LEAGUE of the CANADIAN REFORMED WOMENS SOCIETIESHORIZON is a quarterly magazine published by the
LEAGUE of the CANADIAN REFORMED WOMEN'S SOCIETIES
VOLUME 14 NO. 1 SEPTEMBER 1998

E-mail the Horizon
Shirley Broekema, [email protected]

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Editorial ….. Living and Active

Article……..The Biblical Freedom of Women
Article……..The Spiritual Upbuilding of Women

 
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LIVING AND ACTIVE

Enjoying a morning coffee, canning or preserving some of the summer's harvest, nursing a loved me, caring for a baby, encouraging a school-age child, busy with fall cleaning, preparing for a meeting of the study society, whatever it is our hand finds to do we must do it with unflagging zeal for our God. At times this may seem very difficult for us, often we may need encouragement and comfort. Where do we, as women in the twentieth century moving rapidly forward into the twenty-first, go to find this encouragement? In this issue of HORIZON, we strive to share with you the assurance God has given to us in His Word which is still alive today because our God is a Living and Active God.

Without knowledge of God and His covenant faithfulness to us, it is difficult for us to respond in covenant obedience to Him When we faithfully study God's Word we see that our God is a God who stands by what He has said to us. Think about the depth of comfort and assurance of God's abiding faithfulness in the words of Deuteronomy 28: "If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, then the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Our obligation comes m that we must obey all the commands of our lord. Living close to our God in covenental obedience requires a prayerful dependence on God and an unsaturated eagerness to know and to love our God. Only then will we recognize His ongoing work of covenantal faithfulness since the beginning of titne.

To love God is to know God To know God means we must open His Word and make it the Foundation of all our work- God has promised that He will give us His Spirit. .Listen diligently, study eagerly and obey faithfully and He will show us what a treasure we have. A treasure to open, to share and to cherish in church, at home and in the Bible study meetings.

As women of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, sitting together in one room around one table, discussing our One God and His Word, we will see how His Word is living and active, piercing our souls, discerning our thoughts and intentions. Our discussions need to reflect the very nature of the Word - LIVING. We should guard ourselves against the danger of falling into the trap of holding discussions in a mere factual fashion. God does not allow us to study His Word as a bystander, someone who is not personally involved. He requires a personal response in us, a response that will bring us into action. He will provide us with His Holy Spirit who m turn will warm our hearts and discussions so that together we can leave our meeting built up in faith Not just a select few active members of the society should go home satisfied with the contribution of the evening. With God's Word m our hands and hearts we will be able to encourage, upbuild and stir each other up into the fruits of faithfulness. To share in the work, of love and redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest privilege we could ever possess. Let it drive us to sharing it in love with one another as sisters in Christ.

Shirley Broekema

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THE BIBLICAL FREEDOM OFWOMEN

"We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God's idea of me and my whole life is an offering To Him, of all that I am and all that He wants to me to be." (Let Me Be a Woman, Elizabeth Elliot)

Let us take a historical and biblical journey to discover the joyful freedom we have as women.

THE WORLD'S VIEW

The male perspective

Since the fall into sin, men have misused the headship God gave them and have twisted the perfect creation order to suit their sinful desires so that many men through the centuries used the office of man to totally dominate and repress women. They saw the differences in women not as a complement to their being, but as imperfections making women inferior. The philosopher Aristotle believed that a woman was not a completely developed human being, but a "misbegotten" or "defective" male. A traditional Jewish male prayer thanks God that he is not created female.

Many men, even Christian men, saw women as their chattel, totally subservient, without any rights to property, and no freedom beyond that granted them by a father or husband. Husbands were allowed 'by law' to beat their wives as a way to mold and control their defective characters. They did not love and cherish their wives as coworkers in creation, evident in the fact that Paul found it necessary to admonish them to "love their wives as their own bodies." Many women had no voice in the affairs of the home, the church or society. It was perhaps, that climate of inferiority that give rise to the Feminist Movement.

The feminist perspective

The modern feminist movement emerged in the early 1960's, although the pursuit of feminine wholeness has been in existence for many generations. Many feminists both today and in history seemed to think that the problem of inequality between the sexes rested in the fact that the world belonged to men. The solution, therefore, was to erase the differences between men and women. A French philosopher Simone de, Beauvoir wrote a book in 1949 entitled in English, The Second Sex. By the 1960s it was looked upon by the feminists as a major work benefiting women's liberation. In it she decried the second class citizenship women held, arguing it was a man's world and women were forced into a mold created by men for their own benefit. She shouted the battle cry, which women would pick up several decades later, that women could only be liberated by destroying the superiority of men.

