Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

4.30.2010

Do You Know What Today Is?

A few weeks ago, I was browsing audio books for download on a site, and came across one entitled Letter to a Christian Nation. The title piqued my interest, and so I clicked on it, to be greeted with this quote by the author, Sam Harris, taken from his “Note to the Reader” in the book:

“Forty-four percent of the American population is convinced that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry here on earth. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that if the city of New York were suddenly replaced by a ball of fire, some significant percentage of the American population would see a silver lining in the subsequent mushroom cloud, as it would suggest to them that the best thing that is ever going to happen was about to happen—the return of Christ. It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help us create a durable future for ourselves—socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.1

That quote is as much of the book as I have read, therefore I am not in any way recommending it. However, Sam Harris’s perspective is both faulty and challenging. It is as deceptive as it is convicting. What I mean is this: to a secular humanist and atheist our belief in the coming of Christ is a threat. Moreover, it is despicable to him that we will not pull our share of the load in “creating a durable future for ourselves” because we believe in storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Therefore, in summary and in case you were wondering, we are supposedly irresponsible members of society who, with no intellectual validity, believe in the fairy tale of Christ’s return and would throw a party in the event that New York goes up in flames. This is the deceptive part. Mr. Harris’s errors of judgment are multiple, including the fact that he rebukes Christians for planning for the future based purely on religious dogma, when his plans for a “durable future” are based purely on his humanistic belief in man as god, his belief that he can create some sort of everlasting, idealistic world if only everyone pitches in to help. It is no wonder, then, that the thought of a righteous God returning to judge that world and of the earth ending is his greatest fear! His other error comes with the assumption that because we are on our way to heaven we disdain even to love our fellow men on earth when in reality God created us all, loves us all equally, and desires that we show His love to all.

But this article is not a rebuttal of Sam Harris’s book, for I’m sure many rebuttals have been written, more well-formulated than mine could be. Although, as I said, Sam Harris’s note is faulty and deceptive, it also challenged and convicted me with this thought that instantly filled my mind: If I really believe that Jesus could come back at any time, not just “in the next fifty years” but rather any time at all, why do I not judge every second of my life with that thought? Why do I not wake up every single morning, sit on the edge of my bed, and speak to Jesus: “Jesus, you might be coming back today. I hope you are, and please show me where I need to prepare for your coming. But if you aren’t, show me, Lord, what you have given me this day to do.”

Sam Harris points out a belief very dear to Christians, the belief that Jesus is coming back, and he follows it to the logical end—that we are not on his bandwagon of creating a durable future, for our home is not here. He applies this belief in a way reminiscent of Matthew 8:20: “And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I have to question my own materialism in light of this verse and the imminent coming of Christ. God desires us to have vision for generations and years to come (Ps. 45:17), but to live each day as if it were our last.

The difference in Sam Harris's application is that he is worried that we may be facing a “moral and intellectual emergency,” and I am only worried that his fears of being overwhelmed by Christians living in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming are ungrounded. If I believed that Christ could return any second, then there is a whole list of things that would be positively ludicrous for me to spend my time on. If I only had one last day before Christ returned, youtube would never enter my head to visit, that novel I was going to finish would just have to be unfinished, a nap would be laughable, and anger at someone who ruined a possession of mine would be pointless. I would not spend my time worrying about money, nor would I fritter away hours of precious time as I am too often prone to doing. Things I would do in that last day? Witnessing, nurturing and discipling my siblings, and reading God’s Word from cover to cover as a handbook for what to expect in the days and eternity to come. Simply stopping to smile at someone or to revel in the beauty of God’s creation would round out the day. But Matthew 24:42 reminds me that this day is to be treated in the same way, and every day that God gives me: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

Sam Harris wrote his Letter to a Christian Nation intending to convince people like me how nonsensical my beliefs are, but so far, he has instead convinced me of the opposite—that today is the day Christ could come back, that every morning with the chirp of my alarm should come this guiding thought: Jesus could come back today.

1. http://www.samharris.org/site/book_letter_to_christian_nation/

4.27.2010

By Faith Sarah...


Have you ever considered what a unique character Sarah was? We all know the infamous story of her doubting—how she, much like Lot’s wife, “looked back” not forward and laughed at God’s promise. Yet, there is Hebrews 11:11, which says, “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” Sarah, with her desire, her preparation, and her doubting, wasn’t much different from anyone who is desiring something, and certainly has a lot of bearing on those of us who are single and praying to the Lord for a Godly marriage someday.

