Day 46: Romans 16 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Romans 16 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In today’s reading the first sixteen verses present a long list of people that the Apostle Paul and others know and recognize as genuine believers with pure motives. Then in verse seventeen Paul makes a stern warning for those who have an unholy ambition to serve themselves.

The point I took away is this, some people serve in the church as servants of God and are truly Kingdom first people. God is their king, their motives are pure, and they really want to see God glorified. They don’t serve for recognition, they don’t jockey for power, they just give and give generously of their time, money and effort to see God’s kingdom expand.

Others though use the same means to draw people away from the kingdom. They are divisive and self serving.They advertise a false doctrine.

Note, though where the line is. It’s over “doctrine contrary to what you have been taught” (16:17). It’s not over error or differing opinions on less than doctrinal matters. This isn’t a call to arms against those who are preaching truth from wrong motives (Philippians 1:15-18), or like Apollos who needed a little more education in the gospel (Acts 18:24-28), this is a call against those who are teaching divisive, false doctrine.

Be on guard, keep the gospel pure, but don’t be trigger happy and send out friendly fire either. Some people in error just need a better education in the gospel.

FATHER, I thank you for your many faithful servants who love you and labor to see you exalted in everything. I pray that we are faithful to you and encouraging to one another. I pray that you would protect the unity of Spirit that is among us and preserve us in your love. I pray that we would be aware of those with false motives. I pray that we would be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Give us wisdom and discernment in dealing with those who seek to destroy your body. Thank you for the distinct privilege of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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DAY 32: ACTS 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

first thing that jumped out at me today was to, “Wait!” That is such a hard word for today’s culture. When the Lord says it though, there is nothing else to do, it is exactly what we need. The disciples were told to for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). So they spent ten days actively waiting. I say “actively” waiting because they were intentional about it and intentionally seeking the LORD in prayer (1:14, 2:1).  God’s timing is always right and we can never do on our own, without the Holy Spirit, something that only the Holy Spirit can do. 

This was intentionally a missions moment. The disciples were from Galilee not Jerusalem and the gospel writer Luke goes out of his way to highlight that little fact (see Acts 1:11, 2:7).  Acts 1:8 which lays out the progress for how the book of Acts unfolds isn’t a mission mandate to reach our neighbors with the gospel first and then go to the uttermost parts of the earth… the gospel was going to the uttermost parts of the earth by being proclaimed in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost where so many international Jewish people and proselytes would be (2:5, 9-11).  The disciples understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (also Acts 3:25).  We should be open and intent on taking the gospel to the nations. (On a side note: Where I live right now, was not on anyone’s map when Acts 1:8 was given. It qualifies as one of the “uttermost parts of the earth.”)

It is apparent that the disciples understood Jesus to be God. Peter quotes Joel 2:32 and says, “Who ever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved” (See Acts 2:21).  He then concludes his sermon by calling on those who are present to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38).

Also, did you notice the lame man at the gate called beautiful at the temple? He was lame from birth and at the temple every day (Acts 3:2). Two months before this Jesus was in Jerusalem and coming and going to the temple every day (Luke 22:53) and while he was at the temple he healed the “blind and the lame” (Matthew 21:14). It doesn’t take much to figure that this man was in proximity to Jesus, but was never healed. His healing, like the sending of the Holy Spirit would came at a different time than expected. I don’t know why this man wasn’t healed when Jesus was in the temple before. We could guess. What I do know is that God’s timing is always perfect.

FATHER, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and how He moves in our lives. I ask that we would press in wait for you to move.  Help our hearts to be satisfied to know that there is nothing we can do apart from you. I pray that we would be faithful witnesses where ever you place us and where you send us. We ask to see you do great things in our community. We give ourselves to be used by you to glorify you and  transform our families by the power of the gospel. I am thankful for  the grace given to me to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 16: Matthew 25-27 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 25-27 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What you do with what you have, matters in the kingdom of God.” There was a portion of the wedding party that missed the festivities because they were not well prepared and had foolishly counted on the wedding starting earlier (25:3). The foolish servant didn’t invest his talent and therefore had nothing to show for it (25:25). Those who ministered to the least of these ‘Breatheren’ were rewarded (25:34). (I put Breathren in scare quotes because a lot of people read over this passage and think that this is a general niceness to strangers and while that is a good and even godly thing to do, what is referenced here is hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ). As believers we are more obligated to minister to those closest to us such as family, church members, etc. We can also be generous to meet needs of those we are not obligated to help. For more on this see my blogging series on the Gospel and the Poor.