Betty Friedan, in her very popular book The Feminine Mystique, (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1963), believed that all women in society were suffering from some form of unhappiness and discontent, (unbeknownst to many women). This she blamed on the lack of purpose found by being a wife and mother at home. Men were free to seek fulfillment, while women were tied to the home. This insignificant role of women needed to be changed. liberating women from their traditional role of wives and mothers, and taking away the factor of submission to the father or husband would bring about the woman's happiness and general peace and harmony to society.

Now that women were informed that they were discontented and dominated by men, the rest of the world also needed to be informed. Universities began offering Women's Studies, in which all facets of history, literature and philosophy were examined and even altered to portray the woman's perspective. Women's medicine became a driving issue because women were still bound by their biological makeup; imprisoned by the womb. Psychology and biology were to be reworked so that women could gain "reproductive and childcare freedom." The cause for women's freedom meant a movement toward women's views in institutions, reproductive freedom (with easy access to abortions and contraceptives), no-fault divorce (so that women could free themselves of marital dominance), state funded daycare, and affirmative action to assure women's access to any and all employment opportunity.

THE BIBLICAL VIEW

In contradiction to these unbiblical perspectives of women in society, let us now examine the Scriptural truths of the perfect equality of men and women in the creation order.

In Genesis 1:27 & 28a we read, " So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And verse 3 1, "and God saw everything that He made, and behold, it was very good."

Male and female He created them and it was very good. God's perfect creation - male and female - it was very good. In this creation of mankind, two distinct sexes were created and both sexes bear the image of God, equal as image bearers. As well, equal in rule over the creation, "and God said to THEM ... Subdue it and have dominion..." Two distinct sexes, male and female, sharing the image of God and co-workers in ruling over creation. Further, in the New Testament, we are assured that women are equal in salvation. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 1 Peter 3:7 calls husbands and wives "joint heirs of the grace of life."

Men and women, equal in creation and in salvation, yet created with differences physically and emotionally, with different strengths and weaknesses and different roles in subduing creation; differences created to perfectly complement each other.

To man was given the duty of headship. He was charged by God to be the spiritual leader, provider, and protector for the family. We clearly see that this was a role given to man from the beginning, when we look at what happened immediately after Adam and Eve have sinned. God calls to Adarn. God knew what had happened, but He questions Adam first because Adam was the head of the family unit; Adam was responsible for their spiritual welfare.

Satan also understood the creation order because he used that order to deceive. Satan went to Eve first as a direct blow against the God-ordained headship given to Adam. The original Hebrew text of Genesis 3:6 states, "So when the woman saw the tree was good for food ... she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." She gave to her husband with her. Adam, as the spiritual leader of the family, abdicated his headship and passively stood by as Eve took the leading role. Amazing that the fall into sin was occasioned by a sex role reversal!

When God laid punishment upon Adam, and Eve, He did so according to their created roles. To Eve He multiplied her pains in childbirth; childbirth was not her punishment because she was created to bear children, but the punishment was pain in the childbirth. Adam's punishment was not working for the food, but the constant battle he would face against the earth for his living, which in the end would be won by the earth, for in death, the earth would swallow him up.

So, from the beginning of creation we see the complementary equality God gave men and women, as well as giving them different roles and positions in His creation. What then is the role of women as ordained by God?

Freedom in Marriage

In Genesis 2:18 we read, `Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.."' God knew what Adam needed, but to make clear to Adam his loneliness, God brought to him all the animals of creation. Adam studied them and named them according to their amazing designs, but none among them was worthy to be his companion. None could stimulate him intellectually, with none could he share the wonders of this creation. None could assist him in his mandate to care for God's creation. None could keep him from being lonely, none were his equal. So, out of man, God created woman and with the creation of woman, mankind became whole.

Adam's reaction to the creation of woman also shows her worth. "This at last - (hear the shout of joy and relief ) is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." You do not hear him saying, "Great, someone to clean up the mess those animals keep making," or "Good, someone to do all those boring little jobs while I take the good stuff." No, 'This at last is bone of my bone..." This is woman, she came out of me, she is equal to me, someone to share the awesome task of taking dominion over creation. Equal to man yet different. She was softer, rounder, with a gentler voice and sexually pleasing. And God gave them the mandate to work together to fill the earth and subdue it, with man having the headship role and woman as his co-worker, his helper.

How do we carry out this mandate of co- worker and helper? The Bible teaches us that it is through submission. Submission, the one word which makes most of us women cringe when we hear or read it. Many of us do not understand the meaning of submission. It is a joyful, willing respect of the headship of our husband.

Wayne Gruden, in his essay, 'Wives Like Sarah, and The Husbands who Honour Them," describes submission in seven different points.

1. Submission does not mean putting a husband in the place of Christ. Christ is the full authority in all our lives. Both husbands and wives have the duty to seek out the will of God for their marriage as well as individually.

