Thursday, August 24, 2006

Always the Same

Always the Same

by Ron Hamilton

I am His, He is mine; Jesus knows my name.

I can rest in His arms; He’s always the same.

When I fall, when I call, Jesus takes my hand.

Cleansing me, lifting me, He helps me to stand.

In His love I’m secure; we shall never part.

In His Word I will trust and give Him all my heart.

In the dark of the night, when my heart would fear,

Lovingly, tenderly, my Savior is near.

Always the same, O praise His name,

Jesus never changes; He’s always the same.

Always together, His love is forever.

Jesus never changes; He’s always the same.

A Few of My Favorite Verses

1 Samuel 12:24

Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things He hath done for you.

Psalm 143:10

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

1 Timothy 6:11-12

But thou, O man of God … follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Fight the good fight of faith….

Isaiah 26:3-4, 8-9

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What Does God Have To Say About Biblical Womanhood?

I thought it would be interesting to do a character sketch of the virtuous woman. It's sort of a self-assigned essay for me. Through writing this, I hope to get a fuller understanding of what it means to be a virtuous woman. Now, writing all of this is one thing; applying it is quite another! It will certainly be something to pray about!

There are so many wonderful passages that describe the virtuous woman. I'd like to look at a few of the main Scripture passages that talk about the role of women and how women should conduct themselves. The first one is Genesis 2:18. The next, obviously, is Proverbs 31:10-31. The third, Titus 2:3-5.

What is the role of a woman? Why was she even created? Couldn't God have stopped after creating the man? Genesis 2:28 says,

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

God, in His divine providence, determined that it would not be good for man to be alone. So he created a "helpmeet" for him. That helpmeet, as we all know, was the woman. Helpmeet. Now that's not a word you run across everyday! Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary defines it this way:

Help-meet (Heb. 'ezer ke-negdo; i.e., "a help as his counterpart" = a help suitable to him), a wife (Gen. 2:18-20)

So our role, as women, is to be a helper to our husbands. For an unmarried woman, her primary job is to be a helper to her father and an assistant to her mother. What better way to prepare yourself for being a helpmeet to your husband than by treating your father with the same respect and honor that you will one day owe to your husband? And by assisting your mother with homemaking duties, you are learning how to handle your own home one day!

The Bible gives more detailed instructions on exactly how a woman is to behave in Proverbs 31:10-31. It outlines ways that she can be an effective helpmeet to her husband, and summarizes her duties to her household, her family, and her Lord. This passage begins by marveling at the rarity of a truly virtuous woman.

Proverbs 31:10

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

I remember once hearing a story about a missionary who was preaching to a group of natives who had a practice of buying and selling young women as wives. I believe the average "price" for a young woman was normally a few cows or pigs. The natives were amazed at how this missionary esteemed and loved his wife. When asked how much his wife was worth to him, the man replied that her price was far above rubies, diamonds, and gems. The natives marveled at this, and through this missionary's testimony, the practice of buying and selling young women as wives was eventually abandoned.

Proverbs 31:11

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

A virtuous woman is trustworthy. Her husband can trust her entirely, and with her help he will be successful.

Proverbs 31:12-25

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

The virtuous woman is not lazy in any sense of the word. She is industrious, self-disciplined, energetic, and diligent. She is a businesswoman of sorts, supplementing her husband's income, and in this particular instance, involved in real estate and the sale of her own handiwork. Verse 17 says that she is strong, or physically fit. It is important that we take good care of ourselves physically - not only because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, but also because we need to be prepared for anything the Lord assigns us to do. The virtuous woman is also charitable and hospitable. She helps the poor and reaches out to those who are in need. She takes good care of her household, making sure that everyone in it is clothed properly and well taken care of. She also looks to her own appearance. "Her clothing is silk and purple." Not only is she concerned about her character ("strength and honor are her clothing") - what is on the inside; but she also is not careless about how she looks on the outside. Verse 23 says that her husband is known in the gates, and sits among the elders of the land. This is clearly an influential man, and from the context we can draw that his success is due in a large part to his wife. She compliments and completes him. She makes his business hers and encourages and assists him in his endeavors and passions.

