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Blessed are the Peacemakers

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peacemakers

Can you think of a single day in your life where there has not been conflict with another person? How about conflict that happens to be around you but doesn’t involve you personally? There always seems to be some form of tension or bickering in our lives. There is conflict on the national level, in our homes and in relationships, and in our work places. As hard as we try and as perfect as we think we are, the truth is – we all have trouble avoiding conflict.

Matthew 5:9 reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peace does not come from an organization or by man alone. It comes only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus wants us to be His ambassadors, a member of His peace corp. Not only does He want us to cease fighting with others, He wants us to also make peace. And it all begins with the work Christ does in us first.

As sinful humans, we need to recognize our own spiritual poverty and admit that we need Jesus as our Savior. We must humble our hearts and mourn the fact that we often wander away from God. We must surrender ourselves completely to the only One who can do something for us and in us. We must become a new creation as written in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Just as God did, He asks us to bring peace first and then focus on reconciliation.

As a Christian we must desire righteousness and aspire to make things right in our personal lives and for those around us. We must desire mercy because our hearts are thankful for the mercy bestowed upon us. We must desire a pure heart because what’s in our hearts produces our behavior. When our outward expressions match our inward conditions, then peacemaking will be possible. We must want to have right relationships with one another. But we cannot be peacemakers until we are at peace with God.

The problem does not lie within our marriages or children. It does not lie within our communities and nation. The problem is not out there… the problem is in our hearts. Until we have peace with God, we are not in a position to be peacemakers. We must allow God to fully meet our needs and rest in His promises. It is only then that we cease seeking to have control over people and manipulate circumstances in order to have our needs met. We will relax knowing God has already met our needs through Christ Jesus.

What is the source of our conflicts and disputes? James 4:1-3 says it best – “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” It’s perfectly clear, the source of our conflicts is our insufficiency and our desire to make circumstances and people do what we want to fill a void. The truth is that only God can fill that void. When we are at peace with God, we do not lust and over desire. While it’s okay to desire things it becomes sin when those desires become more important than obeying God, treating people respectfully, and tending to our relationships. It is with lust that we become envious and quarrel. All of this can be quieted when we realize that God “will meet all of our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We must allow God to meet our deepest needs and then we can pursue peace.

How do we pursue peace? Romans 14:19 tells us “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

We are required to INITIATE peace. God wants us to be part of the holy order, for us to be the first to initiate peace. Are you waiting for the other person to take the first step, even if they are the ones who wronged you? The Bible tells us that “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” We are told that even if we are the person who has been wronged that we are CALLED to initiate peace. Someone has to be the mature person in every conflict and take the first step towards peace. Why not you? Are you the mature person?

We then are required to COMMUNICATE with love. Ephesians 4:15 commands us, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is the principle of good biblical communication – speaking clearly, in truth, and in love. Never speak out of anger or hold on to your negative feelings. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to speak the truth in love… as long as it works. We need to keep communicating even when the other person doesn’t respond the appropriate way and even if they never come around to listening.

When communicating, our voices must remain calm and our words need to be void of manipulation. Don’t punish the other person with silence or act holier by simply not arguing at all. Ephesians 2:26 remind us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”. If we conceal our anger instead of calmly talking it out with the other person, we begin to build up resentment. Sometimes we may even forget why we became angry in the first place! Our hearts become hardened and toxic and we begin to take everything personally, becoming easily offended. Resolve your differences as quickly as possible and move forward.

Ephesians 4:29 reminds us of this when communicating – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Do not bring up what happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago. Use words that are only good for improvement, be positive and fruitful.

Nothing should come out of our mouth that doesn’t already have a solution. And invite them into your solution and refrain from commanding them to do and see things your way. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). The same must be true for our speech. Avoid criticism and use only positive words that are intended to build up the other person and the relationship.

Now we can begin to NEGOTIATE. Conflicts begin when two or more people believe they are right about something. But we must remind ourselves that every time there is a conflict, there will always be a solution. There is a creative third alternative than your way and their way. Only then when you look at everything, can you begin to get creative and find a solution. Be honest about the true needs, compromise. Give up complete control. You don’t have to agree with someone, if it’s a non-moral issue, just simply agree to disagree, it doesn’t really matter. God created us all differently! Sometimes we have different opinions to keep us out of trouble. We must give away our selfishness, our preferences, and love.

God made us for relationships. We are blessed with opportunities to share, love, and be flexible. It’s what it means to live in this world and be a part of the community. Intimacy brings about conflict and the resolutions of conflict produce peace and love. Pursue the things that make peace and the building up of one another. Don’t be shocked by it, afraid of it, or try to escape it; it’s a part of His plan. As we negotiate our differences we find ourselves in a better place.

