December 29, 2008

Blogging Hiatus

To all who faithfully read Flash Point, and to those who accidentally find yourselves here, I want to wish all of you a joyful and God-centered new year. I am taking a brief hiatus from the blog so that I can finish a writing project. I anticipate returning to the blog in a couple of weeks. At the time, I have a book project in the works that I need to finish so that I can move forward in ministry.
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December 22, 2008

The Demise of Evangelical Distinctiveness?

I feel like I'm living in a historic time, not simply because our next president is mixed-race or because Illinois political corruption is finally revealed for the rest of the nation to appreciate, but because I think evangelicalism is caving to societal pressure to look like anything other than its former self. My concern is that evangelicalism in the public arena no longer includes a passionate defense for the unborn (because that would simply be too politically divisive). Instead, it seems we are focusing our greatest energies on other issues-- not for the sake of those other issues, but rather to gain some political common ground. Don't get me wrong, I know there are many evangelical individuals and organizations still in the fight for the rights of the unborn. But as some older generations are beginning to fade away, I wonder who will be interested in continuing to support this and related causes. As I watch the news and trends in the church, I wonder if there is a generation of evangelicals even interested in taking up the cause for life. Feminism is succeeding in indoctrinating several generations of women on their platform of equality and corresponding reproductive rights while the church fidgets to understand how to develop a culture of God-fearing women who can love both their families and careers, or at least appreciate that our society simply demands that women be able to work because men have failed to responsibly lead. But I digress. Will Christianity be able to survive this politization of faith? Where it appears that the left is capitulating to evangelicalism, such as by inviting Rick Warren to do the Inauguration, do you think it might really be about blurring the lines and causing confusion? The ability for any party to cross party lines is usually indicative of moderate-ism. Is this what we should expect of our faith-based discourse? The church is being silenced internally and externally on life issues someone needs to speak to; it's never taken up the cause for women in a real practical way that avoids the extremes of secular feminism but still appreciates the giftings of women in whatever sphere she participates in; and the evangelical church is losing its distinctive voice by the manipulation of the smooth-talking left who are out to gain the loyalties of the pragmatic and uninformed. Can the evangelical church survive the next decade?

December 16, 2008

Life of the Mind in Women's Ministry

Last night the women at my church finished the 10 week Beth Moore study "Living Beyond Yourself." The women were very encouraged by the content of this study and I'm pleased by the way it was able to connect us to each other. This isn't the kind of study that teaches women how to study the Bible or the topics contained in the study on their own, but overall I believe it accomplished its goal.

The last video session addressed how women can lack self control as it relates to the body. Whether obsessing over every bite or giving in to every indulgence, women are at risk in this media-driven culture to go one way or the other. This lack of respect of the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, becomes the essence of idolatry. That's a solid message.

In offering a corrective, Beth talked about how we need to have a biblical perspective on the body, but I believe she erred in moving the listener too quickly into application. She said "you can't just think with the top of your head" you've got to apply the truths we know about God, ourselves, etc, and make them a real part of our lives. I certainly don't disagree with her in that regard. But does Beth overestimate her audience? I would suggest that in women's ministry and in the church more broadly, we equip few to think theologically--or simply logically--on any matter on their own. I believe to suggest otherwise is to miss the root cause of many of the problems in the evangelical community. Neglecting to teach women how to think will create a culture of quick fix therapy. But by cultivating the life of the mind in women's ministry, where I firmly believe it has become so necessary, women and their families will be equipped to live beyond their circumstances to the glory of God.

November 30, 2008

Position Statement on Women in Ministry

The mission of Women of Faith in Culture (WFC) is to contribute to the spiritual growth of women through biblical, theological, and worldview education, bringing God’s Word to bear on all areas of life. We believe that equipping women in this respect best prepares them for living in today’s world of ideas, in whatever sphere God has placed them. To this end, we endeavor to come alongside women’s ministries in the local church, assisting in their call to evangelize and disciple women of all ages and backgrounds according to the Titus 2 mandate.

As WFC works passionately with current women’s leaders and participates in the development of women as future leaders in church and culture, we desire not to compromise a core belief, that the leadership roles of Senior Pastor and Elder are an office of the church to which only men may serve... (...continue reading)

November 24, 2008

The Language of Life & Death

Last night I watched a program called Tribal Life, seemingly a reality show about the daily life of a tribal community on an island off the coast of Australia. This was not a hide-behind-the-trees documentary, but the cameras were a part of the tribe's routine. In fact, at times this tribe spoke very good English. It was obvious that this remote society was influenced by western culture.

I was taken aback when the program featured a young family with 3 kids--a 4th on the way. But this 4th child was too great of a burden, so with the aid of some tree bark and some other plants known to induce an abortion, the husband and wife ended the life of their unborn child. They, like humans around the globe, spoke of the abortion as something less ominous, as if he didn't intentionally prepare the toxic drink to end the life of that child, as if she didn't intentionally drink the poison. For them, it was a miscarriage. Even the show narrator avoided calling it what it was. The term abortion was never used.

This smoke-and-mirrors approach is hardly new, nor is it limited to uncivilized parts of the world. In fact, the language of death in our society has had to be reframed such that the sting of guilt doesn't exist. That's why we see the pro-aborts refer to Plan B as contraception instead of the abortifacient that it is. "Let no one deceive you with empty words" (Eph 5:6).

Confusing people with language in biotechnology and the abortion arena is a problem that is not going away. So as the economy continues to nose dive, we need to be prepared to educate young women that when they sell their eggs, the eggs are being fertilized. A fertilized egg is an embryo. Recently a feminist organization put out a press release claiming that evangelicals believed eggs to be more valuable than human persons. Either a deliberate obfuscation, or they are severely uninformed. We are cautioning young women by telling them the truth and eliminating the confusion in terminology. Another word for a fertilized egg is "offspring." So as young women are offered thousands of dollars for what they perceive to be nothing more than an altruistic tissue donation, the truth is that they are being exploited.

So what does this have to do with the church and with women's ministry?? Everything! We are in a unique position to educate our congregations and communities on these and similar issues. The biotech and fertility industries have a conflict of interest--they make money off of egg donations. Oooops! Yet we find another misuse of language. This is hardly a donation--it's a sale.

http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/planB/planBQandA.htm

“Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work."

November 21, 2008

Create in Me a Clean Heart

Recently, the topic of indulging in God has been central to my studies and devotions. We are so bombarded by the things of this world--physical pleasures, materialistic attraction, and intellectual autonomy--that we easily neglect our commitment to the Lord. Our hearts, wicked as they are, tend toward sin. We are called to live in a way that imitates God, walking with a consistent attitude of sacrificial love for others--an attitude of self-denial. But the battle persists.

This battle began in Eden, which translated means delight or pleasure. Eden was a place where God provided all that the Creation would need. Food, shelter, companionship, fellowship with God--they lacked for nothing. Yet Eve, confronted by the Serpent (Gen 3:1-6), was deceived into believing that eating of the tree "in the midst of the Garden" would be a good idea.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

This wouldn't be the last time we see this form of temptation in scripture. As Eve was tempted by physical pleasure ("good for food"), materialistic attraction ("delight to the eyes") and intellectual autonomy ("make one wise"), Jesus also was confronted with these temptations, in a location neither pleasurable or delightful, but in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1-13)

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." (4:3) (physical pleasure)

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. (4:5.6) (materialistic attraction)

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, "for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,'" and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" (4:9-11) (intellectual autonomy)

Jesus conquered sin and death with the work of the Cross, but we still live in a world where we face choices and challenges due to the condition of our own heart. As Jeremiah teaches that the heart is deceitful, the Psalmist prays "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10) We can join in that prayer.

