Are Clothes Necessary?

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Why do we wear clothes? Those in the North may be stating the obvious, “You may cover up to avoid frostbite.” But seriously, what is the big deal about modesty? There are no commands in Scripture for the New Testament believer regarding how high, low, or tight clothing should or shouldn’t be. While this has caused many issues and some tension especially between generations, I believe this “lack of limits” has actually given Christians a higher standard to strive for.

God wants a greater principle than have I covered that which is required, He wants to use our clothes as a picture of our relationship with Him. How we dress probably says more about who we serve than any other area of life. After all, clothes are the first thing people see when we met each other.

Your clothes are a walking billboard advertising who is in control.

Before diving into a few principles God has laid forth, it is important that we answer the question, “Why do we wear clothes?” *

The first pair of clothes was actually a human invention. In Genesis 3:7 after Ada008-adam-eve-fallm and Eve sinned, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. Why did they feel the need to cover up? They were covering up their sinfulness. Who were they covering up from? They were not only covering up from God in their jungle camo, but they felt the need to hide their sinfulness from each other.

Their clothes were an acknowledgment of their sinfulness. After God talked with them in the Garden, they were still clothed in their own attempt at covering sin. God then killed an animal to cover up their true problem of sinfulness. The very fact that mankind is in need of spiritual covering should be foremost in any discussion of clothing and modesty.

Clothes are a tangible picture of my need for spiritual covering.

After understanding mankind’s need of a Savior and spiritual clothing, we as Christians are commanded to follow certain principles of clothing. These principles show that we have been covered by Christ.

The first principle to consider is that of being clothed in meekness. I Peter 3:4 explains how we are to show our allegiance to God by adorning ourselves in meekness. The word ‘meekness’ was used in Greek literature to refer to a horse who had been broken. Interestingly, nothing changes physically about a horse when it is broken. It still has the same strength and power, but the power is able to be guided and used for the benefit of the master. When God commands us to be clothed in meekness, He is telling us that our clothing is to be under His rulership, and everyone who sees what we wear should easily understand, that person is controlled by God.

My attire should show everyone that I am submitted to God. This submission has two aspects. First, does my attire show I am submitted to God regarding what I should keep covered? Without going into details, men and women have divinely given and distinct body parts. We must dress accordingly. For women it would mean that meekness would not draw attention to distinctly feminine body parts, and men should not draw excessive attention to manly parts. It seems that the unbelieving world understands the innate attraction better than most Christians as shown by the advertising industry.

The second aspect regarding submission to God that must be considered is, “Am I trying to deny what God made me?” Many people dress in a way that is not honoring to God based on a sense of false modesty and are denying what God made them to be. Men with feminine hairstyles, women with overly baggy clothes, limp wristed men, and women with manly hairstyles… All deny a spirit of submission to who God made them to be. (These examples are given simply to illustrate a point not horses to ride into battle.) In this world of gender confusion, our clothing should reflect the idea that Christian’s are not confused. In denying the gender difference in our attire, we are denying the God who made the difference

There is a difference between advertising, and accepting who God made you to be.

Advertising shows off what God created. Accepting seeks to use the body for its intended purpose. As Christians, we lost the cultural sex battle. I believe the battle was not lost because the world kept advertising their sexual liberation, but because Christians did not call out the counterfeit by giving a better example.

In the same way, I feel Post-Millennial Christianity is losing the modesty battle by not pointing to a proper acceptance of our place and God ordained differences. As a general rule, people should not have to wonder what gender you are by your clothing.

Normally the women are the ones getting hounded regarding modesty. I think men share more of the blame by not applying principles of modesty to our wardrobe. As men, do we dress with the primary motivation of bringing glory and honor to God? Do we spend time honoring the women who have chosen to dress modestly in a pagan culture? Or do we subtly tell our modest sisters in Christ to get lost by spending more time and attention on those who come to worship in yoga pants and tight shirts?

Another aspect that must be considered is, “What does the culture say?” The cugangster-539993_960_720lture should never define a Christian, yet it does give a context for conversation. Jesus wore a dress (seamless robe), but there were no cultural connotations attached to robe wearing. A man wearing a dress today would make a different statement. What is the culture pushing with skinny jeans, tattoos, or muscle shirts?

Today’s Christians have the prevailing mentality that we convert the world by looking like the world. We show them that we can love Jesus and be in love with the same designers, rock artists, and Hollywood hairstyles. We let them know that being a Christian has all the same side benefits as being an unbeliever, but with a better fire insurance policy.

