Thursday, February 22, 2007

Christian Romance Novels and the Gospel....

When I first wrote the previous post, some people took issue with it. Especially the part about Christian romance novels. It was said that these are books that thousands of Christian women have read for years, and since they are "Christian" books and sold in "Christian" stores, why would any caution be needed?

This was my response:

My main concern for myself with Christian romance novels is that they are focused on finding your soul mate, not the gospel; not Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That would be a concern with any book. If, at the end of it, I cannot lay the book down and have my soul cry out "To God be the Glory," there is an issue. And of course this goes with, movies, books, hobbies, etc. I am not trying to put a legalistic slant on what we do or do not do as believers. God created romance. God created a woman's desire to be pursued. God created a man's desire TO pursue.

But greater than all of that, God sent His son the Christ, and was pleased to crush Him, even unto death, so that His name might be sung out unto the ends of the earth. I see an issue when the focus is faith that one day my prince will come, instead of faith that my King has come and is risen and reigns; when the focus is romance, not Christ; emotion, not reality; the soul mate, not the Savior; a wedding dress, not the Wedding Feast; an earthly groom, not Him who was Slain before the foundations of the earth. Romance is not a sin.

These books and movies are not sin, in and of themselves. But when our hearts are more moved upon reading works of fiction than Romans 9, there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. This is not all girls, at all times, in all places, with all books or movies. But it's more prevalent than we would realize I believe. I would just urge us, as woman, to be sensitive to our sisters in Christ. To make sure that we are speaking into their lives and breathing grace-we do not know our potential love stories and dreams of romance to be true or certain. Christ and Him crucified-the only thing that is forever true and certain.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

emotional modesty part 1...

Ok. This post is perhaps a bit more controversial, and I get that. But it's something I still believe and have seen damaging effects from it since originally writing this, so again, I thought it might be worth posting here.

I am not the first or the only person to bring out this idea. I have heard it from a well known pastor and also a mentor in my life. (Recently as well, Carolyn McCulley brought up the same idea on her blog.)

In the same way that guys are physically stimulated, girls are emotionally stimulated. A guy may be stirred up by a scantily clad woman passing by but for many girls something else pulls at our heart strings even more. It's a conversation over lunch after church one day where you begin to get a glimpse into the heart of this particular man. You begin to be attracted to his heart. From there on, you may read into the tiniest things. You catch yourself adding his last name to yours and perhaps thinking of your wedding more often. You spend more time getting ready for a game night because you know he will be there. An intense emotional attraction can be more dangerous for many of us women than an intense physical attraction.

So, men often struggle with lusting and pornography because of the visual aspect of it-it appeals to that part of their mind and body. Obviously, we would be in agreement that porn is bad in it's very essence. But also, it sets up this perfect physical specimen to which very few real women will ever measure up. It sets you up for disappointment. It focuses on the fantasy, not reality.

In the same way, I would say chick-flicks are pornography for girls. They appeal to our base desire for complete love and tenderness and emotional attachment. I know many girls watch movies such as "The Notebook" or "Ever After." At the end of the movie, their focus is on this amazing leading man who was handsome and athletic and caring and kind and masculine and loved kids and simply perfect in every way. Their hearts begin to long for that and feel neglected without it. Watching these type of movies turns girls on emotionally-which is often our weakest and most susceptible spot. It sets these men up as emotionally in tune and sensitive men that are constantly aware of and responding to their wife or girlfriend's needs. It sets up an emotional standard that men cannot meet 100% all the time. It sets us up for disappointment when you compare the men in reality to these men in fantasy.

How many guys, turn to pornography when feeling lonely or unfulfilled or just bored?
How many girls do you know, in finding themselves single on Valentine's Day, turn to a romantic movie and a pint of ice cream?
Where is the difference? They are the same problem just one is more obvious and on the surface. They are both longing for that which is not true. One is just more publicly viewed as sinful and shameful. Both cause our hearts to lust after things that do not exist.