Proverbs 31:26

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

The wisdom that comes from her mouth is obtained from the Lord. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." The virtuous woman is a student of the Bible and, as a result, is wise. She shares her wisdom with her family, and doesn't allow herself idle chatter. This next part is what I often have a difficult time with. "In her tongue is the law of kindness." The Bible talks about the fact that the tongue is impossible to tame. James 3:8 says "But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Isn't that the truth?! But "in her tongue is the law of kindness." It is so difficult to guard the tongue! The virtuous woman, with the Lord's help, has learned to guard her tongue and speaks with kindness.

Proverbs 31:27

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Again, the virtuous woman is industrious. She is not one to sit around on the couch all day watching soap operas and eating strawberries and cream! She is a diligent, attentive homemaker.

Proverbs 31:28-29

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

"Her children arise up, and call her blessed." Isn't that wonderful? She has raised up children who respect a virtuous woman and honor their parents. I would imagine that she has invested countless hours in their upbringing and has helped her husband raise up a godly generation. Who says that being a homemaker is not a fulfilling vocation? What better job could there be than that of raising up a generation of God-fearing children to bring praise to the Lord and honor to their parents? This verse also says that her husband praises her. He recognizes that he has found a woman whose price is far above rubies, and loves and respects her.

Proverbs 31:30-31

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

The most important characteristic of a virtuous woman is that she fears the Lord. That is the most praiseworthy attribute that anyone could possess! Outward looks can be deceiving, but it is a woman's genuine fear of the Lord that will set her apart from other women and will earn her fulfillment in her own life and recognition by the Lord and others. A woman can perform all of the actions described in Proverbs 31 and still not be a virtuous woman! It is the correct motivation behind all of these "achievements" that makes her virtuous: her fear of the Lord.

Another passage which deals directly with the role of women is Titus 2:3-5. Paul has just finished outlining the characteristics required in elders of the church in chapter 1. He then goes on to discuss the responsibilities of older women in the church, the body of Christ.

Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

The older women are not to be gossipers or drunkards; they are to be holy. They are to disciple the younger women in the church. An older woman possesses much more wisdom than a younger one; she has the advantage of years, experience, and hindsight. A smart young woman will glean what she can from the example, teaching, and advice of older women who have already experienced her stage of life. What are the older women supposed to teach the younger women? Through their example and witness, they are to teach the younger women to be sober, even-keeled, and temperate - not giddy, frivolous, and extravagant. The younger women should learn from the older women what it means to love their husbands and to be a true, God-honoring helpmeet. The older women must show a genuine love toward their children, that the younger women can learn by their example. The last verse in this passages mentions several character traits that the young women should be taught.
"Discreet" means to be "judicious in one's conduct or speech; prudent; cautious." [Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.] This does not imply a loud, gaudy woman, but one who is quiet and temperate.
"Chaste" means "refraining from unsanctioned sexual behavior; decent and modest; simple; unadorned." Women are to be faithful to their own husbands; they are not to be flirtatious. Simplicity and modesty are important characteristics too.
"Keepers at home" ... need the Bible be any more clear? The woman's place is in the home, where her responsibility is to lovingly care for her family. A woman's place is not out in the workforce, where there is a multitude of temptations and appealing things which pull her further and further away from her family and her God-assigned responsibilities. God assigned to the woman the responsibility of being a homemaker in her own home. If we believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, how can we overlook this direct assignment? Notice that this passage makes no mention of the older women teaching the younger women to have their own careers. Every verse that we have looked at points to the fact that the woman's place is in the home, helping her husband and raising her children.
"Good." This definition fills up an entire page in Webster's 1828 dictionary. I believe the definition that applies best to this context is, "Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God's law requires; virtuous; pious."
"Obedient to their own husbands." In this world of "equality" and "feminism" (as opposed to "femininity") this may seem a little strange. You mean that I have to be obedient to my husband? Yes; that's what God says, very clearly. Susan Zakula, in her book The Joy of Womanhood, explains this concept thus:
"God gives men grace and wisdom to lead their wives because He has asked the wives to trust the leadership of their husbands. God does not command women to be free thinkers or teachers of their husbands. God's Word teaches that women are to learn from their fathers and husbands. The principle here is obedience to God's Word and following God's plan and God's way. Girls, develop the habit of asking your father's opinion about everything you do and read, and then listen and obey. You will be developing a pattern of trust and obedience that you will carry into your marriage relationship."
A girl who goes off to college, out from under the leadership of her father, cannot help but acquire an independent, self-sufficient spirit. When it comes time for her to be married, to return under the authority of a man, it can be a very difficult transition. After being "independent" for four or more years, imagine having to suddenly adjust to a life of obedience and surrender!
The end of this verse says, "...that the word of God be not blasphemed." Blasphemed? "To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence; to revile or speak reproachfully of God, or the Holy Spirit." Blasphemy is defined as "An indignity offered to God by words or writing; reproachful, contemptuous words uttered impiously against Jehovah." [Webster's 1828 Dictionary] Blasphemy is a serious offense against God! In the Old Testament, it was punishable by stoning! By not fulfilling our God-given roles, we are actually blaspheming the name of the Lord by our lifestyle! Susan Zakula writes,
"Choosing our lifestyle and how we live out our lives is pretty serious business. It is not our choice to make. God has chosen the path for us, and either we love the Lord and are following His path and glorifying Him with our lives, or we love ourselves, and we are following our own paths and blaspheming Him. Truly, this is the opposite of what the world is teaching girls and women, but this world's wisdom is foolishness unto God! Please don't be foolish. Our heavenly Father loves and cares for us, and blesses a life of obedience with joy, peace, and happiness - things the world cannot give."

One thing that God has really stressed to me over the past year or so is that the only way we will find fulfillment is through following God's plan for our lives. A lifestyle which is in direct opposition to what God has designed cannot be expected to bring contentment and fulfillment. The Bible says that in God's presence is fulness of joy. Outside of His presence and His will, it is impossible to experience true joy. If we believe this, and take God's Word just as He says it, we will be encouraged to pursue God's plan for our lives, and heartened to work towards the goal of being a truly virtuous woman.

By Whose Standard?

My grandfather was a Colonel in the Air Force during World War II. When he was a young man, married, with four children, Major Lee Shanks shared the Gospel with him. When asked if he believed the Bible, my grandfather replied that he believed most of it. "Okay," returned the Major, "let's go through the Bible and tear out the parts that you don't believe."

Although the Major never did actually tear out any pages, and my grandfather never pointed out any parts that he didn't believe, let's look at the concept. Tear pages out of the Bible? Most Christians recoil at the very thought. However, many Christians today claim to believe the Bible, but yet they essentially "throw out" many of its parts. The Bible must be accepted as a whole if it is to be accepted at all. If we exclude parts of it, how do we determine which parts to leave out? We are then relying on our own judgement and reason. Since the fall, man has possessed a sin nature which has seriously affected our reasoning and judgement. We are all sinful, flawed human beings. Why would we trust our own judgement over that of the Creator?

