The Many Faces of Pride

PRIDE

I’ve had a really rough week. You don’t need details, but suffice it to say that I came face to face with my loathsome, prideful self yet once again.

Does that ever happen to you? Or am I the only one? You think you are doing pretty well in this Christianity thing and then something happens that you didn’t see coming or someone doesn’t meet your expectations and you react. And that’s when you realize that you still have so far to go. While it can be really painful, I am so thankful for these times, for they remind me of why I need a Savior so incredibly much and they help me to grow more like Christ.

Pride is an insidious, deadly sin. It gobbles up our peace and joy so quickly. It destroys most everything in its wake. Or, at the very least, keeps any relationship from being the best it could be.

Humility is the opposite of pride. Christ was humble, even to death on a cross, and humility is what He requires of us. First and foremost, humility is necessary for us to understand our need for a Savior. But, after our initial conversion, it is also so key in staying in a right relationship with God. It is absolutely critical for healthy family relationships. Humility helps us to be a better co-worker, a better child, a better spouse, a better parent. We are happier when we are humble. We bless others when we are humble. We experience much greater peace when we are humble.

When we think of pride, we often think of the kind that David exhibited in I Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). David took a census. This was apparently an act of pride that cost him (and the whole nation of Israel) dearly. We can’t know for sure, but according to my Bible study notes, David’s act of taking this census could have angered God for a number of reasons. Perhaps because David was trying to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and military power. Or he was putting more trust in his forces than in his God. Maybe this was showing that he was taking credit for the many victories of Israel. Whatever his reason, we know that God was angry, as we read in the passage.

And our pride often looks like David’s in our own day-to-day living. We take credit for something; we want the glory; we draw attention to our accomplishments and awards and accolades.

But let’s just say that we don’t really struggle with this type of thing. Maybe we hate attention and would never boast about ourselves. We would never count our successes and victories and put them out there for all the world to see. Is there still the possibility that pride could still be an issue for us, if boasting and taking censuses isn’t our style?

Of course, the answer to this is a resounding YES.

So what are some ways that pride hides out in the dark corners of our minds and hearts? I have been really thinking about this topic of humility this week. Knowing that in order for my relationships to work right, I need to be humble. In searching some of my favorite authors on this topic, I came across a $2.99 Kindle book called Sermons on Humility by Charles Spurgeon. I have not finished it, but in the first few pages he shares several different ways pride exhibits itself in even the most “humble” of us. I will follow each one with a few practical, modern-day examples —

There is the pride of the heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the word of God, never content to sit like a child to believe what he is told, he is a disputant but not a disciple. He will insist upon it that his own reason is to be the well-spring of his own beliefs, and he will receive nothing beyond his own reach.

This is immediately what I think of when I think of the Christians who claim that homosexuality isn’t a sin, that unity is more important than truth, or that the world evolved. They have the pride of the heretic–relying on their own intellect or on the intellect of other men instead of on the Word of God. The other person that comes to mind is the one who says there are many ways to heaven or that there is no hell. They, too, are holding their own thinking in higher merit than the Word of God.

There is next the pride of the Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to will heaven as the reward of his own doings.

While they may not brag or boast about this, many think they are good people, quietly assuming that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones and this will be what gets them into heaven. Even many, many Christians (or shall I say people who identify with the religion of Christianity) believe they are going to heaven based on their own merit. This is pride. This is the kind that keeps our eyes blinded to our need for a Savior.

Next there is the pride of the curious. The man who is not content with simplicities, but must pry into mysteries. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and read between those folded leaves and break the seven seals of the mysterious book of destiny. You know well our apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood, yet he uttered them because of the Spirit, and you never meet with any attempt in the apostle’s writing as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent, quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and do of his good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met, he was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master’s spirit, and leave the old wives fables and endless genealogies and disputings, and questionings, to those who had no better guests to entertain.

I included this whole section here because it goes so very well with my post from Monday. I agree with Spurgeon whole-heartedly– it is prideful to think we have to understand the things we can’t understand. Yes, the ungodly will call you stupid and unintellectual when you take this approach (mostly because of their own personal pride). They don’t know God the way we do if we are saved. They don’t understand that submitting to His sovereignty is an incredible blessing. That some questions can go unanswered because the ones that really matter have already been answered. They can’t get it. Their eyes can’t see.

Again, there is the pride of the persecutor; the man who is not content with his own notions, but would hunt to death another, the pride which suggests that I am infallible, and that if any man should differ from me, the stake and the rack would be the due deserts of so great a sin, against so great a person as myself.

We may not want to see someone physically harmed when they don’t agree with us, but how many broken families and split churches fall under this type of pride? Millions? Trillions? This is perhaps the most tempting one for “godly Christians”. We think we are right. We believe that our opinion is best. We believe we are infallible. But if it’s not within the pages of scripture, is it actually something worth a broken relationship?