You see, just as we desire marriage, so she desired to have a son. Genesis 11:30 establishes that she was barren however, and in Genesis 15:2-3, Abraham shares his and Sarah’s desire with God: “But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’” Similarily, we may say to God, “God! You still have not provided anyone for me! I don’t even see any prospects in the future. Look! I am serving You here in my father’s house—his ministry is my ministry.” It becomes clear in the next two verses of Genesis 15 that Sarah and Abraham’s desire for children was also God’s desire—and that is the key to success in anything. “And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” If you are desiring what God desires for you, He will give beyond what you could ever fathom.

Sarah obviously prepared well for the desire that she had and that God had sanctified, because her son grew up to be a Godly man and leader. Similarly, if we are desiring courtship and marriage, we should be prepared, just as Lauren talked about in The Foolish Virgins. However, Sarah made a common mistake that all of us are prone to: she “overprepared.” Did you know that such a thing could be possible? In the context of the virgins, overpreparation would have been getting situated in the room before they were invited in. In Sarah’s case, overpreparation was saying to her husband, “’See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:2).” In our case, overpreparation could be trying to develop unwise relationships with other young men, trying to outshine even Martha Stewart with our superhuman culinary, housekeeping, and domestic skills, and the list can go on. In other words, overpreparation is trying to accomplish God’s will for us in our own human strength and according to our own human timeline, not wisely training for the role God has given to you.

God was patient with Sarah, just as He is with us, thankfully! Times of doubt, waves of uncertainty, and days that are so foggy you lose sight of God’s desire for you come, just as they did with Sarah. “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ And the lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son (Genesis 18:12-14).’” Sarah may have doubted God’s promise, but God was still faithful to His Word, and He brought Abraham and Sarah a son, just as He promised (see Genesis 21:2-9).

Which stage of Sarah’s life are you in right now? Do you have a desire apart from God’s will? Have you made God’s desires your desires, but now find yourself waiting on His timing? Are you becoming impatient and doubting or working out your desire in your own strength? Although I apply these principles specifically to courtship and marriage, they are pertinent to every facet of life. By herself, Sarah was a weak doubter, but “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised (Hebrews 11:11).”

I hope that you have learned, been inspired by, and been challenged through our series on courtship. Perhaps we introduced some new concepts or reiterated some familiar ones. As you take the next step of faith—whatever that is—remember that “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (I Thessalonians 5:24).”



Picture Credit

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

4.23.2010

The Foolish Virgins

A girl is born, red with a shock of hair. Slowly, day by day, she grows older, maturing along the way. Walking, braces, driver’s license, graduation, college, a few years of indecision about what she wants to be when she grows up, and she finally lands the perfect job. Now, at 24 or so, she has finally arrived—dragging mountains of student debt and years of bad dating experiences behind her. With this baggage, she decides she is finally ready to fit a family into her life, and she does just that, marrying at 26 (the average age of marriage for women today), only to realize after the fact that nothing she did in the previous 26 years prepared her for the years “After I Do”. In fact, she may even regret getting married so young, wishing she had had a few more years of experience under her belt before she walked down the aisle.

Granted, this is a sweeping, tongue-in-cheek generalization that many would protest is not their way of life, but the fact is that something is causing the average age of marriage to increase throughout the years. In the early 1800s, women married around the age of 20, but men were often older. In 1890, the average age for women was 22, and for men it was 26. These numbers decreased to around 20 years old for women and 23 years old for men in 1950, and then increased steadily to the current averages, the highest in history. I suggest that the breakdown of traditional marriage, misplaced priorities, and lack of preparation are mainly responsible for the increase in age of a newlywed couple, for although a woman may be 26 when she gets married, she is likely even then far less prepared than the 22 year old newlywed in 1890.

Please remember that God in His Providence has the perfect age for each of us to get married, regardless of how prepared we are. For some, He may desire according to His perfect plan that you not get married until you are in your thirties (yes, I said perfect plan :-), but for others, He may have you marry at an early age or not at all. Regardless, frantic preparation on our part is not for the purpose of marrying earlier than God has designed. Instead, preparation is for the purpose of being prepared (genius, I know) for marriage in whatever time-frame God has for us.

