Thursday, November 27, 2014

When God Stops You In Your Tracks

Here is the second "lost post"!  It's so encouraging to review the things God has done, remembering His greatness.  He is good!

He did it again!  Two weeks in a row, God messed up our little plans.  Last week, I went with my husband.  We stopped at our friend's house, and my husband went on to visit the gentleman who had received Christ the week before, and another contact he had made.  When he had only driven down the street, the van started to stall.  Now one thing you do not want to happen if you can prevent it at all, is to be stuck in traffic in Mexico City with a broken down car.  Our van is pretty reliable, and this was highly unusual.  He returned to the house and we all looked at each other thinking, "Now what are we gonna do?"  We asked the family we were with if they had any nearby friends or family we could talk too.

After a few moments consideration, the wife told us she knew her sister had a friend she had been witnessing to, so she called her sister, who lived just around the corner.  Five minutes later, the sister and a couple from her block showed up at the door.  When asked what they came for, they responded frankly, "We came to find out about salvation!"   Soon they, too, were asking God to save them from their sins. The husband had been struggling with a weak heart.  He had suffered several heart attacks, undergone open-heart surgery more than once, and wanted to know how to make peace with God.  He was so happy after receiving Christ!

Oh, by the way, the van?  Started right up and drove us home afterwards with no problems at all!  Ryan said he expects the vehicle he's using to fail every time he goes to do something for the Lord, and all he has to do is wait around for God to bring one of His lost sheep.

We are supposed to go to the mountains, highways and byways looking for sheep, but we should never be blind to God throwing a wrench in our plans so that we can find one of those sheep in the middle of a problem.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When God Messes Up Your Plans

 I went back looking over the old posts on my blog, and I found a couple that I never posted.  It seems a good time to update them and give them a go.  These two things happened back to back, while we were preparing to come to this area, looking for a house.  We found the change of plans were not hindrances at all, but God intervening in the lives of people who urgently needed Him.  While we tried to follow up on both of these people, we could not, but we know they have found salvation through God's work in our lives.

What's going to happen tomorrow?  As a woman, I like to have these things laid out before me as clearly as possible, and as a child of God, I usually don't get what I want!  In fact, God has a tenancy to scramble our plans.  Every. Single. Time.

What do we do?  Just keep looking for ways to serve!  When something comes your way, you can say it was God's plan, not yours.

We are starting to head out to Mexico City, in the area of Xochimilco, (pronounce that SO-chee-MIL-co) to look for a new area to start a church.    Two weeks ago, Ryan headed out with a friend who grew up near this area, and started toward the new area.  That's when God changed the plans.  The brakes failed.  After making it safely off the road, our friend went to get the part he needed to replace and everyone else waited with the car.

Before long a tired-looking man came walking along with several bags on one arm, and a tired looking toddler on the other.  He said, "I'd like to sell you some cookies.  We were in a car accident, and my wife and two of our children were killed.  Will you buy some cookies?"  They bought some cookies, and he turned to go. One of the group attempted to offer some words of solace, telling him that God had a plan for his life. He stopped, and said, "I've been praying and asking Him to show me His plan!  It's been so hard, I just want to know Him." My husband asked him if he would like to know what the Bible has to say about eternal life, and he eagerly assented.  Soon, he was sincerely asking for the forgiveness of his sins.   His name is Christian, and he has a mountain of challenges ahead of him.  He told Ryan that he had been fighting depression, lost his job, and was looking for God through his pain.  He has also walked ten miles that day, out of his usual course.  My husband told him that he wasn't the only one whose plans changed that day.  God receives the glory for this salvation!

  Ryan wanted to buy more cookies, and he tried to give them as a gift, because he was so thankful for being given the gospel.

God is in control.  If we are obedient to His will, He might change our plans, but we need to let Him work through the change.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Modesty Rebound; Boing!

I'm amazed by how much confusion has been blowing around Christian circles in regards to modesty.   I've read lots of different articles posted to social media criticizing legalistic notions.  These posts have made me take a long look at my own traditions, and also at these trends in the community of believers who call themselves by the name of Christ.

One thing I've noticed is what I call "rebounding opinions".  Joe or Jane Christian decides that someone else has a problem with something they do.  So they take a defensive position against this error, as far from it as they can.  Boing!  The other person is offended.  They react by making their own bounce in the opposite direction. Boing! Others take sides, and soon you have a regular Church battleground where everyone thinks they are fighting the good fight of faith, but no one actually consulted their Bible or their prayer closet in forming their opinion. In fact, the deciding factor is often hurt feelings. All of these people are hurting the name of Christ, and they are usually hurting His Church as well.

My brethren, or sisteren,  these things ought not so to be!  God's Word, and His Spirit are enough to guide us into the truth. These will never guide us to attack or despise another Christian.  If you feel intense negative feelings in regard to the topic of modesty, where ever you plant your flag, I plead with you to recognize that those feelings must be dealt with biblically before you can be objective about how God wants you to honor Him.