Is any special piece of furniture or bank account worth the fracturing of a family upon a parents’ death?

Is any decision of our adult children worth the tense and strained relationship that comes when we keep insisting they are doing wrong thing or making the wrong choice?

Is any opinion of mine worth holding on to if it’s causing stress and constant argument in my marriage?

Is my hurt pride over what I heard that someone said about me worth a broken friendship?

NO, a thousand times NO. The answer to all of these questions is NO.

And so, so many of us fall prey to this deadly sin, leaving a trail of broken hearts and strained relationships. I don’t want to do this. I want my marriage more than I want to be right. I want a right relationship with my kids more than I want to be right. I want to be a good testimony more than I want to be right.

Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical truth here. Of course, we have to stand strong and fight for the truth held within the pages of scripture. I might add here that even these biblical debates can and should only be done with great gentleness and kindness. But most of us are not arguing over biblical doctrine (a few more of us should be! We seem to not find that important, while inane, silly things get us so riled up!), instead, we are debating and arguing over issues which have no biblical mandate. No right or wrong. I am talking about the silly, stupid stuff we won’t bend on. The stuff that isn’t worth it.

Life is hard. Relationships take work. And no relationship works well without at least one party practicing humility. Joy and peace elude us without humility. Unanswerable questions haunt us without it.

And so we start with us. Today. The only place we can start. And we take our desire to be right, our yearning for glory, and our prideful thoughts about how good we are and hand them all to the Lord, asking Him to humble us and to become more like Him.

Often crying and screaming inside our heads as we endure the emotional pain of the process.

 

 

Spurgeon, Charles (2014-09-28). Twelve Sermons on Humility; Titus Books. Kindle Edition.

 

After the Rain

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I couldn’t resist. Yes, with two weddings coming up and a landscape business, I am incredibly busy right now, but what kind of life is it to be too busy to grab your camera and take a few shots? We have been hoping, praying, and longing for rain here at our house. When it’s dry it brings all the stresses that a weather-related business tends to bring. Apparently, before yesterday, this was shaping up to be the third driest spring on record in this area! We received an inch and a half of rain last night and we are praising the Lord for it!

I thought I’d share a few shots I took from our yard after yesterday’s beautiful rain–

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While We Were Sleeping

anesthesia

I went in for minor surgery the other week. I never love the idea of going under. It’s so strange, isn’t it? One second you are listening to the conversation going on around you and the next you are totally conked out.

As I awoke in the recovery area, I slowly became aware of my surroundings. The nurse asked me if I was okay. My sluggish thoughts gathered enough to say “I think so.”

I was definitely awake enough to realize that I was incredibly thirsty.

She put me off drinking anything for a half hour.

Finally, she set a plastic cup with a straw in front of me. Ginger ale never tasted so good!

After explaining the surgery and giving me a small dose of extra pain meds, she brought my mom back and told me I could get dressed. I still had not seen the doctor.

I finally asked, “Isn’t the doctor going to come in and talk to me?”

The answer I got stunned me: “She already did.”

Wait? What?

I had NO recollection of that, whatsoever. None.

But, apparently, I had answered and responded to her.

That is a little scary, if you think about it!

As I pondered this over the next week, I thought about unbelieving friends and family and wondered if they aren’t a little like I was when I was under? In that they are listening and responding, but, spiritually, they are asleep.

Until they are awakened spiritually by God (John 6:44), they are talking in their sleep. They are blind and cannot understand (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Look, I don’t know how this works together with free will. I know they both exist– man’s free will to choose God and God’s election. Somehow they work together in a parallel way that is incomprehensible to us.* I do not need to understand it. Why do we think we need to understand this?

Do you remember when you first came to know the Lord? For some of us, it was totally life-changing–a dramatic change of lifestyle. For others of us, it wasn’t a very drastic life change since we were children or adolescents in Christian homes. But in understanding God’s salvation plan, whether the life change was minimal or drastic, we became aware that we were sinners and needed to repent and turn a different direction. We became aware that the death of God’s Son paid for my sin on the cross and made a way for me to be reconciled to Him. God removed our blinders. We woke up.

So what is my point?

I have three, actually–

1. Never, ever underestimate the power of prayer in winning someone you love to Christ. You can argue, cajole, debate, and sweet-talk–and some of these things will plant seeds that the Lord will use later– but never lose sight that God does the waking up. Pray earnestly and frequently for your unsaved friends and family.

