Thursday, September 3, 2015

Put on the Virtue of Modesty

Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich, Germany
 One of the virtues most sorely lacking in society today is modesty.  From those who openly brag about their greatness to the person who is scantily clad on most occasions, we see an overwhelming concern with self.  Some folks might as well wear a sign that says "Look at me and see how wonderful I am."  If it were only those outside the body of believers who live this way, we might understand that their world view is vastly different than ours, but when it happens in the church, we need to pause and take a look at our own lives.
     According to the Bible, our actions, our comportment, our attitudes and our dress are to reflect modesty in order to attract others to Christ.  By contrast, the world tells us that it doesn't matter what we wear, how we behave or walk in society.  It is all relative to what makes you feel good.  Unfortunately, this mindset has crept into the church.  The Apostle Paul gave some sound encouragement to Timothy as a young pastor facing challenges as many Gentiles came into the church out of a pagan background.  He wrote in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:  "Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness -with good works."  Certainly, I do not believe that Paul had anything against women's hairdos or their clothing.  I believe his main point was that women should be mindful of what they wear so it does not distract or cause others to stumble.  Dressing in nice clothing is not a sin.  However, when we wear something which causes others to focus on us rather than the Lord, we are not demonstrating the virtue of modesty.
     Another area where immodesty can be seen is in our speech.  We have all heard a friend brag about an accomplishment at one time or another.  Sharing our good fortune is fine, but going beyond this crosses a line especially for a Christian.  In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote this admonition:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."    If we boast at all, we are to boast in the Lord and of His goodness and mercy.  In ourselves, we do not possess goodness nor the ability to save ourselves.  Instead, it is in God's domain to do for us what we can never do for ourself.  The Word promises that as we lift up Christ, He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  We can only do this by honoring Christ with our speech as well as our dress.  However there is one other area, we need to be concerned about as believers.
     When we come together to worship, we need to check our hearts to make certain we have dressed them in modesty.  The Pharisees were concerned with show.  They wanted people to see them and honor them so they used both their dress as well as their speech to persuade others of their holiness.  This, too, is a caricature of righteous behavior.  Jesus said:  "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).    Our lives are to reflect the glory of the Lord not take glory for ourselves.  We are God's living, holy temples as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian believers:  "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body" ( I Cor. 6:19-20).
     Wearing the virtue of modesty is becoming a lost practice in many churches today.  We are becoming too much influenced by our society and doing little to influence them as we ought.  We can be trendy in our clothing without going overboard or causing others to stumble.  Likewise, we can be excited over our achievements without sounding as though we are the greatest thing since sliced cheese.  This is how we put on modesty by remembering that salvation comes from the Lord.  He calls us to Himself and any blessings we receive come as a result of His grace and goodness to us.  Therefore, we are called to put on Christ and wear Him modestly in our attitude, actions and dress so that attention is given to Him and not to us.  Our goal in this life should be like that of John the Baptist when he said:  "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).  May this be our prayer and our purpose in Christ.  Selah!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Painful Lessons