My brother and I were once discussing "ultimate authority" with a student at a liberal, public college. His standard for right and wrong was societal norms and majority rule. However, these are ever-changing and often very indefinite. We must have a standard which is unchanging, and from a Source which is irreproachable. The God and Creator of the universe gave us the Bible to be our absolute standard. God is our ultimate authority. "Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning ALL things to be right; and I hate every false way." (Psalm 119:128)

Not only must we accept the Bible in its entirety, but we must also accept it exclusively. We must evaluate everything according to what the Scripture says. Nothing falls outside the domain of the Bible. Compromising it with the conflicting views of men results in a diluted Scripture. Of course, many men, through the power of God, have written wonderful, truthful, helpful things. The way that we know that these things are wonderful, truthful, and helpful, is by comparing them with Scripture. But so often we accept men's views and conform to what is culturally acceptable without considering what God has to say about it. God demands that our allegiance be to Him and Him alone. There is no middle ground; man's ways are opposed to God's ways. Isaiah 55:9 - "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." We cannot expect man's ways to correspond with God's. If we are trying to please both God and men, we cannot expect to please either. We will essentially destroy ourselves, our testimony, and damage our relationship with God. "... Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matthew 12:25). God must be Lord of our entire being; our allegiance must be to Him alone.

We must be willing to take the Bible exclusively and entirely and apply it to every aspect of our life. Only if we are living according to God's holy Word will we experience the "fulness of joy" spoken of in Psalm 16:11.

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."

Lord, Bless Our Home

This is one of my favorite songs, written by Ron Hamilton. Shannon, my youngest sister, asks to sing it every single Sunday morning.

Lord, Bless Our Home

by Ron Hamilton

Families all around us are crumbling ev’ry day,

Yielding to the enemy and throwing life away.

Bind our lives together, Guard us with Your truth;

When the struggle seems too great, Lord, keep our eyes on You.

Thank You for Your goodness; our love was in Your plan.

Help us face the future always trusting in Your hand.

Keep us warm and tender; Keep us clean and pure.

Drive us to each other’s arms, and make our love endure.

Lord, bless our home, protect our home;

Let it be a refuge in this world of sin.

Lord, reign within, keep us strong and true;

And when we need You most, Lord,

Draw us close, committed to each other.

Lord, bless our home; we give our home to You.

"Thank-You's" Are Needed

One of the first things I'd like to do on this blog is to thank my parents for the immeasurable amount of their own lives that they have invested in my siblings' and my life. For the past nineteen years, my parents have centered almost every aspect of their lives around their family. Just before I, the eldest child, was born, my parents made the joint decision for my mother to stop her dental hygiene job so that she could be a stay-at-home mom. This was a huge sacrifice, leaving my dad to provide the sole income for his family with his real estate business. As I grew older, my parents knew that they did not want to expose me and my siblings (I believe there were three of us at this time, 3 and under) to the dangers and pitfalls of the public school system. Private school and homeschool were their only other options. Now, my parents had not been exposed to Vision Forum, or really to any teachings even remotely along those lines. Their original decision to homeschool was not a conviction. It was merely a decision based on the fact that in order to send us to a private school, Mom would have to go back to work to provide the financial means. Here were their options: Mom could return to work, send us to private school, and she and Dad have a very limited impact on our education; or, she could homeschool us and have an active part in our education and upbringing. Praise the Lord, they chose the latter alternative.

At first, Mom and Dad decided to take it one year at a time. Gradually, homeschooling became a conviction based on the Lord's leading and the Bible. I hope to cover more on this in another post.

I can't say how thankful I am that my parents made the crucial decision to homeschool me and my siblings. People who have never met either Mom or Dad regularly tell me, based on what is relayed to them, that I have wonderful parents. I wholeheartedly agree! Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Another huge thank you is due to my grandparents - both sets - who have been a wonderful encouragement to my parents in their homeschooling endeavors. They are also a valued encouragement to the four of us "kids." They show a never-tiring interest in our endeavors. The Lord has truly blessed me with phenomenal grandparents!

I would also like to thank the Lord for Vision Forum and their ministry, which we discovered just a few years ago. The Lord has used Vision Forum to revolutionize the way that my family thinks about so many different areas of life. It has caused us to re-evaluate our views on a multitude of different subjects, using the Bible as our standard. What a wonderful ministry Vision Forum has! If you have never explored their website, I encourage you to prayerfully go through their many resources.

