Summer Wardrobes And Stumbling Brothers

Young Couple 02At the outset, let me say that a man bears complete responsibility for lustful thoughts and actions, regardless of how a woman dresses. As you read this blog post, please don’t mischaracterize me as excusing rape, sexual harassment or even lustful fantasies. Men must, in all circumstances, remain pure in their interactions with women, even when a woman dresses provocatively.

Have I made myself clear? If not, close this article right now, and maybe read Scriptures on the importance of sexual purity for both men and women. But if you understand that I by no means condone rape, sexual harassment or lustful fantasies in men, please keep reading. And remember, this blog is directed specifically at women, making it unnecessary (and kind of ridiculous) for me to address men on how to deal with scantily clad women during the summer months.

But ladies, I certainly can talk to you about our responsibility toward our brothers in Christ. The fact that the Lord holds them responsible to control their responses when they see too much skin or silhouette doesn’t negate our responsibility to dress modestly and carry ourselves in a manner that doesn’t call undue attention to our sexuality. Our brothers in Christ deserve the same respect from us that we want from them.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. ~~Romans 14:13 (ESV)

God created men to respond to visual stimuli, just as He created us to respond to emotional attention. When I was single, I was constantly falling for guys who, out of  compassion for my disability, treated me tenderly. They didn’t intend to communicate romantic interest, but they almost always set my heart fluttering.

I failed to control my fantasies when those brothers gave me emotional attention. I had the responsibility to guard my heart, and I very well knew that I shouldn’t have read things into their actions that they never intended to convey. But they needed a man to teach them how women are wired. They needed to understand that their behavior (although well-meaning) led me into sin.

Similarly, we need to understand that God created men to respond to visual images. Within marriage, they quite appropriately respond when they admire the bodies of their wives. God designed them that way.

But precisely because God designed them to respond to visual stimuli, women bear a responsibility to dress in ways that discourage men (other than their husbands) from looking at us in inappropriate ways. Certainly, I get that some men will look no matter how modestly we dress, and they will have to answer to the Lord for doing so. That said, that same Lord holds us accountable if we deliberately dress for the purpose of attracting attention to our bodies.

I’m not suggesting that we dress like frumps. Rather, I want to remind you to be careful, during these hot summer months, not to expose our body parts in ways that could cause our brothers to stumble. Our wish to stay cool, while important, mustn’t supplant their need to remain pure.

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Perspectives In Titus: What Should Older Women Teach Younger Women?

Titus 2 v 5

Even though we talked about Titus 2:5 in last week’s study of verses 3-5, I wanted to return to this verse and examine it in a little more detail. I’m doing so because this blog, as stated prominently in my mission statement on the sidebar, is exclusively for women. As such, it lends itself to a thorough discussion of the Bible’s instructions specifically to women.

Today I’ll quote only the immediate verses, hoping that you’ll look at your own Bibles to remind yourselves of the context.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.~~Titus 2:3-5 (ESV)

Before we get to verse 5, let’s make a few brief comments about verses 3 and 4. In verse 3, Paul says that older women are to teach what is good.  Notice the parallel to his charge to Titus in verse 1. Teaching “what is good” would naturally mean teaching what accords with sound doctrine.

This verse does  not give women permission to use their teaching abilities indiscriminately. Please note this vitally important point. God’s Word limits us to teaching other women  (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Yet older women can powerfully influence younger women towards holiness.

Moving to verse 4, we see that Paul gives older women the responsibility of counseling younger women in their relationships with their husbands and children. Especially regarding marriage, this sort of counseling can touch on some pretty personal issues. Therefore, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown make the excellent point that Paul shows wisdom in having women teach each other rather than having men directly teach younger women.

Obviously, men addressing marriage, as well as some of the intimate subject matters listed in verse 5 has potential for creating emotional entanglements. Looking at it from this perspective, we see that men also have restrictions concerning whom they teach.

