Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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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: Teaching Young Men

Titus 2 6 thru 8

Titus 2:6-8 seems like an inappropriate text for a women’s blog. I’d argue that, although the passage indeed specifically focuses on young men, women certainly can learn from the principles it lays down.

I’ll quote the passage in the context of the verses leading up to it, just to keep everything in proper perspective:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 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. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Paul has been showing Titus how to minister to various groups that make up a local church, explaining how each group best  demonstrates Christian behavior. For the past two weeks we’ve concentrated on the instructions aimed at older and younger women, but now verse 6 of the text moves our attention to young men.

In contrast to Paul’s instruction that Titus delegate the training of young women to more mature ladies, Paul charges Titus to directly work with young men. As we’ll see momentarily, Titus is specifically told to urge these young men to exercise self-control. Presumably, that term would include controlling sexual lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

Paul’s word “likewise” refers back to the previous three groups.  Paul emphasizes self-control as a contrast to the self-indulgence that marked the Cretan lifestyle. This command, however, especially challenges young adults, who aren’t accustomed to restraining themselves. Fleeing  youthful passions, particularly while living in an environment like Crete, would demonstrate God’s power to transform young men.

Just as young men like Titus would be asking for trouble in counseling young women regarding sexual purity, so he would be the most appropriate person to mentor young men in maintaining self-control in respect to their sexual purity.

Verse 7 slightly shifts the focus from young men in general to one particular young man: Titus himself. Why? My personal opinion is because, since he is a young man at the time of this epistle, Titus could serve as a practical example of how young men ought to   conduct themselves.

The context of this verse leads us to  think that Titus was still a young man at the time Paul wrote this letter, and therefore Titus had to model proper behavior for young men to emulate. Consequently, he was to set an example of performing good works.

He would set this example largely through his conduct as a minister of the Gospel. In his ministry of teaching, Titus would need, first of all, to show integrity. Since Paul elaborates on how to show integrity in the next verse, let’s merely say here that his teaching must be free of any corruption.

By “dignity,” Paul means that Titus should teach in a manner that commands respect. Not only must his doctrine be grounded in truth, but he must deliver it in reverence and seriousness to underscore its importance as the very Word of God. Again, Paul expands on this idea in verse 8, but I want to quickly mention that it makes me think of present-day pastors who resort to gimmicks and theatrics to capture the attention of their “audience” rather than treating the pulpit with dignity.

Verse 8 continues Paul’s instruction to Titus by urging him toward sound speech. In his teaching, Titus would need to speak doctrinally sound words that no one could find fault with. By doing   so, he would silence his critics, proving that their arguments were ridiculous.

Sound speech needed to characterize Titus’ public and private conversations.  This point both reiterates and emphasizes the call to integrity in the previous verse. Barnes comments:

Such as cannot be shown to be weak, or unsound; such that no one could find fault with it, or such as an adversary could not take hold of and blame. This direction would imply purity and seriousness of language, solidity of argument, and truth in the doctrines which he maintained.

Barnes is not alone in his observation; The Believers Bible Commentary adds that sound speech “should  be free from side-issues, doctrinal novelties, fads, crudities, and the like.” As I mentioned earlier, many 21st pastors apparently disregard this call to sobriety in the ministry of God’s Word. Yet Titus, and by extension all representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, bear a responsibility to be faithful to God’s Word.

Paul insists on Titus exhibiting sound speech because of the opponents to the Gospel. He probably thought about the Judaizers in particular, who would be eager to discredit both Titus and Paul. He wanted Titus to ensure that no one could charge them with practicing evil (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).

As Christian women, we can learn from Paul’s instructions to Titus. Even though we don’t teach in mixed congregations, we do teach other women. Therefore, like Titus, we must model integrity, dignity and sound speech that silences the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. We represent Him, and consequently our deportment should reflect that fact.

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Think You’re Not A Sinner?

SanctimonyIt’s terribly easy, don’t you think, to look at people in the LBGTQ community and sanctimoniously sniff as we read Leviticus 19 and Romans 1. Obviously, their sin far exceeds anything that we do!

I definitely trust Scripture’s verdict that God condemns the sin of homosexuality. I believe that someone with same sex attractions must repent of all homosexual behavior and fantasies, trusting Christ to forgive her. Perhaps in future posts I can write about the wonderful hope He extends to those who are trapped in this sin.

But today I want to address those of us who are guilty of heterosexual sin. That would be every heterosexual on the planet, by the way. Jesus made that fact painfully evident in Matthew 5:27-28. We dare not pretend that we’ve avoided impure fantasies, even if we’ve never physically acted on them.

Yesterday, I quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a common passage used to demonstrate that homosexuality is one of several very serious sins that requires Christ’s atoning blood. But I want you to notice the passage that immediately follows it.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.   ~~1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)

Verses 12 and 13 refer to common sayings in First Century Corinth used to justify sexual immorality. Those sayings mirror our modern rationalization that sex is merely a biological function on the same level as eating, so lust should be satisfied the same way we satisfy hunger. If we go outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage, the argument continues, that’s permissible.