Today’s reading progresses from Jesus sharing parables about the coming of the kingdom to chapters 26 and 27 which detail the events of his betrayal, crucifixion and death.  I don’t know what was going on in Judas’ head when he decided to betray Jesus. I’ve heard a few different ideas suggested, but I think they are at best guesses. I do know this though, Judas did find himself very remorseful after the fact (27:3-4). Yet for all his remorse he didn’t find repentance. Its very sad really. Part of me really wants Judas to find redemption the way we know that Peter does.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, I pray that we would be faithful to honor you with what we are given and that we would consider the weighty matter of Christ’s return with all seriousness. I pray for those who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior and pray that today would be a day of salvation. I pray that you would use my conversations with friends and strangers to point them to you. I thank you for the calling to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Audience of One: How We Kicked God off the Stage in Worship

What would happen if we were to subtly change the way the church goes about worshiping God? What if we were to remove an emphasis on the objective truth of the Bible and place a subtle emphasis on personal experience? What if we did this in a way that on the surface seemed like we were worshiping God, but in the end actually removed God from worship and put us on the stage instead?

I am afraid that is exactly what is going on in many congregations across America. We are seeing popular pastors abandon Biblical authority in honor of individual subjective experience (Rob Bell and more recently and to a different degree, Andy Stanley). What bothers me the most, is that I think there are many pastors and worship leaders with good intentions, who are taking us down the path of looking for subjective experience instead of objective truth in weekly congregational worship.

For me, this can most clearly be seen in the rhetoric of “Audience of One” on the lips of pastors and worship leaders. Typically the “Audience of One” illustration is described this way: We gather for worship and it seems like the audience is the congregation and the actors or entertainers are the musicians, worship leader and pastor. But in this illustration, the roles are redesigned to account for God in the room. The congregation becomes the actors in worship, God is the audience, and the musicians, worship leader, and pastor are all prompters whose function is to provide the script by which the congregation performs worship.

Cool concept right?  It sounds cool to say that “God is the only audience we seek.” But is it right? More importantly is it Biblical? Before you assume I’m crazy, hear me out. I’ll explain to you that when we say, “Audience of One” that the whole illustration is a complete misunderstanding of worship that ultimately moves us away from an emphasis on truth from God (God’s Word) to our own subjective experience of “worship” and personal interpretation of that experience. My real concern is that we may have just kicked God off the stage and replaced Him with pathetic individual experiences of worship that are more about us than they are about the God of the Bible. Like I said hear me out.

 

I want to level a serious contention: What if the illustration of God as the “audience of One” in our services was originally a thought experiment designed to introduce a philosophy that would eventually  come to be known as existentialism to Christianity? Think I’m off the mark? Let’s look at where the illustration originated.

Audience of ONE_ How WE Kicked GOD off the Stage of Worship(1)

The History behind the Phrase. The concept behind the phrase “Audience of One” first appears in Soren Kierkegaard’s book, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.”  Kierkegaard in his own words:

 It is so on the stage, as you know well enough, that someone sits and prompts by whispers; he is the inconspicuous one; he is, and wishes to be overlooked. But then there is another, he strides out prominently, he draws every eye to himself. For that reason he has been given his name, that is: actor. He impersonates a distinct individual. In the skillful sense of this illusionary art, each word becomes true when embodied in him, true through him—and yet he is told what he shall say by the hidden one that sits and whispers. No one is so foolish as to regard the prompter as more important than the actor.

Now forget this light talk about art. Alas, in regard to things spiritual, the foolishness of many is this, that they in the secular sense look upon the speaker as an actor, and the listeners as theatergoers who are to pass judgment upon the artist. But the speaker is not the actor—not in the remotest sense. No, the speaker is the prompter. There are no mere theatergoers present, for each listener will be looking into his own heart. The stage is eternity, and the listener, if he is the true listener (and if he is not, he is at fault) stands before God during the talk. The prompter whispers to the actor what he is to say, but the actor’s repetition of it is the main concern—is the solemn charm of the art. The speaker whispers the word to the listeners. But the main concern is earnestness: that the listeners by themselves, with themselves, and to themselves, in the silence before God, may speak with the help of this address.