As the Holy Spirit continues His work within each of us, we continue to pursue God by indulging in holy, obedient living, glorifying Him in self-sacrifice instead of self-indulgence. No doubt the battle is real, but the power to walk by the Spirit is greater.

November 19, 2008

Beth Moore: Deuteronomy 7:6-9

We are in week 8 of the Beth Moore Bible study, "Living Beyond Yourself," at my church. It hasn't been an easy study for me to be involved in because it so frequently jumps around different books of the Bible, sometimes to the neglect of context. On page 139 of the study, question 1 asks the student to read Deuteronomy 7:6-9 and respond. "Which of the following represent reasons God chose Israel?" The possible answers are "Because they were a mighty nation; Because they were the fewest of all peoples; Because they were a holy people; Because they were His treasured possession." Unless this is a teaser question, it seems to me that a 5th choice is missing: None of the above.

Deuteronomy 7:6-9 affirms that Israel is a mighty nation, fewest of all peoples, a holy people, and God's treasured possession. But none of these things were true about Israel in a way that caused God to choose them, so to say God chose them because of any of these things is erroneous. At one point in time, Israel was a promise to Abraham, they didn't exist except as his offspring multiplied.

So what is Deut 7:6-9 saying? In fact, it is saying exactly the opposite of Beth's question. The answer is in verse 8, "but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping His oath that He swore to your fathers."

I don't claim to know Hebrew, but the English is plain enough here. Statements that are true about Israel in this passage do not necessitate that they are causes.

1. "You are a people holy to the Lord..."
2. "The Lord your God has chosen you to be...His treasured possession" emphasis on "to be," indicative that holiness was not a cause.
3. "It was not because you were more in number...for you were the fewest." Be careful here, this is not a causitive statement, it is emphasizing even further that there is nothing mighty about Israel apart from God's love.

If this was intended by the editors to be a thought-provoking question, then it might work, but the wordsmiths aren't satisfied with this use of language as it clouds serious truths about God and His covenant relationship with Israel.

Please don't be too quick to beat up on me for being critical of this study. There are other areas of concern that I have with it that I have not publically addressed as of yet. To excuse the flaws of this study because it is 10 years old misunderstands the role of editors in publishing, but more importantly, it prevents women from getting the best training in Bible study methods and application.

I disagree with Beth Moore on many things, but they have more to do with method as she often draws conclusions with little rigor. I certainly am not judging her intentions or motives, I believe her to be a woman who sincerely loves the Lord.

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November 18, 2008

Foundations for Holy, Obedient Living

"...that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4) not only expresses God's purposes in electing us to salvation, but I believe it sums up the message of Ephesians and the goal of the Christian life. Ephesians 1:3-23 contains the words of a prayer from Paul indicating several theological truths foundational to the purpose of the rest of the letter.

In the past tense, Paul writes (Eph 1:5) that all believers were predestined for adoption (huiothesia = huio/son, thesia/placed)...planned in eternity to occur at some point in time. Similar to our earthly conception of adoption where a child is placed in the care of another family, to become a permanent member of that family, God has placed us in His family. Paul prays that this is "according to the purpose of His will." Here the word purpose comes from eudokian meaning good pleasure or desire. And certainly, it is God's desire--His requirement--that "we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4).

Paul continues in his prayer, which flows logically and flawlessly, declaring in the present tense that "In Him we have redemption" (Eph 1:7). The word redemption is related to apolutrosin which refers to deliverance or a ransom paid. Pointing to the Cross, Paul prays this doctrine of redemption, showing how we are (through the blood, the ransom paid) and how we are becoming "holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4). We assume with Paul that the recipients of this letter are believers, which is why he speaks so affirmatively of having redemption.

Finally, Paul prays about our present tense inheritance, or kleroo ((klay-ro'-o) in the original language (Eph 1:11) that is guaranteed for us "to acquire possession of" at a future point in time (Eph 1:14) as a consequence of the sealing or securing of our salvation by and through Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

Each of these theological truths are intended to be understood by the recepients of this letter, including you and I. But why exactly is Paul praying these truths? The answer to that is found in verses 15-23 where he begins "For this reason" (Eph 1:15) and is fleshed out in Eph 1:18-20,
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he rasied him from the dead...
We can only take joy and comfort in the Lord if he is all powerful and has had our lives in His hands for all eternity. If at any point the opposite were true, then Paul could not speak of our past tense adoption and then there would be no trust in a present tense redemption or present/future tense inheritance. But because of God's sovereign power which has held history history together, His "immeasuarable greatness and power" that saved us and raised Jesus, there is a basis for His purpose "that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4).

So as Paul brings this prayer to a conclusion, it begins an exciting letter to a group of believers in a decadent society full of sexual immorality, false religion, and self-indulgence. That doesn't sound much different from the landscape of 21st century America. Chapters 2-6 explain further how God has actualized our hagios, our pure and blamess position before the Throne, but also how the members of the Church have been called to responsibility in living out the Christian life. While we have been made holy, we are being made holy. God has accomplished our redemption, and we participate in our sanctification through obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit.

November 14, 2008

Indulging in God: Correcting Eve's Error

Tonight I'm speaking at a local church on the topic Indulging in God. Have you ever noticed that Mary of Bethany is the antithesis to Eve in Eden? Eve had her wants and needs taken care of. She had food, beautiful surroundings, and she had all the wisdom anyone could want for with her dwelled God. But that wasn't enough and she bought into the lies of the Serpent, not in order to have more of what she had, but to replace it with something better. She'd be able to indulge all of her desires for physical pleasure, materialism, and great knowledge and wisdom.

Contrast that to Mary of Bethany who knew that everything she needed--and everything she wanted--was at the feet of Jesus. A woman who knew exactly what she wanted was everything that she needed. Without Christ, there was no real satisfaction in life, but she needed to know who he was, and that was accomplished by spending time with and learning from the Lord who was with her. Mary corrected Eve's mistake by knowing more about her Lord by studying him and with him. Another incident between Mary and Jesus shows her anointing his feet with oil--with her hair. This is a woman who not only learned who Jesus is, but aspired to live like him. She learned how she was different from Jesus (in her fallenness) but still sought to live the humble, sacrificial life.

November 13, 2008

Prochoice Feminism Reaching Out to Young Women

In the Christian community, we do a great deal of ministry to women in the church, including young women. I wish women's ministry proper did more with the high school and college aged women, and I'd like to be a part of that shift in culture. But what about the young women who are listening and looking for truth, who might not be in church or even in a churched home? I can tell you -- no, I'll show you what NARAL is doing.



We wonder what's going on in today's culture...how a young America can vote for change that lacks definition, can vote for candidates who are rabid pro-aborts, can embrace religious pluralism while being hypocrites toward evangelicalism. It happens when young America is left to figure things out on their own....or when organizations like NARAL and the Feminist Majority provide the only answers to their most difficult questions. I wish I had the financial means to be a voice to today's young women, validating them as human, as professionals, as thinkers, as achievers, as the future of our society in all of its quadrants. In the meantime, the biggest muscle is coming through campaigns such as Free.Will.Power.

November 11, 2008

God, Government, and Goodness

In a persistent effort to rid the public square of any religious voices, the few that might be left after this 2008 election that is, the American Humanist Association has launched an advertising campaign to "raise awareness" of humanist doctrine. On ethics, they state

"Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."

Competing against God would no doubt make an individual or organization insecure, necessitating the launch of a campaign aimed at desensitizing the voting public against the existence of God. Apart from their inability to account for objective good, they clearly are inconsistent in application of tolerance. A pluralistic public square is indeed what we have, and in a democratic society the predominant beliefs of the people are going to have the greatest impact. So organizations like the American Humanist Association go all, poisoning the well against theistic perspectives on public issues.