Am I trying to tell people that in Jesus I can be just like them, or because of Jesus I can be delivered from what they struggle with?  

I realize that the modesty conversation cannot be contained to a few hundred words. I am simply wanting to bring out some ideas for discussion regarding the supremacy of Christ even in something as mundane or flashy as our wardrobe (I Cor 10:31).

Here are a few questions that I have found helpful in dressing to the glory of God:

What do my clothes say about my relationship with God? (Primarily His set apartness I Peter 1:15)

Who does this outfit reveal I am submitted to? (Satan or Christ)

Does this outfit deny who God created me to be?

Does this outfit align myself with any worldly groups or ideas?

Does this outfit show I am more excited about my eternal body then this temporal one?

Is this outfit more about my pleasure or my holiness?

Is this outfit determined by people around me or the character of God?

 

I would love to hear your thoughts regarding the supremacy of Christ in dress.

 

 

* Special thanks to God for Dr. Andrew Hudson who first posed this question to a student body in chapel.

 

God of Spilt Milk

God and Milk

Have you ever taken the time to observe the intricate design in a puddle of spilt milk? Do you realize, if you were to spill another glass, it would never have the same pattern? milk

There is a difference between not crying over spilt milk and embracing it as an act of beauty from a sovereign Creator.

God wants us to embrace the beauty of His creation and see Him in everything around us. This is not the same thing as pantheism (that the universe is god), but a command of God to see His creativity and beauty in the mirror of creation. Creation reflects God’s awesomeness. When Job doubts the care and love of God, how does God respond? God responds by showing Job His power through the intricate details of His creation.

How do you look at the world? Do you have the eyes of a child that sparkle with a sense of wonder? Have you lost the sense of amazement at the “simple works” of God? My 11 month old baby girl, is fascinated by lint on the floor. She takes her little hands and examines it with her tiny fingers totally enraptured by floor lint, while her parents throw it in the trash without a second thought.

We so easily take the amazing works of God and totally disregard them. Just look at how we look at snow? Snow is often viewed as an impediment to our goals or a hindrance, but truthfully it is the intricate, harmonious working of God’s hand. Take note when you pass a snow drift or see the salt stains on your car, because they will never again be the same.

God is constantly giving us a once in a lifetime display of His beauty.

Every moment of the day, God has given us wonders to observe that will never be replicated. From thewater-219733__180 pattern of maple leafs on the tree, to the swirling vortex of your sink or toilet, all are one of a kind viewings designed to show His glory.

Have you given thanks for the ordered randomness of his beauty? Paul touches on this topic in 1Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Have you given thanks for the intricate details of spilt milk, Kool-Aid stains, or a messy house?

Every action in the universe is designed to show the image and characteristics of Christ. Imagine if we had an angel’s view of the universe, and did not have the necessity of cleaning up the spilt milk, or shoveling the snow drift, or taking out the trash, would we see the splendor of the mundane?

According to Colossians 1:16, everything was created by God to show his glory. That means that the spilt milk has unlimited beauty. Everythingcoffee-691464__180 in creation praises God’s name. From the mighty super nova to the smallest atomic particle, or swirl in your latte, all creation heralds God’s fame.

Are we watching? Are we awake to the glory of God seen in the differing billows of smoke from an exhaust pipe? Do we see the handiwork of God in the cracks along the sidewalk, or the differing laugh lines in people we meet?

God’s glory is all around us in the extreme and the mundane. Thank you, Lord, for making a universe with such intense diversity.

Why Ravens

What Could God Want with These Scavengers?

Have you ever wondered why God puts certain details in the Bible? God doesn’t waste ink. God’s Word has incredible riches sometimes laying out in the open, and then there are times when He has us dig a little. Today I want to ask you to roll up your sleeves and dig a little with me as we answer the question, “Why Ravens?”

In I Kings 17:1-6, Elijah has his debut and is introduced as a prophet of God. God commands the new prophet to go and deliver a message to the wicked king Ahab who has chosen to reject the God of the Bible and institute Baal worship. After Elijah tells the king that there will be a drought and Jehovah God is in control of the rain, he is told to run and hide. (Good idea after telling a king that he is a wicked pagan, and that his economy is going to tank.) Then we see in verse 4 that God in his faithfulness is going to provide for all of Elijah’s needs and that God will send his servants to feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Elijah trusted God. He trusted when it made sense vs. 2-3. He trusted God when it didn’t make sense vs. 4.  raven-1312094Imagine the prophet of God, “What’s the Word?”  “Talk to the king, run hide.” “So like you got robin Hood hiding out in Jordan forest? How am I going to eat?” “I am going to have my servants bring you the food.” “Wow, room service. I can do this prophesying thing.” I will send Ravens.” “What they are unclean, I can’t eat that.” “You won’t have to, they are the chiefs.” “What?” “Go.”