The address is not given for the speaker’s sake, in order that men may praise or blame him. The listener’s repetition of it is what is aimed at. If the speaker has the responsibility for what he whispers, then the listener has an equally great responsibility not to fail short in his task. In the theater, the play is staged before an audience who are called theatergoers; but at the devotional address, God himself is present. In the most earnest sense, God is the critical theatergoer, who looks on to see how the lines are spoken and how they are listened to: hence here the customary audience is wanting. The speaker is then the prompter, and the listener stands openly before God. The listener … is the actor, who in all truth acts before God. (Kierkegaard, Søren, trans. Douglas V. Steere. Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 180-189.) * bold print and underline added for emphasis

Existentialism: A Shift to the Subjective Human Experience Over Objective Truth.
Soren Kierkegaard is regarded by many as one of the first existentialist philosophers. Though, the word “existentialism” never appears in any of his works, the concepts of existentialism are core to many of his writings. In a nutshell, existentialism emphasizes the right of the individual to discover truth for themselves. Truth doesn’t come from an objective outside source (Like the Bible, institutional religion, society, etc.) but through individual experience and our subjective interpretation of that experience. Because of this, there is actually a broad spectrum of philosophers who can be classified existentialist, but would hold a different understanding of life (Nietzsche was another early existentialist philosopher).

Kierkegaard was really one of the first to press this idea into many different areas of society, including Christianity and religious practice.  You may have noted in the quote above, that it is said of the actor, who is pretending to be someone else, that “each word becomes true when embodied by him.”  At it’s core, Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy focuses on the individual to give the world meaning. In other words, an individual’s experience, and subsequent interpretation of that experience is more “authentic” and “meaningful” than objective truth. (Where have I heard those buzz words before?) To say it in terms of the illustration, the prompt (the sermon? the scriptures? he doesn’t tell us) isn’t true until acted out by the actor. Indeed, the prompt line become true “through” the actor. The actor’s experience is what defines truth for Kierkegaard. There is no truth in the prompt itself, only in the experience of the actor.

In Kierkegaard’s illustration the church goer is transitioned from a passive audience member to the main actor in the worship service.  The actor’s experience is where truth is produced and God now fills the role of the audience… an audience of One.

HOW DID THIS GET INTRODUCED TO THE CHURCH? I think that through ignorance that the “audience of one” terminology became common language to talk about how worship leaders are to lead in worshiping God.  What sounds cool often gets repeated. I’ve heard musicians such as Matt Redman, Big Daddy Weave, and others use the illustration. I am also aware that there are several books on “worship leadership” by authors that I very much respect that use the “audience of one” illustration as a description for worship leadership.

What effect has this had on the worship service? We have elevated to congregation to the stage to perform “for God.” So now, your experience of worship determines it’s worth, not God’s worthiness.  Now each individual is an actor for the sake of God who is our “true” audience… We have moved the emphasis of worship from objective truth of God’s Word in the pulpit to subjective experience in the pew.  In Kierkegaard’s view, the Bible isn’t true, unless it is acted upon by an individual, and thus experienced subjectively. While many of our pastor’s and music leaders wouldn’t say this out loud, we have used the metric of personal engagement and experience to determine the “quality of worship” (despite supposedly having an “audience of one”).

The flawed analogy: Why does God have to be the audience? Intentional or not, I believe Kierkegaard’s analogy is flawed. In the illustration that Kierkegaard gives, we have only two ways of seeing the room and all the participants. 1. Either God is the audience, the worshipers are actors, and the pastor is the prompter or 2. The audience is the congregation and the pastor is the actor and God is not present. (A not so subtle point of  Kierkegaard illustration: God is present as the audience or not at all).

WHAT IF THE ILLUSTRATION IS WRONG? Is there another way to see the room on Sunday morning? If you will notice the one thing really missing from Kierkegaard’s illustration is the Word of God.  It would be missing because Kierkegaard’s writing was trying to supplant the idea of “objective truth” and replace it with “subjective experiential truth.”  The Bible has long been understood to be objective truth (it is true weather you believe it or not).

What if we correct Kierkegaard’s view of the devotional service with the scripture as central? Has God not been present all along? Was he not always on center stage? Was the role of the pastor to ever entertain at all or was it to declare the word, work, and majesty of God through the Word of God? Was the role of pastor not to provoke our hearts to worship all along, not because God is in the audience but because God has commanded and invited us to worship Him?