But to the heart of this advertising, it's no surprise that they would try to argue for goodness without God. As part of how man was created, he can have a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. But he'll certainly struggle giving an account for the right and the good in absolute terms. Humanism leaves us in the mire of relativism, with numerous interpretations of the right and the good.

As we move into the new administration in 2009, we will undoubtedly encounter more efforts to promote humanistic ideals at the expense of policies that protect human life and promote human dignity. Resulting from this will be more confidence for the anti-theistic verbiage. Clearly we're in for a rough ride, but certainly not a without an aggressive response.

FOCA on the Family

Pardon the pun, but churches and families need to be aware of how the Freedom of Choice Act will impact their community, something we should expect to see enacted within Obama's first 100 days in office. For more information on the legal impact, visit Americans United for Life. Women, especially young and underage, will be put at risk because of this repeal of all state-enacted regulation. Now is the time for our churches to get serious about bioethics in the pew. Isn't it amazing? We need to regulate big business, but unfettered access to the unborn is what is being handed to the abortion industry. Here is some of what you can expect to see nullified by FOCA:
  • Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

  • Hyde Amendment (restricting taxpayer funding of abortions)

  • Restrictions on abortions performed at military hospitals

  • Restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion for federal employees

  • Informed consent laws

  • Waiting periods

  • Parental consent and notification laws

  • Health and safety regulations for abortion clinics

  • Requirements that licensed physicians perform abortions

  • “Delayed enforcement” laws (banning abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned and/or the authority to restrict abortion is returned to the states)

  • Bans on partial-birth abortion

  • Bans on abortion after viability. FOCA’s apparent attempt to limit post-viability abortions is illusory. Under FOCA, post-viability abortions are expressly permitted to protect the woman’s “health.” Within the context of abortion, “health” has been interpreted so broadly that FOCA would not actually proscribe any abortion before or after viability.

  • Limits on public funding for elective abortions (thus, making American taxpayers fund a procedure that many find morally objectionable)

  • Limits on the use of public facilities (such has public hospitals and medical schools at state universities) for abortions

  • State and federal legal protections for individual healthcare providers who decline to participate in abortions

  • Legal protections for Catholic and other religiously-affiliated hospitals who, while providing care to millions of poor and uninsured Americans, refuse to allow abortions within their facilities

November 7, 2008

Truth Depends on God

Common ground exists only insofar as individuals deem the basis or foundation of truth inconsequential. Without proper tribute given to the source of truth, common ground is limited and unstable. Eventually, though preferably at the onset, Christians need to proclaim the complete Truth because it is there that the gospel is located.

John Murray wrote "...all truth is derived from him and only in relation to him is anything true." (Principles of Conduct, P. 132).

Facts aren't floating about such that anyone can grab them and call them their own. Whatever is true is so because God exists. We can even say that universal laws of logic exist because they emanate from God. There are no abstract ideas that exist independently of God, or else we could say something does exist without dependence on God. And isn't this the way sinful humanity desires to exist?
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November 6, 2008

Follow Your Heart...If You Dare

If the title of this post causes you concern, it should--if you believe the heart is merely the source of emotions and feelings, entirely separate from the functions of the mind. But on the other hand, if you have a biblical perspective of the heart as the center of personality as John Frame suggests, then you need not be alarmed by the statement.

Frame writes in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that "knowledge of God is a heart-knowledge" citing Ex 35:5, Ps 4:4, Isa 6:10, Matt 5:8, Eph 1:18 and more. Accordingly, scripture "represents it as the source of thought, of volition, of attitude, of speech. It is the seat of moral knowledge." (P. 322)

If we conceive of the heart as inseparable from the mind or the conscious, regarding them rather as a single entity with a variety of out workings, then we need to rethink the manner in which we speak of them. The mind is not the place for only intellectual activity and the heart is not only where we feel and find inspiration. The heart is not alone the seat of spirituality, relegating the so-called nonspiritual activity of logic and reason to the mind. Scripture calls us to understand the heart and mind singularly, paying respect to its ability to reason, hope, love, grieve, and more.

Practical Theology for Women: Book Review

A new book is now available, published by Crossway Books, and is an absolute must read for all women, Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup. It's a small book with a lot of big theology, but nothing a woman (or man) doesn't need to know. One particular matter she addresses I also believe is extremely important for women to grasp. She writes,
...instead of seeing ourselves as connected to Christ at all times, we tend to view our relationship with God in terms of intersecting moments during the day. We think that the more times our lives intersect with God, the more 'spiritual' we are. In this paradigm, God goes on his way and I go my way until we intersect at another corner...Instead, we need to think of ourselves walking with Jesus continually...Christ is in you...holding you together at all times. (p. 96)
I continually meet women who say they agree with the author in this regard, but then they will often speak of their work or family life as something separate from their spiritual life, or they will speak of their devotional life as the spiritual quadrant where they go to find God, neglecting to recognize His presence in every other area of their life.

This is an excellent book for the young or mature woman in Christ. There is nothing about it that says "this book is for girls," so for those who typically avoid pink, frilly devotionals, this book is for you. I recommend moving from this book into more studies in systematic theology, but I affirm the impact this book will have on the thought life of everyone who reads it. It's very suitable for group studies and individual reading.

Practical Theology for Women

Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois
ISBN: 1433502097
153 pages

November 5, 2008

Fox News Story: Why Words Matter



















The title of this story just cracked me up, but I didn't think you'd believe me without a screen shot, so here you go! Word ordering does matter when we write! I wonder if he'll get a 3rd shot at the jump....






November 4, 2008

Proclaiming the Faith: Relational Apologetics

Last night at Bible study, a woman shared about her relationship with a friend who espouses a more "open-minded" approach to God. In other words, she rules out very little as being true, even when religious views might conflict. In her view, this is a better way of believing than the biblical theology as professed by my friend. So how does one address this clash of worldviews? This isn't about winning a debate per se, this is primarily about winning a person over to Christ by proclaiming truth and refuting error--in all manner of love.

Ephesians 4:25 tells us to put away all falsehood and speak truth while being imitators of God and walking in love. Our motivation, again, is not the winning of the argument, but the soul of the unbeliever. But don't be deceived, having the discussion, debate, argument--whatever term you apply to it--it must happen. It is through the dialogue that God will plant seeds of truth or accomplish His redemptive ends altogether. We don't know, but we must not avoid the worldview discussion.

When Paul addressed the people at the Areopagus (Acts 19:22-32) he made known to them what they had identified for themselves as unknown by proclaiming Christ. Similarly, with meekness and gentleness we are called to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ, making a defense to anyone who asks. This may involve destroying arguments (in love, of course) and any opinions raised against the knowledge of God (1 Cor 10:5).

if there is a willingness to discuss religious beliefs with unbelieving friends, the worldview approach which questions their source of knowledge and basis for belief and their justification of morality (right and wrong) is a great place to begin. What it will reveal is that people cannot live without absolute truth and that they cannot account for any knowledge within the framework of their own worldview. Borrowing from Christianity philosophically is the only way people actually live, and we can show this to be the case if we are willing to enter into a ministry of apologetics in our individual relationships. Apologetics isn't an academic exercise, it is a necessary ministry in our anything-goes pluralistic culture.

November 2, 2008

You Are What You Eat...and Think

Our parents and teachers taught us very early in life that what we put into our bodies could have a significant effect on our health and appearance. Our bodies would become lean and strong if we ate healthy foods and we would probably live a long, healthy life as a result. Conversely, if we aggressively snack on foods loaded with sugar and fat, we would likely suffer some negative consequences. Over the course of time, if we abuse our bodies with unhealthy foods or are exposed to environmental toxins, our bodies will struggle to properly process even the healthiest food. When this is the case, some choose to take vitamins and supplements alongside a healthy diet in order to flush the body of impurities, enabling all of the body systems to function better. It is true that you are what you eat, but sometimes more needs to be done to reverse the effects of poor nutrition. Our mind is not that different from our body.