That said, I pray that we are all on the same page in regards to traditional marriage and the importance of preserving that. Furthermore, I hope you could not read this blog for long without gaining some perspective of the right order of priorities. That leaves one area that stares all of us in the face: preparation.

Preparation for marriage is preparation for courtship. We’ve all laughed at stories of women who got married and could barely boil water, but what skills do we really have? The finer art of food skills are a necessity: meal planning, nutrition, and a wide and varied experience in creating meals. I could go on and on with the list of practical skills needed before beginning a courtship: budgeting, shopping well, house cleaning, sewing, experience with children, teaching skills, and thriftiness are just a few. These are the obvious and exterior aspects of preparation, in a way the easier ones to develop.

But what about preparing your beliefs? As I read through John Piper’s list of questions honestly, I realized that some of those difficult questions I would expect a prospective suitor to answer were questions I had not yet even fully developed a belief on! Part of my problem is pure laziness—although I had opinions on many of these subjects, I had never stopped to crystallize those opinions into beliefs. What do I believe about how many strikes before disciplining a child? What do I believe about entertainment and how much time and money it takes from my life? What do I believe about working outside the home after children grow up and move out? What do I believe about divine healing and how that relates to medical attention? What do I believe about specific curriculum and teaching methods for homeschooling? Developing beliefs, not just opinions, about crucial things is vital before beginning a courtship.

Preparation for marrying one man only is also key. Keeping your heart pure, avoiding relationships that are not God-honoring, and staying under your father’s authority are all great ways to do this. Helping your father in whatever way you can and treating him with the same respect and love you would give to your future husband will help any girl to learn submission and other qualities essential for a successful courtship. Furthermore, since courtship is in the beginning stages orchestrated by your father, this will ensure that submitting to your father’s wisdom is not a foreign concept when the time comes for him to evaluate suitors! Being open and honest with your father about the young men around you is essential. When I have had a young man who simply did not understand my beliefs and was too forward, I talked to my father about it, and he was able to take care of the situation in a way I could never have done. Our fathers are great blessings to us!

Furthermore, we must prepare by using this time as the most invaluable season of our lives for maturing spiritually. If I don’t have time for devotions with God now, how will I have time when I have fifty kids looking to Mommy for spiritual guidance, peanut butter and jelly, and kisses for their “owies”? Now is when I have the time to read child training handbooks and learn from the wisdom of others. Now is the time when I can engraft much Scripture into my heart. Now is when I can learn from the wisdom of my mother and other wise people around me. If I misuse this time, I may find myself woefully unprepared for courtship, marriage, and motherhood.

Remember from the last post that a key difference between courtship and dating is that courtship is moving towards marriage. I ask you, then, how can you move towards marriage if when the suitor rides up you yell, “Just a minute!” and run back into your house to frantically begin cooking lessons and Bible studies on godly womanhood?

This may sound ludicrous to you, but it was precisely the position of the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25 who did not prepare themselves with oil in their lamps for the bridegroom, and when he came at the unexpected hour of midnight, they panicked. They had no choice but to go and buy oil at the last minute, frantically trying to find an oil peddler at midnight. By the time they returned, it was sadly too late, and they were left out in the dark by the bridegroom.

Do not be the foolish virgin! Develop your skills, beliefs, and spiritual maturity like a muscle, and you will be a strong woman of God, perfectly prepared by Him to take the position of helpmeet—in God’s time.

4.20.2010

The Creation Museum!

Friday night, Lauren and I flew out of Seattle at midnight, arriving in Cincinnati, OH at 7 AM (4 AM our time). We again proved why such a flight is called a "red-eye"--please don't look to closely at the pictures to follow! Although the reason for coming to the breadbasket of America is to attend a Piano Pedagogy class (more on that in later posts), we came in early to meet up with some friends and go to the Creation Museum.

We spent every minute we could at the Museum, arriving at opening, and leaving ten minutes before closing. It was such a blessing spending the whole day with precious friends, observing challenging exhibits, and learning lots of new information. We loved every moment of the museum, from the excellent, God-honoring planetarium to the realistic dinosaurs to the amazing depictions of Biblical and historical scenes, to getting to hear Steve Ham (Ken Ham's brother) speak for an hour and a half on the relevancy of Genesis today, to watching an excellent movie presentation with special effects, to randomly meeting an old friend from a music class we attended in 2008 (he lives in Pennsylvania and we in Washington--how could we ever run into each other in Kentucky?).






