means to be a woman and is based on two questions, “Why did God make woman?” and “Why did God make me a woman?”.

To answer those questions, we’re going to be looking at over forty women in the Bible and learning from their examples.

We must remember that God teaches us “”line by line”, “precept by precept”. We also should understand that as unique and individual God’s will for each of these women were, so is His will and purpose for us. Also, as human and fallible as each of these women were, so are we. That should give us comfort and assurance.

We will be looking at both positive and negative examples, as everything in the Bible was written for “our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11) as well as encourage and exhort us.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Our goal is to grow up into women after God’s own heart, furnished unto all good works!

How to follow along the series: I will be publishing a list of the women studied and each passage of Scripture the study will draw from, then, a link will be created to each post in which I share some of my thoughts. The idea is for you to examine each passage on your own, with your mentor and mentees (i.e. mothers and sisters in Christ) and just listen to what the Holy Spirit is teaching you from each passage. If you are interested in doing this study and journalling the lessons you have learned along the way, do write them down and I hope to compile them together, whether by publishing your notes or by linking to your blogs.

 

 

Watching Over Me

A thought suddenly struck me today: what if I was an atheist, what if I didn’t believe in God? I understand why a lot of people end up being atheist or agnostic – because religion has often been cruel and corrupt. A lot of people have been hurt by churches, institutions, and people who use God’s name but who end up bringing shame (quite the opposite of our good works bringing Him glory). A lot of people feel that God is cruel and corrupt, just like us.

But the fact is that God is a loving Father. To have a loving Father in my life is literally the best thing ever. I could not imagine my life without Him, guiding me, watching over me, blessing me, protecting me. And He loves all of us whether we love Him or not – He longs to gather us like a hen gathers her chicks, because we are His children.

There have been so many times in my life, from the little incidents to the large, where I have recognized God at work. And I am so thankful. Psalm 91 says a “thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand”. But evil will not come near us!

In my distress (Psalm 120:1), I can call upon Him and He hears me. Imagine if you are in a desperate situation where no one can help you and you have no one to call upon. Yet we have a Heavenly Father who hears us – how reassuring is that?

There are many people who know about God but who don’t know God or have a personal relationship with Him. Yet, I firmly believe that we are all at different stages in our journeys. I hope you will be encouraged to grow in faith by talking to God, asking Him for guidance, asking Him for help – these experiences of seeking Him, asking from Him, knocking at His door – will only strengthen us and give us a deep, real, relationship with Him.

Their Examples… Women in the Bible

Screenshot (3)One thing that’s very good is to look into the Bible and look at the examples of men and women. This is an excellent exercise to do with young Christians or young people even children. We don’t have to wait until puberty, for example, to start encouraging young boys and girls to be men and women after God’s own heart, to be His disciples. While we tend to want to pick out the good examples, however, the Bible is full of flawed people who make mistakes. Yet, God’s will was done through them.

  1. Not just for girls! Boys and girls need to learn about women in the Bible. Boys, so they  know, for example.  We’re making a mistake if we only teach Proverbs 31 to our young women and forget to teach it to our young men.
  2. Be admonished! What can we learn from negative examples such as Lot’s wife and Jezebel?
  3. Be encouraged! God often used women who were not perfect. Rahab was a harlot. Ruth was a pagan. Bathsheba was an adulterous. Mary was, in society’s eyes, an unwed mother. And yet all of them were instrumental in the line of David and our Messiah.  Basically, there’s no reason why God cannot choose you or I. Eve, Sarah, Rebecca and many other women weren’t perfect- they made mistakes, and yet were a part of God’s plan.
  4. Be convicted! Women like Mary (well, all of them!), Anna, Priscilla, etc. show us that we can be living our lives for a much higher purpose and their examples challenge us on to faith, discipleship and service.

We don’t need to buy fancy books or devotional series, especially for kids. The pure word of God is so powerful. Just open the Bible, read it, discuss it. Ask, what can we learn? What can we apply? What is God saying? Discover and construct meanings together. Write them down, maybe some charts, create an idea-map, journal or lapbook. Don’t think of all the answers and lessons then dictate them to your kids – instead, really look into the Bible together and let the Holy Spirit, who is in them as much as you, bring revelation.

Life and Death

Pro-life views are highly unpopular today. I can understand why militant anti-abortionism is so distasteful, and why women despise moralists who take to take away their autonomy. I’m pro-life or anti-abortion on a personal level. This means that I will not condemn you if you have an abortion, I will not fight to make abortion illegal (for pragmatic reasons –  I simply am not convinced that fighting against abortion through law and legislation is the best way to go about it, and I am not convinced that banning abortion outright is going to make the situation any better).  But I will seek to discourage and prevent abortions from happening where possible and whenever possible on a personal level. If you were friend, I would do everything I could to support you in your crisis, no matter what choice you make, and also save your unborn baby’s life if I possibly can.

Some progressives will think people like me are dangerous, threatening to the principle of being pro-choice. I choose to disagree, and say that if you believe in choosing one way, you have to believe in choosing the other way. And if me being pro-life makes you feel guilty and uncomfortable, it probably (hopefully) isn’t because of me and my morality and judgment, but because of the natural conscience we share as human beings. Deep down, I think most people believe that selective abortion is cruel.

I have read many, many accounts of abortions that fall into grey areas, however. Such as the story of Gisella Perl, or stories of late term abortions because of severe fetal or maternal health issues. I really can’t comment on these because only women who are going through the struggle can make the choice for themselves. I know many women of faith choose to stand by their principles no matter how difficult or painful.

