Friday, March 30, 2007

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You may have noticed that in the past few months our template has disintegrated. We're still not completely sure why, but we have decided to go ahead and replace it with a new template. It's very similar to our old design, but hopefully this one will not mysteriously fall apart.

There has been some concern for Internet Explorer and Safari users. Does the new template appear distorted in your browser? Please let us know. We're grateful for your input (and your patience) as we try to iron out the rough spots in our template.

Thanks!

P.S. Firefox is very Beauty from the Heart friendly and very free.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Glorify?

When contemplating the subject of God’s glory, I have sometimes wondered why God desires so much to be glorified. Conceit and pride are wrong in human beings; yet it seems odd that a righteous God who honors humility would so loudly proclaim His own glory.

John Piper addresses this question in his book, Desiring God. I think he provides some excellent food for thought, closely related to these previous posts:

“[A reason] people stumble over the teaching that God exalts His own glory and seeks to be praised by His people is that the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that "Love seeks not its own" ( 1 Corinthians 13:5). How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to "seeking His own" glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if He is so utterly for Himself?

The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away from Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself. He would commit idolatry.

This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous?....
No, we do not turn God's self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead we must come to see that God is love precisely because He relentlessly pursues the praises of His name in the hearts of His people.

Consider this question: In view of God's infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would His love to a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself! If He withholds Himself from our contemplation and companionship, no matter what else He gives us, He is not loving.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value, and celebrate what we love, and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full. So if God loves us enough to make our joy full, He must not only give us Himself; He must also win from us the praise of our hearts-not because He needs to shore up some weakness in Himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because He loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can be found only in knowing and praising Him, the most magnificent of all Beings. If He is truly for us He must be for Himself!

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When He does all things "for the praise of His glory," He preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings. God is for us! And the foundation of this love is that God has been, is now, and always will be, for Himself.”

Read Desiring God online, buy the book, or visit John Piper’s website.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Hanging Up on "No Hang Up's"

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” the blond woman shouted into the microphone. Her tight shirt crept farther upward as her right hand shot into the air, wholly unveiling a swollen pregnant stomach. I struggled to keep my jaw from dropping open.

Was it just my Middle American sensibilities showing through—my Bible belt upbringing? Guilt flashed through my mind. Who was I to disapprove of her clothing? Was I being judgmental? Her purpose on stage was to reach the lost for Christ, yet at the same time, I wonder if the woman knew how much more she was communicating, beyond “Praise the Lord.”

When visiting Los Angeles a few years back, the woman was not my only case of "culture shock." Although the fashions in my hometown are far from Puritan, Los Angeles standards took skin-baring to an entirely new level. My experiences during that visit helped me understand what it meant to love brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of cultural differences. I had no right to condemn others while in desperate need of grace myself.

But this brings one to wonder, how does modesty relate to Christians from other backgrounds? A friend of mine once asked a relative from California, if she thought her clothing could possibly be a point of visual temptation for the guys in her life. Her relative replied that the men in her area didn’t “have that hang-up.” Does this mean residents of L.A., Miami, Honolulu, and other places where cultures differ, are exempt from modesty? Or could it be that there is more to modesty than guarding the purity of guys?

In my observation, many who choose to dress modestly do so that their “freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9) This is an admirable, Biblical pursuit. But I believe if all of the guys on earth were blind, unfeeling, and devoid of all visual “hang-ups,” there would still be a need for modesty. Why?

God desires it of us. “I desire then….that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10. Italics mine.)

These verses are not banning jewelry, but highlighting the heart. In his sermon, “The Soul of Modesty,” C.J. Mahaney said, “Your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation.” If humility and worshipping God is given first priority, our clothing choices will naturally reflect that.

This perspective changes the situation, doesn’t it? Instead of dressing according to the "hang ups" of those around us, we’re choosing our clothes carefully as a form of worship to the God of the universe. Instead of being accountable to men for our actions, we are accountable to God for our hearts.