After God tells Elijah His plan, he obeys and Elijah gets to see God fulfill His promises (6). The Word of the Lord came to pass (6). The moment God spoke the words into existence it happened. God never forgets His promise. As extraordinary as this plan sounds, God promised it in verse 4, and we see it coming to pass in verse 6 and 7. There was no rain, and there were always birds. They came twice a day. Gbread-1329360od ensured that for hundreds and hundreds of flights, his servant was fed. God promised, and delivered.

Because of Elijah’s trust, God provides a lesson. First of all, God provided protection. The first specific mention of Ravens is in Genesis 8:7, “And he (Noah) sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” God protected the Raven species through impossible odds. Think of it. There are only two ravens alive on the ark, one bird leaves without coming back. Assuming there was not a nest of baby crows in the rafters, somehow the raven mate finds the other raven after the most catastrophic disaster in history, build a nest, and survive long enough to have baby ravens in order to provide for God’s prophet close to 2,000 years in the future. God protected His servants in order to provide for His prophet. (We can all be thankful that God didn’t choose the Dodo bird as his messengers.)

God also protected through uncommon means. Leviticus 11:13-15 states that ravens were unclean animals and could not be eaten by the Jewish people. Sometimes God’s laws don’t seem to make sense, but He has a plan. Just work with me here. If the Raven could be eaten what do you suppose would have happened during a famine? They would have eaten God’s messengers. I am sure some of the Israelites disobeyed God and were eating ravens, but for hundreds of years the Israeli “DNR” had posted no hunting signs, in order to keep Elijah fed. Even with God’s amazing provision, Elijah learned that he had to trust God daily.

God delights in putting his people in positions that do not make sense, so that they will trust Him more.

     In this very short story, God showed that He was in control. A seemingly insignificant prophet stands up and obeys God. Who knows how many child sacrifices were stopped or souls are in heaven because of that one act of obedience. The ravens obeyed and allowed for God to be glorified and provided for the next phase of Elijah’s spectacular ministry.

If we stopped there, we would be able to gather many nuggets of truth and be comforted that a faithful God provided for faithful servants.  Even though that is true, if we dig a little deeper, the immensity of God’s power resounds through the story like a thunderbolt.

Why a drought? Why didn’t God answer quickly like He does in the next chapter with a ball of fire? Why ravens? God could certainly have used the 7,000 servants who had not bowed down to Baal for food and shelter. If we step back to I Kings 16:30-32, we would see that this story about the ravens is predicated by the official establishment of the Canaanite worship of Baal.330px-Baal_thunderbolt_Louvre_AO15775

In the pantheon of gods, Baal was the chief deity. His name actually means lord or master. Many ancient religions held to the idea that differing deities were in charge of various aspects of life. We see this idea in I Kings 20:23 when the Syrians attempt to conquer Israel in the plains because they believed Jehovah was only the god of the hills. Baal’s area of power centered on three specific areas. He was in charge of rain (he is often pictured with a thunderbolt), grain, and fertility especially the first born.(1)

So when God sends Elijah to make a proclamation of drought to the king, he is claiming ownership over Baal’s territory. This story is not simply about the faithfulness of a beginning prophet, or the fate of a nation. This is a territorial battle of the gods, because Jehovah struck directly at the center of Baal worship. If it rained, Baal was God, if it didn’t Jehovah deserved worship. Even in God’s judgment He is merciful. He gave the nation of Israel 3 ½ years to observe that He ruleth in the affairs of men.

Because the rains didn’t come, the grain failed. Once again God is “allowing” Baal to answer on enkihis home turf. Every morning as the men of Israel woke up from hunger pains and watched the dust blow across the plains, they had to admit that Jehovah had defeated Baal. To make the story even more intriguing, Canaanite worship revered ravens as the messengers of the gods.

After the brook dried up, Elijah then is commanded to go to Phoenicia the center of Baal worship. (2) While there he finds a starving widow, provides an endless amount of grain for her, and then through the power of God, raises a boy to life. All in Baal’s home court. It’s as if God stood up in the heavens stuffed Baal and proclaimed, “Not in my house!”

How have you seen God working in miraculous ways?  I would love to read about the way God has used “ravens” in your life.