2. Submission does not mean giving up independent thought. When the writers of the New Testament told wives to submit themselves to their husbands, these words were directed to the women, not to the men who then told their wives. This assumed that women would hear and respond to God's Word. If every thought, direction and initiative must come from a man, whether it is in running the household affairs, or participation in church and community matters, the woman is no longer a helper, but an extra burden.

3. Submission does not mean wives should give up efforts to influence and guide her husband. Under the purpose of marriage in the "Form for Marriage" in the Book of Praise we read: "First a husband and wife shall live together in sincere love and holiness, helping each other in all things that belong to this life and the life to come." Husbands and wives alike must help, mold, and encourage each other. Not all men have a natural ability to lead, they do not want it and find it even burdensome, but women must gently guide men into this role. Wives must encourage husbands to lead the family in worship, Bible reading and prayer, even if they are uncomfortable with it - it is the task God gave them, they may not abdicate it. The same can be said of wives to encourage their husbands, to become more involved in the activities of the Church and school. A mature Christian woman can bring her own strengths and insights to a relationship that make men wiser and stronger. As a helper to man, woman has something important to offer to the marriage relationship other than companionship (like a faithful dog) or work ability (like a mule).

4. Submission does not mean a wife should give into every demand of her husband, especially those that lead them into sin, or that are harmful to their relationship or the welfare of their children.

5. Submission is not based on lesser intelligence or competence, and wives should never act incompetent where they are required to be strong, or foolish where they are to be wise.

6. Submission does not mean being fearful or timid These do not fit with the picture that Scripture paints of the roles of worthy helper, co-workers in creation and joint heirs of grace.

7. Submission is not inconsistent with equality in Christ. We have the misconception that headship and submission somehow mean superior and inferior respectively. That simply is not true. Christ as a child had to submit to His parents' authority even though He was their God and King. As well, He subjected himself to God the Father, even unto death, yet He was equal in importance and essence.

Submission or the joyful and willing respect of our husband's headship is the chief way how we as women fulfill our role as worthy helpers to our husbands. Submission done out of love for God and Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, will strengthen our marriages and our love for our husbands.

God's Word gives great honour to the role of wives and mothers. Prov. 31 gives a glowing account of the ideal wife. This passage is often misused to show that a wife can be real estate agent, independent business woman, world merchant and so on, but only if you take these verses out of context. One of the overriding themes of this chapter is her husband. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. (notice it doesn't say she is well known as she sits among the elders.) As well, all her endeavors are for the welfare of her household, and the wellbeing of her household. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. Her lamp does not go out at night. All her household are clothed. She looks well to the ways of her household.

And what are the characteristics of this woman? Strength and dignity, wisdom and kindness, industriousness. Perhaps she does dabble in real estate, and she certainly is involved in a cottage industry of planting fields for profit or just for fresh produce, making cloth and clothing for resale. But this passage certainly does not paint a picture of a woman who cheerfully bids good-bye to her family every morning to fulfill herself in a career. No, her career is her husband and family and to that she puts all her time and considerable talents to good use. The woman who is fulfilled seeks the Lord and not herself.

By now, the question rising in some of the readers' minds might be, "But may a woman not work outside the home?" For single women and women without children, this is not usually a great concern. As long as the career of the wife does not carry more importance than her desire to be a helpmeet for her husband, or stop or delay her

from allowing God to bless the marriage with children, then usually there is not a problem. The questions we need to ask and honestly answer regarding mothers working outside the home, are..

Does her outside work really help her family?

Does it assist her husband in his calling ?

Can she still fulfil her primary calling to be wife and mother?

Can she still provide her young children all they require to develop physically, emotionally and most importantly, spiritually?

Can she still give her older children the emotional security they need to explore themselves and the world around them?

Can she still be there when her children need the answers to questions of life which will baffle them, or will they have to find solutions from another source?

Does the money she earns really provide what is needed to sustain life or does it provide luxuries that could be done without?

When we look at the different roles of men and women in the Bible, it is evident that men were given the job of provider and protector of the family, while the women bore children and nurtured them. While feminists and social engineers would have us believe this is merely custom and environmental programming, the Bible gives clear indications that this is how God created us. Homemaking is covenantal work, in which neither the husband nor the wife may put careers, hobbies or sports, or even church work before the family, or before each other. "For what God has joined together, let no man [or career, or church council, or hobby or outside interest] put asunder," (Matt. 18:6).