Now let’s get down to the Scripture. Isn’t God the one who has invited (even commanded) us to worship Him (Exodus 20:3-5)? If we’d just read the Bible we’d see a divine plan of redemption unfolding where we who were separated from God, have no right or ability to reach up to God, but God reached down to us through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, making payment for sin, rising from the dead, so that those who come to Him in genuine faith and repentance are reconciled to God (Romans 5:8). The very heart of worship is who God is (Revelation 4:11) and what He has done to reconcile us to Himself (Isaiah 61:10).  Even those who have rejected Jesus and will find themselves acknowledging that he is worthy of all glory and honor (Philippians 2:9-11).

Isn’t God at the very center of the stage of worship in Heaven? (Revelation 4:11, 5:12-14, 7:9-12, 19:1-10, Isaiah 6, etc.)  You won’t and can’t have an “audience of one” in Heaven because God is the only act! You will fall on your face and you will worship because He is worthy! If anything we will be part of the audience applauding Him. His glory demands an audience of worshipers (Luke 18:40)! 

What if we meant something other than worship by “audience of one?” If you mean to say that, “Gods opinion of you is the only one you care about,” do you not recognize the emphasis on a subjective individual experience in that statement as well? Would you not recognize that God has given us each other to be the voice of reason, accountability, and reminder of who He is (1 Timothy 4:12, Matthew 18:15-20)? I care about God’s opinion of me, but I also recognize that He judges my heart better than me and this attitude might be more about resisting accountability than it is about truly seeking the Lord.

If you mean to say, “Only God can Judge you perfectly,” then I think you are right (Romans 14:4). But there is a huge difference between God as a just judge and God as your audience. Judges render verdicts, audiences by nature observe and applaud (or heckle)… either way the verdict of a judge is more serious than applause of an audience.

I pray that we would all be aware that God is a just judge and we would strive to have pure hearts, but not in the way that Kierkegaard suggests. I would that we had them in the way that Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount. I would love to have a pure heart that doesn’t do deeds so as to be seen by others, but to be seen by God (Matthew 6:1-6) and simultaneously loves to do good works that are seen by everyone and point to God (Matthew 5:13-16).  Only God can judge a heart like that and to be clear only God can create a heart like that in me (Ezekiel 36:26, Psalm 51:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Jeremiah 24:7) . I reject the “Audience of One” illustration for worship because it is a dangerous philosophy that removes God from the act of worship and puts us center stage.

For more on the topic of an undue emphasis on the individual subjective experience in American Christianity check out this previous blog post: Who are you really worshiping?

The LIFE TRANSFORMING Lesson I Discovered While Reading a List of Names in the Bible!

Have you ever caught yourself reading through the Bible and you come to a long list of names and you think, “Do I still get credit if I skip these? There are a few passages in the scripture that can make you pause and wonder if there is really anything to be gained by reading a particular list of hard to pronounce biblical names? (Before you comment… I know all about the genealogy of Jesus and the four women mentioned there as well as characters of biblical  significance.) I’m talking about the lists in the Old Testament where someone’s name is mentioned once and never seen or heard from again! Places where we have NO history other than a name thrown in among dozens if not hundreds of other names. To be honest, I never doubted that these lists were scripture and were profitable some way, but I figured that I didn’t have the biblical chops to know exactly who Nephishesim was and why his name was in the bible. But then I messed up…

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I told a bunch of students that we would go chapter by chapter through the book of Nehemiah! I had read Nehemiah dozens of times, but I always skipped the long list of names, therefore I forgot that Nehemiah chapter seven actually contains a long list of names! (It takes up over two whole pages and four columns in my bible!) So there I was, stuck with a commitment to go through this book chapter by chapter and I came to chapter seven and I had to prepare a message for our students or eat crow and explain that I had forgotten about this chapter or worse, I would have to admit that I was in over my head. I firmly held then (and even more so now)  that ALL Scripture is, “God-Breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)but this put it to the test.

I stared blankly at the text. I begged God. I looked up name meanings realizing that perhaps this was a stretch. I asked “Why?” a whole lot. When I was about to give up… He Spoke through the names!

They were there, because they mattered! I know, simple right? These people were listed because they were there! In this instance, they were there building a wall with Nehemiah. Then it hit me, the book might have Nehemiah’s name as the title, but it was just as much about the faithful who responded to his leadership. These folks weren’t only witnesses, they were participants.

I realized a two things:

  1. God cares about people.
  2. It’s incredibly good leadership take time to recognize and remember the work of the people you lead.