2. Don’t take the conversations and interactions you have with unbelievers too personally. This one can be difficult. When we are in a conversation about God, people can get pretty touchy. They can say things they shouldn’t as we share the gospel with them. They may hurt our feelings or attack us personally. They may grow resentful of us and try to cause us to stumble as we try to hold to a biblical standard. Does it help to remember that they are, in essence, still sleeping? They have not awoken yet to the glorious promises of God’s amazing grace and wonderful mercy.

3. We have the important task to respond with love and gentleness to all–even the meanest, vilest person. I have heard several testimonies of the most unlikely people becoming saved when a Christian has been kind and loving to them, even while being teased and tortured mercilessly. No one is beyond hope! There is no place for flaring tempers and sulkiness in this business of sharing the gospel. Let’s be a help and not a hindrance to our heavenly Father as we share the Good News.

As we share the true gospel in the midst of this foreign land we find ourselves in, let’s remember to be kind, to not take anything too personally, and–most importantly–to pray for the salvation of those God has put in your life’s path. Pray for the glorious day of awakening!

 

*If you struggle with this concept, listen to this excellent sermon by John MacArthur, explaining that we can NEVER understand how these work together. He has been very misaligned in this area of election, so if you have heard that he is unbiblical in this area but have never heard his view from his own mouth, then I encourage you to listen to this sermon. You will find that this isn’t the case at all.

 

 

Leaving Jerusalem

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If you are still with me in the Bible Challenge, we are in the midst of the gripping tale of David’s life. From a shepherd boy to a King on the run, we have read all of his well-known tales. We have read of him killing a giant, committing adultery and then murdering the woman’s husband, and we have read of the heart-breaking treachery of his son, Absalom.

It was hard to pick what to write about today. But there was one obscure passage in 2 Samuel that really stood out to me. Especially in our current situation as believers.

So I am writing today about Ittai the Gittite.

Have you ever even heard of him? This is not really that memorable of a story, as “larger than life” stories go. Let me set up the background–

Absalom, over the course of a few years, undermined his father’s authority and got enough men on his side to attempt to overthrow the King. Instead of fighting his own son, David makes the decision to just abdicate in order to protect the people of Jerusalem. He pulls all of his house together, with the exception of 10 concubines left to care for the palace. Along with him, showing their loyalty and serving as his body guards and corps d’elite were the Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites.*

As they walked out of the city, David stopped Ittai, the leader of the Gittites, telling him to go back into the city. Here is the conversation between the two (from 2 Samuel 15)–

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 

Whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.

What an incredible testimony of loyalty. Ittai chose to follow David out of the safe zone, knowing full well that it would most likely mean hardship, wandering, and even death.

This struck me, because in a lot of ways, I feel like we are soon going to be forced to follow Jesus out of American culture very soon. Oh, we may not be forced to physically leave, but the storm clouds we saw on the horizon only a few short years ago are now starting to bring fierce wind and dark, dark skies. Life is changing here. And the message is Get on Board or Be Persecuted.

Gone forever are the days of the beautiful religious freedom we enjoyed from the inception of this country. They are over. You do realize that, don’t you? They aren’t returning, no matter who is voted into office. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but this ship has left the dock and it’s not coming back. Not without a supernatural miracle from God (My God is that big, so I don’t rule it out, but I don’t expect it either– not when I read the plan of the future as recorded in the Word of God).

I think it is time to follow our King out of Jerusalem. It’s such a heart-breaking time for those of us, the remnant, that remains faithful to the Word of God, isn’t it? We have become such a minority that sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we are even right, after all? But then we turn back to the Word and we read of church history, and we can see that this is exactly what we should expect. We Christians have really, here in America, been living a rare, cushy, comfortable existence. This has not been the norm for most of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout history, in foreign lands currently, or as recorded for the church’s future.

So are you ready to follow your King, whether it bring life or death? Are you ready for hardship, persecution, and wandering? Are you ready for slander, scathing remarks, intolerance for your views, and false accusations? Because if you have plans to remain faithful to the Jesus of the Bible, it will come. Some of you have experienced a bit of this already.

Are you going to be like Ittai– a loyal soldier for the King or are you going to tuck tale and run back into the comfort zone of the city? You will soon have to make a choice. Are you prepared?

Read and study the Bible, read biographies of great Christians who have gone before us, read classic authors of yesteryear. If you need ideas, check out my favorite books-where I have added a couple of new suggestions for you just this morning.

By reading and studying you will grow deeper, fixed roots of faith. These will hold you steady in the wind that is starting to blow. There is no time to waste. The perilous storm is almost here.

 

*As explained from the following websites: Jewish Encyclopedia and Bible Hub.

False Advertising

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The sign said that EVERYTHING in the store was 50% off! I wouldn’t really call myself an avid shopper, but a sign like that in a store filled with lovely clothing in a hundred spring colors was like a personal invitation.

My mom was with me and we had a few minutes to spare. And so we started filling our arms with clothing to try on–colorful summer dresses, mostly, and a couple of cute shirts. We carried our loads to the dressing room.