The final step in creating peace is to ABDICATE. For some of us, letting go and moving forward is the hardest part of creating peace but must let go of past wrongs, all of them. Don’t collect and hoard past sins of other people. Don’t get historical in arguments or use them as a leverage to get your way. To be a peacemaker, we MUST let things go. Let go of our need to be right. It’s worthless, it has no value, and nobody is impressed with how many times you’ve been right. This means we need to relinquish our need to win. The reality is, we need to lose some argument on occasion. And it’s ok if only you and God know you are right. But you cannot be right all the time. Humility reminds us that we just might be wrong. Just the consideration of possibly being wrong causes us to be humble and yield to conflict. This does not include moral and ethical issues as we must not compromise our values. We are talking about humility that we are poor in spirit. We yield because we recognize that we are sinners and that we make mistakes.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Aren’t you glad that God initiated peacemaking with us first? He didn’t wait for us to come and die for our sins. He didn’t meet us halfway; He met us all the way. He sent His only begotten Son to die FOR US. Jesus came in the appearance of a man – the creator of the universe was willing to be seen as wrong. He hung on the cross to be seen as a criminal even though He was a Savior, to be seen as taking on the sin of the whole world, to be seen in a guilty state. He didn’t need to be seen as right or as a god in that moment and in doing so, He became the peacemaker. He asks us to repent, to turn away from the ways we think will fulfill us so that we can be turned humbled before Him.

As Christians, we are most like him when we initiate peace, communicate peace, negotiate peace, and when we abdicate and relinquish so that peace can happen. The blessings is this – we will be called the children of God. When we become peacemakers, people will look at us, recognize us, and see Jesus in us. He initiated, He communicated, He negotiated and He abdicated. We must become the catalyst and in ALL circumstances promote peace and bring people together. We must help others meet their Creator and become a part of the peacemaking process.

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How Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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vday1Valentine’s Day… dare I say it’s probably a more loathed holiday versus a loved holiday, contrary to its theme and modern intent?  Christians have been very bold in their disgrace towards the commercialization of Easter and Christmas; why are we not as vocal about Valentine’s Day?  And should we?  Although it is a holiday aimed at sharing love with those closest to us, is it a secular celebration?  What are the origins of Valentine’s Day and are there really Christian foundations in this holiday? Is there any harm in cupid, red hearts, candy, flowers, and romantic dinners?

At one time, a pre-Roman pastoral festival known as Lupercalia was observed from February 13th through the 15th.  This three-day festival time of celebration was acclaimed to refine the city, deter evil spirits, and increase health and fertility.  As Christianity continued to grow, the festival was adapted over time by different cultures and people began to add their own customs.

The patron St. was a priest and physician in ancient Rome and was well-known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  He spent much of his time caring for the poor, performing good deeds, and healing the sick and afflicting.  He was arrested by the Roman emperor Claudius Gothicus (268-270 AD) during the time of Christian persecution.  During his time under arrest he healed his attending officer’s blind, adopted daughter which led to the officers’ family’s conversion to Christianity.  Gothicus heard of these “deeds” and ordered St. Valentine to be beheaded on February 14th.

While the Lupercalia festival was still highly respected, it was Pope Gelasius who officially added February 14th as a holiday on the church list in 496 AD, known as St. Valentine’s Day.  From that point forward, this day was honored and celebrated in memory of St. Valentine for his life of service.  The new name of the Lupercalia festival was easily adapted and new elements to the holiday were quickly added into the fold.  The emphasis on the holiday was never meant to reflect romantic love but to honor St. Valentine and mirror agape love and goodwill towards all people.  It was never about cards, flowers, and chocolate candy.  But somehow the commercialization has managed to taint the holiday and steer our focus away from loving others in need.

God is not opposed to us loving others; it’s quite the opposite.  He commands us to love others unconditionally.  God wants us to show love to others through words and actions, Let us not love in word or talk bur in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18.  While God wants romantic love shared between a husband and wife, He wants us to show love to others as well.  We should be doing both year-round, not just on a single day when an overly-commercialized holiday says we should be showing love to our significant other.  It should be our mission to love others at all times and make sure our actions show God’s love.

Romans 15:13 says this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the highest and most respected form of love.  As Christians, we certainly need to love and honor the spouse God blessed us with, but we need to do away with our love for “things”.  Let’s celebrate the holiday in memory of Saint Valentine – by doing something special and anonymously for someone in need.  Spend the day and your money modestly on others.

