Women and the Cycle of Defeat

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I’ve spent the last 3 weeks speaking to the women of our church in our series BeautifulTo prep for it, I read a bunch of magazine articles, blog posts and books on the struggles women have and what teenage girls struggle with.

Reading stats on body image and eating disorders, depression, feelings of loneliness that they have and how most women live with a sense of defeat and that they will never live up to a standard they have in their mind, a standard their parents or spouse have for them.

While photoshop make the struggle women have with their bodies unwinnable, it is almost like they look though the lens of photoshop for everything in their lives.

I preached on Proverbs 31 this past weekend and beforehand I got a number of emails from women saying, “I’ve read those verses, they are impossible so I simply give up.”

The reality is that most everything in the Bible is impossible on your own.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

While the standard for women in Scripture is high, it is for everyone. It is meant to stretch us and cause us to rely on God. That is why Proverbs 31:30 says that this woman fears the Lord. The fear of God takes away all fear, all defeat and refocuses on us on what matters and what will get us through what lies ahead.

Proverbs 31 is a story of a woman through the course of her life. Did she do all those things in the season her kids were small or right after she got married? Probably not.

One of the reasons I believe many women are defeated in their lives (besides the impossible standards they or others set for them) is that they often lack a vision of what their life could be like. I’m not sure if this comes from a personality trait, that men tend to be more logical and linear in their thinking but one of the common threads I heard from women after church this week was how easy it is for them to get stuck in the details of everyday life and not lift their heads above the fog to see what God has for them.

One of the challenges of Proverbs 31 is to have a larger vision for your life. To think bigger than what you do. Your life is meant to be more than what it is. Your life is meant to have a legacy. The problem is that most of the time, legacy is talked about strictly to men. We need that reminder. But women do as well. What you do with every minute of your life makes an impact down the road. This is true for everyone.

Yet, we often spend our moments on the wrong things.

Arianna Huntington said, “Eulogies celebrate our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.”

That is important to keep in mind.

I’d add that God celebrates our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Aaron Armstrong on Encourage your pastor, be fruitful.

How do you encourage your pastor? In some ways, the answer seems obvious. We know we should pray for them (and hopefully we do). We know we should thank them. We know we should find ways to help them (all ideas I’ve discussed here). But there’s another way we can do this—simply, by being fruitful.

Marlena Graves on Raising Christians kids in a sex filled culture.

I believe the porn pandemic and other forms of illicit sex are really a result of our failure to love God and our neighbors. Consequently, we cannot merely fixate on “Don’t do this, don’t do that” instruction or on isolating our children. They need to know deep down why we do what we do or don’t do.

Tim Challies on Stopping an affair before it begins.

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife. Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

10 Ways to leverage Christmas to reach unchurched people.

So…how are you leveraging Christmas to reach unchurched people? After all, there is really only one time of year left in Western culture when our culture still celebrates something Christians hold dear, and that’s Christmas. What surprising is that many churches don’t really leverage it to make the impact it could.

David Murrow on How to preach to men.

It’s been said that a good sermon is like a good skirt: long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep you interested.

Thom Rainer on 6 pastoral lessons from the coach of a football team that never punts.

The joy, work and beauty of motherhood.

Top Posts for the Month of November

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If you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of November:

  1. What do Stay-at-Home Mom’s Do All Day?
  2. Accountability
  3. What do you do With Kids in a Missional Community?
  4. Why Doesn’t Revolution Have a Women’s Ministry
  5. Martyrs Read Joel Osteen Tweets!
  6. How to do Crossfit on Your Own
  7. Make Church Memorable
  8. Planning a Preaching Calendar
  9. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor
  10. How the Church Should Respond to Homosexuality (and other Sins)

Top Posts of September

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. Before You Criticize Your Pastor
  2. Revolution Church 5 Year Anniversary Video
  3. The Biggest Sin in Adoption
  4. A Mother’s Heart (From a Husband’s Perspective)
  5. The Most Important Minutes to a Guest on a Sunday Morning
  6. Does Homeschooling Deny the Missional Life?
  7. What to do on “Fat Days”
  8. Redeeming Halloween
  9. Get the Men, Win the War
  10. Rex Ryan: The Model Father?

