Not Judging Women On Buses And Subways

ModestyIt’s that time of year. As the bus driver secured our wheelchairs yesterday, I remembered that taking public transportation means that women will board the bus and subway wearing less clothing than they should, revealing more of their bodies than they should. I know my husband works hard to avert his eyes and keep his thoughts honoring to the Lord, and I’m very proud of him. But I also know he needs my prayers.

But I also struggle with temptation when I see young women display more of their bodies than they should. I’m tempted to judge them.

Judging Christian women with the goal of gently helping them learn to attire themselves appropriately is one thing. I pray that my articles on modesty will help Christian women think through their wardrobe choices and clothe themselves in ways that honor the Lord and their brothers in Christ. Scripture mandates that Christians warn each other about sin. So I believe mature Christian women have a responsibility to teach our younger sisters in Christ how (and why) to dress modestly.

Most of the women I see on buses and subways, on the other hand,  probably aren’t Christians. Because of this probability, they simply don’t operate under Biblical convictions. I have no reason to expect that they should. As a matter of fact, God’s Word quite clearly says that believers must restrict judgment to those within the Church.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? ~~1 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV)

Not judging these women doesn’t require that I condone the way they dress. Their immodesty is sinful regardless of their assessment of the situation. But because they most likely don’t know the Lord and therefore feel no compunction to submit to His authority, I’m wrong to expect that they would conform to His standards.

Sitting on the bus and imagining snarky comments to write about these women on Facebook merely exposes my self-righteousness and lack of concern for their eternal souls. Yes, I feel concern for my husband, knowing that he has a responsibility to the Lord to keep his thoughts pure. I definitely need to pray for him as he fights against his responses. But these women also need prayer. More likely than not, they need to come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

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Equal Grace For Homosexual And Heterosexual Attractions

Rainbow HeartWorking for an ex-gay ministry in the 80s and 90s, I believed my superiors (as well as my peers) that homosexual orientation was morally neutral. Homosexual desires became sinful, we taught, only when acted upon. After all, we reasoned, heterosexual attractions don’t carry  sinful connotations.

Concurrent with my time in that ministry, one of the women in leadership took it upon herself to counsel me in regard to my desire for marriage and my constant romantic attractions to guys in our ministry who hadn’t yet experienced victory over their homosexuality. My attractions, she indicated, were sinful because those men simply weren’t available to me.

Despite her obvious double standard, I completely agree that romantic and/or sexual attractions are absolutely not morally neutral. As a married woman, for example, I have no right being attracted to anyone other than my husband. I may be heterosexual, but I have a responsibility to actively reject even the most fleeting thought about other men. A seemingly innocent thought, encouraged by the knowledge that I have a heterosexual orientation, constitutes adultery, according to Jesus.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

If it’s sin for me to entertain attractions to men other than John, why would same sex attractions be morally neutral? Do Christians who struggle with homosexuality have a special exemption from the principle laid out in Matthew 5:27-30 is supposedly morally neutral?

Look, after nearly 30 years of having close friends who battled same sex attractions, I’m not callous to their frustrations. Many of them genuinely hurt, hating their desires because those desires dishonor the Lord. My similar battles as a single woman continually falling for men I couldn’t have give me sympathy for them. Please realize that I honestly understand that their road isn’t easy or fun.

At the same time, we do them a great disservice by pretending that the Lord accepts their desires as morally neutral. Rather than leaving them with the false assurance that the Lord coddles them, we can assure them that He offers forgiveness and the power to walk  in repentance. He extends the same grace to them that He extends to us.

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Is Your Soul Hidden?

In trials, we don’t always sense God’s protection. Feelings  of vulnerability overwhelm us until He seems distant and deliberately uncaring. I know. Far too often, I’ve endured difficult circumstances that made me wonder if I really mattered to Him.

Of course, He always brought me through those trials, abundantly proving both his faithfulness and how deeply He loves me. And of course I felt ashamed and embarrassed for doubting Him. I saw, in the hindsight that is so clear, how wonderfully the Lord protected me from turning away from Him in bitterness and anger.

Indeed, Jesus is a wonderful Savior, hiding the souls of His beloved to preserve us until He brings us Home. Today’s hymn challenges me to look, not at my trials, but to Him, trusting that He’ll cover me with His hand.

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Sufficient, But Needing Augmentation?