Now let’s delve into verse 5, which is the heart of the passage. First off, we older women are to teach younger women to be self-controlled, or temperate. You’ll recall from Chapter 1 that the people of Crete were known for their volatile tempers and self-indulgence, making it important for Christians to display a moderate temperament. This instruction goes back to verse 2, where Paul  insists that older men exercise self-control in contrast to the self-indulgent lifestyle of the Cretans.

Following that injunction, older women should teach younger women to be pure. This purity, first and foremost, refers to sexual purity. (On this point in particular, a pastor needs this older women to teach the younger ones.) Faithfulness to one’s own husband, particularly in a culture that celebrates sexual “freedom,” isn’t easy. Young women need encouragement toward such purity.

But we also must train younger women in doctrinal purity. 2 Timothy 3:6 reveals that false teachers can easily captivate the attention of women who don’t strengthen their wills with sound doctrine. This clause points to the importance of women teaching other women Biblical discernment and doctrine.

Workers at home comes from a Greek phrase meaning “guardians of the house.” This clause doesn’t necessarily prohibit outside employment  (which is often helpful to a family), but it clarifies that a woman’s foremost responsibility is to the home.

Furthermore, we must teach younger women to be kind, particularly to their husbands and children. Kindness pulls us away  from ourselves, training us to look to the needs, interests and feelings of those around us.  Again, remember that the First Century Cretan culture (much like 21st Century culture) revolved around self-centered behavior, which disregards the needs and feelings of others.

Finally, we older women should teach younger women to submit to their own husbands, as commanded in Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:24 and Colossians 3:18. The Greek word for “submit” carries the idea of voluntarily placing oneself under the authority of another. Thus, Christian wives recognize that God gives husbands the authority to lead a family.

Please notice that the text directs women to submit to their own husbands, not to men in general. This point shouldn’t have to be made. Sadly, I’ve been in circles where the men expected submission from all the women. Ladies, don’t fall for that distortion of Scripture. Submit exclusively to your husbands, not the husbands of your friends.

Paul explains that we need to teach younger women these principles  in order that non-Christians can’t disregard God’s Word on account of our hypocrisy. Cross-reference to Romans 2:24, where Paul quotes an Old Testament accusation that Gentiles blasphemed God’s name because of Jews who lived in disobedience. As we’ll learn over the next few weeks, all segments of the church should comport themselves in ways consistent with the Gospel. Including women.

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Perspectives In Titus: What’s A Woman To Do?

Titus 2 3 thru 5

I’m so excited to finally teach Titus 2:3-5, the passage that originally inspired me to write this Bible Study series. Today I will take you through the entire three verses, and then next Monday I plan to go over verse 5 in greater detail.

Let me quote these three verses with just enough context to remind you that Paul wanted Titus to provide different groups within the churches in Crete with specific, yet overlapping, directions in how to behave.

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. ~~Titus 2:2-6 (ESV)

Verse 2, as we saw last week, gave older men the responsibility of setting a godly standard of behavior for everyone else in the church. Next he addressed the demographic that I belong to: women over the age of 60.

Older women, we see in verse 3, are expected to live up to the same standards as older men, especially in being reverent in our behavior. The King James Version renders this word as “becoming holiness.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary applies it to this verse as “meaning to act like a sacred person.”

The verse goes on to name two examples of reverent behavior. Firstly, we must not falsely accuse anyone. I didn’t consult commentaries to find out possible reasons that Paul might have admonished us, as older women, against slander, but obviously making false accusations hardly reflects a reverent spirit.

Secondly, we must not be drunkards. You’ll recall that Paul required that elders not be drunkards  (Titus 1:7-8), and that he insisted on self-control in older men. Although all Christians should avoid drunkenness, Paul particularly emphasized this point in reference to Crete because of its reputation for an undisciplined lifestyle.

In contrast to the wildness of their surrounding culture, older women are commanded to teach what accords with the Gospel. When we get to verse 4 momentarily, we’ll notice that we are to teach other women, not to teach the general congregation (1 Timothy 2:12). Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of Paul’s reasons for prohibiting women from teaching men right now, I’ll refer you to the Women’s Ministry link in the Categories section on the sidebar of this blog, where you can find several articles on the topic.