Click HERE for some Valentine family games that celebrate God’s love and HERE for Valentine devotionals.

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DRESSing Respectably

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modestyThe homecoming season is upon us and dress shopping is well underway for many teenage girls. It saddens me that what was once an opportunity to get all dressed-up and feel beautiful and fancy for an evening as now turned into a competition to who can wear the most provocative and “sexy” dress possible.  When did this change take place?  And why aren’t more parents taking a stand and commanding their daughters to turn away from this new trend and requiring their daughters to dress more appropriately?  Whatever happened to dressing modestly and demanding respect from boys?

What I want teenage girls (and their mommas) to understand is that wearing fancy dresses that are strapless, enhance and display your cleavage, or barely cover your backside, does NOT demand respect from your date.  As a matter of fact, when a boy sees so much bare skin around your shoulders, breasts, and legs, their minds automatically begin to undress you.  It’s too easy for them to mentally remove your clothes when you’re already half-dressed.  Surely this isn’t what you want from your date?  “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  If your body is a temple for God, would He be pleased that you are showing so much of your skin to someone other than your spouse?  Would the Lord God be pleased that your chosen dress for the evening was done with the intent to be “sexy” and to “tempt” teenage boys?

As Christians, we have two choices when dress shopping – we can pick a dress that is modest and pleasing in the eyes of our Lord OR choose to look sexy and invite temptation (also known as sin).  As a Christian, it is your duty to be fully clothed at all times, even for school dances like Homecoming and Prom.  If you want your date to treat you respectfully, you must help him keep his eyes on your face and his mind clear of sin.  Don’t be the temptation that allows our teenage boys to stumble.  Mommas, help your daughters be the princesses they’ve always wanted to be.

Finding a dress that is modest and beautiful is not difficult.  I’ve personally seen dresses that have straps, cover your breasts, are longer than two inches below your bottom, and do not reveal every curve of your teenager’s body.  Those dresses are out there!  Be in prayer for God to lead you to the right dress, to the right store, and to give you and your daughter wisdom and guidance when dress shopping.  Be honest with your daughter about choosing a dress; remind her that her body is a temple for the Holy Spirit and that they should adorn themselves with respectable clothing.  Teach them to want to be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord and to demand admiration and reverence from their dates.  Teach them to take a stand for Christ!

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Testimony – God Had Bigger Plans for Our Family

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I was raised in a loving home with parents who cared for me and provided for me. It was not, however, what I would call a “Christian” environment. My parents both professed to be believers, but we rarely went to church.  If I did go it was either for Easter or Christmas or after spending the night with my grandparents.  We didn’t read the Bible or pray together and I was not taught biblical truth. Around age 10, my grandma sent me to pre-teen camp with her church and that is where I was “SAVED”. After camp I tried to get my family to go to church; we tried a few different churches but didn’t really connect anywhere.

For the next few years I became quite confused. I spent a few weeks every summer with a family member who belonged to a Unitarian Church which basically teaches that whatever you choose to believe in is okay.  The church openly studies all different religions believing none are right or wrong, just different. Not being told any differently, I began to agree with them.  Although I knew who Christ was and had accepted Him as my Savior, I also had the opinion that my life was MINE and I was capable of making my own decisions, without any consequences.

I began to spend a lot of time with my best friend at her house along with her older brother and his friends where there was NO parental supervision.  As a teenager, I was very interested in boys and with the lack of supervision this was not a good combination.  I began to find ways to get the boys to notice me.  And they did. I wore clothes that were too tight, too short, and way to revealing.  And they noticed. I began making out with boys much older than me hoping for love and acceptance. Not to say my parents weren’t around or didn’t care because they did, I just got to be really great at lying and sneaking around and they had no idea what I was doing.  This behavior eventually led to me deciding I was “grown” and, at the extremely misguided age of 13, I had sex for the first time. I had convinced myself that I could make my own decisions and lead my own life without the need for any adult’s guidance.  The guy that I thought cared for and LOVED me really didn’t.

When I was 14 my family moved to Greenville, TX but I continued down the path of bad choices and bad boys who were much too old for me.  I tried dating a guy my age and he was a really nice guy; he was a gentleman, treated me respectfully, and didn’t push me physically.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with that!  I still was not going to church, not growing spiritually, and was living like a lost soul.

This is when God intervened. When I was 15, I met the guy I would eventually marry. His dad was a preacher and one of the conditions of dating him was going to his dad’s church.  Only one problem… it was all in Spanish!! I didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t know what they were talking about, and stayed confused most of the time. But I loved that guy!  Although not many changes were being made in my life, I began to learn Spanish and pay closer attention in church.