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1). As Baal was worshiped and adopted by many pagan religions his name, and responsibilities did vary, but the three major areas were that of rain, grain, and life

2). F.C. Fensham, “A Few Observations on the Polarization between Yahweh and Baal in I Kings 17—19,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92:2 (1980):234

3).  Also see Constable’s electronic notes on I Kings 17 soniclight.org

Waiting Alone…. Learning How to Date While You Wait

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Aloneness hurts. What single person after waiting on God hasn’t asked himself, “Now what?” I have talked to dozens of young people that have gone to church or Bible college, kept themselves pure, resisted the temptation to settle, who now find themselves alone every Friday surrounded by little brothers and sisters on family night. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun hanging out with family, eating pizza and playing monopoly, but not if you have no other option.

There is a story in the Bible that may mirror your life, and help give some perspective of what to do, while you wait. Before we jump into the story of our 40 year old single guy, I need to add a caveat. Not every story in the Bible is given for our emulation (i.e Samson, Jonah, Judas, etc.). The Scripture does, however, give us tangible examples of faith, so that we can see faith in action (Hebrews 11, I Cor 10:11). The story of Isaac and Rebekah is one of those great example passages of faithful people depending on an even more faithful God.

   “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel.” (Genesis 24:63-64) This passage of scripture gives some great instruction on what men are to be doing while they wait. Keep in mind that even though this article is geared toward guys, every girl should be looking for a man with these qualities. If a man is not showing godly characteristics and actions while he is waiting, he will not be doing those things after he has won a girl’s heart. (Next week’s article will explore what a woman should be doing and what men should be looking for from the same passage.)

Godly men wait patiently. Isaac had waited a long time. Genesis 25:20 tells us that Isaac was 40 years old. (Apparently this was a cultural thing because his older brother Esau didn’t get the keys for the camel until he was forty, Genesis 36:34.) This is rather amazing as Isaac was the area’s most eligible bachelor. He was the son of a local millionaire, he was a wonder child, he had promises from God, he had good looking genetics (at least from his mom’s side) In short, he was popular, pretty, and stinking rich, yet with all of that, he wasn’t married. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically, but he may have been waiting because he saw the pain that was caused by His dad, who didn’t wait in the area of relationships.

Godly men wait obediently. The context of this verse is encased in the entire passage. Earlier we see in Genesis 24:3 that Isaac was obeying God, by not seeking a bride that would not assist him in his pursuit of God. If your future spouse is not focused on God, you will have a love war, and become schizophrenic in your pursuits. Isaac was well aware of the fact that a godly woman may not be found on his timetable. For those who have waited a long time I would ask in invaluable question, “What do you want from a relationship?”

Remember, that a woman will never give more than God has already offered you, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) It may help to remember that passage of Scripture was written by a man who at the time was in jail as a single man.

If you are not content with what God is giving you, you will never be content with what God might give you.

     Godly men wait worshipfully. Where is Isaac, he is out in the field thinking about the greatness of God. It seems from the text that he was bowed down in worship. When his “girlfriend” arrives what does she find him doing? What do you think went through Rebekah’s mind when she found out Isaac was praying on their first “date?” If you have never been caught worshiping, you may as well say goodbye to a quality, God centered worshiping spouse because they are off in a different field.

Worshipers have a great advantage when it comes to dating, they don’t have to change the object of their affections.

     I feel I must address the heresy that God is obligated to send you a spouse if you are worshiping Him. This is not at all what I am saying, I am simply giving a general principle that if you are already singing praise to your Savior, that a harmony line will fit nicely and you don’t have to change your tune in order to attract a spouse.

     Godly men wait thoughtfully.  The passage continues and describes their first meetincamles isaacg, Therefore Rebekah took a vail, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.” (Gen 24:65-66) Put yourself in his sandals. You have waited forty years for a wife, you trust your dad and friend to find you a wife, and the first thing you do is…. Talk to the old servant? I think this shows an incredible amount of maturity on the part of Isaac, as he voluntarily seeks wisdom before hormones. The passage says that the servant tells him everything. This is not the Hollywood, first date go to her apartment and see if she is a good kisser philosophy, this is a man whose heart is controlled by his head.

How about you, how many wise mentors do you seek advice from before or during your dating relationship? Far too many couples seem to start with an attraction, move to infatuation, and then when wise individuals offer advice, it is viewed as spiteful and uninformed. “What would old married fogies possible know about love anyway?”

