Knowing God and Miscarriage

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“There was a time when miscarriage seemed like a foreign concept to me. I was young, recently married and could see only beautiful, healthy babies in my future. Yes, I had heard scary stories of women experiencing miscarriage. I had even been discipled by a woman who experienced the pain of multiple pregnancy losses (one of which I was privileged to see her bravely grieve through). And yet, I never thought it would happen to me.

My rosy perceptions of pregnancy all too quickly fell to pieces when we lost our first baby and they were completely crushed several years later when we lost another precious child at 17 weeks. Miscarriage had unforeseeably become a part of my reproductive story, and more importantly my spiritual story.

As I remember these painful experiences, I find myself grateful for the faithful men and women who poured their knowledge of our God into me as a young Christian. The Lord placed wise and gracious mentors in my path who stressed the importance of having a solid theological foundation to build my life upon. It was this theological foundation-this knowledge of our loving God-that prepared me to walk through these unforeseen and seemingly unbearable trials…”

Join me over at CBMW where I’m sharing three doctrines that have made all the difference.

[intlink id="12419" type="post"]You can find more posts on miscarriage here.[/intlink]

Bookmarks 10/1/13

BookmarksBut this is the way that I see it. Those things that I consider part of my personality – loving to decorate, loving to cook, wanting things to be beautiful and organized and perfectly crafty and satisfying. I believe in these things. But I believe in them as things that I can use to honor my Creator. Back in the days when I wasn’t being challenged, these things came naturally, and I believed in them because I could cobble together reasons that they were good. But they primarily came from my own strength. I could be that way without really any pushback. So God brought the push back. He made it take more than the capacity I think I have to do these things. He said to me, “I know you like it, and you think you believe it. Now I’d like to see you do it without yourself.” God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Lets see about her obedience and her faith.” -Rachel Jankovic

Sacrifice Over Perfection: Moms, if there is one blog post you read this week…. read this one. It is so encouraging and so brutally honest. Most of all, it will help you to consider what is truly important in your call as a mother.

The Pope and God’s Holiness: Russell Moore takes on some of Pope Francis’ latest words concerning the need for salvation.

Fierce Women Review: Tim Challies reviews a helpful book for women who find that their strong personalities are doing more harm than good in their marriages. You can read about one of my favorite parts of the book here.

Real and Honest: In this piece we see how the gospel frees us to live honestly and openly with our brothers and sisters in the faith without fear of being judged.

Christians and Public Schools: This is a very thought-provoking article from Albert Mohler on the increasing necessity of Christian children being educated outside the public sector.

Book Review: Name Above All Names

Name Above All NamesRecently I talked about [intlink id="13066" type="post"]how theology is anything but a boring pursuit of knowledge[/intlink]. We desire to study God because he is captivating and awe-inspiring! The new hearts he has given to us through salvation long to know him better and draw nearer to his glory. Therefore, theology is a joyful and delicious discipline for every kingdom woman. The new book Name Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson proves this truth chapter after chapter as it dives into the character and identity of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I chose to read this book as part of the [intlink id="12585" type="post"]3 in 3 Challenge[/intlink] for its authors. Begg and Ferguson have both had a tremendous impact on my spiritual formation over the years, so when I learned that they had co-authored a book I knew it would be a treasure; and indeed it was. No doubt this book will be one I revisit in the future.

In Name Above All Names, the authors take us on a journey through seven marvelous descriptions of Christ found in the Bible: the Seed of the Woman, The True Prophet, the Great High Priest, the Conquering King, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant, and the Lamb on the Throne. By beginning in Genesis with the prophecy of the “Seed of the Woman” who would crush Satan and concluding with the victorious “Lamb on the Throne” found in Revelation, Begg and Ferguson give us a stunning and satisfying explanation of our King whom, thanks to their book, we have even more reason to love and adore. I was thoroughly impressed by their ability to not only pack this little book with information, but to convey such a sense of awe and reverence for Christ within its pages. It seemed as though each page presented a thought-provoking truth or exposition that begged me to pause and reflect on the magnificence of the Savior.

It would be very difficult for me to choose a favorite chapter from this book. I was so encouraged by the explanation given for Christ as our Prophet–who reveals the Father to us and teaches us the truth–as well as the description of Christ the King–who victoriously won a people through his death on the cross. In describing this victory Begg and Ferguson say this:

So Jesus has done everything that we needed to be saved from sin. He has done everything we needed in order for us to be saved from the judgement of death. And he has done everything necessary to set us free from the bondage of the Devil. In a word, he as done everything we need done for us but could never do for ourselves. (pg. 89)

Yes and amen! This is the King we serve and love. Isn’t he worthy?

