In my teenage years, I remember hearing about a new reality television show that was gaining in popularity due to this family’s size. What started as a documentary called “14 kids and pregnant again” soon led to the start of what eventually became “19 kids and counting”. The Duggars peaked the interest of the many viewers not just because of the number of children but also their religious beliefs which were mainly founded in the teachings of Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles more commonly known as IBLP. I was just as curious as the rest of the audience on what a typical day looks like for this family but as a believer I was also interested in how they presented and lived out their faith. Even though I was not in agreement with all of their principles, it seemed that they were a sweet, loving family who had a genuine desire to serve the Lord and glorify Him with their lives.
A Sad Day
When the news broke about their son Josh’s sexual accusations, my heart hurt for them but I also knew that it would have negative consequences for others in the Chrisitan faith, not just those associated with IBLP. This was the ammunition that both doubters and full disbelievers of the show and everything it stood for were looking for and they wasted no time voicing their thoughts. As America’s seemingly ideal family lost both their own show as well as the follow up show “Counting on”, people continued to keep tabs on what was happening and many secretly wanted to know more about what really went on behind the camera.
When Jinger Duggar Vuolo announced that she had written a book entitled, “Becoming Free Indeed”, many fans and critics alike were eager to read. I was among those who were curious just how much she would share and in what way would she present her story.
A False Teacher
I first want to say that Jinger did an amazing job at presenting the facts, answering some of the fans' questions, unpacking the beliefs of IBLP, all while maintaining a sense of balance between exposing false teaching and respecting her parents. I learned a lot about Gothard and IBLP and was truly saddened to hear many of the things he taught plus more than a little disturbed. When the Bible describes us as sheep it is not the most flattering comparison as these fluffy clouds are followers to a fault and often lack discernment. History has shown us over and over again the danger of blindly following men without ever taking the time to study and seek out if what they are sharing is true. This is especially needful when it comes to religious leaders. Gothard ruled his followers with fear and manipulation tactics. He taught 7 principles that almost resemble a “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel because he presented them as the key to living. If you followed these principles God would bless you but if you stepped outside of them you were in danger of punishment or worse.
Heeding man's interpretation instead of God's
In an interview, Jinger said, “When you think you don’t know what God expects of you, that's so damaging”. Gothard presented his beliefs, not God’s, in his seminars and took scripture out of context. This is damaging because it misrepresents God and His Word, something we are never to do. Tragically, Jinger shares some of the illustrations Gothard used to get his point across such as the story of a woman whose two sons and her husband drowned. This was an old story that Gothard had found probably in a book and was told by a pastor who visited this woman. He blamed her for the deaths of her loved ones because she had a picture of a sailboat hanging above her mantle. The presence of that picture caused her family to want to go to sea which ultimately led to their death. As unbelievable and ignorant as that sounds, Gothard backed the pastor. He used this story to emphasize the care parents should use in what to place in their homes. I do believe that we are to guard our homes and that includes what we let inside but to blame a grieving woman for wanting to make her home beautiful through a piece of seaside artwork was wrong.
Another devastating illustration was from a meeting Gothard had with a young woman who had stepped away from church and now wanted to return to God. He told her that she needed to obey (his steps) and do good works for a while before God could save her. That is contrary to the gospel in every way. We cannot earn our salvation or are required to clean up our life before God can save us. Jesus died for the vilest of sinners and we cannot “clean up” our life without Him. He accepts and saves us where we are in order to help us become what we were meant to be but Gothard taught a different gospel. Paul said to the Galatians “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7. Gothard was clearly perverting the gospel and I wonder how many felt that salvation was almost beyond reach because of that story or believed they had to work so hard before God would even consider saving them? My heart grieves and my soul almost burns with a righteous anger against such a man who twists the scripture to suit his own false message.