Cheap Kindle Books 8.27.13

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Here are some cheap kindle books. Not sure how long they’ll stay that way:

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Letting Go of Perfect: Women, Expectations and Authenticity

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Letting Go of Perfect: Women, Expectations and Authenticity (kindle version) by Amy Spiegel. Instead of me writing this review, my wife Katie was kind enough to share her thoughts on this book hoping to serve the female readers of this blog. You can follow Katie on twitter here or friend her on Facebook here.

I let go of perfect quite a while ago, with four kids 7 years old and under, perfect is not a word that I would use to describe my life or a standard that I strive for much anymore. A better word may be awake or present. I was excited to read this book because although the backdrop of my life is not perfection, there are times that I expect much more out of myself and life then actually happens. Those are the things that I was hoping the book would address. Letting Go of Perfect, although not entirely what I expected, covers some great topics.

From the first page of the introduction Amy Spiegel is transparent with her past and the struggle she is facing, “My life: one minute I love it and know I am right where God wants me; the next minute I loathe it and feel that I have been misplaced and forgotten.” A place that I think every wife and mother feels. Each chapter chronicles a topic in which she trying to lay hold of the freedom she knows is promised through a life in Christ.

Chapter one deals with marriage and kids, and how God uses these close relationships to sand off the rough edges and make us more like Him. “Rather then seeing them as obstacles to be removed or reshaped, we must embrace them as instruments of grace being used for our own betterment. Our identity as God’s children isn’t one of perfection, yet, but a picture of His grace. This perspective, along with a firm grasp of our own sinful nature, should humble us in the face of relational difficulties but also encourage us in the face of adversity.”

I really enjoyed the second chapter, and Amy’s spin on modesty and values. “Going to the gym or the neighborhood pool may be a challenge for men to keep their thoughts pure and lust-free. But I would venture to guess that just as many women struggle to keep their thoughts free of envy and pride.” Too often this conversation is left to the wandering eyes of men, and totally downplays the responsibility we have to other women. “I have a responsibility not to create a competitive or hostile environment for my fellow females. By dressing more conservatively, we lessen the temptation to envy and compare, allowing the spirit to overrule the flesh, so to speak. I have noticed for myself that both my inner and outward dialogue tend to be more edifying while chatting in baggy sweats rather then in my ‘skinny’ jeans.” “Whatever the focus of your vanity, there is nothing wrong with looking nice, but we need to consider our motives and the impact our actions have. …We are called to swallow our pride and vanity for the good of the body or push away our freedom in order that others might not stumble.” “I try to concentrate on whether or not this outfit makes my values look small.”

This next chapter deals with parenthood, and although difficult, we give our children what they need, not what they want or will make them happy. The author relates this to our relationship with God. “So why does God bring these hiccups and monsters into our lives if all they do is make us feel bad about ourselves and make us question whether or not He cares? Why doesn’t He simply shower us with sunshine? The answer to that goes back to giving birth. In order to bring forth the greatest blessing in my life, save Jesus and my hubby, I had to voluntarily enter a room labeled “labor and delivery.” I suppose given the choice at the time I might have been tempted to go back, to reverse course and head for the hills. But were that possible, I would have done so empty-handed. In order to get the blessings, I first had to do the labor. For it is through the pain and the blood that I was delivered.” “This is true of our spiritual labor too. But the amazing thing is that the labor has already been done for us. When Jesus groaned and suffered on the cross, He was bringing us out of death and slavery; He was paying for our lives with His own. Whatever pain we suffer here is just the extraction of our new selves from the old. The pain is real and certainly nothing to joke about, but it is fleeting and simply part of the process of giving birth to our new nature. It may hurt like heck, but it will pass. And in our agony, we are not alone. Because He suffered, we can cry out for relief and be heard. It may not stop the pain but it will give us the strength to carry on.”

Chapter four discusses the practical matter of simplifying our life. “Our life’s work is to be just that- work. I want to run into the gates of heaven out of breath and dripping with sweat not because my effort gets me in but because it is the destination I have been running for all along. May our lives reflect the words of the classic film Chariots of Fire ‘I believe God made me for a purpose… and when I run I feel His pleasure.’ While the film refers to physical running, I think it can be applied to any effort we pursue for the right reasons.”