We were married when I was just 17 years old and had our first baby when I was 20. While we were still attending church with my in-laws, if we went at all, I just wasn’t being filled.  After I had my second child at the age of 22, we began the search for a new church. Once again God stepped in!  We found a church and got connected instantly; which is where we still worship today.  I began to crave more knowledge and wanted to know more about the Bible and live my life for God, not just for myself.  We had two more children when I was 25 and 28.  All four of our children were girls. Life was good. Although I had worked full-time on and off and part-time here and there, I was able to stay home majority of the time with my girls.

I was truly happy with our family but knew something was missing.  I longed for a son and repeatedly prayed for one and pleaded with God that if that was not part of His plan for my life to take that desire from me.  Just three days after giving birth to our fourth beautiful baby girl, I became ill. I spent some time in the hospital with strep and went home not knowing that the illness had caused a blood clot to form somewhere in my body.  Two months later I returned to the hospital with a pulmonary embolism and was told that if it was meant to kill me, it would have done so already.  Quite a sobering thought but God had bigger plans for my life and our family.  A loving husband, three gorgeous little girls, a two-month old precious baby, two great parents, and an amazing group of friends were all there to love on me and take care of me. What more could I have asked for? God had richly blessed me! So why did I still have a need for more? Why was I still longing for a baby boy?  I had been told by my physician that I could not have any more children.  This was something my husband and I had already decided on our own since we had four girls (that’s expensive) but being told you cannot have any more children and having someone else make that choice for you are two VERY different things.  But life went on.

In the fall of 2008, we got a strange call.  My mom had called to give us the latest saga about a family member of ours.  His two children had been removed from his care by CPS. This was actually good news for the children since he really had no business raising these kids.  We had been praying for a good home for them and a stable family to come into their lives for quite some time.  My mom proceeded to tell us of how CPS was looking for a family member to place the boys with and they had asked my parents to be that family member for them.  My parents were in their late 50s at this point with 9 grandchildren.  Needless to say, they declined.

As my husband and I were discussing the situation and how outrageous it was for them to ask my parents, my husband tells me that God was telling him that WE are supposed to be the family for those two young boys.  Now wait a minute! I love my girls but there were times I couldn’t wait to get all of them out of the house for a few hours a day! I had the older ones in school and I just had the little one at home with me during the day and had been devising a plan to get her into Mother’s Day out program. I must say though, we had also always been open to the idea of adoption and after 4 girls we teased that it was the only way we would get our boy, but this seemed so sudden and we weren’t quite prepared yet.  We agreed to pray about it, made some calls and asked some questions, but made no commitments.

One October evening I received a phone call from a social worker and was told what the process would look like and got some general information.  By this time, our prayers had changed from “Are you sure, God?” to “If this is what you want, then we trust you will make this happen”. The very next day, we received another phone call from the same social worker, that there was an infant sibling, also in state care, and asking, “Are you willing to consider placement for him as well?” STOP IT! THREE KIDS! THREE MORE KIDS? We already have four children! I mean really, who has seven kids? Nobody! [Insert more prayer here.] We just continued our prayer of, “Ok God, this is ALL you.” We decided that they were all brothers and needed to stay together. How could we one day face the two boys when they are older and say “We knew you had a brother, but that would have been too much of an inconvenience for us, so we decided to say no thanks”? We simply couldn’t do it.

We had many talks with our girls and wanted this to be a family decision. We wanted them aware of the coming changes in our lives and not to feel this was being forced on them. We began to make the necessary arrangements and to have weekly visitations at CPS with the boys. The visits were intended to be for the parents, but they hardly ever showed. We didn’t want to cause any more undue trauma for these little guys and wanted them to at least be familiar with us before they came to live with yet another family. Our two oldest boys were placed with us at ages 21 & 31 months old in February of 2009. Our youngest daughter was 18 months old at the time and had been to most of the visits with us.

There was ALOT of adjusting for everyone and a move to a bigger house; it was quite stressful, exhausting, and emotional to say the least. The Mother’s Day Out program our daughter had attended a few years earlier, wonderfully “scholarshiped” us for about 4-5 months for my sanity. Then summer activities began in addition to parent visitations with their biological parents and fighting for our youngest to be placed with us as well.  He was eventually placed in our care in October 2009 at the age of 11 months.