For women professing godliness, whether in Los Angeles or small town America, we each are given the same command. God desires modesty, no matter what we are accustomed to having before our eyes.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Overbearing Daddies & Magazines That Care

“We wanted to set a standard of dignity and honor for the way the girls should be treated by the men in their lives,” said Lisa Wilson, co-founder of Generations of Light, an abstinence promoting ministry in Colorado Springs. “I believe if girls feel beautiful and cherished by their fathers, they don’t go looking for love from random guys.”

Randy Wilson and his wife, Lisa, founded the “Purity Ball,” a formal event for fathers and daughters to encourage abstinence. At the ball, fathers declare their commitment to treasure and protect their daughters’ purity, while the daughters vow to remain sexually pure until marriage.

Although there may be valid controversy surrounding the Purity Ball--such as whether the young girls who participate comprehend the vows they are taking, or concerning the modesty of the fashions worn at the ball--the media's reaction is incredible. Glamour, a teen magazine dedicated to spreading fashion tips, beauty secrets, and, ironically, advice on sex, reports on the Purity Ball with resentment. The article states:

“The roles are clear: Dad is the only man in a girl’s life until her husband arrives, a lifestyle straight out of biblical times. ‘In patriarchy, a father owns a girl’s sexuality,’ notes psychologist and feminist author Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. ‘And like any other property, he guards it, protects it, even loves it.’”

The author goes on to say,

“Fathers who are protective of their daughters’ virginity are nothing new. ‘Keep your flower safe!’ a good friend’s dad used to tell her when we were in college, and we’d laugh—both because it was too late for her virginity and because there was something distasteful to us about his trying to control her sex life.”

Thus comes to light a double standard. A magazine which sells copies based on sex advice to teenage girls censures concerned fathers for taking an active interest in their daughters’ behavior. Christian leader Albert Mohler commented,

“Here you have an absolute culture clash… [with Christianity which states] that parents not only have the right but the responsibility to guard the sexual virtue of their children (in this case talking about girls, but we could talk about boys as well… including the father’s responsibility to guard his son from pornography and other sexual involvements.)”

Activist Eve Ensler was quoted in Glamour as saying, “When you sign a pledge to your father to preserve your virginity, your sexuality is basically being taken away from you…It makes you feel like you’re the least important person in the whole equation. It makes you feel invisible.” Yet ‘invisible’ is hardly the adjective that comes to mind at the sight of a father and daughter uniting with a common goal. By promising to protect his daughter and showing her life choices matter, a different word seems appropriate: treasured.

Sources:
  • Baumgardner, Jennifer."Would You Pledge Your Virginity To Your Father?" Glamour Magazine, February 7, 2007.
  • Mohler, Al. Al Mohler Radio Show. March 19, 2007.
_______________________

Ella at Created to be a Help has posted some valuable thoughts on this. Here's a snippet:
"Reading about this, I was once again saddened by the way our culture takes the truly beautiful and makes it look undesirable (such as purity and faithfulness to your future husband, while it takes the truly undesirable (ungodly) and makes it appear beautiful (such as adultery and fortification). Then, I realized that it’s not just our culture. It’s been going on since sin entered God’s creation..."
Read the rest here.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Fun Stuff

We've been noticing that other blogs have given away free banners for months now, and thus far we've felt a little left out. As a result, we've decided to jump on the bandwagon and shamelessly toot our own horn as well.

Below is a snazzy little banner that is compatible with all sorts of blogs, email signatures, and wherever else you may wish to place it. The banner will also update whenever new posts are added to this site.

Just copy the code from the box below, and you're set to go!


Beauty from the Heart




To see what the banner looks like in action on a blog's sidebar, click here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Musings on Life Without God

Mom asked me what I want to do next year. "Do you think you'll get a part time job?" After considering it for a moment, I replied, "Well, I'd have to get a car to get a job....and I'd have to get a job to get a car."