For lunch, our friends took us out to "Skyline," an authentic Cincinnati restaurant that has perfected chili. They serve it on spaghetti, burritos, hot dogs, wraps, and salads! Yum, yum! After a long day of seeing all we could see, we drove into Cincinnati to take the bus two hours into Indianapolis. Finally, after twenty-four hours of traveling and sight-seeing (with only two hours of sleep), we arrived at the school for our two-week class. We are so grateful that God allowed us to visit the Museum--something we never thought would be possible--and are eagerly diving into our first week of classes.


Please pray for us as we meet new people, learn new things, navigate a new environment, and try to keep up with our mountain of course work!

4.16.2010

The Story of the Beginnings of the Adam and Karen Fischer Family

Guest Post By Karen
For me, the commitment and desire for courtship was a prolonged journey of faith….trusting God that he would fulfill the desires of my heart in His perfect time. Though I had always imagined that I’d be married by age 21, the Lord had better plans for me, which would not be possible until I was 30! During this waiting period, I had many “ups and downs” in my trust in God for this as I began to wonder if the Lord did indeed have someone for me or if my waiting was in vain. Through this time there were several possible suitors interested in me, and some whose interest I found mutual. I was very vulnerable to settling for less than God’s best for me as I had such a strong desire to be married ever since I was a little girl. But, I am so grateful that the Lord kept me for His best for me…my Adam!

In our case courtship worked a little differently than the norm as my father had passed away earlier in the same year that our courtship began. My brother, Craig, had taken on the role of provider and protector of my sister and I, so as seemed natural in the situation, Adam contacted him primarily in regard to his interest in me, though my mom was considered as well. Craig’s initial approach was to write me a nonchalant e-mail in regard to Adam. Basically, he just asked me what my thoughts were about Adam in relationship to me. I thought that was funny and wondered what made him think of that being as he knew that someone else was interested in me at the time, and, after all, I had never noticed any interest in me from Adam – I was nearly 5 ½ years older than him. I told Craig that I respected Adam very much and thought he was a great guy. (I had always thought of him as a possibility for my sister, but not myself). Little did I know that Adam had actually already given Craig a phone call in regard to his interest in me. Craig was just trying to feel me out about the matter before telling me up front!

A few days later, on Sat., Dec.10, 2005, I received a phone call from Craig telling me of Adam’s phone call, indicating that he had called asking for permission to court me! I was very shocked!!! I think that I was a little speechless at the time, and didn’t quite know what to say, so didn’t say much except that I would think and pray about it, and would want to take it slow. The next morning I woke up at 4:15 with this on my mind and prayed through it. God’s only answer seemed to be “when I turn to the right hand or to the left I will hear a voice behind me saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it!’” Craig called Adam after hearing from me Sunday evening and told him that I would like to get to know him more on a casual basis, though I wasn’t ready to enter into a focused courtship at this time. Adam had an e-mail for me Monday morning asking me if he could call me that night, which he did. We talked for an hour and 4 minutes. (-:

Adam wanted to talk again Wed. evening, but I wasn’t available so we talked on Thursday evening. He wanted to hear from me what my position was on our relationship and how I wanted to proceed. I told him that I tend to be a cautious person and just wanted to get to know him casually, without the pressure of what’s next. He expressed that he was at a place where he felt that our relationship needed to go one way or another in order for him to guard his heart, and that our relationship couldn’t continue further without a deeper level of commitment. He asked what I thought about this. I told him that the day before I’d been thinking, “Well that’s all nice and ideal to take it slow and casual, but how does that work out practically-how do you keep it that way when you already know where your hearts are leading you?-there comes a point where you have to go one way or another.” We agreed that our next contact would be when I reached a decision on this.

As I prayed and considered this, I was getting less and less sleep at night as the days progressed…when it got to about three hours in a night I decided that I couldn’t go on like this and was going to fall apart if I didn’t come to a decision. After much prayer and struggle within my heart to discern God’s will, I decided that I was ready to begin a courtship with Adam. And what a peace I had after that decision was made! How freeing it was!