As the body is the outward manifestation of our nutrition, how we live is the outward expression of the habits of the mind. The ideas that enter and remain become a part of our belief system—or worldview. This worldview manifests in every area of life including religious practice, political views, parenting, sexuality, and more. No part of our life is immune to the influence of these beliefs, and like the body, if the mind has been exposed to bad ideas, there is a sense in which the mind needs to be cleansed of these beliefs. This is part of what it means to live in a way that glorifies God.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. …But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:17-24)

Putting off the old self in practice requires putting off the old self of ideas and beliefs. We put on the new self through the renewing in the spirit of our minds, but this is not achieved by placing scripture over top our old ways of thinking and living, but by holding up our existing beliefs, views and opinions against the light of God’s written Word and purging them from our mind as necessary. This is, in essence, a reshaping of our worldview, moving from a worldly perspective to a biblical worldview.

Recognizing that you are what you think should be cause for ongoing self-examination. Take the time to answer the following questions:

1. Does the way I run my business cohere with godly principles of leadership and truthfulness?

2. Is my view of the sanctity of life consistent with what scripture teaches about the pre-born?

3. Do I honor God in my marriage and family with physical and emotional faithfulness?

4. Do I believe the Bible is God's written revelation to man, that it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative?

5. Is truth absolute or does it depend on my culture or circumstances?

6. Is Jesus the savior for all sinners, or does he only represent Christians?

7. What do I believe about the Trinity?

October 26, 2008

Women's Ministry: Why Ethics Matters

At the risk of being misunderstood, it seems to me that Christians often needlessly spiritualize how we fulfill the call to glorify God.(1) Let me explain. There are times when we say that we are praying about matters when what we are really doing is avoiding a reasoned decision because that might be less than spiritual, or too human. And sometimes when we talk about matters of right and wrong, we avoid injecting any sound ethical principles and, instead, tell our brother or sister that their situation is between them and God. To be fair, there are times that these might be the most appropriate statements to make, but it goes against the teachings of scripture to de-legitimize the role of the mind or the pursuit of the holy life. Our Christian walk cannot be reduced to a Holy Spirit intuition or a lack of ethical reasoning.

The theologian L. H. Marshall puts forth this idea that for Christian living, the Holy Spirit functions as a spontaneous power that mystically causes people to know right from wrong. He said,

The Spirit of God in action in a man’s heart was an adequate ethical guide, and that a man under the sway of the Spirit knew from within what the will of God was and was enabled both to will and to do… (2)
This view not only confuses the entity referred to as the heart (the mind), but it under-estimates the impact of unconscious and conscious beliefs we retain. As well, it ignores the deceitful nature of the heart (Jer 17:9). But the New Testament theologian G.E. Ladd writes,

It is striking that Paul does not appeal to the Spirit as a direct source of moral enlightenment. Paul is conscious that the Holy Spirit reveals the things of God (1 Cor 2:10), but this does not mean that Paul feels himself to be independent of the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus.(3)
Ladd shows how Paul’s letters communicate the reality, that new life comes from the Spirit, but that we are commanded to actually participate in this by walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:25).

To bring more clarification to this topic, consider the distinction that is made between law and grace. Paul never insisted that principles of conduct went away with the Law and that the Holy Spirit would provide an answer for every dilemma we face. For redemptive purposes, Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law yet he also provided a summary for it’s ethical requirements in Matt 22:37-29 in the Great Commandment. Ethical reflection toward a life that pleases God was never replaced with a mystical, abstract approach to living. We are always expected to obey, though our salvation doesn’t depend upon our always succeeding. Yet any ability to obey—to please God—is found in our new nature accounted for through the regenerative work of the Spirit.

For men and women, many of the decisions we face in today’s world are not to be answered with specifics contained in Scripture. Technology, economics, and entertainment leave us wringing our hands sometimes, not entirely clear on how to think Christianly about these areas. But Ephesians 5:10 calls each of us to discern what is pleasing to God—not to guess, hope, or feel….but to discern. Chapters 2-5 in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus focus largely on how we participate—ethical reflection—in pursuit of the holy life. This is a very practical, tangible section of scripture rooted in solid teachings on salvation and God in contrast to our sinfulness. The letter concludes with application in marriage and family. But this is hardly exhaustive in content, and many other areas of our every day living call us to reflect on our walk.

In considering the many perspectives that women in particular face in today’s world, decisions from reproductive technologies and birth control to careers, relationships and matters of the family, room needs to exist for deliberate ethical reflection, grounded in a firm foundation the acknowledges the supremacy of God. The ability to move from Scripture into the specific areas of life that are in question is the process of doing theology. Knowing what the Bible says in its context is the first step, but bringing it to bear on every square inch of your life is where it all becomes real.


1. If you are confused after reading this essay, please contact me for clarification. sarahflashing@gmail.com

2. L.H. Marshall, The Challenge of NT Ethics (1947), p. 220.

3. G.E. Ladd, A New Testament Theology (2002), p. 563.

October 24, 2008

The Sexually-Desensitized Western World

A conversation with my friend Katie yesterday re-opened my eyes to the philosophical and ideological components of prime time tv. Its not that I don't know what Hollywood is up to, but I have been watching for entertainment purposes. I've been so lazy...wanting to sift through the bad to find some nugget of humor or goodness. In fact, I'm fully satisfied simply seeing Amy Pohler's goofy grin, but the second she starts talking, I have to turn on the filter. But now the monster is awakened.

The discussion with Katie entailed the influence of same-sex experimentation being communicated to young girls via Grey's Anatomy, a bit more subtle than what was portrayed this week on House. As girls and young women struggle with a lack of self-confidence while possessing a highly relational nature, they can easily be persuaded to experiment with what 2 adult women on Grey's are portrayed as trying for the first time. Acting like school girls who are completely clueless about the ways of the world, this story line replaces the usual confident/militant lesbian story line with a softer, more feminine version that seeks to remove the contrast between unnatural & inappropriate sexual relationships and those which are viewed to be healthy female relationships. Removing what little stigma that is left in our society toward same-sex relationships seems to be the goal of prime time television this season. But I should be fair; Grey's Anatomy, House, ER--these have never been shows that were meant to tap into our medical curiosity. These are meant to indulge our wildest sexual fantasies by portraying them as the norm of our society. They are accomplishing their goal, I fear, by desensitizing the youngest generations to any sense of right or wrong in the context of sexuality.

October 23, 2008

The Walk of Life

Paul begins his discourse on ethics earlier in his letter to Ephesians, noting the way in which each of us walked when we were spiritually dead, following the course of this world (Eph 2:1-2). The word walked is from the Greek peripateo, referring to the way in which we conduct our lives. It has to do with the principle way in which we choose to live.

Seven more times throughout the rest of the letter, walked is used to contrast the former way of living with the way that is found to be pleasing to the Lord...a way of conducting one's life as a child of God. This needs to be understood in distinction from the fact that as believers we still sin--and pursue a life of repentance. Walking or living in sin is not the same as being a sinner saved by grace.

As followers of Jesus, we need to be aware of our commitment, manifest in obedience. Because the Holy Spirit has sealed us in Christ and has created in us a new heart, we are able not only to obey, but to desire it as well.