Much of life follows this pattern. I only spend money because I've earned it, and I earn it so I can spend it. In the morning I awake so I can become tired again and return to bed that evening. Call it the circle of life. In the words of E.B. White's spider, Charlotte: "What is life? We live a little, then we die."

On the surface, it all appears futile; in fact, I would like to propose an idea that is both revolutionary and entirely un-original: life does not only appear futile. It is futile. Even when our eternal destinations are taken out of the picture, without a God to serve, ordinary activities and extraordinary activities are worthless. Glorious achievements, such as winning the presidency, are essentially as pointless as everyday actions, such as taking out the trash, if a higher purpose is not satisfied. These so-called “glorious achievements” are not truly great because they only enhance the wellbeing of a human race, which of course, only “lives a little, then dies.” The endless circle of anemic living.

If this is entirely true, then what is it that spurs us to wonder if there is not some higher meaning than this mediocrity? What makes us even momentarily look beyond the daily grind? C.S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity: "God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself."

This truth cannot be compromised by imitations that seek to remove God from the picture. Without the Creator, the created cannot be content. Without the Creator, life is meaningless. It is God whose presence grants beauty and eternal perspective to drudgery. Philippians 4:4 becomes possible ( "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!") when God enters the picture. Even washing dishes, for instance, when done for His glory, becomes a brush with the divine. Life becomes more than time spent. It becomes purposeful. It becomes beautiful.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Selling Out


One day, Paris Reidhead (1919-1992), the late missionary to the Sudan-Ethiopia border, preached arguably one of the most influential sermons of this century. His topic? Ten shekels and a shirt.

In the book of Judges, a man sells his priestly assistance to a man named Micah for the price of ten shekels and a shirt. In a sense, the man became Micah's personal priest. What was formerly service to God became a service of man.

Reidhead makes the case that most professing American Christians are like this priest: serving themselves while pretending to serve God. He also addresses Humanism (the belief that the purpose of life is man-centered) and its invasion of Western Christianity. Today, his words still serve as a striking reminder of the only way a culture can be changed: through the acceptance of Truth.

In 1850, the church divided into two groups. The one group was the liberals, who accepted the philosophy of the humanism and tried to find some relevance by saying something like this to their generation:

"...We don't know there's a heaven. We don't know there's a hell. But we do know this--that you've got to live for 70 years! We know there's a great deal of benefit from poetry, from high thoughts and noble aspirations. Therefore it's important for you to come to church on Sunday, so…we can give you some little adages and axioms and rules to live by. We can't say anything about what's going to happen when you die, but we'll tell you this, if you'll come every week and pay and help and stay with us…we'll make you happier while you're alive.

And so this became the essence of liberalism. It has simply nothing more than to try and put a little sugar in the bitter coffee of their journey and sweeten it up for a time….

There's another group of people that have taken humbridge with the liberals, this group are my people, the fundamentalists….. The fundamentalists, along the same line, are now tuning in along this same wavelength of humanism, until we find something like this:

"Accept Jesus so you can go to heaven! You don't want to go to that old, filthy, nasty, burning hell when there is a beautiful heaven up there! Now come to Jesus so you can go to heaven!"

Humanism is, I believe, the most deadly and disastrous of all the philosophical stenches that's crept up through the grating over the pit of Hell. It has penetrated so much of our religion and it is an utter and total contrast with Christianity….I'm afraid that it's become so subtle that it goes everywhere. What is it? In essence it's this: That this philosophical postulate that the end of all being (1) is the happiness of man, has been sort of covered over with evangelical terms and Biblical doctrine until God reigns in heaven for the happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness of man, all the angels exist…Everything is for the happiness of man!

And I submit to you that this is unchristian. Didn't God intend to make man happy? Yes. But as a by-product and not a prime-product.

If you'll ask me why I went to Africa, I'll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn't think it was right for anybody to go to Hell without a chance to be saved, so I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now I haven't put it in so many words, but if you'll analyze what I just told you, do you know what it is? Humanism. That I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery.