Chapter five deals with the delicate balance we have to follow God’s commands without becoming legalistic or blasé. “The fruit we bear in our lives should blossom out of a deep trust in God’s provision, not an attempt to repay the great debt we owe.” I love her description of trying to muster change in ourselves by picking and choosing what characteristics we want to add or change in our lives. “When I attempt to take life not from its true source-my Father’s will and purpose- but my own, the results are not pretty. Like some mad Frankenstein scientist, I frantically create the person I think I should be. I look at those who I admire and respect not with appreciation for God’s work in their lives, but with green eyes of envy seeking to acquire what is not mine. I piece together all these enviable attributes and sew them on, not in the spirit but in the flesh. The result is not the new creation I am called to be but a hideous monster of rotting flesh that roars in frustration and despair. I create not a better version of myself but an enemy to my very soul.”

Friendship and relationships are the topics discussed in chapter six. She states that we can us truth to combat our feelings of ungratefulness and being left out and come to a place of gratefulness. She reminds us that it is in the hands of God that we are truly transformed and that it is often through human relationships that we are sanctified.

Chapter seven focuses on sifting through the opinions of others through books, blogs, people’s advise, etc. to find our true identity in Christ and allow the Bible and His opinion of who we should be shape us. “Keeping the goal, to glorify God with our lives… … helps us to practice discernment when processing influences and advice.”

Chapter Eight deals with relationships, a struggle everyone knows. “As Christian women, you and I desire to be defined ultimately by our relationship with Jesus but so much of our satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) with our lives comes from our earthly-rather than heavenly- relationships. …But how do we maintain a healthy balance between investing and nurturing relationships-especially with our male counterparts- and still stay rooted in our identity as brides of Christ?” This chapter delves into boundries in relationships before marriage as well as a few truths about marriage.
Chapter Nine deals with the job description of a mom. “This is when I have to remind myself that it isn’t really my kids that I am making all these sacrifices for. They are not my Employer. They are merely the tools He uses to mold me into His finished produce. Too often, I treat my relationship with Him like a union negotiation rather than a covenant based on mercy. I feel entitled to certain wages for the hours I have put in. But this isn’t Let’s Make a Deal; this is about servanthood and death to self.”

Counter culture living is addressed in Chapter Ten: “When we truly set our eyes on Heaven, it will put us at odds with the culture around us, but if we do so in humility and faith we ultimately have nothing to fear.” She lists and expounds on 3 principals in which we consider being counter cultural: stewardship, discipleship, and the importance of the mind.

Chapter Eleven starts with a lighthearted example of breaking away from addiction and the idols that we so easily turn to, specifically materialism. “I can live my live like that, filling it with so much activity that it’s hard to see God’s hand in it all. I say I am living for Him, but in the end I am just going through the motions and failing to remind myself for Whom all the motion is supposed to be. Though I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic, if I tend to value the material over the immaterial I might need to rethink that assessment.” This chapter had some bite that was appreciated and appropriate

Chapter Twelve talks through standard for yourself and family as to how you approach pop-culture. She lists some very practical guidelines for decision making. And encourages you to make your own decisions, knowing that there will be consequences to the choices that you make.

The final chapter is all about your calling as a mother and how to rest well. “True, God-focused resting might feel like self-indulgent inactivity as well, but that is far from the truth…” “Reading the Bible and praying aren’t the only ways we can seek God and the power His presence and blessing bring. The truth is like a spring of water which bubbles from God and flows in many directions. It can be found in the laughter of a friend, the witty turn of a phrase by your favorite author, a touching scene in a well-made movie. WE all need to drink from this fountain but while the water is the same, our ways of collecting it differ. A big part of maturing is coming to understand what activities or disciplines you personally find refreshing. I have friends who come back from a weekend with friends beaming with energy, having been refreshed and encouraged. I am more of a one-on-one girl and enjoy spending time doing physical activities like hiking or riding bikes.”