As you might expect, Adam was anxiously awaiting my response and wasn’t sure what I would say, and his mom’s stomach was in knots not knowing the outcome, but I was ignorantly oblivious of this and thought it might be fun to draw this out and wait until Adam’s birthday (2 ½ weeks away), and have a “treasure hunt” leading to me…ha, ha…funny, huh? Well, I was actually serious about this, but I couldn’t stand to wait. (When I told him later my thought, he couldn’t believe that I would even think of such a thing.) On Wed., Dec. 21st, I contacted Adam and we set up a time to get together the following evening at a restaurant. There, in so many words, I told him that I was honored at his interest in courting me and would be happy to take this journey with him. I think that was the right answer. (-:

Our courtship time found us living 2 ½ hours apart, so we didn’t get to see each other as often as we liked, but we talked and e-mailed each other daily. Many weekends I was able to come out to visit in person! Saturdays we got to know each other more over building what would be our future home (a great way to get to know each other-I was a test of his patience being a constructionally challenged girl! :-). Sundays we spent more time just sitting down and talking, memorizing Scripture together, etc.-special times that always flew away too quickly! During this time the Lord continued to confirm his direction for us to be together, and we became more and more comfortable with and drawn to each other. I was ready for the “big question” to be popped and thought that perhaps Valentine’s Day would be the “day”. Though at the time I was disappointed that it didn’t happen on that day,, ThoughI am so glad that he didn’t ask me then, but waited until I wasn’t expecting it.

On Feb. 25th, 2006 I was “home” from Hood River for the weekend and looking forward to spending Saturday helping Adam on the house. As we were beginning the project for the day, Adam said that he had something to show me. I followed him upstairs to see what it was, figuring it was a new idea that he had for the house! Upon arriving he said that he had something to read to me. At that point I could tell that it wasn’t any ordinary thing that he was reading to me, and before he got very far into it, I knew what was coming and started tearing up. Adam then relayed to me an endearing poem that he had written for the occasion entitled, “Who Will Walk Beside Me?” After the poem he asked the “big question”, and I readily replied, “With Pleasure!” He then handed me a special reminder of this-a piece of wild cherry wood that he had crafted into a walking stick with the words, “Who will walk beside me” burned into it. I was admiring it when I looked up at the top of it and noticed a slot in the top with the most beautiful ring in it. The ring couldn’t have been more like what I would have wanted had I chosen it myself, and I had nothing to do with it. It was all very meaningful and special. Then he proceeded to sing a very special (sorry if am using this word too much, but it was all very special!) song to me called, “I Cherish the Treasure”. We were excited to go and share the news and then went to celebrate with a special dinner date that Adam had planned for the two of us to share together.

Thus began our 7 month engagement period full of many enjoyable wedding preparations and feverish work on the house to get it to a comfortably livable point before the wedding date. We were married on Sept. 23, 2006.

Adam is certainly a gift of God to me! I can honestly say that as wonderful as our courtship and engagement time was, marriage is even better! It’s “where the rubber meets the road”. Marriage is where true love and commitment truly show themselves in the realities of life, making the relationship succeed, and helping each other to individually flourish in a way that would not happen without the other.

There is no doubt in my mind that Adam was well worth waiting for! I am so grateful that the Lord kept me until His best was revealed! I know you will find the same to be true for you as you wait on the Lord for His best and guard your heart from anything less than that.

“Eye hath not seen, neither ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those that wait for Him.” Is. 64:4

Note: For our continuing story visit http://www.adamkaren.com/

4.13.2010

The Basics of Courtship


So, courtship: what is it and how do you do it? I always thought Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account of her courtship with Almanzo was particularly charming, but since I don’t plan on teaching a one-room schoolhouse anytime soon, and I don’t foresee my future husband owning a horse and buggy, I might be out of luck in that department. Still, while every courtship will look different, there are a few principles that should remain the same throughout. It is especially important to keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish through courtship: “The purpose of courtship is to determine a couple’s readiness for marriage and to discern the will of God for a covenant marriage that will benefit the world. While the actual manifestation of a courtship relationship will vary because no two couples are alike, one of the primary motivations behind courtship (as opposed to dating) is the protection of the emotions of those involved until the time when it is clearly God’s will to proceed into marriage[1].”