Although I always felt led to homeschool, even before our oldest daughter started school, the timing had just never seemed right. Our three oldest girls were in public school and our oldest boy had just begun Head Start.  He was not adjusting very well to all these transitions including school and the addition of our youngest boy.  After another move, more home studies, and more waiting, our adoption was FINALLY complete in July 2010. After a CRAZY fall semester of five kids at two different schools, two at Mother’s Day Out, a child with a broken femur, and me feeling pulled in multiple directions, God was telling us it was time to homeschool.  We pulled them out of school in January of 2011 and started our bumpy and blessed road to homeschooling. Our oldest two children were NOT happy at the time.  The 6th grader had been in either public or private school since age four and felt we were taking away her life, the 4th grader was mad because we had taken away her friends, and our oldest boy in 1st grade didn’t really seem to care either way. Our oldest child will be in high school this next school year (September 2013) and when given the choice, she chose to continue homeschooling.  In fact they all did!

It is an adventure everyday to say the least and most days are completely nuts but we won’t ever go back to public school voluntarily. I’ll admit there are days I dream about how much I could accomplish with everyone gone for 8 hours a day, but what we’re building in them every day is so much more important than homework and completed projects. I’ve told them that it would be easier for me to put them in school and let someone else teach them, but life isn’t about doing the easy thing.  It’s about doing the right thing, which means obeying God. This is what God has called us to do during this season of our lives and this is what we are going to do. I love our time together and for our large family it works perfectly. We set our own schedule and are able to keep it extremely flexible. While we didn’t have problems with the school system or any of their teachers or schools, we didn’t do well with an ISD telling us when to be where at what time and am so happy we don’t have to deal with all the new rules due to current events or any standardized testing. When I hear other parents complain about school related issues, I feel complete contentment in my heart and hear God reassuring me we are doing what He has planned for us.

About 7 years ago I got involved in a Women’s Bible study, and about 2 and a half years ago God put it on my heart to get involved with the youth.  God has been telling me to use my past mistakes and experiences to mentor young girls and help them from making the same mistakes I made as a youth. Seeing as I now have seven souls in my care, I am very passionate about teaching them God’s plan for sex and marriage.  I want them to know what I didn’t know then.  God gives us guidelines to follow in all areas of our lives for our benefit.  He knows what He is talking about. Sex is a BIG deal, it DOES matter, and it does change things!  Sex is not something you can undo.  Even though God offers forgiveness and grace, there are consequences for our sinful choices, and some can be life-long costs. I’m now trying to help young ladies to see the lies the devil is telling them and to know that the attention they receive from dressing “cute” is not the right kind of attention they really want. I truly believe that most girls don’t understand what guys are thinking when they wear certain things. Please hear my heart on this… I know from personal experience, if you don’t wait until you are married to have sex, you WILL regret it.  I don’t want that for anyone!  Sex is meant to be a special gift from God for a husband and a wife. My hope is that we can drown out the constant barrage of lies from our culture and raise-up a generation who treasures purity, a generation who is proud of their virginity and not ashamed of it, and a generation who will follow God’s plan for their lives. My hope is that we can raise a generation of Christians who can change the world for Christ.

I hope my story can help someone on a similar path. May God richly bless you as He has me!

-Lany

Dating and Sexual Purity

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LoveSexual purity seems like such a foreign concept in our current society but really the issue of sex, purity, and even dating needs to be talked about more often and even to every generation.  Sex has become so casual that we now see it boldly displayed on TV, in movies, plastered on billboards, in our hands on mobile devices, and even carelessly mentioned in songs that we sing.  The temptation to have sex before marriage is becoming more and more prevalent as images constantly infiltrate the minds of us all.  It’s past time we get back to the fundamentals of our biblical standards for sex and relationships.

Here is what the Bible says about purity:

1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Hebrews 13:4 – Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Colossians 3:5 – Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Proverbs 6:32 – He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.

And these verses are just to name a few!  The Bible is very firm on the commandment to remain pure and abstain from sexual immorality and lust.  Not in ANY verse in the Holy Bible will you find a divergence that allows for sex outside of marriage, for an approved opportunity to lust, or for the exception to adultery.  Purity is a commandment from God and we must adhere to the standards God has placed in our lives so that we may live righteously and pleasing in the eyes of God.  It’s the path best made for us, why would we not want this for ourselves?

Sex before marriage HAS and CAN ruin lives.  So how do we steer clear of the temptation and desires that society is persistently throwing in our face?  The best way to stay pure is to keep our hearts wholesome and avoid situations that make us think about taking that next step in a relationship.