Reading the Bible for ourselves
This is why it is critical that we read the Bible for ourselves so that we do know what God expects. When we do, it gives us a clear path to follow as well as a knowledge of the resources our God provides for us. The Bible was not written so one man could interpret the message for everyone. It was given so that each of us could know God for ourselves and do what the believers in Berea did who are mentioned in Acts 17:10-11
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
They were true students of the word which is what Paul told Timothy and all believers to be in 2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This became the main thrust of Jinger’s book as she tells how she began to have her beliefs challenged, first by Jessa’s future husband Ben Seewald and next by her own then-boyfriend Jeremy Vuolo. These two men always referenced Bible passages whenever discussing their beliefs instead of just one man’s teachings or personal interpretation of the Bible. This was almost a foreign concept to Jinger but it also grabbed her full attention. As these discussions progressed, specifically ones between Jeremey and herself as they watched Gothard’s seminars together, Jinger slowly began to see the inaccuracies and problems with them. In essence, she was opening her Bible for herself and studying the verses to discover what God, not a man, was saying. This was the turning point in her life and the beginning of becoming free from the strongholds of fear and guilt.
Growing up, Jinger had been afraid to do certain things, like watch The Andy Griffith Show because she felt that God would no longer love her or be guilty if she wanted to play a game with her family instead of using that time to read her Bible some more. Her life revolved around obeying a set of rules instead of cultivating a relationship with her Heavenly Father. How tragic. Our Father wants us to know Him intimately and invites us into His very presence. Yes there are commands He has given us to obey but the greatest is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and soul. This is the love described in 1 John 4:18:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
God’s love can never be earned but is freely given and meant to give us strength to face each day. Jinger began to realize that “our foundation must be the Word of God.” and that meant reading if for yourself.
Keep your Bible open
Jinger’s journey was beautiful to watch as she began to grasp the amazing love God has for her and what happens when we become students of the word instead of relying on others to teach us. This does not mean that we can never read another commentary or listen to another sermon but it does require that we keep our Bibles open just like those in Berea who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
As I was once again browsing a local thrift store, this tile grabbed my eye since I am a girl who enjoys a good fairy tale. I was intrigued by the description of the book, especially the commanding sentence in bold “Stop looking for Prince Charming. Let him look for you.”. I had never really thought about it but the story of Cinderella is different from the many other fairy tales. While Ariel traded her voice for legs so she could “run” after Eric, Cinderella ran away from her Prince at the stroke of midnight leaving him a glass slipper as his only clue to find her…if he wanted to. While I don’t agree with everything in this book, there were a lot of great points made as well as advice given that single girls could benefit from.
What we invest in we value
When we like someone, we will invest time, money, and energy into them, but when a girl does this with a guy she is left wondering if he really loves her and wants her. If you are the one constantly starting the conversations, arranging activities so you can hang out, and making sure you are near him when does he have a chance to pursue you? I know this is hard, especially in our society where so many girls have made the first move because the guy was shy or taking too long, but what Bethany said really struck me. We forfeit a lot when we do the pursuing instead of being the one pursued. I also know that it can be hard when you really like the guy but in the end it is better to know for sure that he is interested in you rather than being left frustrated and wondering if he really cares. A man who pursues you removes all doubt as to whether or not he likes you. “There is no fear of rejection when you are the one being chased.” - Bethany Jett. We just have to be willing to step back and wait. This brings out another good point, use that season of waiting to focus on your relationship with Christ, in becoming a woman worthy of being pursued by a worthwhile man. While that may sound a little strange, remember that what you are attracts the same.
Don’t change who you are
So many times when a girl likes a guy, she changes her laugh, walk, and even interests just to catch his attention. Change is not a bad thing. We are to be changing more and more into the image of Christ, that needs to be the only motivation for change, not to please a man. One day I will stand before my God and judged for my life, a life given to me to be lived for His glory. Now this does not mean we can’t change some things such as wearing our sweethearts favorite color or trying something new or maybe altering an annoying habit but our core values should not change. Our standards should not change. Even the things we enjoy shouldn’t change just so he can be with us. I liked what Bethany said, “Go after your dreams and let your man find you doing what you love.”. I have read where girls met their future spouse at conferences or even on a mission trip. They were doing what they loved, what they believed God was calling them to do at the moment and God used that to bring them together. Be willing to change but only into the image of Christ not into something you think some guy wants.
Modesty is a big issue today with plenty of people weighing in with their opinion. I don’t really want to talk much about this, only mention a couple of solid points brought out in this book.
