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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Do We Really Want to Go Around Offending People? A Conversation

Some people get offended rather easily. They’re offended by an array of simple things: flags, expressions, words, statues, signs, plants, postures, and even history. Some are offended because others are offended! I understand some of these. They're because of misuse and interpretations. But, that’s not exactly what this post is about.

I recently saw a T-shirt advertised on social media. Frankly, I thought it was in poor taste. Then, the person who posted it said she “would like to wear it and walk around offending people.” Okay, it’s her right to wear whatever she wants. She can put on any printed T-shirt, even if others don’t like it. She can express her ideas on her top or walk around carrying a sign, if she wishes. That’s what freedom of speech is all about. I don’t have to agree, and I can even be offended. She has the right to express her thoughts.

It made me think: as Christians, are we supposed to walk around offending people, on purpose? Are we supposed to in-your-face try to offend?

What does the Bible say?
  • LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour (Psalm 15:1-3).
  • Jesus said, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).
  • If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).
  • Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed (2 Corinthians 6:3). It goes on to say that as Christians we rather suffer than being offensive.
  • And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted …. (Ephesians 4:32a).
  • Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it (1 Peter 3:8-11).

What is a Christian’s reaction supposed to be, if he feels offended?
  • Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye (Colossians 3:13).
  • … forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32b).
  • But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing (1 Peter 3:14-17).
Our example is Jesus. He didn’t go around intentionally offending people. If they were offended, it was because He spoke the truth. It wasn’t because He was unkind. May we be Christ-like Christians and avoid causing intentional offences. Let’s be sensitive to others and kind. May we not let our differences of opinion make us offensive. We're supposed to point to Jesus, who said,

Let your light so shine before men, 
that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:16)


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Four Easy Boundaries for Christian Dating

Some years ago, I was talking to teen girls about personal boundaries. Afterwards, a young adult woman asked how to know how far to go. It was a sincere question, and she needed a solid answer.

Where should we set boundaries? Why do we need them? What if … ?

First, I think it’s great when parents talk openly with their teens about this—way before they date. Talk about purity and right behavior with your children. A lot of parents aren’t open with their kids, and they don’t provide them with guidelines. Young people don’t know what’s expected of them. They have no clue.

So, Susie goes out with Fred, and she’s scared. They haven’t talked. Susie needs a framework, some kind of guideline.

Let’s look first at what the Bible says to young people.
  • The context is about avoiding fornication: Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1).
  • This passage speaks first to unmarried men, then to unmarried women. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
  • Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation (lifestyle), in charity (love), in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
  • The young, single pastor Timothy is admonished about how to treat people in his congregation: The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity (1 Timothy 5:2).

These short passages (above) give a great four-point outline for dating conduct:
  1. Treat other single people like your brother or sister.
  2. Please God.
  3. Don’t touch. (Only touch as is normal between friends.)
  4. Be pure, both in body and spirit.

How can we achieve this while we’re dating? Here are a few suggestions that are tried and proven:
  • Plan your dates for public places—where someone might walk by at any time. Always go to public places! You can go to concerts, ball games, church functions, restaurants, cafés, parks, boardwalks, malls…. Use your imagination!
  • Perhaps a corollary to the first rule is never be alone in a house, together. Nothing is more intimate than knowing the bedroom is a few steps away—and no one else is in the house. Never, ever end up alone in a house all by yourselves. If it happens (your roommate leaves, for example), you can both step outside. Also, don’t park a car and remain inside it. When you arrive at your destination, get out of the car and go to your activity. You can talk on the way. These two rules will save you from some very awkward situations.
  • Keep all your clothes on. I am amazed how many moms don’t talk to their daughters about this. If a guy “wants to see,” that is simply not acceptable. Only husbands have a right to see. Do not lift up, unbutton, unzip, or let anyone see what’s only for husbands. Keep all clothes properly on. Enough said.
  • Decide before your heart is involved where your boundaries are. Many Christian women and men decide not to kiss until the wedding. It is wise to be very careful where you draw the line—and stick to it. Make sure your guideline is purity. That means absolutely no touching of body parts that would be covered by a modest swimsuit (women) and surfing shorts (men). That also means no touching other than how you would touch a friend. A touch to the arm or holding a hand is “friendship” touching. Be very careful about full body hugs—probably not a good idea—and kissing. If you decide to allow a kiss, make sure it’s short and sweet, not anything else. If you set boundaries as a couple, it is easier to keep them.
  • Most important is your heart attitude. Is it more important to please God or this person? Clearly God. So, make sure you please Him in every area of your life—especially as you get to know the person you’re dating. Get to know this person’s heart and soul. Find out his goals, his values, his desires. Evaluate your potential partner on the basis of God’s standards.