I still can’t pronounce half the names on that list, but I know this, seeing their name has impacted me and changed the way I lead. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to tell them that God used a list with their name on it to bless me! Until then, I write thank you notes, applaud and do my best to encourage everyone who participates in the life of our church. After all, these people belong to God! I may be the leader up front at our church, but I am not the only one serving God.

So today I am thankful for a long list of names in the bible because it helps me really see the people around me.

Beautiful Daughters and Impure Sons: Who Does the Modesty Debate Really Hurt?

In a few short months, spring will be here and then summer and arguments are going to take place across our homes. Daughters will want to wear things that father’s suggest aren’t appropriate. Youth Pastors will break out slogans like “Modest is Hottest” when going over the rules for trips involving fun in the sun. I wish the church were free from debate on the issue, but it is often the center of every summer youth trip. I can’t think of a single issue that caused more tension in the nearly 20 years I spent as a student pastor.

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I have both a daughter and a son who are perhaps too young to feel the sting of this debate but as they grow older, they will hear many things and so I write mostly for them. You see the debate often stings both our girls and our guys because it reinforces negative perceptions about what it is to be male and female. If I can, I want to wade in and address this issue not by proposing a modesty rule (please read all of the post), but by proposing that Jesus should guard the hearts of both our girls and our guys when it comes to what we wear and how we view others.

First let’s talk about why a simple clothing rule isn’t enough (notice I didn’t say necessary, please read the entire article). For starters lets just imagine that you can put the same bathing suit on two different people and it is completely possible that your heart will be tempted towards lust with one and repulsion with the other. There is a difference between a hairy overweight old man in speedo’s and cowboy boots and a male model wearing the same thing… the same is true for an attractive young girl vs an overweight grandmother wearing the same designer two piece. Neither the outfit, nor the skin it reveals, prompt lust… It is already in the heart of the one lusting! It simply doesn’t help our daughters to tell them to “cover up” because their flesh is like kryptonite to young boys.  May of them struggle with their body image as it is. For the most part, they already compare themselves to other girls, super models in magazines, and have a part of themselves that they think is ugly. I can’t think of a genuine benefit derived for our daughters by treating all girls/ body types the same.  Before you set out to stone me, read the rest of the article.

Let’s also imagine for a moment that lust isn’t a particularly male issue. I know that guys are stimulated visually, etc. but many of our girls experience lust issues that are very similar to how our boys are visually stimulated. If we are honest, it has never been a single gender issue! We do our girls a huge disservice when we imagine that only boys deal with lust and treat it like an exclusively male problem. Our girls can privately feel even more ashamed and never seek help with their temptation to lust. In this generation, more than ever, the conversation about lust is one that must take place with both our daughters and our sons.  That might be news to you, but I challenge you to research it. (I wish I had listened sooner to parents of daughters who said that this was just as much a valid issue for their daughter as their sons).

Now imagine the negative stereotype that we reinforce with both our girls and boys when we make such a big deal about how boys are so easily tempted into sinful lust. When you teach them the solution is not to flee, but for girls to wear more clothes, you treat them as if they have NO control over the situation at all. I choose to teach my son and daughter that they have NO control over what other people wear, but they CAN control where they look and they should start by seeing where there mother and I choose to look (we still go to the beach where other people don’t obey “the one-piece” rule).  I do this because I think the real issue is in their heart and it doubly damages their heart when we place the emphasis on a rule concerning what someone else wears. First they can deny any real responsibility for their own lust and second because now they get to feel superior to someone else who dresses like a “skank.”

Finally, I want to imagine that the best way to address lust in one individual is not to put more clothes on another. This simply doesn’t solve the problem, it masks it. That would be like looking at the mirror, realizing you are naked and need clothes and painting clothes on the mirror… You are still naked! All you have done is cover the law that exposes the real sin that is in your heart and in the process you put a false law on someone else.  I read a book one time by a woman who lived in the middle east and she commented about how a man stared her up and down lustily while she was wearing a burka! His lust, was his lust and it wasn’t her fault. It’s apparent that no matter what you wear some people will choose to lust (this is particularly true in a generation that has been exposed to pornography over and over again). Keep Reading.

So now lets address 3 things that are present in this debate from a biblical perspective because ultimately for the believer, God’s Word should guide our actions and reactions.