Why do I need to be concerned with courtship if I don’t have any prospects for the near future?
Courtship is a way of life. Before courtship, you should already be purposefully avoiding a dating mentality. Close friendships with the opposite sex is always a dangerous prospect. I was never a fan of the common advice for girls to “treat other guys like brothers” or guys to “treat other girls like sisters.” Such a relationship would be much too familiar for me. However, the light bulb came on when one wise woman commented, “I tell my children to treat the opposite sex like they are married.” Think about how married people interact with each other, and then remember that the majority of your single friends will eventually be married. Your familiarity and flirtations with them now are just as reprehensible as they would be if the person was married. So strive to spend your single years preparing for marriage and serving God—not scoping out the prospects or trying to get to know any particularly promising selections better.

Does the girl have any say in who she courts?
Of course she does! The guy initiates the relationship as the beginning of his leadership in the home. He goes through his parents and then asks permission of the girl’s parents, though, demonstrating his willingness to remain under authority. Proverbs 1:8-9 reiterates the importance of this principle: "My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck." He is working through the chain of authority in a way that God will bless. After all these people seek God’s will on the relationship, the girl still has the final decision—made seeking God and her parent’s counsel, of course. A man may seem to have all the perfect qualities, and yet still not be who God wants for her.

So, how do I know whom to court or marry?
What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham is absolutely essential reading material for any man or woman—single or married! Begin seeking the Lord now for qualities that are essential in a partner and start making a list of questions for the young man. This is not a compilation of random desireables…6’4”…dark…handsome…John Piper has an excellent list of questions that truly matter--many of which I may never have thought of--to get you started. Similarly, the young man can begin keeping a list of qualities he desires in a wife. Don’t forget to pray for your future spouse! This is an amazing step towards keeping everything in perspective and remembering that God is ultimately in charge. When you are truly seeking God and working with your parents, God will direct. "When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things (Proverbs 2:10-12)."

What does the actual courting process look like?
You still must take care to guard your heart while courting. Both of you should be getting to know each other for the purpose of marriage, but there is still the chance that the courtship may not progress to marriage. While every couple is different, most choose to spend much of their time getting to know each other in the setting of their family. Physical interaction is limited, and all this is done to allow the couple to unify as one spiritually—the most important facet of a relationship—before unifying emotionally and physically.

Is courting the same as engagement?
Although everyone has different names for the stages of a relationship, engagement can and should be distinguished from courtship. It shows the couple’s public commitment to each other to actively pursue a covenant marriage for the glory of God. This is the time that the couple can draw to each other emotionally—but the physical still waits for marriage.

If courtship is a foreign concept to you, these small guidelines may seem overwhelming. If, on the other hand, you are committed to courtship, you may notice key differences between how you plan to court and how I have described the process. Ultimately, however, the principles of every courtship remain the same—proceeding through a God-given authority to begin a pure relationship for the purpose of marriage.
I can’t wait for you all to read the next installment in this series—a personal testimony of a Godly courtship from a dear friend of mine!

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

4.09.2010

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To coast with fun and laughter;
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.


What if I told you that I just read a book that encourages girls to be beautifully feminine and boys to be unashamedly masculine leaders, makes a case for parents discipling their children at home, provides practical ideas for girls to be missionaries in their own homes, and offers sweet comfort for those going through tragedy and pain?

Would you be interested?

What if I further told you that this isn’t a tome of scholarly proportions, long on words and short on excitement. However, it has many antagonists who, grasping at straws, label it imperialistic, sexist [1], and racist [2]. No, this is no tome, but a work of fiction, and one of the best kind. I like a good fiction book along with the best of them, but it must have some sort of purpose, some crucial message. I fell in love with this one's story and message enough that I just had to share it with you all!

Jack and Jill: A Village Story by Louisa May Alcott is a book that I have long been aware of, but somehow have always pegged as a classic for children under eight. And how interesting could a book be if it was over three hundred pages of elaboration on a nursery rhyme? Thankfully, a friend told me how delightful the book was, so I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and got busy.