Now, unlike pornography, you can watch chick-flicks without sinning. But I would just urge girls to be cautious. To view "The Notebook" through a Gospel lens and realize that it's events are just as much fiction as the events that occur in Star Wars. When, and if, you get married, you are not marrying a Prince Charming or a Noah (from "The Notebook"). You are marrying another sinner who is forgiven of his sins and iniquities by the blood of the Christ-just like you. Marriage is not the beginning of happily ever after. It is the beginning of a different kind of sanctification and a training ground for being a humble and loving servant all the time. When any of my friends get married, my earnest prayer is that instead of having stars in their eyes, they would have the cross in their eyes.

David Powlinson addresses it from the romantic novel view and says " The romantic novel genre has even made a crossover to evangelical publishing houses. The sex is cleaned up; the knight in shining armor is also a deep spiritual leader who marries you before sleeping with you. but the fantasy appeal to intimate and romance lusts remain as the inner engine that allures readers."

The only person any man should strive to be more like is Jesus Christ. He should not be trying to be more like any leading man in any Hollywood movie or work of fiction. Christ alone is ideal. Christ alone is to be emulated. Christ alone is to be exaulted and longed for. Christ alone will never fail, never disappoint, and never forsake you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

modesty survey.... The Modesty Survey

Alex and Brett Harris, along with their sister and others, recently put together a modesty survey. It's on their blog "The Rebelution" and it's called "The Modesty Survey." They asked Christian guys to take it, and have published the results today. I would encourage you to check it out. I've been reading through some of the responses, and here are some of the ones I find most interesting, or at least, worth repeating. Again, this is not directed at anyone nor said for any particular reason other than that it is on my heart, and needs to be on our radar as Christian women.

1. Shrugs, the short shirts and jackets that just cover the chest, draw too much attention to the bust.
59% of guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They say the shrugs that don't tie across the chest are ok, but if there is a tie across the chest, it is extremely attention drawing for them.

2. Strapless dresses are immodest.
65.9% of guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They say it makes you look half naked. Also, you spend half the time pulling at the dress to keep it up, which doesn't help them either.

3. Girls can be modest by layering (e.g. wearing camisoles under v-neck shirts to hide cleavage) even if some of the layers would be immodest by themselves.
78.7% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They say it is a great way to make immodest clothing modest. But there is overwhelming agreement that lace camisoles are immodest as they look too much like lingerie.

4. Wearing pants with words across the backside is a stumbling block.
84.3% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They say it is as if they are being baited to lust after you.

5. Any shorts that are shorter than mid-thigh are immodest.
83.8% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. A humorous remark was made that most guys wear boxers that are longer than that. They say that when you are standing, it might be ok, but when you sit down, it's usually not.

6. Gauchos are modest.
60.7% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They remind girls to be careful that they are loose fitting gauchos and not low riders. Many of the guys said they CAN be modest, but often are immodest when it comes to the way they fit on a girls butt.

7. Seeing a girl's chest bounce when she is walking or running is a stumbling block.
76.5% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They also say that they realizing when you are working out and running, there may be little you can do to stop this. But they ask that you be aware that it is a huge problem for guys and to do what you can to help them and to just be discreet when possible.

8. Wearing glitter lotion is not a stumbling block.
59.6% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. But seriously, I laughed out loud when I read some of the remarks for this one.
"It looks like something a 12 or 13 year old would do. Plus, it makes a mess, and anytime a girl is wearing it I seem to get it on myself and my clothes. Kind of like a pet shedding hair, except it's you shedding sparkles."

"Not a stumbling block. However, you get them all over the church pews and then they find their way onto my face. It's not funny when I have to explain to other people why there is glitter on my face."

The overwhelming majority of guys say that glitter lotion is unattractive and childish. One guy said it was vain because "...flesh was not meant to glitter." They do say that if the glitter is on the chest and downward it goes from being childish to being immodest.

9. Even modest pajamas are inappropriate for a girl to wear in public.
48.6% of the guys agree or strongly agree with this statement. They say that pajamas are for when you are in bed, and guys obviously know that, and so they start thinking about your bed. Basically, PJ's=bed, which means guys are thinking of women and bed all at the same time.

Then, there were a few open ended questions. One of them was "Guys-if you could say anything to your sisters in Christ about modesty, what would it be?" I sooooo urge you to go read some of the answers to this question. Praise God for men that value biblical femininity and modesty and a woman after God's own heart. Some of my favorite excerpts:

"Please don’t take modesty lightly. As your brother in Christ I value the relationship that I will have with my wife someday. When I am tempted because of you I lose a part of myself that I am trying to save for her." (this was by a 16 year old!)