Perhaps the chapter dealing with Christ’s humanity has had the greatest impact on my perception of Christ. As the authors explain the meaning of the name, “Son of Man”, we are reminded how important it was for Jesus to become fully human (while retaining his full deity, of course) in order to deliver us from the judgement brought upon us through the first human: Adam. It is through Christ–this perfect, sinless man–that humanity is able to be restored to the glory it was originally created for. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this chapter:

Psalm 8 is a meditation on creation and the sheer condescending goodness of God in making man as his image and in his likeness. We contribute nothing to our own existence, and yet God has lavished privileges upon us–and did so first of all on Adam. The son of man is God’s image, privileged to be given a kind of threefold office. He is to be the prophet who brings God’s word to all creation. He is to be the priest, indeed the liturgist, who gives intelligent expression to the worship that is due from all of God’s creatures. He is to be the king who will exercise his reign and dominion… Jesus is the real man, or in Martin Luther’s expression “The Proper Man.” He is “man as he was created to be” and “the man who fulfills man’s destiny.” (pg. 111)

That is what it means to be the Son of Man. It means to be made in God’s image and to fulfill the divine destiny that would lead to a world ordered and completed as God’s garden, extending to the ends of the earth. So creation as God’s image, fellowship with him in life, experiencing his love and affection, being given a glorious destiny–all this is wrapped up in Jesus’ use of the expression “Son of Man.” He is the one who will accomplish all this. (pg. 112)

One of the most delightful aspects of this book is the use of hymns throughout its pages. It seems as though Begg and Ferguson have an endless supply of rich, theological songs and poems to draw from as they seek to better illustrate the truths they put forth. In this way, there is an artfulness to the book that encourages your own soul to burst forth in song! For instance, in the chapter I was just discussing, John Henry Newman’s poem “Dream of Gerontius” is quoted in an effort to further describe the glorious way in which Jesus’ humanness freed us from the curse of sin:

O loving wisdom of our God,
When all was sin and shame
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.

O wisest love, that flesh and blood
That did to Adam fail
Should strive afresh against the foe
Should strive and should prevail.

I circled and underlined many (new to me) hymns and poems that I intend to track down after reading this book–which made me very grateful for the in-page footnotes! Also noteworthy are the subject and scripture indexes in the back of the book for easy navigating.

If there were any drawbacks to this book it would be that you never know who is speaking. The entire book is written from a combined perspective which wasn’t distracting until pronouns such as “we” and “us” were used in recounting specific, personal experiences or memories. This, at times, felt very awkward and I would have preferred for each author’s name to be used in such circumstances. As it was, the stories tended to feel a little impersonal which is unfortunate because they were really great stories! This is not to say that I wasn’t able to enjoy them and benefit from Name them; I guess it is just a personal preference.

More than anything I want to stress how much I enjoyed and benefited from this book. I am constantly amazed at how much I have to learn about this Savior who has lavished his love upon me. This book opened up many new areas of study I will be applying myself to in the future as I seek to understand and know him better. I highly recommend Name Above All Names to you, the readers of Desiring Virtue.

You can purchase a copy of Name Above All Names here on Amazon.

This book was the first selection for the [intlink id="12585" type="post"]3 in 3 Challenge[/intlink]. If you read with me, what were your thoughts on the book? Was there a truth you read that was particularly meaningful to you? What were your favorite parts? Was there anything you didn’t like about the book? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Tomorrow we will begin reading Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God  as the second selection of the[intlink id="12585" type="post"] 3 in 3 Challenge[/intlink]! Keep up the reading ladies!

Because All Wives are “In-Process”

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, ESV)

Because All Wives are "In-Process"

“I’m beginning to realize that I’m not a very good wife!”

I let the honest confession gush out of my mouth as my friend listened intently over a cup of coffee. Soon we were commiserating over the incredibly imperfect, flawed women we were and how surprising of a revelation this was to us. Somehow we had been under the impression that reading the right books, having a foundational understanding of what the Bible says about marriage, and marrying godly men would provide an environment where we would simply flourish into the perfectly godly, helpful, submissive, and encouraging wives God desired for us to be.

Unfortunately, there had been a particularly pesky problem in the pursuit of marital bliss that we grossly underestimated: the problem of our sin. Oh sure, we were firm believers in the doctrine of total depravity and mentally assented to the continuing effect sin would have on our lives as believers, but the reality of the struggle we would face day-in and day-out to deny our natural, self-centered tendencies as wives was more than we bargained for. As we navigated naively through the first years of marriage, began having children, and sought to work diligently in our homes, our desperate need for the forgiving and sanctifying grace of God became glaringly clear. We were not the perfect Proverbs 31 women we had envisioned ourselves becoming once we slipped on our wedding bands. We were women in process and women in need of grace.

Unrealistic Expectations

As I think back on this conversation, I realize that it signified a mental shift in my thinking. Verbally admitting my unrealistic expectations for marriage allowed me to step back, gather my knowledge about the Word of God, and apply it to the reality I was living in. I had been living as though I could be a finished product for my husband and family, when the Bible clearly tells us that we are all very much still in-process and in need of the sanctifying grace of God.