What I found was a treasure. The story centers around a rich young boy, Jack, and his friend, Janey, also known as Jill by her friends since she and Jack are such playmates. One day, they go up a hill towing a sled behind them, but they crash headlong at the bottom, and their lives are disastrously changed. With realism, Louisa May Alcott describes the sadness and even bitterness that the children experience in dealing with their injuries. It isn’t until one wintry day that Jill finds the way out of self-pity when talking with her friends and mother:

“I’d like to be a missionary and go where folks throw their babies to the crocodiles. I’d watch and fish them out, and have a school, and bring them up, and convert all the people till they knew better,” said warm-hearted Molly Loo, who befriended every abused animal and forlorn child she met.
“We needn’t go to Africa to be missionaries; they have ‘em nearer home and need ‘em too. In all the big cities there are a many, and they have their hands full with the poor, the wicked, and the helpless. One can find that sort of work anywhere, if one has a mind,” said Mrs. Pecq.
“…It would be fun if we can only get some heathen to work at!” cried Jill, ready for fresh enterprises of every sort.
“I can tell you some one to begin on right away,” said her mother, nodding at her. “As wild a little savage as I’d wish to see. Take her in hand, and make a pretty-mannered lady of her. Begin at home, my lass, and you’ll find missionary work enough for a while.”
“Now, Mammy, you mean me! Well, I will begin; and I’ll be so good, folks won’t know me.”

With her mother by her side, Jill grows from a self-centered, popular, but wild young girl into a young woman with humility, compassion, and wisdom. Jack, in his turn, goes through his own scrapes, but he too emerges more of a man.

This book’s pages are etched with deep sadness, perfect joy, witty humor, and sweet love. It convicted me as even sermons rarely do, highlights girls who were brightening their corner long before I ever did, and challenged me to renewed efforts in brightening my own home, starting by changing myself! I never should have doubted Louisa May Alcott, for when I finally finished the book yesterday, all I could do was sigh with contentment and say with Jack, “That’s a first-rate end to a very good story.”



Picture Credit


Please view these sources with discretion:

[1] Hines, Maude. Missionary Positions: Taming the Savage Girl in Louisa May Alcott's Jack and Jill. The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 23, Number 3, September 1999, pp. 373-394 (Article).

4.06.2010

The Case for Courtship

Do you ever just feel so surrounded by our culture’s constant barrage of immorality that you want to go take a shower? How is it that you can be browsing a bookstore and innocently stumble across two fourteen year-olds aping what they see in the movies? Why does everyone ask if I have a boyfriend with an impish, teasing grin on their face? What makes purity nonexistent and prudish in a culture that does not know how to blush?

Dating.

Why should that fourteen year-old girl be wrapping herself up in a pimply, squeaky, adolescent boy when she is struggling with her own pimples, squeaks, and adolescence? Why should she establish a pattern now that will haunt her in her twenties—a pattern of finding self-worth in a man? Why is she so intent on pleasing her boyfriend that she will sacrifice her decorum in a bookstore?

Dating.

Why should I be in a relationship if I am not prepared to marry? Must I really start this game at sixteen and continue it into my thirties? Must I really go through twenty-seven heartbreaks in order to find Mr. Right so I can give him 1/28th of my heart?

Dating.

Is it any wonder that two immature, self-consumed, hormone-filled teenagers can’t have a pure relationship? Isn’t it rather absurd and unfair to expect them to stare at a triple-decker chocolate cake every day, smell the chocolate cake, and lick the fudge frosting but never take a bite?

There is another way, though. Many people call it “courting.” Some people call it "dating," though it isn't typical dating at all. And a few don’t call it anything at all. Semantics aside, courtship is about purity, marriage, and staying under authority the entire time. Where dating lets you go out with anyone you like, whether or not you would actually marry him, courtship requires you to be a bit more choosy. Where dating may or may not involve your parents (up until the point where you’ve already given him your heart and he asks the token question of your dad, but everyone involved knows what your dad must say), courtship requires the cooperation of both sets of parents. Where dating is about the thrill of the hunt, courtship is about the joy of the result.

Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and Ruth and Boaz all “courted.” Samson “dated”, however, giving his heart to two woman whom he knew he should not marry. Solomon, also—the wisest man in the world! He dated, although his “dating game” might look different from a modern version, because apparently, he married almost every woman he dated. Indeed, courtship is a thoroughly Biblical approach to relationships. It is rooted in one's desire to obey God: "If ye love me, keep My commandments....He who has My commandments, and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and manifest Myself to him (John 14:15, 21)." The emotions of love are grounded by one's desire to honor his parents (Ephesians 6:2-3), and the end result will bring glory to God: "Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on the earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed (Psalms 112:1-2)."