1. The bible has a lot to say about authority.  (We won’t cover everything but we will hit a few highlights. ) We are reminded by Paul in Romans 13 that all authority ultimately flows from God. This begins in the home where we are to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Ephesians 5:2). So if our dad or mom asks us to wear something “less revealing,” while we live under their roof, the moral, right thing to do is to change our clothes. Doesn’t matter if you think they are wrong, or they don’t understand that it’s the style, or what other reason you might have. The real question is, will you obey the authority placed over you?

It is not different if your church has a rule about bathing suits or mixed bathing or whatever it is. If you disagree with the leadership on how they exercise that rule, have a conversation about it. Appeal through the appropriate channels by going to leadership over you, but most importantly abide by the rules and respect the authority over you. In this context you may find that there is very good reason for the rule. When I was a youth pastor, it was simple, I didn’t want the job at looking at all of our daughters and determining if their swim suit is too revealing or not. A simple clothing rule allows female leaders (who may have differing opinions) a consistent standard to coach girls through as a matter of respecting authority on youth trips. (Of course you should also have standards for guys as well, that the male leaders should oversee.) Does this prevent lust? I imagine that it doesn’t. It simply gives us a standard we can appeal to. Just like principles of public schools who don’t want the job of examining everyone’s leggings or saggy pants, sometimes it is better for the organization as a whole to have a dress code for both girls and guys. If you are going to participate in a function of that organization, you should submit yourself to their dress code.  I am very appreciative of parents, girls, and guys who acknowledge the struggle of leading a group this age.

2. Let’s talk about modesty from a biblical perspective. Most often we refer to 1 Timothy 2:9-10 when we talk about modesty in the church: “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). I think a few things are apparent in these verses. First, modesty here has nothing to do with swimsuits. Second, it’s in a list that gives us a clue to what the word modest might mean. It is included with words like self-control, gold, pearls, costly attire. Paul is addressing the “over dressing” of women in church. Modesty in this context is “don’t flaunt your wealth at church so people will look up to you.” The take away would actually be to wear less jewelry, less expensive clothes, do less with your hair, etc. so that your focus is on worshipping God, not seeking the attention of others.

While this passage doesn’t directly relate to modesty in a lust context, it does give us a good guideline to examine what we wear in light of our own hearts. When you pick out clothes or even apply make-up to say, “Hey look at me!” you place too much emphasis on your appearance. It’s good to put in a little time into your hygiene and some thought into your clothes. There are even good reasons for dressing up But when your heart’s desire is overly focused on garnering the attention of others rather than exalting God, you are looking for your esteem in the wrong direction. You will never be truly satisfied with what others think of you. Only when you are satisfied in Christ will you begin to overflow into these works that Paul talks about.

Biblical modesty is found just as much in what you do as what you wear.

Biblical modesty is found just as much in what you do as what you wear. we should want our girls and guys to be modest in this sense. Pay less attention to “dressing to impress” and more attention to “serving God by serving others”

On a very practical side note (because my daughter & son may read this one day).  Physical beauty is fleeting (James 1:11). That is why there are make-up artists for movie stars and many have had plastic surgery. We all age! The character of a life submitted to Christ will always attract the right kind of folks and will maintain a level of beauty that surpasses anything that make-up and clothes can do. It doesn’t matter what’s in your DNA or your body type, good works will always look good on you (1 Peter 3:4).

3. Finally, let’s address lust. This seems to be where this whole debate started. Let’s understand that lust is a problem for girls and guys. If we are honest, it has been this way for a long time. We know of at least one Egyptian woman from antiquity that had the hot’s for a certain guy named Joseph (Genesis 39). Then there was also the woman from Proverbs 7.  So it’s not like the Bible doesn’t mention female lust at all. It is in there and even more grossly represented in passages that I didn’t feel comfortable listing here. Lust is not a male only sin.

So I think first, we should recognize lust as something that we may be tempted too. With that in mind we are told by Paul that believers will always have a way of escape from their temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). We need not use the excuse that, this is just what guys do. Or that we can’t help ourselves. If you are a believer you have control over your body and your thoughts. We can choose to flee this temptation (1 Corinthians 10:14). In fact this is exactly what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife approached him (Genesis 39:12). Paul says to flee sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18). He reminds Timothy to “flee youthful passions and desires” (2 Timothy 2:22). Paul addresses lust in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 and he says that you have control over your body and that to deny this reality is to ignore God! In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus addresses lust he says that we are to fight it to the extent that we would cut out our eye or cut off our hand (notice that he doesn’t say that we should put the burden on someone else). We must flee temptation! We must control our own bodies through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us! We must commit to radical means to root this form of idolatry out of our lives! This is the counsel of scripture on dealing with individuals who are prone to lust.