It may seem as if I'm going off on a rabbit trail here, but bear with me please. My parents always told me that one of strongest witnesses I can have to others is through relaying how my relationship with God has changed my life. This always puzzled me; since I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was four, what - if any - drastic turnaround occurred? It really wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that ... well, I'll tell it the way I originally wrote it down that night, May 28, 2006:

"'If it weren't for that Lighthouse, where would this ship be?' I heard these words on the radio tonight, and God used them to reveal something so important to me.
"Since I was saved when I was only four years old, I would sometimes ask myself, 'What change did Christ make in my life?' You always hear these stories of drunkards, druggatics, and these 'horrible sinners' who get saved, and the Lord turns their lives around. My parents have told me many times that one of the best ways to witness to someone is to share with them what a difference my salvation has made in my life. Since I am neither an alcoholic nor a druggatic, and I wasn't before I got saved, I have sometimes wondered exactly what change my salvation did make in my life. I have sometimes half envied those whose lives Christ dramatically turned around. What a wonderful story to share! What a wonderful tool and proof of God's awesome power to use in witnessing!
"Tonight, driving down the road listening to a song on the radio, God revealed the answer to my question. The question in the song really struck me: 'If it weren't for that Lighthouse, where would this ship be?' It was then that I realized what an impact my salvation has had on my life. If it weren't for the truly amazing hand of God in my life, where would I be now? Just because I was not immersed deep in a life of sin when I was saved at four years of age, doesn't mean that Christ hasn't made a difference in my life. I know that if I didn't have Christ in my heart, I would have a truly miserable life. Where would I be now without the hand of God guiding my life? Where would I be without the wonderful blessing of a Christian family and Christian parents? It is this testimony that God hopefully will use to bring others to Him."

This brings me to my last "Thank you." If it weren't for the sovereign power of God, where would I be? I am so thankful to Him for giving me my parents, my grandparents, all of the people who He has used to greatly impact my life, and my salvation. It is because of Him that I am where I am today.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why Did I Start This Blog?

I believe I first got the idea of starting a blog from my parents. We had just attended a Worldview Conference in Georgia, put on by American Vision in May of 2006. During the five-hour car trip home, we were all eagerly discussing ways to apply what we had learned. Not only did we learn an immeasurable amount from the lectures, we also gleaned so much from just talking to people at the conference and through observing the other families there. My parents suggested that we start a blog, where we could post what the Lord laid on our hearts.

Lately, the Lord has burdened Leslie and me about the the fate of Biblical womanhood in the Christian community today. Christian women have so many pressures on them from every direction: from their families, their friends, the churches, the government, and society at large. They are pressured to possess characteristics that God never intended them to possess, to assume positions never ordained by God, and to develop entire attitudes that do not line up with God's wonderful plan for a woman's life!

Many would gasp at these seemingly radical ideas. Didn't the feminist movement do much to remedy the "plight" of women? Only yesterday, on the front page of AOL news, there was an article about a church that fired a woman from her Sunday school teaching "job" merely because she was a woman. The church had "adopted" an interpretation of the Bible which forbade a woman from being in position of spiritual authority over a man. The article stated, in part, "The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation [of the Bible] that prohibits women
from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years." The pastor was also a congressman, and the town mayor made the comment, "If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarkes in this day and age. Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are disturbing now."

But societal changes do not change the Bible. God, the Author of His Word, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We must stop adjusting our interpretations of the Bible so that they correspond with societal norms.

On this blog, I hope to study what God's plan for a woman's life is, from start to finish. I don't claim to have "arrived," or any such nonsense. On the contrary, I am creating this blog more to help me grow, through the grace of God, than in the expectation that everyone who reads it will undergo a dramatic transformation, although I pray that the Lord will use this in some way in other young ladies' lives. I believe that the Lord will use this blog and His Word to help me draw nearer to at least a semblance of the godly, Proverbs 31 woman.