"Would you rather be the tool by which guys satisfy themselves or the beautiful thing God created you to be, pure for your husband? My flesh prefers the former, but my heart pleads for the latter." (this by a 17 year old!)

"God gave you girls huge power over us men as we are wired to respond to a woman's body when it's revealed or hinted at. It's part of God's perfect plan for marriage and yet it's another thing that Satan has twisted and is using against us to make us think that we are not living up to God's standards, since it is like a re-fall every time one of those thoughts crosses our minds, no matter how small it is or how quickly we dismiss it. We know it's not all your responsibility, but you can help."

"Please, please, please take a higher standard in the ways you dress. True, we men are responsible for our thoughts and actions before the Lord, but it is such a blessing when we know that we can spend time with our sisters in Christ, enjoying their fellowship without having to constantly be on guard against ungodly thoughts brought about by the inappropriate ways they sometimes dress. In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul presents believers as the members of one body - we have to work together. Every Christian has a special role to play in the body of Christ. That goal is to bring glory to the Savior through an obedient, unified body of believers - please don't hurt that unity by dressing in ways that may tempt your brothers in Christ to stumble."

Anyways, I found the survey results to be an interesting read and would encourage you to use some of your idle time this weekend to look them over. Also, remember to read it with an open mind, and be ready for the Spirit to work as He will-convicting, encouraging, blessing, etc. The goal of this survey is neither legalism, nor condemnation. But instead, a greater zealousness for purity by the blood of Christ.

Monday, February 12, 2007

modesty-not JUST for sundays....

In the coming days, I plan to post here some previously written short essays on dating and modesty-both physical and emotional. This topic has been on my radar again, as Josh Harris has been doing a sermon series on purity recently at Covenant Life, and the Rebelution blog has been doing a modesty survey. Plus, with Valentine's day just around the corner, dating/courting, marriage, guy/girl relationships seems to be the hot topic.

These are comments that I wrote on my friend Ryan's blog long before I had ever contemplated even HAVING a blog. I'm going to edit them some but the heart and soul of what I was trying to get at when I wrote them last spring is still there.

Also, this is not an attack, nor specifically directed. This is a topic about which I feel passionately, and these are just my thoughts.

Let's begin with physical modesty....This post was written in response to a question as to whether or not girls should dress modestly in church.

Modesty is a weird issue. Not weird in that there are some gray areas over what is important, but weird in that girls simply do not understand just how visually stimulated guys are. We all struggle with lying and pride, but lusting is something much more common to men than women. It's a sin area that many woman can't wrap their minds around. I've heard many a girl say "It's their problem. They need to just not look at me like that." I think the root of the problem lies in how we, as men and women, relate to one another in Christ.

I'll speak only of what I know many girls do. Often, with each Christian brother that they meet, they look upon him as a potential boyfriend or husband first....then, once they decide he isn't the one for them, they "demote" him to the position of brother in Christ. So instead of being concerned with helping him stay pure because he is their brother, they are concerned with getting and attracting his attention.

In Song of Solomon, numerous times Solomon states "my sister, my bride." Always my sister first. If we, as believers, were to have that mindset, I think it would go a long way towards dealing with the purity thing. Even once married, your spouse is first your brother or sister in Christ, and we are to treat them as such.

Beyond that, it's also a HUGE heart issue for girls. They wear makeup and revealing clothing to get attention and to feel pretty, because that is where their self worth lies. My heart breaks for these girls, but then, it just makes me that much more zealous for the purity of the guys that I know. I have said before "Curses upon the woman that makes my future husband stumble and lust over her in his heart and mind." To an extent obviously, that's just a joke. But it's a heart check for me. Am I causing someone else's future husband to stumble?