I grew up in a Christian home. We talked a lot about God. My mother gave me the “Birds and the bees” talk when I was very young, perhaps too young to understand what she was eluding too (I am thankful for her attempt at what must have been a very awkward conversation). However, later when my heart was awakened to be attracted to girls I didn’t have any guidance from my father on how to guard my heart from lust, or that it was even possible. I struggled for a very long time in a cycle of lust and guilt. It was easy to judge girls as being “skanks” for what they wore and who knows, maybe they had their own heart issues, but it didn’t do my heart any good to remove the sin label from my heart and place it judgmentally on theirs. I wouldn’t find freedom until I dealt with the lust in my heart on Jesus’ terms. That is what I long for most for our sons and daughters, that they would deal honestly with their sin and temptation before our Savior.

So if I were to wade into this debate for the sake of my son and daughter, I would say, “Submit to whatever authority is over you. Examine what you wear and why you wear it so that you might reflect a godly character more than you seek personal attention. Flee temptation to lust. It may seem like you are powerless, but if you are a believer you have the Holy Spirit of God in you and He is more than enough!

Your comments and thoughts are welcome. Please keep them civil and to the point. Please also read the entire article before you comment. I didn’t cover anything exhaustively so I’m aware that the issue is bigger than a 2500 word essay.

You may also be interested in this blog post:

How do you Respond when your child tells you they have viewed pornography?

3 Things To Do When A Pastor Leaves: an Open Letter

Dear Church,

When a pastor answers the call to go to another church there can be lots of thoughts and emotions. I want to address three of those thoughts. Please know that as much as I love you, my biggest desire is still to see you complete in Christ (Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:28). So here are three things I think you should do in light of one of your pastors answering a call to go to another church.

3 Things to Do When a Pastor Leaves

  1. Remember: God has called you to the local body, not the man (Romans 12).

You were called to be a part of the body of Christ, not to the Pastor (Romans 12). Don’t get me wrong. I love you. But your calling, just like my calling is to a local church. Sometimes when a pastor leaves, we can be tempted to think that maybe we need to leave and explore other churches too. I want to encourage you, that we all play a part in the body of Christ. I’ve been asked a lot lately from those both inside and outside our church about why I was able to stay for nearly a decade as a student pastor at not only one, but two different churches (a rarity). My answer was simple. “I love the church.” I love the church so much so that I would rather suffer than see her suffer and so I stayed during seasons when it cost me personally but was a benefit for the congregation as a whole.  The only reason I’m leaving now is to answer a crystal clear calling. I don’t think it’s healthy to move otherwise.  When you leave a church, you don’t leave a pastor (or lack of a pastor in a certain position) so much as you leave all the other people.  There will be moments where it feels easy to leave, but I want to encourage you to stay with your local church unless you are sure God is calling you somewhere else. We all need to fulfill our calling in the local body.

2. Find your place and serve (1 Corinthians 12:4-27).

To that end, I want to encourage you to find your place and serve. If ever there were a time for you to discover how you benefit the church, today is the day. It is an all hands on deck opportunity. Often when God calls a pastor to another church it is so the church can grow by having individuals step up and fill the void. You have people in your midst who will be able to exercise their gifts and calling in my absence in a way that they would be unable to do if I were present. I rejoice at this! I earnestly desire that the church grow spiritually, numerically, and in influence in the community in my absence! My feelings won’t be hurt if the church does greater things than they did when I was there. I will be first in line to boast in what God is doing in your midst!

3. Trust your next shepherd (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Finally I want to acknowledge that you will call someone to replace me and IDEALLY they will conduct ministry differently than I have while I was with you. This is a VERY GOOD thing! So if you catch yourself thinking negatively, “this isn’t how Pastor Jonathan would have done it.” I want you, for the sake of the glory of God, rebuke that thought and think about this same phrase positively. Give him the benefit of the doubt (Philippians 2:1-11),  even if he were to speak negatively of me and how I did things (Philippians 1:14-17). Consider me his biggest fan.

I hope this helps you understand my heart for the Glory of God in the midst of this transition for both of us. I love you because of Christ. Please pray for me and my family as we transition to answer God’s call in our next church.

Your Partner in the Gospel,

Pastor Jonathan