As is pretty typical, I came out of the dressing room with one thing. But the one thing I found I really liked. It was the perfect addition to my summer wardrobe. I took it to the cash register and waited for several minutes since, apparently, the only person taking sales at the register was also the person who answered the phone.

Finally, she hung up the phone and rang up my purchase. She named the total and I was taken aback. I was certainly not willing to pay that amount for any shirt– no matter how cute.

I immediately asked about the signs that were placed all over the store.

Well, guess what? Some things were excluded. Like my shirt.

Of course it was.

All the new spring items were not on sale.

What?? Where in the world did it say that on the sign?

I told her I did not want the shirt, after all, and walked away. On our way out of the store, we stopped by a sign to read the fine print. It was SO SMALL that we couldn’t even read it. Seriously. It was so small that I didn’t even see it there when we looked at the signs originally. I have never seen fine print that small.

I don’t really think I will shop at that store again anytime soon. I understand that stores need to use exclusions and fine print. But to do it in such a way as this store did was to mislead and really be dishonest. At least make the fine print legible.

I suppose that what this store did regarding what they have to sell is what Satan does with what he has to sell.

False Advertising.

Promising something that you can’t deliver.

Yep, that is exactly Satan’s style.

He promises us joy and peace if we follow our hearts.

But it’s not there.

He promises us a great life if we focus on our needs and wants at the cost of everyone else.

But it doesn’t happen.

He promises us an awesome time when we drink and use drugs, stare at pornographic images, or gamble away our paychecks.

And, sure, their may be a thrill for a brief minute or two, but he doesn’t show you the sorrow and heartbreak that goes with it. You never hear the word addiction or betrayal or loser when he is trying to win you to the other side, do you?

He promises us purpose and fulfillment if we just stand up for our rights.

But it doesn’t happen.

He promises us happy, carefree kids if we never say no to them.

But this is definitely false advertising. Happy kids are kids that have boundaries.

He promises us happiness if we just have that house we want, look like a model, or if our kid is a soccer star.

But it doesn’t come. Because that’s not what makes us happy. Not permanently.

Satan beckons us all with these lies. But we never read the fine print. This fine print can be read in the history books and literature of yesteryear. It can be read in the lives of our family members and the lives of those who live in our community. If we take some time and see the outcome of ungodly decisions, it isn’t hard to see the lack of wisdom in them.

You know, Jesus says in Luke 17:33 that “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

The further along I walk down the path of life, the deeper understanding I have this verse. The truth of the matter is that, after we are saved and have come into a right relationship with God, we can only experience true peace and pure joy through daily self-sacrifice and self-denial. I am much more at peace and so much more joyful, when I am practicing the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) than when I am trying to fulfill my own selfish desires. And, yet, that battle rages within me constantly. Even though I know the truth.

Oh, some of our worldly choices may lead to temporary happiness and bliss, but it never lasts. We will never be perfectly content until we root that contentment in Jesus. And, honestly, it is impossible to stay in that place entirely until we reach heaven. We are human, after all. Even Paul had trouble with fighting his flesh (Romans 7:15-20).

So this life is a battle. But it is a battle worth fighting! Selfish choices and decisions lead to destruction. Godly, wise decisions lead to a joyful life. We are given the freedom to make a choice. Which one will you make?

I will leave you with the words of one of my favorite Psalms–

Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

(Psalm 1)

The Win (and what to do until then)

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Isn’t it interesting how schools cycle through their glory years? One year the guys’ basketball team or girls’ soccer team is undefeated and there is enthusiastic school spirit supporting them. And then a season or two later all the glory has ended. Key players or a coach moves on and the dynamics change and suddenly they aren’t the team on top anymore.

The same dynamic plagues most professional sports teams, as well. I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan–no matter if they win or lose. But right now it is bad. Let’s just say that we aren’t watching a lot of baseball this year. It’s just not near as much fun as when they were really doing well and headed to the World Series.

And we are left with one conclusion–

Winning is glorious and losing is not.

A lot of the stories of King David are tales of victory over enemies. Just yesterday, we read of how the Ammonites asked the Syrians to fight with them and after being soundly defeated, we read that the Syrians were afraid “to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Samuel 10:19). I guess I would have been, too. David had a reputation of being victorious. But King David doesn’t win every battle. We will soon read of his battle with lust that he loses in a big way (2 Samuel 11).  And let’s not forget that just a few years earlier he was fighting for his life as he was chased down by Saul. He eventually became King, but it certainly wasn’t without grief and struggle.

This is what makes life so hard. We win some and we lose some. But some battles are so much more important than others. And what are we to do when we feel like we are losing such critical battles? The battles for–

Our country

Our churches

Our freedom

The hearts of our kids

Our marriages

 

We are losing some of these battles pretty soundly right now. Have you read the news lately?