Verse 4 doesn’t lend itself to much exposition. All it does is summarize who older women should teach, and what we should teach them. Specifically, older women should teach younger women to love their husbands and   children. This training aims at practical living.

Thankfully, verse 5 expands on the principles of loving one’s husband and children. It begins by saying that older  women should teach younger women the art of self-control. We teach this art by example, though our example should be accompanied by explanation and instruction.

Similar to self-control, we must teach purity. This purity can refer to sexual purity, which should be a given. It might also extend to purity in the Christian faith,  or doctrinal purity. If indeed it does extend to doctrinal purity (as I believe it does), the work of women’s discipleship falls under that umbrella.

The instruction that younger women be workers at home doesn’t prohibit them from outside employment. Lydia, for instance, worked as a seller of purple goods (Acts 16:14) and Priscilla shared her husband’s trade as a tentmaker (Acts 18:2-3). Paul’s point here focuses on women tending to their responsibilities at home rather than being idle busybodies. Please look at 1 Timothy 5:12 to clarify Paul’s meaning.

Older women must also  teach younger women to be kind. In a self-indulgent environment like Crete, people often used anger to accomplish their goals. Kindness, therefore, would stand out as a different way of life.

Lastly, older women should teach our younger counterparts to submit to their own husbands. That’s never a very popular idea, and it definitely needs to be carefully and consistently taught. Yet submission in family structure, as Paul demonstrated in Ephesians 5:22-33, models how the church relates to Jesus Christ. It serves as a testimony to a rebellious culture.

In summary, Paul wanted older women to teach each of these things for one overarching reason. He didn’t want women to live in ways that discredit God’s Word. All the behaviors he listed in this section align with sound doctrine, and a refusal to employ them indicates that we don’t take Christ seriously. Consequently, unbelievers will understandably dismiss us as hypocrites and conclude that they also have no reason to consider the authority of Scripture. Ladies, our behavior means something.

 

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Saturday Sampler: October 9 –October 15

Square Face LadiesReformation21 has an article called What Andy Stanley Has Forgotten that addresses the heart of this controversy simply and Biblically. Its author, Richard D. Philips, says what so many of Stanley’s critics (myself included) should have been saying all along.

What’s so wrong about seeker-sensitive evangelism? Greg Pickle provides helpful insight into this question by writing The Consequences of an Easy Gospel for Parking Space 23. His assessment should sober us into presenting the Gospel in its entirety rather than crafting it into something easily marketed.

Commenting on both last Sunday night’s debate in particular and this year’s presidential election in general, Denny Burk writes Last night’s debate and my burden going forward. He highlights the reality that professing Christians can no longer expect the surrounding culture to support our commitment to Christ.

A blogger who identifies herself as Insanitybites22 writes a blog called See, there’s this thing called biology…  I read it from time to time. I’m not sure I always understand her essays, and I  don’t always agree with the ones I do understand, but her recent post, Preserving the Dignity of the Oval Office, makes an excellent and unambiguous point. Let’s start admitting that the  problem begins with us.

The author of One Hired Late In The Day also weighs in on this year’s dismal election with her article, Adopting the Correct Perspective. She gently reminds us that the United States of America is only a temporal place for Christians, encouraging us to remember that we belong, ultimately, to a heavenly Kingdom.

The movie War Room has been out for quite some time, but in her blog post, Stand Firm: A Review of War Room on the Satisfaction Though Christ blog, Kristen reminds us of three theological problems with the film. She examines each of her concerns by going to Scripture, which gives us an excellent example of how to practice discernment.