For our family, this starts at dating.  We’ve remained very clear on our stance of dating in our home – if you aren’t looking for a lifetime spouse, then you should not be dating.  Simple solution!  The sole purpose of dating is to find a spouse and when you enter into a relationship, there our physical and emotional boundaries that will need to be set beforehand to guard to your heart.  If you always remain in a cluster of friends, these boundaries are never a factor to be considered.  Relationships are about commitments and our youth should not be making any sort of commitment to anyone, other than to God.  And even as adults, our first commitment is still to God, then our spouse.  Our hearts need to be mindful on living a Christ-like life and pleasing to our Father.  Matthew 5:8 reads, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We must trust God with ALL of our lives and ALL our hearts and when He sees fit that you are ready for marriage, He will show you the perfect helpmate.  Really, dating is not ever necessary if we fully rely on God and have faith that He will bring the perfect person before you.

We must want purity and clean hearts for our children.  We must talk about it, teach it, and live these same standards for the younger generations to see.  We teach our children to not put themselves in any situation where they will have to decide which path to take.  We teach our children that they were created in the image of God, that they are enough, and that they do not need to seek the approval of anyone other than Jesus Christ.  We teach our children that satan is real and he will use every opportunity to hinder their walk with Christ and want nothing more than to lead them down an ugly path and away from Jesus.  We teach them to rely on Christ daily and in all circumstances.

Passion and sex is a beautiful thing, no question about it.  It is a gift from God… but to be used with our spouse.  This does not just imply sex, but emotional attachments as well.  Any attachment made to a person outside of marriage, changes your life and satan will use these past experiences to haunt you and tempt you as an adult.  He has used this tactic for centuries and you will not be exempt from his schemes.  He isn’t creative!  He simply twists God’s truths and we continue to cling to those lies with excuses – God wants us to love others; God created sex; What if this person I’m dating is the right one; But we’ve setup boundaries; etc. If you have to “guess” if someone may be the one, then they aren’t.  Have faith in Him.  Trust God with your life and follow His prompting to remain pure in heart, mind, and body.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  When you are tempted, stop and listen to the direction God wants for you.  Your body is a temple for God, treat it with respect and pleasing in the eyes of our Father.

For those who have already made this decision, you need to accept God’s grace and redemption for your life.  We all fail; we all attempt to walk a path that we think is best for us.  Christ came for us and died on the cross for our sins.  He shed His blood for all sin.  God knows we can’t walk this life alone and sometimes He allows us to make our own negative choices so that we can fall and come to see our need for Him.  While He doesn’t want us to fail or see us hurt, He allows us free will so that we can recognize our need for a Savior.  You can tell your testimony and be a light to those who are struggling.

Psalm 119:133 – Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

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Modesty and Swimwear

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bubbleframe (9)As my daughter gets older, the bathing suit choices of girls (and women) is becoming more and more of a concern to me.  We’ve chosen to teach modesty in our household, not because we want to be different but because we desire to adhere to biblical standards and want our children to learn to respect themselves for the beautiful person God created them to be (Genesis 1:27).  We want our children to find a helpmate that loves them for their personality and morals rather than finding a partner based on pure physical attraction.  We understand this is contrary to the modern worldview and we’re okay with this.  We don’t desire to be pleasing to man, but to God alone.  After all, we will answer for our lives and choices to God, not man.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about our clothing choices (and this includes bathing suits):

“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16

“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5

It makes my heart so sad to see our children dressed in skimpy bikinis and taking pictures of themselves for all the world to see.  What then are we teaching our children?  We’re merely teaching them that their body is needed to attract the attention of the boys.  We’re teaching them that they need to wear less to acquire beauty.  We’re teaching them that it’s okay to flaunt their bodies and be lusted over by boys.  We’re teaching them, at an early age, to find joy in being lusted over.

And what about the women in our society?  We must be held accountable as well!  When we choose to wear so little in terms of clothing and bathing suits, it’s what our daughters will do as well.  We need to be teaching them to love themselves as God made them.  Not only do we live in a world where the eyes of young men are lustful, but older men as well.  Shouldn’t we be protecting them and loving them enough to clothe them appropriately and keeping them from the eyes of predators?  Women, we too must obey the commands of God and be examples for the younger girls.  We must wear appropriate swimwear and abstain from taking pictures of our less-than-dressed-bodies (also known as soft porn for boys and men).  We must accept our bodies and love ourselves enough.  We must teach our daughters that they are worthy, that they are enough, and that they were created in the image of God.  We must teach them, that as Christians, the Holy Spirit resides in their body and that they are a temple for God and they must clothe themselves respectably in the eyes of God.  We must lead by example and help them understand that the way NOT to find a suitable helpmate is for the first interactions to be based on lust and sexual attraction.