     Godly men wait unselfishly. “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen 24:67)  Ever wonder why the word order is reversed? Marriage then love seems very strange to a culture that grew up on Disney love. Many couples test the waters to see if their feelings are strong enough to get them through. Love can result in an incredible feeling, but it is a result of a choice. If love is all about a feeling then when my feelings go away, I am justified in adultery. In reality love can be incredibly painful (ask the 85 year old couple whose wife has Alzheimer’s).

     My love is not about me. If I am hoping for a special someone to make me feel special, I will soon hate them for what they cannot give me. In reality, I am really more in love with myself. The commitment that Isaac gave was the perfect soil for the seed of love to grow.

I understand that Isaac lived in a different culture, yet he does give us a good model of how to wait and helps us answer the question, “Now what?”

What I Wish I Knew About Church

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Choosing a new church particularly as a college student can be a monumental task.  Many times we treat churches like a McDonalds menu, we order what we like, and we expect it our way.   There are many things I wish I had known as a college student picking out a church.

I wish I had known that I was an answer to prayer. The first new church I went to, the Pastor had prayed for a college student. Many churches are tired and life has zapped them of the energy of youth. Your presence could herald the fact that God is not done working in their church.

I wish I had known that it wasn’t about me. I wanted a church that could minister to my needs and make me comfortable. Nowhere in Scripture will we find this philosophy blessed. In fact the opposite is true, church is not about me. You should be searching for ministries that stretch you and move you away from your current comfort zone. If you are attending a church where you don’t feel you fit keep reading.

I wish I had known the value of the assets I possessed. I did not understand the value of what I possessed as a college student. Even if you cannot sing or feel qualified to teach, there is an enormous amount of untapped potential for a church in every college student. You have:

Abilities: The most obvious abilities in a church would be singing and teaching, but the list goes so much deeper. If the thought of standing in front of a congregation is more terrifying to you than a herd of rabid monkeys, that’s OK, simply check out what you do well.   An ability is simply a skill that you possess and every person has them. If you are sports minded, maybe you could be involved in a weekend camp. Maybe you are gifted with media and know how to convert audio into MP3’s, most churches could use that. Maybe your skills lie in art. See if you could design a bulletin or brochure. If you are mechanically minded, bring your tools and start some repairs. Maybe you like to cook, find an elderly lady who needs encouragement and bake away! Whatever your skills, God wants you to use them, and the church will be more than happy to plug you in.

Energy: This can translate into, playing ball after church, shoveling the walk, cleaning the church, chaperoning youth activities (includes free pizza), giving rides, greeting people, pushing children on the swings, giving testimonies, passing out flyers, setting up for activities, decorating, hanging out with the youth, talking with different age groups, writing a letter to a young kid….

Prayer: If you are not praying specifically for your church, it is not your church.MEDION DIGITAL CAMERA

There are many more assets that people possess, but make sure you are proactive about finding needs.

 

I wish I had known that people wanted me involved. I wish I had proactively gotten involved in people’s lives. I wish I had taken a directory home and memorized people’s names, and then told them I was praying specifically for them. I wish I had asked about people’s needs and done what I could to meet them. I wish I had understood the value of a listening ear. Larry King once remarked, “I never learned anything new when I was the one talking.”

I wish I had known to have a conversation with the pastor. I wish I had asked him about Scripture and his thoughts on theology. If I am paying thousands of dollars to get an education, why not take advantage of a man with oodles of degrees and years of life experience, and it’s all free.  I would have asked him several questions. I would have asked: if he ever doubted his choice to go into ministry, what concerns did he have for the church, what is his passion in ministry, how could I free up his time, if there was any way I could specifically encourage someone, what areas would he like me to serve in?… Most pastors are looking for someone to invest in, there is nothing more energizing for a pastor than someone who is willing to be poured into.

I wish I knew that church is a place where sinners go. So I should not be surprised when things are not perfect, including me.

I wish I had read ahead. If the teacher is going through a study or a book of the Bible, if you take a little time to read about the topic being discussed or read the Bible passage, it will increase learning exponentially.  

I wish I had known about consistency. Sadly, I attended 5 different churches during my 4 years at school. A lot of that had to do with logistics (transportation, and travel time), but I was not able to build lasting relationships or a consistent ministry. I wish I had kept with a church ministry and seen it grow. I also wish I had sent off a letter or two during the summer to keep everyone in touch with my life. If you do have to leave a church for some reason, be sure to let the leadership know as they have begun to care about and count of you.

Your church experience will directly mirror what you put into it. If you are willing to apply some of these practical ideas, I guarantee it will transform your church experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences or other suggestions for making church going a more fruitful experience.