In Portraits of Superstition: Kismet Kate and Karma Counterfeit (The Devious Twins), Jessica Pickowicz of Beautiful Thing educates us on the origins of these popular, but unbiblical, concepts.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time once again addresses a critical matter with her blog post, Did Jesus come to judge the world or to save the world? Context, context, context. Using verses that our detractors frequently quote out of context in their efforts to silence us, Elizabeth helps us understand the importance of reading an entire passage or chapter rather than isolating single verses to wield as proof-texts. Ladies, please don’t miss this essay.

 

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Saturday Sampler: September 18- September 24

raggedy-ann-samplerWriting for The Federalist, Hans Fiene tells us (tongue in cheek, of course) How To Make The Bible Support Any Sexual Practice In 3 Easy Steps. Dear sisters in Christ, we desperately need to understand Scripture properly exactly because people really do twist verses in the ways Hans describes in order to justify sin.

Along those lines, Rachel of danielthree18 shows us several Consequences of Mishandling Scripture in our conversations, or even on our social media posts. Ladies, we really must be careful to quote God’s Word correctly and with reverence.

In her article, Pastoral Propriety with Church Ladies and 7 Ways Women Can Help, Michelle Lesley offers practical tips for maintaining purity in interactions with your pastors. Most of her points reflect sheer commonsense, which really isn’t as common as it should be.

You might want to read Misconceptions of Grace by Sarah Bubar on the Biblical Woman blog, especially if you view grace as  something that God gives us freely. Sarah takes us back to God’s Word to remind us what Jesus paid in order that we might benefit from His grace. She also encourages us that grace empowers us to respond to the Lord’s generosity.

Glen Chatfield of The Watchman’s Bagpipes shares an interesting quotation from Lloyd-Jones on How to Preach the Gospel that is decidedly more relevant today than it was  when Lloyd-Jones first wrote it. How thankful John and I are to belong to a church that relies on the simple proclamation of God’s Word rather than than pragmatic gimmicks and worldly entertainment!

Superstitions permeate our culture, and even Bible-believing Christians struggle with them. Jessica Pickowicz of Beautiful Thing kicks off a new series on this seldom discussed topic with Portraits of Superstition: The Obnoxious Knocker. I like her gentle way of bringing us back to trusting the Lord.

Kim Shay has a wonderful article in Out of the Ordinary entitled Theological Objections that challenges the aversion to theology that floods evangelical circles today. She reminds us what theology is and why we need it.

I’m strongly recommending that you read Glen Chatfield’s Open Letter to “Worship” Leaders and share it on social media.  Yeah — it’s that important!

I absolutely love Does God speak in unidentified promptings? by Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She approaches the matter differently than people usually do, which makes her point all the more effective. Please read this exceptional essay and consider its Biblical perspective.

 

 

 

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Hey Jude — Who Do You Think You Are?

Shadow BibleWe’re going to open our study of Jude’s epistle today by digging in to verse 1 pretty much immediately. But first, since the entire book consists of only 25 verses, I want you to click this link to begin to familiarize yourselves with its message. After all, in any Bible Study we must constantly keep the context front and center.

As we look at verse 1, we notice that Jude immediately introduces himself and identifies his readers:

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: (ESV)

Most people (myself included) tend to skim over such verses, eager to get to the  “good stuff.” This dismissive attitude, however, causes us to miss so much of what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jude’s opening words, far from being a necessary convention in First Century letter writing, reveal much about Christian humility as well as about God’s grace in calling us to Himself.

Today, we’ll only have time to talk about how Jude introduces himself. I had fully intended to work through the entire verse, but it contains just too much rush through it. And I want you to really grasp just how humbly Jude presents himself to his readers.