The Bible warns us about tempting others in Matthew 18:6-9, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. ‘Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.’”

Do we not realize that when we wear so little that we are causing our Christian brothers to stumble in their walk?  Do we not realize that when our daughters wear so little that they are causing young men to stumble in their walk and that these young men will be the very men our daughters will one day marry?  We must do everything to stop our children from stumbling in their walks with Christ.  We must stop our young men from lusting over our daughters’ bodies.  We must prevent our children from lust and sexual temptations.  And we must love our children enough to walk alongside them in biblical standards.

And men, I challenge you to lead your family as Christ lead the church (Ephesians 5:23).  Hold your wife accountable for her clothing and bathing suit choices.  Do you want other men (and young boys) looking at her with lustful eyes?  Do you want your daughter wearing less than appropriate and attracting undue attention of boys who will clearly not be thinking Godly thoughts about her?  Stand up for your faith!  Stand up for your family!  This is your charge as a husband and father!

I dare you ladies… I dare you women of God… to stand firm in your faith, to be convicted by the Holy Spirit to change your appearance at the pool.  I dare you to teach your daughter modesty.  Let’s be the change!  Let us represent Christ, even at the pool.

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What Should I Wear to Church?

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These-ARE-my-church-clothesSomeone recently asked me what I thought about how people should dress for church.  Honestly, my first reaction was, “who really cares?!”  Not too long after this, I heard some friends complaining about how their church members dress for church and again I wondered why this really matters.  But apparently some have a very strong opinion about what someone ought to wear to church.  I’ve spent some time in my Bible and prayer and these are the scriptures that I continue to fall back on:

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

We are called to worship in everything we do.  It says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Our lives should be a constant worship of our Creator.  The difference between worshiping daily and worshiping at a scheduled church gathering is the actual worship time and that it’s with a community of believers.  Why should our appearance be any different at the different places of worship?  The Bible tells us that we should not consider our outward appearances, but our hearts.  When we put too much energy into what we wear, especially if it’s just to please others at church, we are sinning against God’s word.  Our hearts during worship is what our Heavenly Father is looking at, not our outward appearances.   Our hearts must be in the right place and focused on our worship toward our God.

Likewise, if you are bothered by what others are wearing in church, your heart and mind are not focused on worship; your heart and mind rather are focused on others’ outward appearances.  This is a sin.  If this is something you struggle with, turn to God and ask Him to clear your mind for worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own.”  This doesn’t mean just on Sundays; it means every day our bodies are a temple for God.  Every day we should be worshipping and every day we should be mindful about our appearances.  Every day we should be modestly dressed and in preparation for worship throughout our day.

Some may choose to attend church in their absolute best clothing.  And this is okay.  Rather than worry about the appearances of others, devote time in prayer that your appearance will lead others to dress in their Sunday best.  Ask God for a more gracious and forgiving heart, and seek opportunities to clothe others if they are lacking in clothing.  And remember, if Christ came to your church wearing the only garments He owned, you wouldn’t turn your back on Him because he wasn’t in a designer suit.  Likewise, don’t turn your backs on those not dressed up in the fanciest clothing as they may already be wearing their best.  As we all grow in our walk, we are continually transformed and there is nothing wrong with wanting to “present” ourselves to our Father in an honoring fashion.

We must praise God for those who are in church, regardless of their apparel.  Hallelujah!!  People are coming to church!  What a blessing that the church doors are flooding with people who want to hear the word of God and come just as they are!  How sad it is that some of us are scoffing at mere appearances rather than seeking their hearts.  Welcome them in, have a servant’s heart, and be a witness for Christ!

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  There should be no judgment on what others may be wearing to church.  Let God, not man, convict their hearts to wearing clothing that honors our body as a temple.

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Modesty Q&A

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Questions from the Christians and Modesty blog:

1. Does modesty mean wearing long dresses and veils?

It does not mean that at all.  The Bible says in Timothy 2:9, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”  This means that your clothing should be covering your body in a God-honoring manner and respecting your body as a “temple”.  We need to dress appropriate for the occasion and without attracting attention to our bodies with our clothing, or lack of clothing.  This does not mean your need to wear a burka or a head covering at all times. However, if the Holy Spirit convicts you of wearing long dresses and veils, follow your heart and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

2. The Bible calls your body a “temple”, what does that mean?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 does say our body is a temple, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  As believer in Jesus Christ, we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  God uses the Holy Spirit to speak to us on matters of the heart.  Once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are all given this gift and thus, our bodies become homes to the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit is one with God and we must protect and respect our bodies that house our Heavenly Father.