And when I went to Africa, I discovered that they weren't “poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods” looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. That they were monsters of iniquity. They were living in utter and total defiance of far more knowledge of God than I ever dreamed they had! They deserved Hell because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscious and the light of the Law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew.

...But it was there in Africa that God began to tear through the overlay of this humanism. And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying "Someone come and teach us,” actually didn't want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.

There alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, "Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost. And they're going to go to Hell, not because they haven't heard the gospel. They're going to go to Hell because they are sinners who love their sin. And because they deserve Hell. But, I didn't send you out there for them. I didn't send you out there for their sakes."

And I heard as clearly as I've ever heard, though it wasn't with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its' way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this: "I didn't send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell. But I love them! And I endured the agonies of Hell for them. I didn’t send you out there for them! I sent you out there for Me! Do I not deserve the reward of my suffering? Don’t I deserve those for whom I died?”

And it reversed it all and changed it all…and I wasn't any longer working for Micah and tens shekels and a shirt. (2) But I was serving a living God! I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior that endured the agonies of Hell for me, who didn't deserve it! But He deserved them. Because He died for them.

Do you see? ….Christianity says, "The end of all being is the glory of God." Humanism says, "The end of all being is the happiness of man."

….What about you? Why did you repent? I'd like to see some people repent on Biblical terms again.… This is the difference between twentieth century preaching and the preaching of John Wesley.

Wesley was a preacher of righteousness that exalted the holiness of God. When he would stand there with the two to three hour sermons that he was accustomed to deliver in the open air and he would exalt the holiness of God, and the law of God, and the righteousness of God…and the justice of His wrath and His anger. Then he would turn to sinners and tell them of the enormity of their crimes and their open rebellion and their treason…and the power of God would so descend upon the company, that on one occasion it is reliably reported that when the people dispersed there were 1,800 people lying on the ground, utterly unconscious because they had a revelation of the holiness of God. And in the light of that they'd seen the enormity of their sins, God had so penetrated their minds and hearts that they had fallen to the ground.

It wasn't only in Wesley's day. It was also in America. New Haven, Connecticut. Yale. A man by the name of John Wesley Redfield had continuous ministry for three years in and around New Haven…The policemen were accustomed during those days, if they saw someone lying on the ground, to go up and smell his breath, because if he had alcohol on his breath they'd lock him up. But if he didn't he had “Redfield's disease.”

And all you needed to do if anyone had Redfield's disease was just take him into a quiet place and leave him until he came to, because if they were drunkards, they'd stop drinking, and if they were cruel, they'd stop being cruel, and if they were immoral, they gave up their immorality. If they were thieves, they returned what they had. For as they had seen the holiness of God, and seen the enormity of their sin, the Spirit of God had driven them down into unconsciousness because of the weight of their guilt! And somehow in the overspreading of the power of God, sinners repented of their sin and came savingly to Christ. But there was a difference [with this kind of philosophy]! It wasn't trying to convince a “good man” that he was in trouble with a “bad God!” But that it was to convince bad men that they had deserved the wrath and anger of a good God….

[There was] an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2,000 to 3,000 slaves. And the owner had said, "No preacher, no clergyman, will ever stay on this island. If he's ship wrecked we'll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he's never going to talk to any of us about God. I'm through with all that nonsense." Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic and there to live and die without hearing of Christ.

Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and used the money they received from their sale (for he paid no more than he would for any slave) to pay their passage out to his island….[They were] in their early twenties. Never to return again--for this wasn't a four year term. They sold themselves into life time slavery. Simply that as slaves, they could be Christians where these others [slaves] were.

The families were there weeping, for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. As the gap widened and the housings had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, and the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them. They were these: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!" This became the call of Moravian missions. And this is the only reason for being: That the Lamb that was slain may receive the reward of His suffering.

--An excerpt from “Ten Shekels and a Shirt,” a sermon given by Paris Reidhead


(1) "End of all being,” meaning the “purpose of man’s creation”

(2) A reference to Judges 17

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Important?



