Measuring Disunity and Modesty by the Standard of the Gospel

This is part of a series in 1 Timothy. My piece is taken from 1 Timothy 2:8-10


I grew up in a church that handed out a modesty checklist to young girls. Some of the rules were:

  • You can’t wear shirts with spaghetti straps unless you wear something under it or over it.
  • You cannot wear any prints or fabrics that drew attention to your chest.
  • Your tank top straps should measure four fingers wide or else pitch it.
  • You must always wear board shorts over the bottoms of any bathing suit (even a traditional one piece).

We tried to follow and enforce these rules. And it all bred severe criticism, judgment, legalism, and self-righteousness. We began to assess ourselves and other girls through the narrow lens of externals, believing it to be the standard of a godly woman. From this list, it seemed as if this was the norm of a godly woman. The list above was not a biblical standard, but a man-made one. If only godly womanhood and gospel living were as easy as checking off a list that some church ladies made up. But it’s not. Godly womanhood and gospel living stem from the heart, and only God can change hearts. We can only change our outfits.

Putting on certain outfits or behaviors does not make someone godly. Only when the gospel changes our hearts can there be practical, visible change. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1, when God awakens our hearts to the power of the gospel, our outward behavior changes.

You can read the rest at Servants of Grace >>

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Made for community: The church, marriage and dying to self

I recently took my son to see “The LEGO Batman Movie,” and I was struck by its depth. Batman teams up with LEGO to show, not just the dark side of Gotham City’s villains, but the dark side of the dark knight. The LEGO cartoons always seem to depict Batman in a unique way from the other superheroes: as the loner. He likes to work alone and is portrayed as emotionally distant, egotistical and self-preserving. He’s afraid of being close or needing anybody in his life, especially emotionally. But by the end of the film, relationship and community trump individualism. Batman takes a long look inside himself and changes.

Individualism in America

Batman is one example of individualism. According to Britannica, individualism became a core part of American ideology by the 19th century. As James Bryce, British ambassador to the United States, wrote in The American Commonwealth in 1888: “Individualism, the love of enterprise, and the pride in personal freedom have been deemed by Americans not only their choicest, but [their] peculiar and exclusive possession.”

In her article for The Federalist, Heather Judd, traces back the history of individualism to the Enlightenment, where truth derived from reason and the self was exalted. Then, the Industrial Revolution centralized work in factories, which relied more on the individual for work instead of the family unit. Judd then brings the history to our present reality:

By the mid-nineteenth century, transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau turned from rationalism but continued to extol the self-sufficiency of the individual. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have dutifully followed the path they blazed, separating the individual from society, then family, and now even the self, as we question whether we have any inherent identity apart from our transitory desires and feelings.

Judd goes on to say that these historical shifts have brought our culture to a place where we navigate life from the perspective of the individual. These roots go down deep. Our country was established with the desire for independence and self-government, for good reason. And more than that, our first father and mother sought independence from their Creator. But that’s not the calling our heavenly Father has for us spiritually.

Read the rest at The ERLC >>

Infertility in the Arms of the Church

I was a miracle baby. After fighting infertility for two years, my parents’ prayers were answered. I grew up, got married, and had babies of my own, but around me were friends crushed by the heavy hand of infertility. I’ve known suffering, but not the specific suffering of those struggling with the deferred hope of children.

My parents’ story is the one we like to share, because it has the happy ending of God answering prayer and fruit born of long-awaited desire. Like a neat, clean, and perfectly tied package, the happy ending is satisfying in film, literature, and even life.

But what about the stories of continued suffering? Stories that leave you hanging? Stories with loose ends?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Duty and Desire in The Crown

There is a complexity of ideas at play beneath the authentic scenery and elegant costumes of the new Netflix series The Crown. This tactful English drama set in post-war Britain centers on the rise and reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy). The camerawork and creative writing take us into the hidden realities of relationships between monarchy and family, monarchy and parliament, and monarchy and church. At the heart of it all is the interplay of duty and desire.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

The Daily Work of the Spirit

Growing up in the church I was familiar with ministry nights. I also grew up experiencing the full gamut of Christian conferences and retreats. These events included extended times of prayer and worship accompanied by serene guitar strums and low lighting. Sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit felt as effortless as the melodies falling softly on my ears. These felt like special times when God would reveal himself to me in my stillness, and the Spirit would convict me of sin and help me set my sights on Christ.