I hate to have to mention this, but many men take advantage of naïve women. They butter them up with words and gifts and “love” and then ask for sexual favors—or force themselves upon them. This is not true love! This is selfishness. The Bible says that love (called charity) suffereth long (is patient), and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil (1 Corinthians 13:4.5). If your boyfriend doesn’t behave purely toward you, you have the wrong boyfriend. If he’s not willing to wait until after marriage for sex, you have the wrong boyfriend. He’s only thinking of himself. If he blames you, is easily provoked, and says ugly things about you, run! He will be more abusive the longer you let this relationship go on. You do not want to live with a manipulative man who shows you only lust and not biblical, pure love. By the way, you always have the right to say no and flee. I know this is hard, but if a man has committed a crime towards you (date rape), he needs to be reported to authorities—so that his next girlfriend doesn’t suffer the same fate.

A man who truly respects a woman will behave in a decent way towards her. He will not ask her for favors. He will treat her as a Christian sister and with biblical love and purity. The Bible says this goes for women, too. 

Purity is important.

I’m sure you want nothing less.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wonder Woman!

Some of my friends secretly wish they were Wonder Woman. They want to conquer the world and be beautiful and not break a sweat while they do it. They want to rear perfect children, make gourmet meals, have a squeaky clean house and car, work full-time, be successful, and look fabulous.

Oh yeah … you’ve had those dreams, too!

Then, we wake up to reality, take off our shiny Wonder Woman headband, wash our hair, and stumble into some acceptably clean clothes, ready to take on the real world—as we start the coffee and break up the fight that just broke out between our kids.

I laughed to myself about the Wonder Woman mystique and the ridiculousness of it all when I thought …
             You really are Wonder Woman! 
                    (Not the silly caricature, but you really are special.) 

The Bible shows that good women are unique and powerful and wise and strong. Here are a few Scripture passages about women. They show we have special value.
  • You’re created in the image of God with superiority over all the rest of creation. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:27-28).
  • Each woman is actually designed by God, who thinks about us individually. Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered (Psalm 40:5).
  • Again, God designed us personally. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee (Psalm 139:14, 17-18).
  • A gracious woman retaineth honour (Proverbs 11:16a).
  • A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband (Proverbs 12:4a).
  • Every wise woman buildeth her house (Proverbs 14:1a).
  • A godly woman is of indescribable worth. She’s clothed with strength and honor. She’s wise and kind, and her family and friends praise her. Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:10, 25-26, 28-31).
  • Older women are supposed to live righteously and mentor younger women. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).
  • A woman's decoration isn’t about her clothing; it’s about her controlled, peaceful spirit, which pleases God. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great Price (1 Peter 3:3-4).

God puts good women on a pedestal. We have great worth in His eyes when we’re following His leadership and acting in a controlled, pure manner. The Lord has a high view of a woman in her home. He asks us to live purely, refrain our tongues, and mentor other younger women. He says our controlled, quiet spirit actually becomes our adorning.

So, when you want to be Wonder Woman and feel like you’re coming up short, re-read these passages. You truly are fearfully and wonderfully made, and your value is far above rubies.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Quest for Balance

If there’s ever been a need in the Christian world for balance, it’s now. Wow! We see all kinds of extremes in almost every area of life. Why such a disconnect? Why such a goofy interpretation (says the person on the other side of the argument)? Why so many disparate lifestyles? Why such a lack of vision—or all out crazy zeal? Where’s the sensible approach? Where’s balance?

I’ll be the first to admit it’s a struggle. Where is balance? Let’s see if we can identify the need and then make some biblical applications.