Spirit and Word

Most evangelicals would probably assert that they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. They would nod vigorously if you quoted:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

Even Charismatics would affirm the sufficiency of Scripture without batting an eye, as I did during the 18 years that I embraced Charismatic teaching. And throughout the years that I incorporated psychological principles into my correspondence counseling ministry, I would have insisted that the Bible was all my counselees needed to overcome their problems.

Evangelicals rationalize that, although Scripture is enough, sometimes the Lord must augment it with a direct revelation or psychological therapy. Or a combination of the two. God, they reason, isn’t limited to His Word, and consequently has the ability to work through any means He chooses. When someone counters that He chooses to limit His revelation to the pages of Scripture, most evangelicals dismiss such an idea as legalistic and narrow-minded. Scripture is enough, the say, but sometimes we need more.

So which is it?

And why is Scripture sufficient and impotent at the same time?

Evangelicals who supplement God’s Word with spiritual experiences, psychological models or anything else need to give this matter serious consideration. Yes, such honest evaluation may be painfully humbling. It has been for me. But humility opens us up to God’s grace, does it not?

If Scripture is truly God’s Word, why would Christians require anything in addition? Because each word of Scripture comes through the breath of the Holy Spirit, it carries His power in ministry.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Ladies, that’s quite a bit of power! How much more power could we possibly need? Anything that can make a division between soul and spirit has got to be incredibly powerful and precise, it seems to me!

Evangelicals have many serious problems in the 21st Century, largely as a result of compromise with worldly approaches to spirituality. All these problems need addressing, and I praise God for godly discernment ministries that faithfully deal with the people and issues that create these problems. In addressing these problems, however, we  must constantly bring the conversation back to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Please think hard and long about the ways you try to hear from the Lord. Ask yourselves if you depend on anything in addition to the Bible as a way of hearing His voice. If so, ask yourselves if you honestly believe that Scripture is sufficient. And if you discover that you’re looking to anything to augment Scripture, please humble yourselves and turn to God for His grace. Remember that He loves to show grace.

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Flashback Friday: The Logical Conclusions Weinstein And Spacey Exemplify

In light of Harvey Weinstein surrendering  himself to authorities this morning, I want to repost this article from November 9, 2017. I feel even more strongly about Hollywood’s hypocrisy now than I did when I originally wrote this piece.

Hollywood Door

For a few weeks now, America has been scandalized by allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted people. The entertainment elite didn’t mind such accusations against conservatives like Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly, mind you. Those allegations fit so wonderfully into their narrative of conservative hypocrisy.

The interesting aspect of the scandal generated by Weinstein and Spacey is that the hypocrisy lies in the moral outrage of a community (or industry) that openly and persistently promotes unbridled sex. For over a century, Hollywood has pushed an agenda of sexual freedom, openly mocking Biblical standards of morality. They’ve done so slowly and carefully, to be sure, but they’ve always led the way in desensitizing moviegoers to illicit affairs.

Who didn’t want Humphrey Bogart to get on that plane with Ingrid Bergman?

How many Christian women love The Notebook, undisturbed that Ryan Gosling a) has premarital sex  with Rachel McAdams and b) resumes the relationship when she’s about to marry someone else?

These films, along with many others too numerous to mention, lure us into softening our hatred of sexual sin. In fact, they portray adultery and fornication as almost innocent acts that we should applaud rather than condemn. In essence,  Hollywood sells the idea that we should feed our sexual appetites, even if we do so outside the marriage covenant.

Once we realize Hollywood’s agenda, we must admit that Weinstein and Spacey have merely taken that agenda to its logical conclusion. Given their rejection of Biblical morality,  why should it matter whether sex was consensual or not? Does Hollywood have a right to set any standard for sexual behavior? If so, why does it?

To be clear, I in no way condone sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey, to his credit,  has acknowledged at least some of his assaults against underaged boys (although he partially excuses himself because he was supposedly under the influence of alcohol). Nevertheless, both men have completely thumbed their privileged noses at God’s Law, and I cannot be sympathetic towards either of them.

But neither can I accept so-called righteous indignation from an entertainment industry that systematically and relentlessly celebrates sexual perversion while it simultaneously vilifies Christians for proclaiming that sexual expression belongs exclusively within monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Weinstein and Spacey have merely practiced what Hollywood has preached since Mae West delighted audiences with her suggestive lines. All of Hollywood should join Weinstein and Spacey in repentance.

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Bearing My Great-Great-Grandfather’s Guilt

dark-bibleYesterday I tried to make the case that, as white Americans, we need to be sensitive to the discrimination and injustices that black Americans have suffered. Denying slavery, Jim Crow laws or racial profiling doesn’t ease tensions; it simply serves to confirm perceptions that we neither understand nor care to understand what black Americans have collectively endured.