These organized events can be refreshing and beneficial, but I’ve realized I should be seeking ministry from the Holy Spirit at all times. The Spirit’s ministry doesn’t have to be still, quiet, peaceful, and at a scheduled time. The Holy Spirit works in the mundane everyday moments of life — the nitty-gritty daily grind.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life — A Book Review

{This blog post contains an affiliate link.}

My three year old spills things. My almost one year old spills things too. Because of this I have a good idea of what the word saturate means.

1. to cause a substance to unite with the greatest possible amount of another substance, through solution, chemical combination, or the like.

2. to soak, impregnate, or imbue one thoroughly or completely.

In Jeff Vanderstelt’s book, Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, he is talking about something more spiritual than kids who spill things. He is referring to our life with Christ spilling over into our everyday mundane lives.

“It has always been God’s intention to choose normal, everyday people, and to show his amazing power and glory through them.”

Vanderstelt isn’t talking about another church program based out of a church building, but a way of life that makes Christ’s mission and ministry the core of our very lives. Because we are the church. We gather together every week in a building and then our weekday is spent in our various vocations and activities. Our weekdays are the lifeblood of Gospel living and Gospel mission. As Vanderstelt says:

“Church is the people of God doing the work of God in everyday life.”

As the Church, we need to be equipped on how to be intentional where God has us. What opportunities are around us for ministry and mission? Or what opportunities can we make for ourselves in the place and season God has us in right now? Vanderstelt refers to Jesus as our example in this:

“Jesus lived a normal, quiet life for thirty years in an unknown town….The difference is that Jesus did everything for his heavenly Father’s glory. He lived all of his life as an expression of his love for God the Father…He set apart every aspect of life as holy unto the Lord.”

This aspect of the book encouraged and challenged me. Being a stay at home mom is as normal and real as it gets. My days are consumed with taking care of little ones, and I’m learning that this work is holy unto the Lord; it is my primary ministry and mission in life right now. This was the encouraging part, and yet the challenging part is the area I am weak in right now, which is extending this mission and ministry beyond my family. Because of this book I’m now intentionally thinking through ways I can (with my family) reach out more to fellow Christians and non-christians in my home.

The rest of the book outlines ways to engage in all-of-life discipleship, which is learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in our everyday lives. Here is an excerpt on three key environments that are essential for this type of discipleship:

Life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”

Here is another great summarizing excerpt on what it means to be the body of Jesus (the Church):

Who is God? He is our King (the Son). What has he done? He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Who are we? We are servants of the King of kings. If we believe this, what do we do? We serve the least of the people of the world as an act of worship of our King. “

 You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to engage in the mission and ministry work of Christ; you just have to believe, by faith, in the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are sent by God into the world through our normal lives: our day jobs, school, community work, the grocery store, the local library, and our homes. This is true Gospel saturation. This is how God chooses to fulfill his work, plan, and purpose on the earth until he returns. We get to be apart of this in the everyday stuff of life; let’s saturate where we are right now.

Who is God? He is Spirit. What has he done? He sent and empowered Jesus the Son to take on flesh and to seek and save what was lost. Who are we? We are missionaries, sent and empowered by the same Spirit. If we believe this, what do we do? We make disciples of Jesus through proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.”

 {This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway book publishers.} 
 

It’s All About Me

Part 5 of the Christian Thinking series.
We come out of the womb full of ourselves. The instincts we’re born with are only for our own survival. Nobody has to teach a baby how to cry for milk. All toddler’s everywhere learn from their own wayward hearts to throw a temper tantrum. We automatically are in tune with our personal needs and desires; they grip our hearts and minds strongest when they aren’t fulfilled.