But we know that we win the war. That is worth repeating: We are going to win this war between good and evil.

We can’t lose sight of this. No, God does not promise us that our kids will be saved or that our spouse will stick around. He doesn’t promise that our churches will preach sound doctrine or that our country will return to its Christian roots. But what we do know– without a shadow of a doubt– is that God will reign victorious in the end. Every knee will bow to the King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).

When we consider this very important truth, we naturally come to the conclusion that the only thing that really matters is whether or not those around us are going to confess Jesus Christ as Lord before it’s too late.

So often, we worry so much about the outward stuff that indicates serious problems– the bad grades, the drug and alcohol abuse, the debt and materialism, the false doctrines, the laws, the liberalism. And we try to fix things. We try to fix our kids and spouses. We try to fix our churches and our government.

But is anything truly fixed without a changed heart? A child can change behavior without ever changing his heart. A government can make laws that are more compatible with our beliefs, but will that really solve our country’s problem?

I don’t think so. Because the reason we are having such deep, heart-breaking issues– both in our families and beyond– is that people believe in a lie. They have chosen to reject the Word of God and they believe the lies of the world. They believe these lies of the devil–

–That their purpose and fulfillment is what matters (which leads to self-centered, self-absorbed individuals only out for themselves)

–That their kids’ happiness reigns supreme (which leads to spoiled brats who think the world revolves around them and want the world but are not willing to work for it)

–They believe unity is more important than biblical integrity and that loves trumps holiness (which leads to a shallow, fake religion pretending to be Christianity)

–They believe that the Bible is just partly true. That it has errors. They believe that God just got the ball rolling and then put the creation of the world into the hands of some kind of evolutionary process (placing doubt on The Bible removes the foundation for true Christianity)

–They believe that you get to heaven for doing good things. That they simply need the good to outweigh the bad (this is a insidious and very old lie — that your righteous works will win your salvation)

–They believe that God would never want them to be unhappy (this leads our faith to become me-centered rather than centered on the almighty God of the universe)

–They believe that man is basically good and that sins are simply diseases and disorders (the sinfulness of man is a key component of true Christianity and cannot be overlooked without forfeiting biblical salvation completely)

–They believe that their happiness will be found here on this earth (but Jesus said “blessed are you when you are persecuted, for your reward will be in heaven”. See Matthew 5:11-12)

 

I challenge you to talk to someone that calls him or herself a “Christian” but doesn’t live like it. Somewhere in their thinking is a lie (or two or three) that they are believing.

It is impossible to fight the battle for someone’s soul if they are believing lies. We have to start at the beginning. And that beginning is the Word of God. For that is where we find the truth. This means that we need to know it and study it and understand it ourselves.

And so while we wait for The Win, let’s fight the battle for the truth–God’s Truth. Let’s fight for the hearts of our kids, for our marriages and families. Let’s fight for it in our churches and in our country. Do it sweetly and kindly and gently. But let’s never, ever forget that we are in a war.

And never forget– we win!

 

It’s About Love

Modesty

I had an interesting conversation with my kids the other day.

“Your shirt’s a little low there, Mom,” said a daughter.

I self-consciously pulled it up and mumbled, “I know. This stupid shirt…”

Upon which my son said, “no worries, Mom, no one is looking at you, anyway.”

Uhhh, thanks.

But, hey, while it was a little hard on my ego, I also realized that it’s mostly true.

So why should I worry about modesty as an older woman?

Perhaps we should first answer the question of why all women–whether young or old–should worry about modesty at all?

I think there is a really good reason that God tells us to be modest (I Timothy 2:9). Let’s look at why that might be–

When most men get a glimpse of a breast or see thighs and bottom barely covered or covered by skin-tight pants, they are sexually aroused. This is how God created them.

I don’t know why He created them like this. I just know that He did.

Not only is this the way they were created, but then we read in Matthew 5:27-29 that to lust sexually is counted the same as committing adultery. We also know from the context of the passage that both of these things are considered serious sins. So this natural tendency that men have is something they must fight every day.

And over the past 50 years or so, this battle in their minds has become almost minute-by-minute combat which they can’t escape, often even in our churches!

We also know that God tells us in His Word that we are to love others (Matthew 22:39). If I would ask you what loving someone looks like, you would probably mention doing something special for them or being nice to them. And this is a part of love, for sure. But let’s leave the status quo definition of love behind for a moment.

Couldn’t we women also show love by keeping ourselves properly covered? Dressing modestly is truly an act of genuine love, encouragement, and protection for all men who see us, especially for our Christian brothers in the Lord.