The bulk of discrimination, sadly, was and is all too real. Contrary to popular opinion,  however, a percentage of the injustice seems to be their perception (possibly augmented by past experiences) rather than actual injury.

The two examples I cited yesterday underscore this point. The young man that I called “boy” projected racist motives onto my remark even though I had no way of knowing the connotation of what I’d said. He perceived the racial slur that most people mean, and therefore assumed that I was also making a racial slur.

Similarly, my then fiance’s comment that every black person in the south can point to a tree where one of their ancestors was lynched may have been hyperbole. Someone I respect sent me a Direct Message on Twitter after reading yesterday’s blog post, mathematically challenging the claim my ex made. Possibly, my ex had heard so many accounts of KKK lynchings that it certainly seemed like every black person in the south could point to a lynching tree.

Perception can often affect beliefs, and therefore magnify anger. From what I’ve read, this magnified anger came out at the MLK50 Conference last week in the form of demands that white American evangelicals adopt an attitude of continual repentance for the sins our ancestors committed against blacks.

My great-great-grandfather immigrated to the United States during the Irish Potato Famine, settling in Georgia. He was 16. Soon after, he fought in the Civil War with the Confederacy. For years, I struggled with guilt and embarrassment that he essentially fought to preserve the sin of slavery. I also felt guilty and embarrassed that my grandmother occasionally expressed racist sentiments.

Scripture, however, teaches that each person is accountable for his or her own sin, not for the sins of his or her predecessors.

14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. ~~Ezekiel 18:14-17 (ESV)

If God doesn’t hold me responsible for the sins of my grandmother or my great-great-grandfather, why should anyone demand that I live in perpetual repentance for what these two did? If Christ’s blood completely atoned for my sin, why should anyone hold me responsible for sins that my ancestors committed — sins that have absolutely nothing to do with me?

The assertion that I must continually repent for sins that I didn’t commit goes directly against the Gospel. Jesus dealt with my sin at the cross. Only He knows whether or not my grandmother and great-great-grandfather had saving faith, so He will judge them accordingly. Yes, actions like theirs devastated American blacks, and the repercussions extend to our present time. But the guilt isn’t for me to own.

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Hoaxes Surrounding Christ’s Resurrection

He Is Risen

Being a known practical joker, I always enjoyed April Fool’s Day. I played some pretty good pranks over the years, having learned from a mother who took far too much pleasure in waking us up every April 1st with the proclamation of some fictitious catastrophe. (You’d think we would have caught on after a few years, right?)

Yesterday, however, I had no desire to play any April Fool’s jokes,  nor did anyone attempt to play one on me. The excitement of Easter, coupled with the first Sunday in months that weather allowed us to attend church, captivated my attention. I felt like worshiping the risen Savior, not like playing jokes on anyone.

Yet I thought a lot about hoaxes in relation to Christ’s resurrection throughout the day yesterday. Over the past two millennia, for instance, those who reject Christianity have often claimed that the resurrection was the most colossal hoax in history. According to Luke’s gospel, the disciples didn’t even believe the women who first discovered the empty tomb.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. ~~Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

Notice verse 11. I can just picture the apostles rolling their eyes and muttering snide comments about women overreacting. Who were these dizzy dames trying to fool?

Obviously, Peter ended up verifying that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, and he led the others in preaching the resurrection to the known world. Ten of those original apostles died gruesome deaths because they refused to recant their confidence that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and the apostle John suffered intense persecution. People simply don’t put their lives on the line like that for the sake of a hoax.

But a hoax indeed was perpetrated when Jesus rose from the dead. The Jewish authorities knew very well what had really taken place, but instead of repenting and trusting Christ as the Lord and Savior, they conspired to counter the truth with a mammoth hoax intended to keep the Jewish people from believing the Gospel.

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. ~~Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV)

How preposterous to think that Roman guards, who would be executed for failure to guard that tomb, would actually permit that cowardly bunch of disciples to fake a resurrection that they didn’t even believe would happen! Could there possibly be a more ridiculous hoax?

Sadly, to this day many people, including highly educated people, fall for that absurd little fabrication instead of believing the overwhelming evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The theory that the disciples stole His body is probably the greatest hoax of all time!

Rather than spending yesterday playing April Fool’s jokes, I celebrated the glorious truth that Christ the Lord is indeed risen. And I enjoyed this April 1st more than any April 1st I can remember.

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