So how in this world does it look to walk in ways that are pleasing to the Lord? We've got to be willing to examine the ideas and beliefs we hold and the issues and decisions we are confronted with on a daily basis. And as women serving God, we must be prepared to mentor young women in these times. The way this looks is to examine the latest trends, understand the ideas of the age, and evaluate the ways of the world. Trying to discern what is pleasing to the Lord is not as easy of a task as it once was, in my opinion. The many questions and choices that constantly bombard us require more than 'that's good for me' or 'God created me this way.' Daytime and primetime television is selling women the idea that the good life is merely what you determine it to be, and the politicians will simply agree with the popular opinion--that's the nature of politics

We are called to a faith that is both thoughtful and practical, but the two can never be separated. Historic Christianity requires that we avoid ritual and really understand what we believe, and live it. So walking in a way worthy of our calling demands more than just a casual devotional life or a spirituality that has no effect on our every day decisions. To walk in the way God expects requires that we consider how our faith impacts every corner of our lives, recognizing that there is nothing that God does not have his hand upon.

The Hidden Trick of Liberal Treats


THIS SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

October 22, 2008

Ephesians, the Holy Spirit, and the Redeemed Mind

I am trying to master Paul's letter to the Ephesians, per the recommendation of David Powlison in his journal article Counsel Ephesians. The letter is truly fascinating in that it provides the reader a theological basis for the ethics to follow in chapters 3, 4, and 5. Ephesians 1:4 states, ...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. So as followers of Jesus in a fallen world, we are challenged to live a life worthy of the calling, pursuing according to the Spirit the holiness each of us has been called to (Eph 4:1) and realized in eternity.

In 1 Cor 2:14, Paul alludes to the condition of humanity, noting that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. From this, we can gather that the "unnatural" man, or the man indwelled by the Holy Spirit, can indeed understand spiritual things. This reflects a change in his nature before the Lord, yet still stuck in a fallen world.

Redeemed humanity is changed by virtue of the Spirit's indwelling, which is why Paul can ask each of us to no longer walk in the futility of the Gentile mind (Eph 4:17) or for the thief to no longer steal (Eph 4:28) and people in general to avoid corrupted communications (Eph 4:29). I'm struck by the fact that some things are easily discernable, that we don't ask thieves to "pray about it" in terms of whether they will be obedient to God and avoid the sin of theft. We just expect obedience. We do the same thing with language. We teach that the use of certain profanities is inappropriate and so the practice should just simply be avoided. Obedience is something that we desire and can do because the Spirit lives within us. However, there are still those matters that are a bit more complicated, that scripture does not speak to directly. Those matters require that we try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph 4:10) and work a bit harder at figuring things out. The role of the mind cannot go unmentioned in our quest for holiness, and at the same time, it is not unspiritual to tap into our intellect--it, too, is part of God's creation.

October 17, 2008

The Feminist Majority Prefers Women Kept Stupid

Yesterday, the Feminist Majority put out a statement against Colorado's Amendment 48. Apparently, Amendment 48 would recognize the personhood of embyos. This is what the Feminist Majority had to say about that:
we want to make sure that women have more rights than an egg!
Well, either their statement reflects a profound ignorance--because those of us who are prolife do not equate eggs with embryos-- or this is what they have been wanting to say all along. With smoke and mirrors, they speak of the embryo in its pre-fertilized state so as to avoid the scientific truth we know about all embryos...that they are living human organisms. Eggs are not. Why do they do they insist on ignoring this scientifically obvious difference? Because the Feminist Majority really does believe that grown women have more rights than smaller humans, and that this goes against the conscience of the majority of Americans. It is necessary to their agenda to obfuscate this issue because an egg with moral worth is not an egg, its an embryo. Young women in their reproductive years are being psychologically primed to donate their eggs for research purposes, but these eggs never remain eggs, they become embryos. If they are persuaded to believe falsely that their eggs forever remain eggs, then they don't have to consider that the eggs they give up actually become their embryonic offspring. What woman is not repulsed by the notion if giving up her offspring for research? For the Feminist Majority to speak of fertilized eggs as simply eggs is scientifically false and a deliberate attempt to confuse the same women they believe have more rights than these much smaller humans. How can they, the Feminist Majority, claim to respect the rights of women if they can't respect our basic intelligence?

October 13, 2008

Women's Leadership Conference








If you're in the Chicago area, you don't want to miss this event. The MidAmerica Baptist Conference is hosting a conference for Christian women who are leaders in church and in culture. I'll be speaking briefly at this event, but I don't want you to come hear me. It's the awesome line-up of speakers that we have that you just can't miss!


Created in Him for Good Works will direct our attention to the work of ministry and how it is conducted. Ephesians is especially important to the lives of every Christian, as the letter from Paul begins with the doctrines of the gospel and concludes with the Christian life, living a life worthy of the calling.

If you're in the area, check out the link for the conference and contact me about attending. Here are the details!

CONFERENCE SPEAKERS
Session 1
The 3rd Voice: Creating a Transformational Culture
Angie Weszley, Caris Pregnancy Clinics

Session 2

From Dial Ups to Smart Phones: Women's Ministry Then & Now
Felecia Thompson, Trinity Christian College

Session 3
Kingdom Writing: How Your Words Serve Heavenly Purposes
Caryn Rivadeneira, Christianity Today: Gifted for Leadership

Saturday, October 18th, 10:00am - 3:30pm
Bethany Baptist Church

6700 W Gunnison, Harwood Heights, IL 60656
Registration fee: $40 (includes lunch)
To register: sarah@convergemidamerica.org



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October 9, 2008

AUL Annual Gala

I'm at the annual gala for AUL. Its exciting to see the vast support for a culture of life, of which AUL is a major player. Ramesh Ponnuru is giving the keynote, He is Senior Editor for National Review and author of "The Party of Death." He cites an interesting article from Glamour magazine on the "mysterious disappearance of prochoice women," an article worth looking up! Ramesh gives tribute to the prolife Democrats in the ballroom. Yep, prolife Dems. The prolife position really is non-partisan.

For more info on AUL go to www.aul.org

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October 2, 2008

Distinguishing Between the Natural & Supernatural...And How Do You Know You Can?

Becoming a Christian is certainly an act of God as any good Christian would believe. Our regeration can be understood as the Holy Spirit's wondrous act of making us alive in Christ, resurrecting us from our spiritual deadness.

We know that regeneration is a one time event and that we are then sealed by the Spirit. We belong forever to God. Is this the end of the Holy Spirit's involvement in our life? Certainly not! But what is our role in our sanctification? While salvation is monergistic, we must hold to a synergistic view of holiness. Man and God work together in this regard as man is called to be obedient.

The spirit enabled our ability to please God at the instance of our salvation. But because of man's new nature, are we permitted to differentiate between what he do naturally vs supernaturally? For example, is having thorough knowledge about something "natural" because it was learned, and "supernatural" because it might have been received in a way that appears to be "beyond nature?" I wonder if the latter potentially does a disservice to the former in its basic assumption that we can clearly make the distinction between the supernatural and the natural.
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September 29, 2008

Theology of the Blues Brothers...sort of

From the first verse through 2:10, Paul is quite clear in his letter to the Ephesians that there is nothing that goes on in our process of redemption that doesn't have God's fingerprint all over it. He is the author of life, not just our physical life, but also our spiritual life, even suggesting that our wisdom and knowledge of God is due to God's supernatural enlightening of our "hearts."

The attention to the details of our salvation by grace through faith is joined by an emphatic declaration that it is not by anything we have done that we can claim to be saved. We haven't been given life in Christ according to our own good works, but by God for good works "that we should walk in them" (2:10).

We can agree with Jake and Elwood that we are "on a mission from God." But that is where we should discontinue any comparison with the Chicago nobility of '70's folklore.

What we need to think about is the plural nature of these good works and our responsibility to "walk in them." Our sanctification is synergistic in that we comply with the Spirit and revelation of God in willing obedience. So while you live life, pursuing matters of this world, it should be with the desire to imitate God--imitate His holiness.
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September 22, 2008

Ephesians Part 1: God's Might, Man's Need

The letter to the Ephesians, written by Paul while under house arrest in Rome, contains 3 prominent themes: God's grace, Christian unity, and the Christian life that glorifies God in both word and deed.