For some reason I have not quite ever been able to understand, we Christian women have just seemed to completely forgotten that God calls us to modesty and that He does so for a reason– to protect us and to protect the hearts and minds of the men around us.

Our love for God and our obedience to His Word should be an even more important reason for us to obey Him in this area. And here is what I have found out– what we wear is just the first step in demonstrating modesty. The true heart of modesty is humility and grace. Think of it like this– when we dress immodestly we draw attention to ourselves. When we dress (and act) modestly, we are much more likely to draw people’s eyes towards Jesus instead of distracting them with our outward appearance.

Perhaps it is not you who dresses immodestly but you have allowed your daughter to dress in such a way. I never ceased to be amazed at what Christian parents allow their daughters to wear. Parents who I know genuinely love the Lord and have a wonderful testimony otherwise.

Inevitably, when you have this modesty question, some woman will loftily announce that she can’t be held responsible for a man’s mind and where it goes.

Yes, that is true. He has a responsibility to turn his eyes away. But how loving and kind it is to dress in such a way that men do not have to do that when they look at us!

So back to the original question– what if no one is looking at me, anyway? What does it really matter if my shirt is too low or my skirt too short?

This is a pretty relevant question, because as women head into mid-life, they sometimes grow a little panicky in all the life changes. And in a reaction to that panic can sometimes dress in ways that are slightly more immodest or not age appropriate. And, honestly, I can understand why. This time of a life is a really strange place to land as a woman, and everything feels topsy-turvy. But we still need to dress modestly.

Let’s go to Titus 2:3-5 to find out why–

the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

It would seem pretty clear from these verses that we have an obligation to dress modestly for the sake of the younger women around us. We need to be the example they are to follow. That is our responsibility as we grow older. We never get to stop caring. We always need to be intentional about what we wear.

Now, I admit dressing modestly can be extremely difficult for all of us women–whatever our age–for a number of reasons–

1) We won’t fit in with those around us. A really good example of this is if you are a young woman on the beach. If you aren’t wearing a bikini, you almost stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t quite fit in with the crowd. Which is actually exactly what we are supposed to do — not look like the world– but it can be a bit uncomfortable and we have to be willing to part from the crowd. And that is never fun.

2) We can’t find modest clothes to buy. I have found this one to be especially challenging. It seems that fashion has dictated that cleavage is in and modesty is out. It is downright difficult to find a shirt that doesn’t slink its way down in the course of the day or give a full view if you bend over. And let’s be honest– most of us don’t want to live in polos or turtlenecks. But should we be sacrificing our modesty for that cute shirt? I am especially challenged as I write this, because I am ashamed to admit that I have made some exceptions for some “cute” shirts.

Is there ever a reason that we can in good conscience be immodest? Like is it okay on your wedding day? Or at a beach where no one knows you?

Answer this question: Are there men there?

If there are men there, then the answer is always no. There is, however, one glorious exception– we can be as immodest as we want with our own husbands! No modesty is necessary in the bedroom!

This has got to be one of the most confusing times there has ever been to live out our Christianity. We are told conflicting opinions about almost every topic. Modesty is no exception. But let’s stop listening to the placating excuses for why we can dress the way we want and let’s start turning our eyes to God’s Word, where we not only find the clear command that we need to be modest, but also find out why.

If you are in the habit of wearing low shirts, short skirts and shorts, tight yoga pants, or immodest swimwear, may I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word in this area of modesty? Let’s stop following the crowd and drawing attention to ourselves and, instead, turn our focus towards pleasing God in this area of our lives.

 

The Happiness Agenda

Happy or Holy

I read someone’s comment on a blog post promoting gay marriage the other day. It was the typical “God is loving and love is the only thing that matters” type of thing that we are so used to hearing these days.

I can’t help but wonder if the person who made this comment ever read the Old Testament? Or the New Testament, for that matter! Ever hear of Ananias and Sapphira?? (Acts 5:1-11)

All through the Bible men reap serious consequences for their evil choices. God’s love never trumps His justice. Never. This is so clear throughout all of scripture.

And, if we are a believer reading the Word of God, even though we don’t always understand the harshness of God’s judgment or the seriousness of what we would call “minor” sins, we do get the cause and effect kind of logic. Most of us understand the need for punishment when there is blatant and intentional sin involved.

But today’s Bible Challenge reading (2 Samuel 6) holds a rather disturbing story.

This is the story of Uzzah–the poor guy who reached his hand out to steady the Ark of the Covenant and was killed immediately on the spot for touching it.

This just doesn’t seem fair, does it? The guy was just trying to help. He didn’t mean any harm.

We can go to Numbers 5:15 for help in understanding this:

And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

So perhaps Uzzah wasn’t ignorant, after all? God had warned them that touching the holy things could mean death.

And so it did in the case of Uzzah.