Audrey VandenHoven, Calgary~ AB

League Day for Alberta, June 1996

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THE SPIRITUAL UPBUILDING OF WOMEN
IN THE CONGREGATION

There are many practical issues involved in the woman's place in the congregation. They include the task of women to bear children, or contributions they can make at study clubs, or the work they can do as sister support, etc. The general conclusion to these issues is: there is a lot of work to be done for women in the church. However, the question we might concern ourselves with is, are women waiting for more work to do? For more activities to take part of'? For more obligations for fulfil?

Imagine a juggler keeping 5,6,7 balls in the air. How does he manage it all? Is the life of a woman not often similar? How many balls do you try to keep in the air? Your husband. Your house. Your children. Women's club. Your parents. His parents. Your farrifly. Your friends. And the list continues. Like the juggler you cannot rest for a moment. Stopping means that everything will fall apart. Looking at your typical day, you may wonder how you can also find time for the task of women in the church! Is there still more to do? How do I add another ball when it is already difficult to keep everything else going?

What does the juggler do? How many balls does he have in the air? Not more than he can cope with. He knows that if there is one ball too many, all of them will come tumbling down. Neither should you give yourselves to more than you can handle. Many of the tasks calling you are important, especially those pertaining to the church. Active women in the congregation are busy going here and there, helping and giving to those in need. You must make choices and organize to give yourself perspective. For the Christian woman it is of utmost importance that she has a Source where she can refresh her

strength. It is from her personal spiritual life that she will receive the means necessary to continue in each day. With all your busyness, you urgently need a moment of spiritual refreshment.

What is the main task for women regarding the spiritual upbuilding of the congregation? First, they must build themselves up spiritually. This upbuilding involves yourself. It starts with women (and men) building themselves up in the faith. If you do this you will find that it affects your husband, your children and the congregation as well. A strong spiritual life with her Lord is the solid ground every woman needs to keep going. Only a good spiritual life can give you the things you need most in life: love, peace, rest, trust, perspective, conviction.

You should not allow unrest, panic, disorder, nervousness, the never finished feeling to take over in your life. If that happens, you become tired, irritated, dissatisfied with your husband, disappointed in your children, grumbling about everything and everyone. That is devastating for your personal life, family life and eventually life too. Unfortunately, this happens too often. Many women can only manage to keep going, clinging to their last hope that maybe in the future it will get better. It is disheartening to restrict this all to the future. You lose perspective on what is really important in life. You lose a meaningful relationship with the Lord, You lose the idea that you are accountable to God for everything you do., and you do not build up a spiritual reserve for crisis situations which might come.

Thus the plea for developing a personal spiritual life. Involving yourself in church life is important, but it does not mean that you will have a healthy spiritual life. The fruits of developing a meaningful spiritual life are many. It provides you with solid ground when the storms of life come over you. It gives you courage to face problems. It gives you hope, perspective, endurance, joy, peace and the other fruits of the Spirit. It enables you to share with others.

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom from above. In pursuing this wisdom for your spiritual life, "...YOU will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you, " (Prov. 2:9).

The promise of wisdom does not come to us without self-discipline. Self discipline involves the commitment and desire to learn, in this case, the richness of God's Word. Time, though a scarce commodity, can be made for personal spiritual upbuilding. If you plan to do something, you do it. It is the same with personal Bible reading. It requires commitment and it can be planned into your day. Find a place to be by yourself, without interruptions, and keep it the same time everyday. Open your Bible and begin with a book that is easy to read, like the Gospel of John or one of Paul's letters. Read a few verses and meditate, listening to what the Lord is saying. Take notes if you need to. And try to apply it in your own life. That is how you are building yourself up in the faith.

In addition to daily Bible reading, is daily personal prayer. Many people find praying a difficult thing to do, and it is hard work. It goes against our sinful nature, to commune with God. In this life of constant motion and activity, it is often difficult to simply sit and be still. Prayer also admits that you have a dependency on someone other than yourself, also not a popular thought in today's society. However, a person who finds it possible to admit that he needs a relationship with God in order to be the human being he was created to be, is a spiritually mature person. Finally, prayer is difficult because sometimes it seems unrelated to the actual result. We know that many of our prayers are not answered as we asked. However, we must remember that prayer is more the business of aligning yourself with God's purposes, than asking Him to align with yours. We must pray "Thy will be done."

How do you pray a personal prayer? Begin with worship and adoration. How great is God, that He is your Father. Confess your sins. The promised spiritual gladness is only for those who repent from their sins and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Pray for the needs of those around you and for yourself. Remember those far away in missions and your family close at home.

Listening to the Lord by means of personal Bible reading combined with personal prayer provides us the communication we need with God. It is our spiritual upbuilding. The rewards are very great! You will become a living example of what faith can mean. From this the whole congregation will definitely benefit.

Rev. F. VanHulst, Launceston, Tasmania Dec. 1994. Taken from 76gether We Serve" Oct, and Dec. 1995.
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