Chapter 1 states so clearly that God chose us before we even existed, but the emphasis is really on how the great power of God overcomes our sinful natures and allows us to stand before Him through Christ's righteousness, "holy and blameless" (Eph 1:4), our ultimate sanctification. The power of God that has brings us to our knees is the same power that created the earth and resurrected Christ.

Paul speaks for himself better than any of us can paraphrase him, but take note of what he says should be a primary focus as a result our believing in Him--that we might know the hope to which we have been called, the riches of our inheritance as saints, and the greatness of his power to those who believe (v. 2:18-19). Our focus must be on the Lord for who he is and for what he has accomplished for those he chose before the foundations of the earth.

Tomorrow--Ephesians 2: Created for A Purpose

September 20, 2008

Gospel Today, Southern Baptists, and Theology in the Pew

Reportedly, the SBC's Lifeway Christian Bookstores have removed the current issue of Gospel Today from their sales shelves in more than 100 of their stores. Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, said the cover was not the reason the magazine was pulled.

The buyers said the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say...It wasn't so much that there were women on the cover.

What I find very interesting is that the contents of Gospel Today should have been in question in the past. Prior to this issue, other cover articles have included prosperity teachers Bishop T.D. Jakes (who rejects the doctrine of the Trinity) and Pastor Paula White. Yet the same folks who are up in arms over the current cover article don't seem to have an awareness about other equally important--likely more important--doctrines this magazine highlights, or else we would have heard about their concern before. This ultimately points to the overall ignorance of the market at Lifeway Bookstores, certainly not their theological sophistication, otherwise this would have been off the shelves a long time ago.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about having materials available to the Christian community that provide first-hand knowledge of what other schools of thought are teaching. I've never read Gospel Today and don't expect to even pick up the most recent copy. But sometimes people need to read things for themselves instead of being coached on the beliefs of others.

I am not an advocate of women as pastors or elders, but I don't believe a person's salvation or commitment to Christ is or should be in question when someone holds an opposing view on this particular issue. This is not a matter of heresy and certainly not worth the negative publicity that will result, especially in light of the current cultural discussion of women as leaders. For the SBC, this is an embarrassment. For Gospel Today, it will sell more magazines.


September 19, 2008

What is a Woman?

My dear friend Karen likes to provide me with material to blog about at Flash Point. Her latest contribution is from her days in a well-known Bible college in the 80's. On 3 pages are contained what are referred to as sex role differences. Typically, I cannot be found to argue against gender roles, but this list should ruffle a few feathers of both men and women. FYI, this list is not exhaustive, there is plenty more that could be shared from the pages.

What is a woman?
1. Mother-A woman develops her womanhood through motherhood...she is womb-centered...She may choose not to mother a child; but mother something or someone she will; her husband, her boss, her poodle. A man prefers a feminine, womanly woman. One reason: such a woman makes him feel more like a man.

2.Subjective-Feelings come first. More attached. Makes much of things and events and what they may mean in relation to herself.

3. Nags-Her mother-instinct, her emotionalism, her concern for detail all combine to make her a fault-finder. Nagging is a device that can get her the attention that she wants.

4. Intuitive-Often knows without knowing how she knows. Relies on instinct, on emotion.

5. Sensitive to people, and environment. She shifts her emotional gears more frequently and abruptly.

6. A Follower-Feels secure when relying on a man (but with a womanly, not childish, dependence). Must feel needed as a helpmate to her husband. Her femininity demands reassurance that she is the "Heart of the House."

7. Jealous-She wants all of her husbands love, all of the time. In her craving for attention she is monopolistic.

It's a good thing the church has moved beyond some of these generalizations, and I believe the evangelical community is in a much better place now than it was 20 years ago...but when these generalizations come up, it is better for everyone--church and culture--that they are appropriately addressed.
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September 18, 2008

Her-spective

In the coming weeks I will be unveiling a Women of Faith in Culture study called Her-spective. This will integrate biblical studies with discussion on contemporary issues ranging from marriage and family to reproduction, birth control, education and careers. Will keep you posted here at Flash Point on the availability of this study, but be sure to sign up for email updates.
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September 15, 2008

The Modesty Revolution is the 4th Wave of Feminism

At the 2008 VH1 music awards, singer Jordin Sparks challenged show host Russell Brand on his ridicule of promise rings, rings that signify a pledge to remain sexually pure until marriage. Standing up to the lies of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism, Sparks is one of many young women demanding a change in perspective. For them, the spirit of feminism is about opportunity and freedom, not rights at the expense of dignity and self-respect. This is the essence of what author Wendy Shalit calls The Good Girl Revolution.

Shalit's book, by the same title, documents story after story of young women who are tired of the sexual exhibitionism that defines contemporary feminism. They understand the backwards logic of this in that it cancels out the work of the early feminists who wanted to be taken seriously as intellectual equals instead of merely objects of sexual gratification.

The Girlcotters are a group of young women known for their objection to the Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts for girls that say "who needs brains when you have these." A young group of feminists, Shalit spends many pages telling their story, leading up to their invitation to be guests at a NOW conference. Here is what one of the girls had to say about the conference:
We went to the NOW conference last week, and I support equality and would never like to be controlled by a man, but the NOW conference was more like a brainwashing feminist summit than anything else. They had this artistic performance that was so much about sex and how much all men suck; it really made me feel sick...Those three days were awfully confusing for me...I mean, we got the Women of Action award for what we've done, but...I think we've been misunderstood. Everyone thinks that we are so feminist, but, frankly, most of us are not that radical. We just want to be on par with men...I thought that they were very reasonable, middle-of-the-road like me, but I guess I was somewhat mistaken. (page 235)
The Girlcotters are evidence of NOW conferences hard at work to exert their influence on young women (where is the church????). It's exciting to know that this young woman could think for herself, that she could be confident and retain her self-respect when clearly NOW was going to be no help in that regard.

What Shalit points out in numerous ways in GGR is that 2nd and 3rd wave feminists cannot accommodate today's young feminists who embrace modesty as a way to value themselves. The feminists of previous generations hold that promoting modesty is a sell-out to patriarchy, but I can't understand how young women giving themselves over entirely without emotional or commitment safety is of any benefit to woman.

Desiring fair and equal treatment between men and women is a noble pursuit, but women have deceived themselves into thinking that being bad, engaging in casual sex and and other forms of exhibitionism puts them on par with men. In fact, it accomplishes quite the opposite and the evidence is that sexism is still a serious problem in our culture. I believe we can place the blame on women who have made it easy for men to not take any of us seriously.

September 14, 2008

Relationship with Jesus vs. List of Rules: An Unfair False Dichotomy

Have you ever heard or read the statement that the Christian faith isn't a list of rules to be followed, it's a relationship with Jesus? I've been hearing it a lot recently and I think it deserves a bit more nuance than what it seems to be receiving.

Where we begin is in understanding what exactly Christianity is. It is the one true religion. It is a system of thought based on the activity of the Triune godhead throughout history. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consumation. It is about Jesus, God incarnate, who satisfied the demand of justice by paying the price for our sins. Christianity is the story of love of the Creator for his creation, and creation's love in return.

What Christianity is not is merely a set of do's and don'ts that provide a framework for salvation. Our faith is a gift from God, not something we receive for good behavior. We don't find our election dependent upon anything we do, and our salvation is not maintained by certain acts of obedience. But does this mean that "do's and don'ts" aren't a part of living our our faith? This is where I take issue with casually stating that Christianity isn't about following a list of rules, because in fact, the Christian life is all about loving God so much that we seek to reflect his goodness in all areas of our life with loving acts of obedience. By de-emphasizing rules, we over-emphasize an easy-believism that says it doesn't matter what one does from day to day, as long as they love God and are sincere. This doesn't seem dangerous? To say that Christianity isn't about a list of rules is to create a straw man argument. But for the younger people and younger believers who hears this, what they really hears is that we need not struggle with the ethical issues of our day.