This was a thought that came from one sentence in the book and it grabbed my attention because of what was unknowingly implied. Typically we say a girl has lost her virginity but that is not really true, because a lost item is one that we have misplaced and there is a chance to recover it. Your virginity is precious because it cannot be restored once it has been surrendered. I do want to make it clear that I am not referring to someone who was assaulted or raped, only to girls who have made the choice to become physically intimate with a man in this manner. Bethany shared her personal struggles she faced in her youth as well as some background from her husband before they had met. She mentioned how it was hard for her at times to know that she was not her husband’s first. This is one reason preserving your virginity matters, because one day you will have to face your future spouse and tell them the truth. If you are one who is still a virgin please don’t surrender it, hold tight and refuse to yield ground no matter what. No matter if people tease you about being an old prune or a man tells you if you really loved him you would go all the way. Let me just say that a man of that caliber is not worth keeping. You are valuable and a man of character, a man of honor will never ask you to yield but will defend your honor with all that is within including your reputation. Joseph remains a wonderful testimony, when tempted by Potiphar's wife to commit adultery, he said “...how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9. Years down the road he would marry and he could stand before his wife with a pure heart. For those who may have already surrendered their virginity please know that God will forgive and we can move forward committed to abstaining from any sexual relation until marriage.
There were a couple of things I wanted to highlight about this book in closing. One was how Bethany challenged the girls who were engaged to remain on the lookout for red flags. Just because your wedding is a few weeks away doesn’t mean you can’t call it off if there are things about your future spouse that don’t feel right. Please don’t ignore them because it will grow into something big and can lead to years of heartbreak. It is always best to have a bruised heart that can heal with time instead of one that is shattered into tiny pieces. Even though you feel like you are on a fast moving train and afraid to get hurt, it is best to jump now instead of crashing later. Talk to those who have gone through a divorce and they will say the same thing. I have a friend who shared her story of calling her wedding off four weeks before it took place because this man was not the right one for her.
Second, I love this quote from Abraham Lincoln that was included in the book, “Character is like a tree, and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.” Over and over again, Bethany emphasized the importance of developing your own, personal walk with God. This is where our character will develop and a reputation will follow. We must be women committed to walking with the Lord and that begins by spending time in the quiet place.
I do want to say that this was a good book, one that I enjoyed in many ways but I would not recommend it to younger girls due to some of the topics that she discusses. Though they are needful it would be best for a mother to first read the book and then maybe with her daughter, using it as an opportunity to talk about these issues. I also don’t agree with everything Bethany said but believe she did address some good points that have been sorely missing in youth groups for some time. No matter how much you like a guy, let him be the one to pursue you, you were made to be pursued and he to pursue. Take a page out of Cinderella's book and let Prince Charming find you in God’s time.
Adorned book review
Goodwill and local thrift stores are my go-to place for books. I am the person who will scan every shelf in hopes of finding another paper treasure so imagine my delight when I discovered the book “Adorned” by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. I have enjoyed books by Nancy before and always learn something from her so I quickly scooped up this hardback edition (another bonus) and left, after paying for it of course. Though it would be a couple of years before I actually read it, my limited schedule can make it hard to read. This was a book I really needed and walked away feeling refreshed in my soul and challenged in my walk with the Lord. I wanted to highlight five sections that were such a help to me and caused me to change some things in my life.
The value of older women
Sadly, we live in a society that tends to downplay the value and wisdom of older women. The younger generation feels that they have all the answers or if they don’t they can quickly find it on Google. Senior citizens are tossed to the side as just a group of old-fashioned folks who don’t understand young people. Part of the problem lies in a breakdown in communication and relationships with the fault lying on both sides which is something Nancy brought out. Just because a younger person may not talk to you doesn’t mean you can’t start a conversation with them and vice versa. Both sides ought to be cultivating relationships with each other to bridge the age gap. I can attest to the value of older friends since they make up a good portion of my acquaintances. As an only child, I was often surrounded by older people and their influence impacted me in so many ways. I would listen as they shared stories of their past which often was lined with a lesson of faith as well as warnings of things I should avoid. I cherish the older women in my life who have graciously invested in me and helped me become the woman I am today. Can I challenge younger girls to seek out the older women and build relationships with them, maybe take them out for coffee. Can I extend the same challenge to older women as well? The younger generation needs you more than you know.