Dating—our modern-day, illogical practice for divorce. Courtship—a sometimes vague, sometimes nebulous, but altogether Biblical alternative to dating. Welcome to this series (as requested by many of you!) and welcome to purposeful, defined courtship.



Picture Credit
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

4.02.2010

The Final Chapter

Are you a skipper-aheader? Do you ever dutifully begin at the beginning of a book, only to bog down in the middle as the author goes into ecstasies over his own literary voice and spends a chapter describing the phenomenon of dirt? At moments like those, do you just have to skip ahead and read the last page—just to make sure the book is worth it? Just to make sure you’re not wasting valuable time? You don’t really learn anything you didn’t already suspect—the guy gets the girl and the dirt gets scooped up by a giant alien spaceship exposing the inner core of the earth, leaching radiation, and killing everyone.

Yeah. Surprises like that are why I abhor skipping ahead. In fact, if you are a skipper-aheader, I request full disclosure in the comment section below, because such a quality will require serious introspection on my part as to whether or not our relationship can continue. The joy of reading a book or watching a movie is as much in the journey as it is in the conclusion. Sure—maybe you did know the guy was going to get the girl from the first sentence, but don’t try to tell me you saw the alien invasion coming!

I’m a non-skipper-aheader in life, too. Sometimes, I do think it would be handy to know if I’m marrying and who I’m marrying, or when I’m dying and how I’m dying, or if I’ll ever be brave enough to add highlights to my hair. Generally speaking, though, where’s the fun in that? If I knew my life story before I lived it, I’d be too busy preparing for the milestones and to intent on dreading the tragedies that I wouldn’t be able to love the life God has given me.

If Joni Eareckson Tada knew that that dive would paralyze her for life, would she have jumped? If she hadn’t jumped, though, would she have reached the countless thousands she has? Seeing into the future could be complicated. If Peter, the apostle, knew that he would die a brutal death on the cross, doesn’t it seem likely that he would have kept right on denying Christ? Seeing into the future could be devastating.

Did you ever think, though, that Jesus was the author of the story He lived? That He wrote the ending to His story? As a child, listening and asking questions in the temple, He knew that one day that same group of people would scheme to crucify Him. When He chose Judas to be one of the elite twelve, He knew that that act gained Him a traitor who would seal His fate. As He lovingly healed the masses, oblivious to His own needs and desires, He knew that their joyful chants of praise would someday soon turn to ugly cries of “Barabbas!” as they chose a murderer over their Messiah. How could He have enjoyed that triumphant entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey as crowds shouted “Hosanna”? The journey into Jerusalem was a deliberate step into the trap He knew was being set for Him.

You see, Jesus knew the last chapter of His life. He had an internal clock, ticking down each second, minute, hour, and day—each span of time bringing Him that much closer to the torture we can’t even imagine. If I had been Him, I would have lived my entire life with a nervous knot of dread in my stomach. Each morning, I would wake up with a vague riddle gnawing at me, until my sleep-fogged brain suddenly solved the puzzle—I was one day closer to a brutal death on the cross for a world that didn’t even want to need me. And then I would resolve to live each day with the selfish hoarding of a miser, leeching all the fun and entertainment out of life I could, because soon I would be suffering for sins I didn’t commit.

Jesus, though, didn’t do that. The Man Who relieved so many of suffering and raised so many from the dead knew the last chapter of His life on earth—but He still lived the preceding chapters just as unselfishly and victoriously as if He didn’t know. The man Who wronged no one and loved everyone knew all along that He would die at their hands, because of their sins.

Yet, He still made the choice to die. He agonized—He pleaded with God for some other way—He wept human tears—He perspired human blood. “Abba Father!” He pleaded. “All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me (Mark 14:36a).” The dread, the pain, and the suffering all seemed so much to bear. So unfair! “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).” Who could have blamed Him for running out of Gethsemane as fast as His legs could take Him? But He didn’t. After all the anguish, He abandoned Himself to God’s will—He surrendered His life to the last chapter. “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will (Mark 14:36b).”

He made the choice.
He knew all along.
Did that make it harder or easier?
You tell me.



Picture Credit
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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