As we prepare members of the community of faith to live in this world, we find that we are preparing them to encounter another set of moral precepts. Sripture tells us to avoid any resemblance of evil and to live our life in such a way that we bring glory to God. So how is it that we can have a relationship with Christ without our faith having a relationship to every day do's and don'ts? It is impossible to pursue a biblical faith--our relationship with God--without thinking Christianly about our every day activities. When we encounter dilemmas in life that the Bible speaks nothing about specifically, we have to reflect on biblical principles to determine the next step. But to say bluntly that Christianity isn't about a list of rules undermines a significant amount of scripture that emphasizes obedience and the pursuit of sinlessness. Perhaps, it over emphasizes a positional perfection over an ongoing sanctification. I think we need to use more care in how we communite this "relationship with God" that is becoming more and more abstract as we move further and further away from discussing ethics and morality among the community of believers.

September 13, 2008

Christian Charm: Loving God with the Heart, Good Posture, and a Clear Complexion


I know now I'm not crazy and that I've understood and perceived matters correctly--this book affirms it. Ministry to young women is in trouble. My friend Karen introduced me last night to a little booklet called the Christian Charm Notebook. Her copy is from 1972, but you can--shockingly--still purchase your own copy on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I am greatly disturbed by the fact that it is still available. So if you're looking for a book to help you grow young women who love God with their heart, soul, and mind, then this book isn't for you. Not a single mention of the life of the mind is to be found in it.

The book is full of a lot of advice on posture, hair styles, and manners. Not bad things to know about I guess. It begins by describing the inherent beauty of being born again, contrasted with the unattractiveness of unbelief, utilizing storm clouds, sunshine and heart-shaped faces to depict this distinction. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there, because what it accomplishes is equating godliness with physical attractiveness, aka Christian Charm. In lesson 1, the student is encouraged to consider her inward appearance:
I want to be lovely and beautiful within, so that I will please God. I realize that I cannot change my heart merely by self-effort. I realize that I must allow God to enter my life and do His transforming work within me.
And then, she is encouraged to consider her outward appearance:
I want to be attractive and charming, so that I will please others. I realize that this will not come about through wishful dreaming. I realize that I must work toward that goal diligently and steadfastly.
So then the students are asked to fill out of things they would like to change inside and out. Remember that the goal is to please others--when did it become ok for women to be objectified...by the church?!?

You probably think that this book can only get better. Trust me, it doesn't. Lesson 6, page 31 is titled Femininity--My 'Crowning Glory,' stating that to be truly feminine
  • See that you look like a girl--not a boy! (1 Cor. 11:15; Deut 22:5)
  • Don't usurp the role of the male (1 Tim 2:12-13; 1 Pet 3:7)
  • Cultivate a quiet, gentle spirit (1 Pet 3:4; Titus 3:2)
  • Value your chastity (Prov 31:10; 1 Cor 6:19; 1 Tim 5:22)
The next page then provides a chart that shows those things that destroy femininity, and those things that increase it. Some on that list described as destroying femininity include "a bulky, flabby figure," "a dead-pan face," "a slouching posture," a "raspy, gravelly voice," "mannish attire," and "pessimism." Some that increase femininity include "a trim, disciplined body," "dainty, pretty clothing," "a lovely, graceful walk,"a queen-like posture," "modest self-confidence," and "ladylike reserve." For women of all ages who haven't been groomed for beauty pagents, this material could be devastating to their walk with Christ. If my spirituality is measured by the cleanliness of my cuticles (yes, page 35) then we have serious problems.

Some would immediately look at this book and just chuck it aside, regarding it as outdated. In fact, a review at Amazon said just that. "This is a sadly outdated book...a waste of money." I want to suggest that this book was NEVER dated. When it was first published in 1967, it was irrelevant. In 1950, it wasn't appropriate for girls. And in 1900 it was still a shameful attempt to box up femininity. This book affirms so many destructive behaviors that cause many young women to become obsessive, and then self-destructive when they learn how hard it is to please everyone else. Yes, a woman should care about her appearance, but any more than a man? If she has short hair, is she any less loved by God?

This books claim to fame is that it "exalts TRUE FEMININITY--modesty, purity and honor, rather than a bold outward display!" The problem is, it fails to counter culture's obsession with appearance in that it actually adopts similar standards. Christian Charm is clear that they are obsessed by appearance and equate it to a certain level of spiritual maturity. But there is truly nothing modest about this, and it will destroy the esteem and faith of so many young women exposed to it.

September 8, 2008

Women's Rights: Defined by Who?

Political commentators, popular feminists, and many writers in the blogosphere are pressing the issue of unfettered reproductive freedom as a fundamental, agreed upon right for all women and that anyone who disagrees with their views can not be pro-woman or an advocate for women's rights. The problem is, we don't all accept abortion and infanticide as a fundamental right for women, we see those as a violation of fundamental human rights, acts against human dignity.

No doubt inequalities exist between men and women throughout the world, and we can speak together against the atrocities occurring in the Middle East and other parts of the world against women in the name of family honor. But there is nothing in the core of our humanity that even implies that killing the unborn is a good thing, let alone a right for anyone. There is neither pride nor fulfillment in the destruction of our own kind, yet it is believed to be a universally understood human right.

Women's rights ought to be only those things that build character and bring the opportunity for peace and fulfillment to women's lives, the ability to pursue happiness without doing harm to others. Right now, abortion is legal, and as a result it is inferred as a fundamental right, but what is legal is not always moral or good. Once it was the case the slavery was legal, or that it was acceptable to discriminate on the basis of race. Appealing to the laws of the land is not the best argument for women's rights, and neither is the radical, seared conscious of those who promote abortion as a woman's fundamental right. I have little hope for a society that grounds women's rights in the willing and active violation of human rights.

Gllian Parrillo, the chair of NOW's pac, stated
We recognize the importance of having women's rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women's rights.
Reproductive inequality may have been the thrust of 2nd wave feminism, but the pursuit of this these so-called rights has tipped the scales and prevented fathers of the unborn to keep their human rights intact. There is nothing right about these "women's rights" and the term is in need of some serious redefinition.

Men's and women's rights should not differ in any significant way, but perhaps if our laws were tougher and enforcement less lenient, women might enjoy a life of less physical vulnerability and violation. We should understand women's rights as something more decent and beautiful in juxtaposition to that which is proclaimed by extreme feminism.

September 4, 2008

Feminism's Fatalities

I commute to work everyday by train. I see lots of people of all ages and ethnicities. Its fun to take the same route each day and connect with other regular riders.

Today, I saw a young woman in her early 20's who stood out not because of her striking beauty, but because of the tee-shirt she so proudly modeled for each of us to appreciate. On the shirt, it stated "I kiss better than I drive." Immediately I was overcome with a sense of frustration...is this what feminism has been fighting for? The freedom to be stupid? Granted, it was just a tee shirt, but there is nothing about it that inspires this girl to greater things--or keeps men from objectifying her. If feminism is teaching women that equality is the logical equivalent to self-deprecating stupidity, its time to take over the feminist cause.
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September 3, 2008

Obama: No Longer 'Above My Pay Grade'

On the way home from work I received an interesting email on my blackberry. From Obama's campaign manager, I was informed that I am one of the "most extreme" people ever to be seen in America because of my view on the nature of human life. Apparently it's no longer above his pay grade, he's quite clear here that big people have more rights than little people. I wonder if that makes him a 'size-ist.'