So is it important for girls to be modest in church? My answer is a RESOUNDING yes. But why do we need to clarify it with "in church?" If you are going to be a modest woman, you should always be modest. Are you a servant only in church? Are you joyful only in church? I have friends who have "church wardrobes" and "non-church wardrobes" and this simply astounds me. If it's inappropriate before God and fellow worshippers on Sundays, why in the world is it appropriate Tuesday evening? There should not be a dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. Men have a hard enough time dealing with non-believers who dress scantily-the last thing they need is to have to fight this battle when hanging out with their sisters in Christ.

And yes, no matter what you wear, chances are some boy some where will be able to find something to lust after. And yes, it is THEIR sin. They will be held accountable for it. But for the girls who have been talked to about their apparel, who then continue to wear immodest clothing because they view it as their freedom in Christ, this is now YOUR sin as well. You also will be held accountable for it. You may not understand this sin in their life, but once you are made aware of it's existence and your possible contribution to it, I believe that there is now a level of responsibility and accountability on your part as well.

Monday, February 05, 2007

there were People like me...(Part 2 of 2)

So these people like me....

They too don't settle for ok sermons that are just mostly true doctrine. They too won't settle for songs that mostly center on the cross. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of people who are passionate about theology. And there are plenty of people who are passion about worship. But Sovereign Grace is a rare mixture of the two. They are passionate about correct theology and biblical truths that are manifested in both the preaching and the worship. It is not an either/or thing, but a both/and thing.

The conference that I mentioned in my last post, well, it was a intellectually strenuous at times. You had to be constantly discerning. You could never just sit and take notes (except for one session). Many statements had to be carefully weighed and considered next to biblical truth. Many conversations happened after the fact discussing whether this lined up with Scripture, and whether this outline point could be upheld by Scripture. Many times a lyric from a song was brought up-as to whether it was God glorifying or man glorifying. We couldn't just worship and learn. How I longed for a theological stress-free environment! Instead, it was a theological marathon.

But this marathon was good for many reasons. One, we all came away having grown in our discernment skills. Two, we all came away with a greater appreciate and love of Sovereign Grace. But most importantly, we all came away with a greater realization of the importance of NOT compromising where the Bible is concerned. We came away more in love with the absolute truths of Scripture and humbled by the pastors in our own lives that seek to make this occur in our churches.

I mentioned before that Sovereign Grace combines both correct theology and passionate worship. John Piper, of course, says it more eloquently than I:

"Singing and knowing. Rejoicing and reasoning. Delight and doctrine. That's Sovereign Grace Ministries. it is so rare, and so Sing on, Sovereign Grace. And whatever you do, don't stop studying and thinking and preaching about our great Savior."

"God exists to be worshipped—to be admired and treasured and desired and praised. Therefore, the Word of God is written primarily to produce worship. This means that if that Word is handled like a hot-dish recipe or a repair manual, it is mishandled. And the people will suffer. The Truth of God begs to be handled with exultation. And our hearts yearn for this and need it. Something in us starts to die when precious and infinitely valuable realities are handled without feelings and words of wonder and exultation. That is, a church starts to die, without preaching."

"So there are always two parts to true worship. We can say it in two pairs: there is seeing God and there is savoring God. You can't separate these. You must see him to savor him. And if you don't savor him when you see him, you insult him. Or another pair would be this: in worship there is always understanding with the mind and there is always feeling in the heart. Understanding must always be the foundation of feeling, or all we have is baseless emotionalism. But understanding of God that doesn't give rise to feeling for God becomes mere intellectualism and deadness. This is why the Bible continually calls us to think and consider and meditate and remember on the one hand, and to rejoice and fear and mourn and delight and hope and be glad on the other hand. Both are essential for worship."

But this isn't just my opinion or John Piper's opinion-that correct doctrine in our preaching and worship is vital. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing, and his Kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. Fr the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Paul charges Timothy, and really, God charges us, with the importance of having sound teaching. The importance of both seeing and savoring Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

So those are some of the things I have learned and found in the last 730ish days. 1) That fear of man is the root of most of my sins which is easily manifested in pride, self-sufficiency, independence, and lieing. 2) It is so important to address possible issues in friendships in the moment. It saves so much time, heartache, and sin. Most importantly, it allows God to continue receiving His due glory from the friendship. 3) Theology doesn't have to exist separate from Passion and vice versa. True doxology flows from a correct theology, and both are absolutely necessary in the believer's life.