(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Transcript:
"You know you're from the West when...
  • Your theology comes from music and T-shirts.
  • You pray the 'Sinner's Prayer' then live like nothing happened.
  • Attending church raises your self esteem.
'Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.'
-C.S. Lewis.

Apathy is not an option."

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Share your opinion!

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Back to School Blues?

A reader wrote....

What do you think about careers for women? Should a girl even be considering college or a job, or should she just stay at home? And if a career is all right, how far is too far from her dad's protection? Should she still live with him, or is it okay to move out? I'm pretty mixed up about this, because my parents seem to be just fine with me going to college someday (at least one nearby), but I'm reading So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, and they seem to believe that it isn't good for a girl to be away from her father's covering like that. I just want to know what your opinion is. Thanks!

To be honest, when we read your email we were rather intimidated. The questions you addressed are very difficult to answer. So Much More and the Botkin sisters are very well respected in the conservative Christian community and we would not wish to assail them in any way. (They are, after all, our sisters in Christ.)

After discussing this with our parents, we decided that although we aren't qualified to answer your questions with our own opinions, but we can only humbly point to Scripture. In everything pertaining to life and godliness, God's Word holds the key. Yet in some matters where the Bible does not speak clearly, we must follow personal convictions. This is true regarding whether or not a girl must stay under her father's roof until marriage.

Some literature and voices in the Christian community are dogmatic that remaining under the roof of her father is essential for all godly young women. However, there is no hard and fast rule in the Bible that declares this to be true. We do know that a girl can leave her father's roof for a time, as Mary did in her visit to Elizabeth and Zachariah (Luke 1:39-40). But no clear Biblical precedent is set on this issue.

On the other hand, in the area of whether or not women should work outside the home, we do believe a Biblical pattern has been made. Titus 2 clearly states that women should be keepers at home, while in Proverbs 31, the "wife of excellence" is busily at work. What few realize is these two roles are not mutually exclusive; there is no rule concerning how many hours a woman must remain in the home before she becomes a "keeper at home." A woman does not need to be at home 24/7 to obey Titus 2. In fact, the Proverbs 31 woman seems to indicate that it is permissible for women to work, at least part-time, outside the home. In light of Proverbs 31, should we then become career women?

When we think of a "career woman," we think of someone whose chief goal is to climb the corporate ladder. She leaves her family in the morning and doesn't return until night in the hopes of receiving a promotion or achieving some personal goal. But when looking at the Proverbs 31-type working woman, we get an entirely different picture. It is not that her profession is any different from the career woman, but her motivation is. Her motivation is to help her household by supplementing her husband's income. She loves the home so much, she sacrifices time and effort for its benefit.

"She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant. " (Proverbs 31:24)

"She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard." (Proverbs 31:16)

Higher education for women is not sinful. A woman can attend college and be living in accordance with God's will or she can attend college and be living in disobedience. It's not the degree itself that can be sinful; it's the heart behind it. If college attendance is clearly outside God's will for you, then it would be wrong to disobey and attend anyway. But if you are led to attend college and your parents consent, then no Bible verses indicate that this would be wrong.

One common argument for women and higher education is the question: "What if your husband dies? How will you provide for your family?" Supposedly, a college degree is like a safety belt. It's nice to have "just in case." But this perspective reveals a poor view of the sovereignty of God, and is the wrong motivation for a college degree. If you were ever to be faced with widowhood without having attended college, of one thing you could be certain: God would never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5). Although it may be easier to depend on one's own abilities by getting a "just in case" degree, as Christians we are supposed to trust in God Himself to guide our footsteps. (In light of the fact that He knows all, how can we not trust Him?)

The Bible does say that we are to honor our father and mother. If you are wondering whether or not you should leave the home, ask your parents! Endeavor to honor them in this area. If your father says to stay home, then stay home! If your father says you can leave, then follow the Lord's leading.

We hope that God will grant you wisdom in this area, so you'll know what path to pursue.

God bless!
In Christ,
Hannah, Kristin and Lindsey

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