I also believe that pro-lifers need a lot more consideration and compassion, to bring hope and healing, not condemnation and condescension. I think we as a community need to be doing so much more than just opposing abortion “just because”, we need to be supporting life and promoting life in whatever ways we can, such as through making lives better for people whose struggles we cannot begin to understand, such as single mothers, children from impoverished backgrounds, children with disabilities, etc.

I’m pro-life because I believe life and death is in God’s hands, and that human life is sacred and worthy of love and protection. I also think that abortion damages women. You can downplay it all you like, but it goes against our better human nature to love, to protect, to care… surely many women go through some form of psychological trauma and guilt because abortion is at some level invasive and cruel; even if you personally don’t think so, you have to admit some women who go through abortions feel this way. I believe that because of the way God made us, abortion is damaging and self-destructive to women. It is the opposite of empowering.

I also believe that if we know God, we know that He loves us and it is so much better to put our lives in His hands and trust that He knows best.

We think that freedom, equality and human rights are strsightforward but the truth is they are not. Where rights overlap or infringe on another’s rights is where most modern moral controversies occur.

 

Womanhood

Where do we learn to be women? That is a topic far from the conversation in Christian circles, especially among the younger girls and women who need it the most. Lady’s devotional materials, Bible studies and prayer groups are usually for the aged – with each passing generation, women’s unique gifts, ministries and callings  are becoming forgotten. In the blur and confusion of the modern day, our churches have taken  on a largely genderless view of faith and living, leaving our young women stranded. Enter any children’s class or youth group – you are unlikely to hear girls being taught about Biblical womanhood or boys being taught about manhood. They are probably taught many important things, but these essential truths are usually not among them. Men and women are treated as the same; gender is forgotten.

Yes, I agree in many things, as our apostle. The call of Jesus, the redeeming work of the cross, the commands of our Messiah – these transcend gender and apply to us all.

The problem is, our genders play such an important, God-given role in our lives. Gender – distinctions in physicality and in function, for example – are found at the very beginning, when God created Adam and Eve. We really musn’t forget them – they play a role in this life, though of course they are not as important in the age to come (and let us not forget that either!).

If girls don’t learn to be godly women from their families and within a faith-filled context, they will fall prey to the world’s designs and sensual, ungodly messages. They will learn what it means to be women from pop stars, celebrities, and other hedonistic role-models. They will probably become sexualised, unwittingly. This crude, lewd form of femininity that focuses on outward appearances and attention-seeking is a far, far, cry from the noble, honourable women of the Bible, whose beauty was inward, whose legacy was eternal, and who were humble, courageous, and devoted to God.

The world will teach our daughters to be beautiful on outside. The world will teach our daughters that relationships are about having fun and experiencing romance, not about sacrificial love and starting a family.  The world will teach our daughters to aspire to be everything but godly wives and mothers, a role that will fall into neglect, or worse, be taken on with little appreciation, care or acknowledgement of it’s sacredness.

Women are born with the ability to create and nurture life, and this cannot be described as a powerful potential. How sad it is, then, that motherhood is valued so little. Girls grow up without realising that they have this potential, and usually, a natural innate desire and aptitude to be mothers.They are not prepared for it, nor taught to anticipate and treasure such a role as an opportunity for divine ministry. However, this does not mean that women who are able to have children are any less women, or that their lives have any less of a purpose. We do believe that God’s design for each is unique and purposeful, and that womanhood is deeper and much more meaningful – it cannot be limited to just “bearing children” and “having a womb”.

Where can girls learn to be women

From the Word of God, written for our instruction and admonishment. Women in the Bible play many significant roles and we can learn a lot from their lives. In fact, this should be the foundation and guideline for constructing a personal understanding of one’s womanhood

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
(1 Corinthians 10:11

2. From mentors. The older women are clearly to be examples to younger women. This starts at home with one’s mother.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
(Titus 2:3-5)

 

3. From other godly women, whose lives and labours (though perhaps unrecognised and hidden)  bear godly fruit. We may listen to them, read about them, and learn from their example from afar off. Corrie Ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot are examples of women that we can look up to as role models.

We can’t just offer girls “alternatives” to the world, however. Different doesn’t mean better or more spiritual. We need to get back to the Bible and be rooted and built up in God’s Word alone, not men’s words and ideas.

The same is true with “Biblical Manhood”, which should focus on what the Bible focuses on, like listening to God, being a humble servant, being totally surrendered, living as a disciple, taking up one’s cross, being a leader and a shepherd, being responsible and mature, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult 

​Jesus calls us: o’er the tumult

of our life’s wild, restless sea;

day by day his sweet voice soundeth

saying, “Christian, follow me.”
2 Jesus calls us from the worship

of the vain world’s golden store,

from each idol that would keep us,

saying, “Christian, love me more.”
3 In our joys and in our sorrows,

days of toil and hours of ease,

still he calls, in cares and pleasures,

“Christian, love me more than these.”
4 Jesus calls us: by thy mercies,

Savior, may we hear thy call,

give our hearts to thy obedience,

serve and love thee best of all.

Here is another deeply encouraging hymn about discipleship.  I always keep my eyes open for them. 

Recently I have started occasionally attending a traditional Anglican Church for morning prayer and holy communion, depending on the Sunday. It’s a beautiful, ancient grey building, vastly different from the simply “unchurched” fellowship back home. 

Traditional churches get a lot of criticism, but I feel there’s always something you can benefit from a church and fellowship of believers, spiritually. No church is or can be perfect and sometimes it’s good just to recognise that we can fellowship with all who call on Jesus Christ, adhere to the basic creed of our faith and teach + practice discipleship.