Perhaps, when it comes right down to it, there is no unintentional sin. We like to view our sinfulness as mistakes and diseases, but God has provided each one of us with a conscience that lets us know that we are sinning against Him (Romans 1:19-20) and we are held accountable to Him for this sin.

This is not the God that most people want to hear about today. This does not appeal to the commenter I mentioned above or to most anyone else–even those who call themselves Christians.

There is a massive war waging right now. It is the war of who is on the throne– God or man? This war is being fought on the battle fields of our minds, in class rooms, on church boards, and in court rooms across this land. People are in sinful rebellion against a God who would make them accountable.

This, in essence, is what keeps us from God.

And, so this battle is being fought fiercely and it would appear to us that God is losing.

But here’s what we need to remember–even though the snowball of the worldly system is picking up mass and speed at an alarming rate — you and I know who really wins. We know the ending. And we know the risk of disobeying God on such a massive scale.

No matter what laws are changed, what brainwashing is done in our schools, or how many news broadcasters and sitcoms promote the happiness agenda (happiness is the only thing that God cares about) we know that, in the end, it just won’t matter what man thinks or believes.

It will only matter what God says. This is the only thing that has ever mattered, matters now, or will matter in the future. And we believe that God has told us all we need to know in the Holy Scriptures– the Bible we hold in our hands and treat so casually.

But in the meantime, life is going to get very hard for us true believers.

Are you ready for this? We are going to be known as bigots, haters, evil, intolerant, and wicked. Some of us will have ruined reputations, be “set up” to take a fall, treated like we are in some kind of weird cult, and marginalized. We will be hated and we will be mocked. This will even take place in some of our churches, as the happiness agenda takes over there, too.

If you are reading through the Bible with me, I wonder if you, like me, are gaining much greater insight into the flaws of the happiness agenda? Are you, too, understanding that God just doesn’t care all that much about our happiness? He cares much more about our holiness.

Studying God’s Word makes all the difference in how we view God. For when we read stories like Uzzah and Ananias and Sapphira, we start understanding that God will not tolerate any sin–even unintentional sin (if there is even such a thing).

This is the whole reason Jesus died on the cross. He paid for our sins. Only when we understand our wretched sinfulness and rebellion can we understand the incredible grace and mercy of God in providing a way for us to be reconciled to Him.

So let’s keep reading and studying our Bibles. Let’s keep standing firmly on the Word of God. I am quite sure that we are going to need this anchor in the upcoming days more than we have ever needed it before.

 

The View

the view

(No, this is not my personal view– but it is certainly lovely, isn’t it??)

Our house sits on the top of a hill. It sits down and back from the road, so the view from the first story isn’t anything spectacular, but the view from the second story of our home is a beautiful scene of rolling farmland and small town and distant mountain. Or it used to be.

We moved here almost 15 years ago.  About 5 years ago a developer bought the land to the north on both sides of our country road. We were sad because we knew what was coming. And so we waited. And waited. And nothing happened. Until this winter.

First came the “For Sale” signs in front of an empty field. It wasn’t long before the field was full of beautiful homes. Town is encroaching.

We noticed shortly after the houses started going up that one, in particular, was going to block our view quite nicely–almost as if it was situated in order to do that.

Oh, I know that it wasn’t. Although, if I am honest, we are a bit disappointed to have this large gray object front and center when our eyes look in that direction.

But that’s life.

Things change constantly.

And what is one person’s dream– like a new house in the countryside– can bring another person disappointment. Life is just full of that kind of thing, isn’t it?

As I think about this situation it reminds me so much of the Christian life.

When we first come to know the Lord, we are full of excitement and hope because we so clearly understand the freedom and future that we have in Jesus Christ. And our view is amazing!

But then things start to block our view.

Busy days.

Unmet Expectations.

Disillusionment.

Illness.

Death of someone we love.

Demands of Children.

Jobs and Careers.

Disappointment.

Demands of others.

Elderly parents.

Discouragement.

 

And before we know it, we have lost sight of our view because there is so much other stuff in our way.

But here is what we know–

Just because we have a large object blocking our beautiful view doesn’t mean that the view isn’t still there.

Life gets busy and we push off our quiet time. Weeks go by and we don’t spend time in the Word. And then there are the days filled with deep pain and grief, and we don’t even feel like praying. We just can’t. There are days of just getting through and days of trying really hard.

And through it all, God doesn’t move. Our view of Him and His amazing grace remains the same, no matter what is blocking it.

Somehow I find this so comforting. It’s a solid foundation in the midst of craziness. It’s a beacon of light in the hurricane. Something firm to hold on to in the midst of our personal earthquakes.

Oh, our view may change, but the original view is still there, hiding behind the busyness and the frustrations and the unthinkable. Interestingly enough, if we step way back, whatever is blocking our view grows smaller and falls into perspective.