     Through the years, I have repeatedly had run-ins with knives and other sharp objects.  It started in childhood when I was stitched up three times near my left eye for various falls - twice on steps and once on a roll away bed.  Then, there was the time when my mother was running the vacuum cleaner and could not hear me knocking on the door.  So I decided to pound with my open hand on the glass panel.  Guess what?  My hand went through the glass requiring more bandages.
       If my parents had thought I would outgrow this careless streak, they were  wrong.  Over the years of our marriage, I have managed to cut myself numerous times on knives as I was chopping up food for an evening meal.  Then, this past week, I was in a hurry to shave my legs with a new razor only to remove considerable skin on my right ankle.  Finally, yesterday while looking for an item in my refrigerator, I knocked a glass jar off a shelf  and onto the floor where it broke in a million pieces cutting my foot.  Need I say more?  I merely asked my dear husband for a bandaid as I always do.  Some might call me accident prone, but I think many of my mishaps happen because I am in a hurry and do not take the time to exercise caution.  Lack of care in the Christian life can also lead to some painful consequences.
       In Judges 13-16, we read the story of a Judge named Sampson.  From birth, he was dedicated to the Lord as a Nazarite.  He was not to drink wine and could not cut his hair for
the rest of his life.  Unfortunately, Sampson did not always listen to the voice of the Lord.  He went after a Philistine wife making his parents unhappy with such a choice.  This relationship was not God honoring but the Lord used it to stir up anger in Sampson whereby he would kill many Philistines.  His final downfall, though, came when he met the Philistine woman named Delilah.  She pleaded with Sampson to tell her the secret of his strength.  Little did he know that she was in league with the Philistines who wanted to destroy his strength.
       After much coaxing, Sampson told Delilah the secret of his strength.  While he was asleep, she cut his hair and allowed the Philistine soldiers to take him captive.  Without his long hair, he was as helpless as any other man.  The Philistines blinded him and put him to work grinding grain.  However, Sampson's strength was returning as his hair grew long again.  Isn't it amazing how God gives us a second chance?
        When the Philistines took Sampson to a celebration at their Temple to Dagon, he prayed that God would allow his strength to rise up again so that he might destroy this Temple and die with these people.  The Lord heard and answered that request.  Many Philistines died that day, but so did Sampson.  So what can we glean from this story of his life?
         First, we need to think about Sampson's willfulness.  If he had followed God's direction for holy living, he might have been able to avoid the heartache of a broken marriage as well as his many bloody encounters with the Philistines. Yes, God worked in spite of Sampson's willful attitude, but things could have been dealt with much differently and with less loss of life.
         Secondly, Sampson should have been more cautious in whom he confided.  He trusted a Philistine woman named Delilah with the secret of his strength.  Just like me rushing through my evening meal preparation while using a sharp knife, Sampson hurried into this relationship with Delilah.  He did not exercise restraint or wisdom.  This led to his downfall.  Sampson paid a heavy price for his lack of caution.
         Despite his less than stellar character,  God was able to use Sampson one final time.  In an act of grace, God restored his strength so that Sampson was able to kill many Philistines and save the people of Israel.  How much easier it could have been if he had been careful to obey God.
         I have to admit that I would not cut myself nearly as often if I would take time to exercise caution and watch what I am doing.  People like me keep Johnson and Johnson in business making bandaids, steri strips and ointments.  Trust me the lessons I learn in lack of care with a knife are painful.  Sampson learned the hard way too, but God has a way planned for all who trust in Him.  If we will follow Him in obedience, we will reap blessings without the pain that comes from doing things our way.  Selah!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

We Are All Special Needs

     I read an article today about a beautiful little girl who was labeled as a special needs child because she had a cleft palette.  Her father felt she did not need to be classified in this manner because her condition could be remedied.  This is not always the case in the lives of others who are born with physical and mental handicaps that cannot easily be remedied.  However, as I thought about this, I realized that all of us are really born as special needs individuals.  We may not have an obvious disability, but we all have a spiritual one.  Every one of us is born with a sin nature inherited from our father Adam.  When he fell, his sin infected all who would follow after him.
     Scripture tells us in Romans 3:23:  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..." In the Old Testament, we read in Ecclesiastes 7:20:  "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does
good and never sins."  This is echoed in Romans 3:10 when Paul writes:  "10as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;…"
     God's Word is clear that we all suffer from a sin nature which keeps us from fellowship with God. Talk about a handicap...a disability...a special need!  We, who were created to reflect the very image of God, are born tarnished.  Our thinking does not conform to God's desire for us to live a holy life.  Just like those who suffer from a physical problem that cannot be remedied, we cannot help ourselves.  We are slaves to sin.   Yet, for us, there is deliverance just as the Apostle Paul wrote in
Romans 7:24-25a:  "What a wretched man I am!  Who will deliver me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord...."  We are all wretched and trapped in a body of death until the Lord calls to us and awakens our hearts through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When we put our life in His hands, confessing our sins and turning away from them, we become a new creation.  Truly the old life has lost its power over us, but we will spend the rest of our days in this world with a conflict between the new life in Christ and our old flesh that wants to pull us back.   Like Paul, we must thank God that through Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors who can and will over come all obstacles set before us with the power of His Holy Spirit.
      All too often, I think society as a whole looks with pity on those who have special challenges; yet in my own experience as a grandparent of a child who faced some complicated issues, I can honestly say our Branson was a happy child, greatly loved by his parents and extended family and someone who had a heart to persevere.  Lately, I have been thinking of him a good deal and I still marvel at all he faced with great grace and how in his short six years, he impacted so many.  I wish I could say I had the same strength that he demonstrated every day of his life.  Truly, he was used by God to teach us so many rich lessons.
     Before, we label someone as special needs, we need to step back and look at our own lives for each one of us is in the same boat spiritually.  We have a deep need which only God can satisfy.  I John 1:8 reminds us:  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."  We cannot ignore our situation because our eternal destination hangs in the balance.  Who then, really has special needs?  The child with an extra chromosome?  A person who is deaf or blind?  No, we all are handicapped without the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we never forget this, and may we be quick to run to Him for forgiveness of our sins.  In Him, we are whole and complete once again.  Selah!