He whose life is one even and smooth path will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelations of God… but they who ‘do business in great waves,’ these see his ‘wonders in the deep.’ Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man… your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Mosses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. -Charles Spurgeon

I appreciate the author’s desire to create an atmosphere where you feel like she is walking alongside you, but this is the part of the book that I had the hardest time with. In doing this I feel like the great gospel truths that are discussed in the book were short lived… and overshadowed in some of the stories that quite frankly came across as whining. I assume that it was in jest, but whenever anyone jokingly makes fun of someone else there is a sliver of truth to it. It really bothered me and set my teeth on edge when she called her kids barbarians. I realize that this may seem nitpicky, but God has moved mountains in my own heart to lovingly train my kids and enjoy it. And so it seems like she is belittling them through this one statement.

Links for Your Weekend Enjoyment

  1. Mark your calendars for Planet Rev’s Family fun night on June 15 at Chic Fil-A.
  2. Helping a pastor’s wife on Sunday morning. Great insights for what churches can do to help a pastor’s family during church.
  3. Michael Cusick on How porn affects your brain.
  4. Competitive mothering.
  5. Ron Edmondson on 8 ways to finish a job well.
  6. Something every preacher should keep in mind.
  7. Shawn Lovejoy on The lure and danger of fame.
  8. Make your family time for effective.

Links of the Week

  1. Chuck Swindoll on The most important thing.
  2. Charles Stone on 5 non-negotiable decisions every leader must make.
  3. 25 ways to be missional in your neighborhood.
  4. Mike Breen on How culture has corrupted the American church.
  5. Jonathan Dodson on Is Pluralism more tolerant than Christianity?
  6. Motherhood is application.
  7. Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO.
  8. Jared Wilson & Tony Merida on Preaching Today.
  9. One of the main reasons students leave church after high school is their faith reflects the faith they’ve seen growing up.
  10. Bill Hybels on Preparation matters.
  11. 6 trends in church staffing.
  12. Carl Trueman on Teaching your kids the trinity.
  13. Scott Williams on Most leadership stress is self induced.

Links of the Week

  1. Tim Challies on Should Christians embrace evolution?
  2. What Christians hope for in preaching. This was an eye opening article based on a study of 10,000 persons who attend church and what they hope to get from preaching.
  3. 11 books every leader needs to read according to Al Mohler.
  4. D.A. Carson and John Piper on How to teach the Bible confidence.
  5. How boys become Christians men.
  6. Ron Edmondson on how he accomplishes so much. I agree with him on this secret, helps a ton.
  7. A warning to women from a woman concerning marriage.
  8. The New York Times on How the deficit got this big.
  9. Titus 2 is not just a woman’s to do list.
  10. Justin Taylor on It only takes one generation for a church to die.
  11. Beware of romantic pornography. So true.
  12. 9 things your pastor wants to say to you but won’t.
  13. Steven Furtick on Ambition vs. Arrogance.
  14. Kevin DeYoung on biblical manhood. Helpful stuff here, a good preview to our next series at Revolution.
  15. Jeff Vanderstelt on Gospel fluent thinking.
  16. 25 ways to engage your neighbors. As we challenge people at Revolution to be on mission, this is a big part of it.
  17. Motherhood, sacrifice, and worship.

Links of the Week

  1. Can you convince my husband or wife to stay? I get this almost monthly from a man or a woman, it is hard and painful but only Jesus changes hearts.
  2. Mark Driscoll on The gender issue. I believe this is one of the biggest issues facing the American church today and into the future. We need to answer the questions of our culture.
  3. 5 reasons your church isn’t growing.
  4. The gospel coalition on Ministry and depression part 1 and part 2. This is a helpful series as many pastor’s deal with depression.
  5. Motherhood is a calling (and where your children rank). I’m convinced that one of the best places to figure out idols and identities in someone’s life is to look at roles in marriage and parenting. I told a pastor the other day, whenever I preach on it, my email box fills up faster than any other topic, because of the tie to identity and idols.
  6. Why you might be an ear tickling preacher (or an ear tickling church attendee).
  7. Anthony Bradley on Libel is not love. How to criticize well.
  8. Las Vegas church files for bankruptcy. This is not a great message to send. Where is the integrity of this church?
  9. Mobile stats that affect ministry. Churches need to figure out how to be more and more mobile as our world is more and more focused on the mobile web as these stats show.
  10. Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Leeman and Trevin Wax discuss the mission of the church. Definitely worth watching.
  11. Bob Kelleman on Facing depression with Jesus.