Jude starts out by referring to himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” which indicates his submission to the Lord. So right away he sets the example of putting himself at God’s disposal. He doesn’t expect Christ to cater to his petty demands. On the contrary, Jude expects to follow the Lord’s commands.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the implications of servanthood. Jude identifies himself as Christ’s slave. As such, he obeys the Lord by living for the sole purpose of pleasing Him. The Lord Jesus Christ owns Jude, having purchased him with His blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The implications of Jude’s declaration of servanthood extend well beyond merely obeying the Lord’s commands, however. In the latter part of the First Century, service to Christ carried consequences that 21st Century Christians in America haven’t yet faced. Jude probably wrote his epistle between 60 and 70 A.D., after most of the apostles had been killed because of their service to Christ. Other Christians endured varying levels of persecution. Clearly, identifying oneself as a servant of Jesus Christ amounted to putting a target on one’s back and inviting people  to shoot. So Jude introduces himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, fully aware that doing so may sign his death warrant.

Next, Jude tells us that he’s the brother of James. Most of the commentaries I read tend toward the theory that he means James, the half-brother of Jesus. Scripture makes a pretty good case for this possibility by informing us that two of the Lord’s half-brothers were, in fact, named James and Judas (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3).

If Jude actually is one of the Lord’s brothers, he shows remarkable humility in attaching himself to James rather than Jesus. One commentary suggested that, after the resurrection, both brothers saw the Lord as distinct from them, and yet James allowed the apostle Paul to identify him as the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). I believe that Jude, in calling himself James’ brother, models a servant’s humble attitude.

Next Monday, if the Lord wills, we’ll meet Jude’s intended audience to learn a little about the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.
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Men, Summer And The Prayers Wives Offer

Praying WifeWe got on the bus Tuesday morning, and suddenly I remembered that hot summer weather means scantily clad young women.  As godly as my husband is, and even though he consistently disciplines himself to avert his eyes, he’s still only a man. He has  normal visual responses. God created him that way, and I love the fact that my body can get him excited. I also understand that he, like all heterosexual men, struggles at this time of year. Public transportation makes it very difficult for a man.

I find myself wanting to pull my shawl out of my backpack to cover these girls up. I want to demand that women respect my husband (and respect me) by dressing modestly. But I realize that women on public buses most likely aren’t Christians and probably believe men should be able to look at their revealed bodies without experiencing lustful feelings. To women who reject God’s moral standards, my pleas would be an utter waste of time.

Sadly, I’ve learned that even Christian women resist my suggestions that they cover themselves. It’s hot, they explain, and they’ve “waited all week to wear this adorable backless sundress.” And for some weird reason, I feel guilty for trying to instruct them. They place their own wants above being considerate of their brother in Christ.

It frustrates me. It must frustrate John. Again, John’s not exceptionally horny, and he works very faithfully at  keeping his mind pure. I’m extremely proud of his obedience to the Lord in this area. I just want to help him navigate the onslaught of temptation that summer fashions inevitably cause.

Lately I’ve learned that, although I can’t control how other women dress, I can pray for John when I see them in revealing attire. I pray silently, careful not to call his attention to whatever woman elicits my concern. I’ve learned that talking about it only gives him more occasion to stumble.  I express my appreciation for his  obedience to the Lord in this matter, but I keep my remarks general rather than causing his mind to go back any particular instance.

Ladies, if you’re single, please be aware that how you clothe yourselves affects even the  most godly of men. That tank top with spaghetti straps may well be really cute, but if your bra straps show under those spaghetti straps, you could be triggering thoughts in someone’s husband that he should only have about her. As a wife, I beg you to respect married couples by dressing appropriately.

No, I don’t mean you should wear a burqa, but use common sense. If, when getting dressed, you suspect that your outfit might attract male attention, you probably shouldn’t wear it. If you need advice, ask a few  married women in your church (including the pastor’s wife) for counsel. Your brothers in Christ certainly have the ultimate responsibility to keep their minds pure, but you can help them by dressing modestly and respectfully.

Those of us who are married can help our husbands by praying for them. Our culture crams sexual imagery down their throats constantly as it is,  but summer weather compounds the problem as young women display much more skin than they ought. Our husbands may be extremely godly men, but they need the Holy Spirit to support them through temptation. Our prayers, more than anything else, make an incredible difference as they fight the battle against lust. Let’s be the  helpmeets God created us to be by praying for our husbands.

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