Our culture perpetuates this self-centered mindset continually. Advertisements appeal to our ego by telling us we deserve the product being sold to us. Many philosophies, movements, and ideologies are consumed with gazing inward.  Much of this series is based on the false way of thinking that, “Everything is about me.”

We tend to think:

What’s best for me? What will make me happy? What will be easy for me? How does this affect me? What does she think of me? He hurt my feelings. No one cares about my ideas.

What About the Church?

The Church has become guilty of this as well. We have become man-centered in how we approach life, scripture, and our churches.

If we aren’t careful we can make our life in Christ all about ourselves by interpreting scripture according to our feelings and preferences, which reduces scripture to a handbook of rules or it becomes our personal therapist. Scripture was never intended to make much of us, but to make much of Christ.

We can look at our churches through a man-centered lens too. Church isn’t a place to serve our own needs and interests. Yes, we can be ministered to through the preaching of the Word, and we should look to be spiritually fed in our churches, but that is different from idolizing the fulfillment of our desires. Christ didn’t die for the Church so she could feel good about herself and have lots of friends. He died to set her free to live for his glory. One of the best ways to do that is to love and serve others.

It’s All About You

Nancy Leigh Demoss says, “Feeling better has become more important than finding God….God does not exist for us, but we exist for him.”

I remember an old worship song from when I was a young girl:

It’s all about you, Jesus. And all this is for you; for your glory and your fame. It’s not about me as if you should do things my way. You alone are God and I surrender to your ways. 

What’s the best way to remember it’s not, “all about me?” Think about Jesus laying down his rights and desires to become a helpless baby. Except, he came out of the womb full of God’s glory.

Where is Your Road Going? The Gospel and Social Justice

Two hot words today: Social Justice. It’s become a big part of Church culture. I’m not here to bash this issue or say it isn’t important, isn’t validated in scripture, or that it doesn’t matter to me. But I am here to bring some clarity and focus around the issue.

As Christians, we can be pulled in so many different directions when it comes to Social Justice. Well, we could get involved with human trafficking, sidewalk counseling at an abortion clinic, helping battered women and children, sponsoring children in other countries, feeding the homeless, and the list goes on and on. I believe the Lord does lay these social burdens on his people’s hearts, and some are called by Him to strongly pursue one or more of these endeavors. I’ve even been involved with a few of these ministries myself. Yet, as we run down one of these roads we must make sure we aren’t running away from the cross, but that our road is running to it.

Social Justice is not the Gospel

It’s easy in Church culture to substitute the myriad of ministries with the Gospel. We must not let a ministry that is important to us cloud our vision of the Gospel. Church ministries are not the Gospel. Social Justice is not the Gospel. These might be avenues towards the Gospel, but they are not one and the same. The Church (the body of Christ) should be all about the Gospel. However, each local church body can explore different ministries to express this truth.

Every good story has a strong climax. This is the part where the protagonist (main character) has to make a decision that affects the rest of the story and the final outcome. The Bible is not exempt from this type of storytelling. In fact, everything in the Old Testament points to the climax in the Bible. What is it? Jesus choosing in his manhood to die a brutal death on the cross and then proving his Godhood by rising from the dead. This is the focal point of the whole Bible, so it should also be the focal point of our lives and our ministries. 

Jesus and Social Justice

In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus is speaking to a large crowd of people, a crowd so large that four men had to lower their paralytic friend through the roof of the house just so Jesus could see him. The first thing Jesus does is tell the man that his sins are forgiven. Why? Jesus knew it was more difficult to be washed clean from filthy sins than to heal bodily ailments. He also knew through the power of his death and resurrection he would be able to give that man a much greater healing; healing from sin. He offers the same to us today. Every church ministry and social justice issue should be about the great healer who gives forgiveness of sins.
Yet, Jesus didn’t deem the mans paralyzes as unimportant either. Jesus was establishing his credibility to heal based on his authority as the Son of God. He still healed the lame man. He took care of his soul and also his body. Let us do the same for others.