We need to find a balance somewhere between:
Workaholic                                                                         Lazy
The world’s entertainment                                            Frowning on any pleasure
Ultra organization                                                            Haphazard living
Long sleeves, high necklines, long skirts, etc.          Shorts and a crop top
Hoarding                                                                            Minimalism
Adherence to the Bible as a whole                               Obedience to parts of the Bible
Personal priorities                                                         God’s priorities
Family as defined by the world                                     Family as defined by God
Spending for self                                                           Giving away most of our money
Disciplined plan for savings                                          Not saving at all
Contributing to social security, IRAs, etc.                    No insurance at all
So involved in church that one’s never home               Warm the church bench Sundays
Facelift, Botox, hair color, mani-pedis                          Frumpy

We could probably make these lists as long as we could brainstorm!

Let’s just look at these extremes and see if we can find some biblical guidance. I don’t claim to have achieved total balance—especially in some areas—so I am looking up Bible passages with you to see what they say about these topics. Let’s see if we can find some added perspectives.

Work habits—The Bible’s clear that people should work to provide for themselves and their families. The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain (Proverbs 15:19). The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour (Proverbs 21:25). Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest (Ecclesiastes 9:10). For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Entertainment—If there ever was an area that needs balance, this is it! We need to shun evil while enjoying the Lord and His goodness. Clean entertainment is good, and it’s important to be discerning in our choices. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3). Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way (Psalm 119:37). I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1) I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

Organization—In the context of the church, the Bible says, Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). Always, we see God’s meticulous order—in creation, in the instructions for the ark and the Tabernacle and the Temple, and in giving the Law. I believe God wants order in our lives, as well.

Modesty—The Bible is clear that women should dress modestly. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10). What does modesty look like? Well, you know it when you see it! The Bible’s emphasis is always on the heart attitude, but it’s also clear that godly women will be modest. We’re to look at truly godly women for guidance in our clothing choices.

Hoarding vs Minimalism—Strangely enough, the Bible has something to say about hoarding, though it gives leeway about the amount of possessions one might have. And he (Jesus) said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12:15). Jesus followed with a parable about a rich man whose land was fruitful. He decided to tear down the barns he already had and build bigger ones, so that he could store all his goods. The man said to himself, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:19b-21). Jesus also said, But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20). Our material priorities should be second to heavenly priorities.

The Bible—Sects typically pick one part of the Bible to emphasize and minimize the parts that don’t go along with their system of beliefs. (A sect always has an erroneous view of Jesus Christ, for example.) Some base themselves only on the Old Testament Law, and others have invented “new” scriptures to add to the Bible. Some say they are explaining the Bible, while their writings are extra-biblical. Some interpretations of Bible doctrines are founded using a pick-and-choose manner of interpretation. What does the Bible say about itself? All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

Priorities—God is very clear about priorities. Jesus said, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Family—From the beginning, God made a family: Adam, Eve, and their children. And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:22, 24). And he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:4-6).

Spending vs Giving—The Bible makes it crystal clear that giving is better than spending on one’s self. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Savings and Insurance—The Bible does indicate that provision for the future and future generations is a good idea. There is much debate as to Social Security and “relying on the government rather than on God’s supply.” I believe this is one of those things where every man must be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14:5) The following verses might help us make wise decisions. A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just (Proverbs 13:22). But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8).

Church Involvement—The Bible clearly teaches that we should be in a church. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25). In the days of Acts, they met every day, and Sunday was renamed “the Lord’s Day” because Jesus rose again on Sunday. The early church met on Sundays. How often should you meet? The Bible doesn’t give a number of days. The principle seems to be that you should meet together with other brethren on a regular basis. Should we neglect our family because we are so involved in church? Of course not. We need to seek balance. It is obvious that God’s plan is for all of us to be involved in and using our spiritual gifts in our local church ministry.

Facelifts, Botox, etc.—As you can imagine, the Bible doesn’t directly address these things. But, it does give principles about being frumpy. The Virtuous Woman makes her own clothing, but she uses beautiful cloth. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple (Proverbs 31:22). Jesus is always the best example. His coat was nice, so much so that the soldiers didn’t want to rip it up. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots (19:23-24). The Bible says that a person’s heart is much more important than his appearance.

When the Bible is clear, our best course is obeying God’s Word. Where there are two extremes and one pleases God, we want the “extreme” that pleases God. Where both ends of the issue are crazy, we need to find a happy middle ground. In the context of joy, the Apostle Paul writes, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand (Philippians 4:5).

Let’s be balanced Christians! Let’s love God with all our being, others as ourselves, and seek balance in every area of our lives.