3. What about bathing suits and workout clothes?

Let me ask you this, what is the purpose of wearing a bikini or clothing that does not fully cover?  If you are wearing a bikini versus a one-piece bathing suit, will one be less cooling than the other?  Not at all!  With this, it’s safe to say that wearing a bikini or less clothing for working out, is nothing short of attracting the attention of other people.  And this is not becoming of our Lord.  Do girls really want other men gawking at them and staring at them?  Is it okay for us to tempt men or boys into lust?  There are cute bathing suits that cover our bodies just as there are cute workout clothes that also cover our bodies.  We need to remain respectful of our bodies even when it’s hot outside.

4. Doesn’t the Bible say something about girls not wearing men’s clothing?

This is true, in Deuteronomy 22:5 it does speak of women not wearing men’s clothing, “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”  God made us man and woman.  We are to dress according to who God created us.  We must stand apart as men and women so that we know who are leaders are and the heads of the households.  It’s important to become one with your spouse but it’s equally as important for husbands to be the leaders, just as God, Jesus and Holy Spirit are one, they too submit to God the Father as their leader.

5. What exactly do you consider immodest dress?

Immodest dress is anything that reveals parts of our bodies that should be for our spouse’s eyes only – shirts that are cut too low, skirts and dresses too short, bathing suits that reveal too much flesh.   When you fully spend time in prayer about clothing, Holy Spirit will convict you on what you should and should not wear.  If you are feeling that maybe the shirt is a bit too revealing, this is the Holy Spirit prompting you to choose another shirt.  Also, if you are wearing clothing that is intended to attract others’ attention, this is immodest dress.  If you are fully covered yet your apparel will attract unnecessary attention, this is immodest dress.  This can include bold and flashy jewelry, shoes used to attract attention to your legs, and extreme makeup.  Women can be beautiful without making other women feel uncomfortable and without attracting the glances of other men.

6. What does the Bible say about men and modesty?

Like women, men should also be respectful of their bodies and be mindful of their clothing.  Men should dress like men acting as leaders within the church and as spiritual leaders of our homes.  They too, need to be mindful of their swimming apparel as well as their workout clothing.   With modern trends always evolving, this is an issue that is coming to the forefront for men.

As Christians, we should always be cautious and aware of our clothing and accessories in all circumstances in addition to being mindful of other cultures.  What we may view as appropriate attire may be a complete disgrace in another culture.  What seemingly started as a harmless trend could actually have a very distasteful story behind it that we wouldn’t want any part of.

If ever in doubt just ask yourself…

Am I honoring others?  Am I honoring myself?  Am I honoring God?

If you can’t easily answer Yes, Yes and Yes then maybe another wardrobe selection should be made!

Christians and Modesty

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modestyFashion and modesty are almost an oxymoron these days, with the latest trends getting more and more revealing.  But fashion and modesty don’t have to be difficult!  As Christians, people are constantly watching our behavior and this sets the tone for how others perceive our faith.  Modest dress is the first visible appearance of our faith and is equally as important as our words when witnessing to others.

What advice does the Bible provide about modesty?

“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16

“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5

It’s important to remember, Christians will always be watched and judged and often times our biblical beliefs will be challenged.  What kind of testimony are we sharing when we preach words about purity and righteousness and then turn around and dress the opposite of what scripture demands?  We must make sure our words and actions match and we must not be hypocritical and contradictory.   Our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, we must dress pleasing to our God, not our fellow man.

It’s also important to remember this scripture, But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Matthew 5:28.  We must be sure that our dress is not with the intent to attract the eyes of others or to make other envious.  Ask yourself… do you really want to date or marry a man who was first attracted to you with lustful intentions?  Our dress should not be attracting undue attention to our bodies, and more importantly, our dress should not be the reason we make men stumble in their walk.

As believers, we are given divine discernment.  Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is appropriate and what is not.  Are you dressing to impress others?  Are you dressing elaborately to show wealth or stature?  Are you dressing as a lady?  If you have to think about what you are wearing, God is speaking to you.  If you think that “maybe” your bikini will attract unnecessary glances, God is speaking to you.  If you are wondering if your dress is too short or your shirt is too low, God is speaking to you.  Girls and women can still be fashionable in today’s world without wearing inappropriate clothing.  But we must use our discernment that God has provided to us as believers.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we present the image of God who created beauty and we must always be willing to do good works when He calls on us.  He will not call on us if we are not first dressed according to His words.  Our faith starts with our outward appearance.  Modesty is a mindset of the heart, always seeking to give God the glory and flows from the heart in doing God’s will.

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