The glorious thing about our spiritual view is that, unlike the view from my house, we have the opportunity to clear our spiritual view by getting into God’s Word, asking God for perspective and to help us turn our eyes back upon Jesus.

It’s never too late to restore our spiritual view. Never.

How amazing is that?

 

Is Magic That Big of a Deal?

ball-625908_1280

I could feel my little-girl heart beating fast inside my chest. My hand slowly reached out to hold onto the little piece that was supposed to move ever so slowly on the Ouija Board in front of us and give us the answers to our most important questions. My two friends’ hands were also on the piece. We waited expectantly.

Somewhere way down deep inside me, this felt absolutely wrong. Yes, I was young but I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was not something I should be fooling around with. After just one question, I made up some reason why I couldn’t keep playing and we left the evil game behind and went outside to play.

That moment is forever etched in my mind. I knew that this was no game. And I knew that I was playing with danger. My spirit was so vexed within me, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to get away from that game. I don’t remember details but I remember that feeling!

I thought of that memory the other day when I was reading about Saul. In our 2015 Bible Reading Challenge this past week, we read about Saul’s death and David being crowned King of Judah. In the midst of all of that, we are reading many of the Psalms. They are like a breath of cool, crisp air in the midst of all of the action and drama we are reading, giving much needed encouragement and refreshing the spirit.

But when I read about Saul’s death the other day in the I Chronicles passage, something really hit me. His death is recorded this way–

(I Chronicles 10:13-14) So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. 14 He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

Saul died for disobedience and lack of faith. But he also died for seeking guidance from a medium.

We know from other passages that God abhors sorcery and witchcraft. It is abundantly clear in scripture. Here are a few passages that make this clear–

Deuteronomy 18:9-12
Isaiah 8:19-20
2 Chronicles 33:6
Acts 19:19
Galatians 5:19-21
Revelation 21:8

So if Saul died partly for his use of sorcery and we see clearly that anyone who practices sorcery will not inherit the Kingdom of God, then I can’t help but wonder if our lackadaisical attitude towards witchcraft and sorcery as believers is a problem?

We seem to just accept this as innocent and fun entertainment.

But is it?

What should our attitude be towards books and movies that are driven by magic and spells? What about Ouija Boards, tarot cards, and horoscopes? Are these things just light-hearted fun or are they dangerous tools? Should anything having to do with sorcery be in our homes?

I’m just asking.

Here’s the thing–

I know that so many of you draw the line at having actual magical items in your homes, but really leave your guard down when it comes to entertainment. For some reason, many of us Christians, while we believe it’s wrong to actually participate in something we know God hates, we think it’s okay to read it or watch it. I don’t really get this, but I do recognize that Harry Potter books sit on the shelves of many believers. Some own every Twilight movie. And they may even record The Medium. In each of these series, the whole plot is driven by magic and the supernatural in a very entertaining way–they focus on an unknown world that so intrigues us all.

We love a good fantasy, don’t we?

A place where we can get lost and escape for a little while and these books, movies, and shows do just that for us.

I named three of the most popular, but I know there are many other examples of this kind of entertainment in so many of our home libraries. Even some Disney movies push the limit in this area of magic and spells. There are several we chose not to own for this very reason.

We tend to be very “frog-like” in this area of entertainment. And Hollywood takes great advantage of this, throwing in a little black magic  (or sex or bad language, etc.) and increasing it ever so gradually and so subtly that what starts out as “not that bad” ends up very wicked.  And this has led us to the point that we actually have Christians reading, watching, and endorsing things like Harry Potter and Twilight (and The Bachelor and Shades of Gray and all other kinds of wicked things).

I have to confess that I am completely and utterly befuddled by this.

But, listen, I am not going to tell you what you can and cannot watch. That is certainly not my place. I recognize that we are all at a different place of conviction and spiritual maturity. But can I at least ask you this–

If we are trying to live a life that pleases God and we know with complete certainty that He hates sorcery, should we at least consider the appropriateness of having entertainment that glorifies these things in our lives and the lives of our children?

It is my belief that Satan has used the human propensity for entertainment to wield many believers almost ineffective for the cause of Christ. We have put our swords of truth down (the Word of God) and have instead found ourselves wrapped up in the goings-on of pretend worlds. We find ourselves powerless and hungry for supernatural experiences that will prove to us that we aren’t as powerless as we feel.

May I encourage you to pick up your Swords and use them? May I encourage you to clean house of all that you know God hates–and not just things full of magic and witchcraft, but all of the other stuff, too?

I  believe that it is impossible to live the full and blessed Christian life that Christ offers until we are willing to give up our ungodly entertainment.

Would you at least consider praying about this?