The issues of life and human dignity are now front and center again and the next 9 weeks are crucial on the political front on the issue of protecting human life. Obama should be held accountable for avoiding the question of human rights for the unborn and not understanding Bush's position on embryonic stem cell research at the Rick Warren discussion.

Here is what the email stated:
He [McCain] doesn't want Americans to notice that the Republican platform is the most extreme we've ever seen -- opposing stem cell research, denying a woman's right to choose no matter what the circumstance, and continuing to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq. 
To that, I ask with the greatest of profundity I can muster...huhOf conservatives--some of which Obama is trying to court--the letter explains what makes us "most extreme." I have included appropriate responses which reveal where the extremism actually rests.

They've come out against the life-saving possibilities of stem cell research. 
  • Conservatives want to save lives and are driven to compassion by an understanding of human dignity that transcends the pragmatism of liberalism. 
  • We stand against any research that demands the death of human life at the earliest stage and the exploitation of young women from whom eggs are required in order to pursue embryonic stem cell research. 
  • Conservatives fully support non-embryonic forms of stem cell research, note the recent news in the area of induced pluripotent stem cells.
  • Thus far, the "life-saving possibilities" are just that, possibilities...aka HYPE. There is no good science to back up such political pandering.
  • The above suggestion by the Obama campaign is dishonest in that it lacks of specificity. Perhaps they didn't get the press releases about the different areas of stem cell research.

And they make zero exceptions for a woman's right to choose -- even in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. 

  • Conservatives who understand the inherent dignity of all persons at all stages recognize the dignity and value of life as a first order principle. Any "rights" that exist can only be derivative of this higher view of life. Without it, "rights" have no foundation and are stipulated only by the winds of the day.
  • For those of us who are prolife in every situation also recognize the difficult but rare cases. When a woman's life is truly at risk, and not from low self esteem or financial considerations, but when she may actually die, realistic steps are pursued by even the "most extreme" prolife individuals.
  • Sadly for those who have been victims of rape and incest, once again, we point to the inherent dignity of the unborn child. It is not her fault that the world in which she was conceived has become overly sexualized and disrespectful of the dignity inherent to each of us. We will continue to fail as a society to protect women and children from these great harms if we can't even recognize each person's worth.
  • Promoting the destruction of the smallest people perpetuates the problems stated above.
The "women's right to choose" is not a human right, it is a legal right. And as we know, bad laws are often repealed. It is my hope that Sarah Palin will bring to Washington D.C. a fresh perspective and contagious zeal for the dignity of all persons. It is my "most extreme" wish that she will inspire life to be granted to the 80-90% of Down's Syndrome babies who are currently being aborted by the women emotionally manipulated into being a "good mom" and sparing their children from a "life of suffering."

Obama is clear on what he believes about when human rights are conferred to people, and it isn't before they are born. 

Evangelical Women...Leaders?

In a response to Sally Quinn, a journalist at Newsweek and at the Washington Post, I supplied the following brief commentary about the evangelical perspective on Sarah Palin as VP. There is much more to add and I hope for the opportunity to say more:

I am a conservative evangelical woman who eagerly supports the Palin nomination, yet also believes only men are to hold lead pastor positions in the church. The difference? The church is not the same as the workplace. Women hold positions of authority in the workplace, something Scripture does not speak against. So if a woman can be a manager at Burger King, certainly she can be a VP.

The issue about womens roles in the home is a bit more fluid. In the Palin marriage, obviously there is some agreement on who does what. The same is true for my own home. That doesn't mean children/family do not come first for Sarah Palin. If the implication is that she cannot be putting her children/family first in her political ambitions, we are forced to say the same thing about husbands and fathers who pursue careers and provide for the home.

I hope I've adequately responded to your request to hear from evangelical women. Please feel free to contact me with further questions.

--Sarah Flashing, womenfaithculture.org

(Find Quinn's blogpost and comments here: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sally_quinn/2008/09/sarah_palins_priorities.html)
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

September 2, 2008

Where Women's Ministry Meets Youth Ministry

I've been reading The Good Girl Revolution over the weekend and will be posting a review of it in the coming days. Due to all the issues that young people face today, having to contend with an overly sexualized society and made to feel bad about being good, it's no wonder there is so much depression and despair among our youth. But I can't help but to probe a bit deeper into the disconnect between those who should be our role models and those who actually are--if this is a core issue with regard to this dilemma. In fact, the problem is not just within pop culture where young people admire the the Paris Hilton's and Brittany Spears' for their trendy clothes and rebellious spirit, the problem may also exist within the church. In what I'm about to say in no way suggests that the evangelical community is perpetuating the problem of sexualization, it's a different problem but is at its foundation fundamentally the same...a lack of appropriate role models.

Let me first begin by saying that I understand and value the existence of powerful youth ministries, and I'm familiar with many leaders in this area who are doing marvelous work. But....yes, there's a but. I can't help but wonder if the existence of youth ministry is in some way preventing the older women from having a Titus 2 influence on the younger women in the church. And this is a 2 way street...maybe the older women just aren't interested in influencing the younger generation. That's a problem.

I've attended a lot of women's ministry events over the years, and only a few have had a focus on the older women relating to the much younger women. We spend a lot of time talking about how we need to bridge the generational gaps, but often we end up not pursuing anything with the much younger women not involved in women's ministry. The excuse is that they are involved in youth ministry. It's not our job. They don't think we're cool. We're too old. We do things differently. Change how we do women's ministry? I think not. These are some of that attitudes, conscious or unconscious, that impact our inability to reach the younger women in the church.

For the biblically instituted ministry between women to occur, access needs to be granted and coordinated within the local church. Younger women (teens, high school, college) should not be viewed as aliens to the women's ministry, as too immature to be involved. No, the women's ministry should view their role as equipping young women for successful, godly living in all areas and spheres of life. From dating to homemaking, cultural issues to biblical studies, older women need to be actively influencing other women, cultivating an environment where positive and significant role models are readily found.

With this view of ministry in mind, women's ministry had to change. No longer can it be exclusively about the social activities and daytime bible studies. Engaging the young women means engaging their world, knowing everything about it and being ready to give an answer to them for the hope we have in Christ. It's about knowing theology and engaging cultural understandings of God and spirituality. It's about knowing the self...the sinful nature and our need for a savior, and how man seeks continuously to be autonomous from God's sovereign hand. In other words, women's ministry has to broaden her understanding in order to broaded her audience. Leadership teams need to invite younger, godly women to help bridge the generational gaps (intellectually/functionally) and youth ministry needs to encourage the development of young women in the context of women's ministry. Some churches might even consider a youth women's leader who is also a part of the women's leadership team. The bottom line is, if women's ministry wants to continue having a real impact on the lives of women into the future, it must consider new avenues of action.

This is a topic I often speak about. Should you have any interest in this message being communicated to your women's ministry, please contact me to arrange for a time. sarahflashing@gmail.com

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: Hope, Change, and a Role Model to Christian Women


I was hoping for Huckabee, I was expecting Pawlenty or Romney. Pleasantly suprised, I am so excited about McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin for Vice President.

The choice of Gov. Palin as McCain's running mate brings conservative values and government ethics reform--something Senator Obama fails to address of his corrupt home state of Illinois--to the forefront of this election cycle.

Wife to Todd and mother to 5 children, including one with Down's Syndrome who Gov. Palin chose not to abort, is an inspiration to women everywhere, but particularly to women in the evangelical community who aspire to leadership but have few role models. In addition to her work throughout this election, I encourage Palin to reach out to young women who want to know how to be a Christian and how to be an effective leader without compromising ethics and integrity. Gov. Palin has broken through the glass ceiling in the sense of being called to the role of Vice President, but she makes it possible for women in the evangelical community to recognize that one need not be a secular feminist to aspire to such possibilities.