You see, as much as I wish my husband could have married a woman who loves him perfectly, submits to him without hesitation, and joyfully helps him whenever possible, the reality is he married a sinner. When we said our wedding vows, neither of us were promising to love a holy spouse. We were each promising to love the sinner in front of us–that imperfect, going-to-drive-you-insane-one-day-over-something-ridiculous person dressed up in pretty wedding attire. We couldn’t fully comprehend it at the time, but when we slipped those rings on each other’s fingers, we were committing to deal with each other’s sins for the rest of our lives. Because inherently, becoming one flesh with your spouse means taking up arms with them in the fight against their sin.

For some reason, we have a tendency to forget this reality. We want to have “perfect” marriages and to be “perfect” spouses, but forget that the road of sanctification is paved by the often uncomfortable and never-ceasing discipline of grace. Christ’s work on the cross may have freed us from the reign of sin, but we are not yet free of sin. On the contrary, being freed from the reign of sin means that we are now free to wage war against the enemy within our flesh. We will be doing battle with this foe for the rest of our lives and in every area of our lives–including our marriages!

Is it any wonder we find ourselves discouraged when we assume that we should have “arrived” at some etherial plane of holiness not possible this side of the grave? We are not meant to be putting on an impossible show of holiness for our husbands, we are meant to be growing in sanctification along with our husbands. We are each, daily growing into the likeness of Christ, but we are not Christ. “Growing into” means we are “growing out of” something else. The Holy Spirit is hard at work tearing away our sinful desires, impulses, thought processes, and passions: what the Bible calls the “old man”. Every day he is working out the salvation purchased for us on the cross of calvary, but we will not be free from the temptation to sin until we are liberated from these bodies of death: when we see Jesus face to face and are transformed into his image.

Unexpected Motivation

Neither my husband nor I are ever going to be perfect spouses. This might seem like a discouraging truth, but there is actually great freedom and motivation to be found in the knowledge that we have not yet “arrived”. If I can live with an awareness of my own weakness and bent toward sin it helps my marriage in three important ways:

  1. I can be on guard for manifestations of my sinful flesh: Knowing my own weakness reminds me that I easily fall into sin. I can pretty much assume that there will be multiple moments within every day when I will be tempted to put my own interests ahead of my husband’s or for me to chafe at his leadership or to hastily respond in an unkind manner, but knowing that I have the propensity to do these things apart from Christ helps me to walk in humility and watchfulness. In short: I am more likely to win battles when I acknowledge that there is an enemy to fight!
  2. I can live in the grace supplied to me by the sacrifice of the Savior: Acknowledging my own weakness reminds me of my need for the gracious, sanctifying work of God. It forces me to seek help from the only Source of power that can transform my life! I know that it is not from within myself that I can muster up the ability to love my husband well; it is solely a work of the Holy Spirit. I must, daily, moment-by-moment be seeking his face and asking him to sanctify my heart, soul, and mind. Living in this grace also guards me from becoming discouraged by my failings. Yes, I will continue to sin despite my best efforts, but this is exactly why Christ died: to forgive me for my sins and to substitute his perfect life for my flawed one. The gracious Groom who vowed to love his bride (the church) by dying for her wasn’t under any illusion that she was worthy of being loved. He wasn’t blind to her sin–after all, he was punished for each and every one of her failings. No, he saw her in all her filthiness and loved her to the point of death, even death on a cross. This is the way he loves me–even on my worst day.
  3. I can show grace to my husband: Seeing myself as weak allows me to view him in his true state as well. As I become more aware of the depths of my own struggles, I can have more compassion for his. Neither of us are perfect, but rather, we are both in the process of being perfected. When I see how much grace I need on this road of sanctification, I can in turn, offer that same grace to him. He too is “in-process”.

As my friend and I came away from our coffee date we were both joyful. It doesn’t make any sense because the world would view our admissions as acknowledgements of defeat. But as women of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can have joy in our weaknesses, knowing that our Savior is the strong one. He is the one who has secured the victory to the battle we fight each and every day. In his grace he faithfully forgives, purifies, justifies, and sanctifies those he has called. We are women “in-process” and we can trust the process our loving Savior chooses to bring us to complete sanctification.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV)

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photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Bookmarks 9/26/13

BookmarksJesus Crushes Sin: Here is a sobering article on Christ’s work to defeat our sin and the seriousness nature of our sanctification. In short: don’t manage your sin, overcome it through Christ!

Moms are Never Alone: You might be thinking, “Yes, my kids are ALWAYS with me!” but that’s not exactly what this article is getting at. Courtney Reissig talks about how young moms can often feel lonely in their ministry, but must remember that Christ is always with them.

Patient or Permissive?: GirlTalk takes on the difficult task of discerning between whether we are being patient or permissive with our children.

Grace is Undeserved: Here is a very moving testimony from Tullian Tchividjian about a time when his father displayed the grace of God in his life when he revealed that he and his fiancé were pregnant.

Book Giveaway: Christina Fox shares an interview with Rachel Jankovic on her book Fit to Burst and gives you a chance to win a copy for yourself!