Beginning with verse 17, however, Paul puts the brakes on such thinking. Sexual immorality has no place in the life of a Christian, particularly since the Holy Spirit resides in each of us. This passage clearly addresses heterosexual immorality. Therefore, the reference to homosexuality in the previous passage is a minor point, introducing Paul’s primary point that sex must not go beyond God’s parameters. Chapter 7 continues the discussion by giving guidelines on marriage, divorce and singleness, clarifying the Lord’s position that sex belongs exclusively between husband and wife.

When you factor in Matthew 5:27-28, where Christ says that even sexual fantasies constitute sexual immorality, you see that everyone stands condemned unless they find shelter in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said yesterday, Christians must love those in the LBGTQ community enough to call their fantasies and behaviors sin. By doing so, we offer them the same hope of grace that liberates us from sexual immorality. But the key to offering this hope is in remembering our own sexual sin and our consequent dependence on God’s grace. Sanctimony is not an attitude that Christians can afford.

 

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Tolerance, Embracing And Making Proper Distinctions

Rainbow Bible02When did the definition of tolerance change? It used to mean putting up with disagreeable circumstances or people despite your personal feelings about them. As a child with Cerebral Palsy, for example, I was taught that, even though I didn’t like my leg and back braces, I needed to tolerate them during school hours. I didn’t have to celebrate them. As a matter of fact, I had perfect freedom to voice my distaste for them as often as I wished. But I had to tolerate them by wearing them. Even to church and Sunday School.

Tolerance in the 21st Century, apparently, means something far different. Particularly with respect to the LBGTQ community, tolerance now requires enthusiastic agreement with their lifestyles, even to the point of finding new ways of interpreting God’s Word in order to embrace those lifestyles.

Meanwhile, of course, those who stand firm on Scriptures that call homosexuality a sin don’t deserve any tolerance from society. We must be corrected, marginalized or silenced. Our pastors must be threatened with prison if they preach forgiveness for anyone who repents of same sex relationships. Christians who refuse to participate in same sex weddings have been successfully sued, with some actually losing their businesses because they wouldn’t compromise their convictions.

To those readers who belong to the LBGTQ community, please understand that I (and the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians) accept you, just as we accept heterosexuals who engage in sexual sin. We call your behavior sin, certainly, just as we call premarital sex, adultery and divorce sin, but we affirm that Christ can cleanse you as thoroughly as He has cleansed us.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Apart from Christ, I am sexually immoral, an idolater, greedy and a reviler. I hardly have the moral superiority to look down my nose at lesbians, transgendered people or homosexuals when I remember my own sins. And if you don’t want the Lord to take you out of your sin, I’ll still accept you. I can tolerate your lifestyle. I can enjoy your company, and might even treat you to lunch in Boston.

But I can’t condone anyone’s sin, regardless of whether you’re gay or straight. I’ll love you enough to say that you need to repent as much as I need to repent. Although I tolerate your lifestyle, I must lovingly warn you that, when Jesus returns, He won’t tolerate anyone’s sin.

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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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Saturday Sampler: May 14 — May 20

Butterfly Sampler 02Doug Wilson, posting in Blog & Mablog, provides familiar, yet frequently ignored, advice in his article, Decluttering Your Marriage I. Using Scriptural principles from Galatians 6, Pastor Wilson encourages each spouse to take responsibility before trying to fix the other. In his closing paragraph he explains the key to this sort of humility.

So, you want to study the Bible, but you don’t know which curriculum to use. Consider Michelle Lesley’s advice in The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids? If asked, I’d make the same recommendation.

One of my most dedicated readers is a 16-year-old girl who writes under the penname Squid. In a recent blog post for Squid’s Cup of Tea, she writes Being Truly IN the Word as a wonderful (and somewhat convicting ) reminder that we need to immerse ourselves in the Bible. This young lady shows remarkable Christian maturity; I think you’ll be impressed by this article.

Another blog post serving as a good reminder comes from Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate. His essay, What does the Bible teach about abortion?, doesn’t really tell us anything new, but it organizes the Biblical arguments against abortion nicely. I look forward to using it as a reference tool.

Truth isn’t always pretty, but it must be faced. Rebekah Hannah does just that in her piece, Women Use Porn Too, which she writes for The Gospel Coalition Blog. She raises interesting points about ways churches inadvertently deny ministry to women who struggle with this type of sexual sin.

Being childless, I don’t offer a great deal to moms who read The Outspoken TULIP. Our Bible Study on Titus 2:3-5 is convicting me about that omission.  So let me begin reparations by directing you to Peter Krol’s article You Can Read the Bible to Your Kids in Knowable Word. I believe this man is on target with this idea!

As usual, Michelle Lesley has an insightful essay based squarely on Scripture. When God Says No challenges the popular notion that we should have big dreams for God.

Speaking of the big dreams for God philosophy, Tim Challies says that Nobody Respects a Blogger. Sisters, I  have no aspiration of being anything other than a blogger! Clearly, I don’t dream very big dreams for God. Oh well!

In a guest post for Pulpit & Pen, Jodie Jensen reviews the latest book by Beth Moore in The Quest of Beth Moore. According to Jensen, Moore promises that we can achieve intimacy with God through journaling, talking about our feelings with other women and spending time in our prayer closets. Okay… Skip reading Beth Moore’s book, by all means, but be sure to read this insightful essay.

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