Don’t give up on that modeling career
Speaking of older and younger, I loved how Nancy used a fashion show to illustrate the beauty of aging. Consider what a fashion show is, a group of young girls walking up and down a runway modeling the latest outfit. They are lined on both sides by women eagerly looking at them wishing they could have the same gown. While a modeling career is usually for the young, in the Chrisitan realm it is just the opposite. The modeling runway is lined with young girls looking to the mature women to see what it means to live by faith, to have a meek and quiet spirit, or to love their husband and children. The older we become the more of an example our life should be to those who are coming behind and this is not limited to senior citizens. The young college student has elementary girls looking at her and the young moms have teens watching her. This should cause us to stop and think about the lessons we teach. What does our life show as we make our way up and down the invisible runway of life? Our choices matter not just because they affect us but they can influence someone else. I pray we are models of God’s love, mercy, kindness, goodness, and so much more so when others look at us they will see just how amazing it is to be called a child of the Most High God.
Grow up and step up
I chuckled as Nancy shared the story of Joy Brown, a woman in her seventies that had spent a great deal of her life as a diligent student of God’s Word. When asked if she was making disciples, she felt that she wasn’t ready, but ready or not her pastor told her that she would be leading a Bible study for teenage girls. While it was a little nerve wracking, Joy soon looked forward to these meetings as prepared notes were exchanged for real life questions answered from her seventy years of living and studying the Word of God. She would continue to lead these groups into her nineties and her ladies were affectionately known as “Brownies”. This story is absolutely heartwarming and inspiring but as Nancy said, “it shouldn’t be all that unusual.” We all have something to teach as each season in our life can be used for God’s glory just as Joy shared her weaknesses, failures, and wins to encourage and instruct the girls in her group. We are to be good students of the Word, diligent in our studies but if it is only for our benefit we have missed the point. Our life was meant to be spent on others, to share what God has taught us in life with those He brings onto our path. May we be ready and willing to be a Joy Brown.
You don’t say
These next two were the most eye opening and convicting to me yet oh so necessary. It is common knowledge that when women gather excess words fly though men can do their fair share of this too. While we may feel slightly offended, it is true but Nancy took this a step further and emphasized slander. I believe we don’t think much about how our words can be slanderous or how dangerous they can be but this chapter made sure to clear up any doubt. Often when men had a problem with another man they confronted them even leading to a physical argument (which is not right either) but women fight with their words. When someone offends us we “share” it with a friend sometimes under the disguise of a “prayer request” or asking for “advice” on how to handle it. Now there is nothing wrong with sharing but it should be done with discretion and limited details. Yet how many times do we unload unnecessarily and to too many people? The word “false accusers” found in Titus 2:3 comes from the Greek word “diabolos” which is where we get the word “diabolical”. That ought to make us sit up and take notice. I was very convicted after this chapter and don’t want to be a woman whose words are diabolical when speaking about someone else and this requires me to become a “Sophron” woman.
A Sophron state of mind
This was my favorite and most challenging chapter in the Adorned book. Self-control is not a popular word in our culture. We enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet or the endless refills but self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and one that permeates every area of our life. I love what Nancy said, “Self-control is both a lifetime need and a lifetime pursuit.” meaning that it is an essential part of our life and we will be always working to exhibit it. This is where she introduced the term “Sophron” which comes from two Greek words and when put together mean, “saved mind” or “sound mind”. Nany put it this way: “A Sophron lifestyle begins with a sophron state of mind, a way of thinking that affects everything about the way we live. A sensible, sound, self-controlled mindset will result in sensible, sound, self-controlled behavior.” In essence you are what you think and if we have no self-control our lives will be out of control. I lack in this area so much and have made it my goal to be actively pursuing this. I downloaded the PDF available on Nancy’s site Revive our Hearts and placed it in my prayer notebook so I can pray over one of the 49 items each day. I would encourage you to print it and just place it somewhere you can read over it and take time to consider what areas you need to grow. I want to be a woman who is pursuing self-control every day.
An adorned woman
There is so much packed into this amazing book that I encourage each of you to grab a copy on Revive our hearts, Amazon, or maybe you can find it at a second hand store like I did. There is also a small group Bible study guide available as well that would make a great topic for your next ladies Sunday School or private study. I promise that you will not be the same after reading this book.
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.