I would be more than happy to cast off a tradition that is unbiblical, unwise, and harmful.  I will have to be convinced through scripture, though.  Someone being rude with a standard does not mean the standard is bad; it means someone reacted in the flesh and used their separation from the world to boost their pride.  This is what the Pharisees did, and we know Jesus took a dim view of it.  But He said things like, "...these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone...."*

Here are some statements I believe miss the point, leaving undone some spiritual essentials:

1.  Modesty isn't about how much of your body you cover with clothes.  It's about your heart being humble.  Actually, this statement is true.  The problem is that it is usually followed by the idea that, because modesty isn't only about the outer covering, therefore the covering doesn't matter very much.  A reference to God's admonition to Samuel that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart is common.  Step, step, leap!  (That's a reference to logic flow.)  I feel a bit silly saying this, being obvious, but it's a huge leap in logic to conclude that, because God is more concerned with heart, He doesn't care about what man looks at.  Jesus wasn't advocating for people to drink out of cups that were clean on the inside and dirty on the outside. It's just to say that if we only care about what man looks at, we are ignoring our relationship with God.

Let's talk about the word, "modesty".  A quick search gives us a good definition1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc. 2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc. 3. simplicity; moderation.

When the Bible talks about being modest, it is a message to women.  (I Tim. 2) Men are also admonished to be humble and meek, so they count too, but women are told specifically to adorn themselves modestly.** You might say that this includes not showing off one's riches.  Some have said this has nothing to do with showing off one's body, but is talking about wealth.  Don't you think that is pushing it a little?  Of course it includes showing off one's wealth.  It also includes showing off.  Women shouldn't show off in their dress.  Period.  Body, wealth, and all.

Seriously, people!  Rebellious little kids try to restrict their parents' admonitions to get away with more of what they want all the time!  Any wise parent knows that if they play the game of words with their kids they will lose.  "Clean your room" becomes, "Go into your room and pick up every single thing that is not where it belongs and put it exactly where it belongs, and that does not mean to stuff it all under your bed, or shove it into your draws and then say that this is where it belongs, because it is not where it belongs, but put them in the exact place where I want them to be, and where I put them when I put things away, because if you try to find a new home for them, they will not be where they belong and your room will not be clean."  (deep, slow, cleansing breath) God doesn't play those games.  He said what He said, and you want to please Him, or you don't.  If you don't, you will find some way to interpret the Bible to mean something else, and no amount of detailed descriptions will be enough.  If you doubt this, see what the Pharisees did with Leviticus. (They butchered the spirit of the law and focused on the details.  There are two extremes that do the exact same thing to God's Word.)   See also, non sequitur argument.

Speaking of Pharisees, here's another one:
2.  People who have strict standards are Pharisees who are judging me all the time.  Again, this could be true, but it might not be.  If you assume that someone is judgmental based on what they are wearing, aren't you being judgmental?  Hm?  I have some close friends who have different standards than I do, some of them much stricter than I, but it would be unchristlike to judge them.  I've also found many who have taught me and inspired me to make changes in my life, based on their wise deportment.  I don't always change things, but it's never bad to objectively look at your life and ask God if He wants to make any changes.  See also, ad hominem  argument.

3.  Men are responsible for their own hearts and minds before God, so a woman has no responsibility in the way she dresses.  This one usually comes with a description of a very out-of-balance church, and someone's deeply hurt feelings because of unfairness.  Ok, feelings aside, let's be honest about fashion.  It objectifies women more than men for a reason.  That reason is nothing less than perversity.  Why does a man's summer fashion involve loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, but a woman's summer fashion involves tight garments with much more skin exposed to the damaging rays of the sun? Men who wear peek-a-boo holes in their garments and translucient, or skin tight clothing are not trying to attract the attention of women.  I'm not saying that a man is perverse by nature, but in our culture, perversity objectifies what men want, and it's obvious by just looking at styles and listening to what worldly people say about them. A Christian who wants to please God will not wear styles that objectify her.

The truth of that statement, that a man is responsible to God for his thoughts, should not change how we view ourselves as women.  I am repulsed by the expectation that I need to show my sexual nature to the world in order to be a complete woman, and I will set markers in my life that will not change with with fashions in order to avoid doing so.  Those, I call standards.  They do not increase my personal value, but they do show how I value myself.

I see this statement as a red herring.  Yes, God will receive an account from Christian men for their thoughts.  What does that have to do with women obeying God's direction to be modest?  Why would a Christian woman dress provocatively and despise a man who struggles with his thought life?  Is that the spirit of Christ? To disregard a weaker brother who struggles with his thought life is like a wealthy person bragging about and flaunting his goods in front of the poor, and blaming them if one falls into covetousness.  This is where the word "modest" really comes into play.  Will you push your assets into the notice of others, or will you honor what God blessed you with by using it with meekness and control, respecting others and yourself?  (Of course a perverse man will think perverse thoughts no matter what you are wearing, but that's a diversion from the point.)

Finally, much is said about liberty.  I love my liberty in Christ.  No one tells me what to do, outside of God's basic line of authority, and we are all subject to scriptures.  This is incredibly freeing to a Christian who has felt judged, and it is humbling to the Pharisee who takes unwarranted responsibility over the lives of others.  Therefore, pastors don't get to dictate what their members wear outside of church functions.  If a pastor feels like he needs to do that, he should look for that line of authority in the Bible.  (He won't find it.)  Such a person is out of balance.

Regardless, I do not need to determine how I live my life by rebounding away from such people.  If I do, I'm going to end up doing something harmful to the body of Christ and His testimony!  I have to find how I live and how I think in the Bible, if I want to have the mind of Christ.  He put His liberty aside and humbled Himself to serve others.  I am honored to do the same.
*Mat_23:23  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
**1Ti 2:9,10  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.