Modesty: We Can Do Better

I was recently talking to a friend whose husband was one of the ministers in a large college church. She confided in me that at this congregation there were lists of men who had volunteered to serve the communion. She added that there was a separate list of guys who, while willing to serve communion, had specifically asked NOT to be asked to serve communion in the college section. Puzzled by this odd request I asked “Why do they not want to serve the college kids?”My friend responded “It’s the way the girls dress. They say they can’t focus on the cross and the Savior when there’s such an unavoidable visual distraction as they stand at the end of those pews full of college students.” Something is very wrong with that picture.My husband recently asked a large group of teen guys guys at a summer youth camp to identify their greatest challenge in being what God wanted them to be while at camp. The unanimous answer was “It’s the way the girls dress.”

My husband prodded them to be specific in explaining exactly what kinds of clothing made it difficult for them to be what they want to be for the Lord. “It’s very tight clothing. It’s those shirts that show some of their stomachs when they reach up to hit a volleyball or shoot a basket. It’s those times when they sit down in front of us on the bleachers and we see their backs and sometimes their underwear. It’s just really hard to focus on the devo when this is what is in front of us.” They went on to say that low-cut tops are a problem. “Maybe not so much if we are just standing around, but when we go into a Bible class and sit across the table from them and they lean over to write a note in their Bibles, little is left to our imaginations. We just wish they would help us out a little.”

The fact is… you can help them out a lot! When you choose to be discreet and modest, you not only help the guys in your circle of friends. You help the girls in your circle of friends. You help them to be modest without being excluded. You encourage them to be more aware of our calling to be holy. You help them to be able to sing “Purer in Heart O God, help me to be,’ without hypocrisy. You help them to stop being a stumbling block and start being this kind of example in their circles of friends. You make a difference in lives that you may not even know. There may be guys who are indirectly blessed by your modesty that you may never even meet. Someone may actually abstain from fornication or adultery of the heart as a result of your choice to be modest.

Best of all, you will know you mean it when you sing “O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary..pure and holy, tried and true.” You will be a living sacrifice, not conformed to this world but transformed by a renewed mind. It’s really a small thing to do for such great rewards.

Sister to Sister: William Rotty was NOT his Real Name…

But it was close….

I remember in the fourth grade when Valentine’s day held an embarrassing kind of surprise for me as we all went to the blackboard tray to retrieve our little brown decorated bags full of tiny brightly colored paper cliche’ poems…the egg ones with the word “egg-cited” in them,”…the turtle ones that were all about “SLOWLY falling for you”…the elephant ones that were about “never forgetting my favorite valentine,”…and the ever- popular “nuts about you” ones. This year there was candy and a big regular store-shelf kind of card in my bag… from William Rotty.  Now William Rotty was older than everyone else because he’d failed a grade or two and I think he failed because he was too busy being obnoxious and thinking of devious ways to be disrespectful. It was the worst day of the fourth grade to have that big candy heart sticking up out of the top of my bag and have the whole class (including me) excitedly waiting for the revelation of its origin…only to find out that it was from William Rotty.

Some love letters are like that…the tender little expressions of relationships that are never meant to be. And we all got over the awkwardness of the moments that came in decorated class Valentine bags in the sixties. I got over the good and the bad of William Rotty, Jeff McCaleb, Mark Wolfe, Steve Cicero, Jimmy Hood, and Robert Bowman–all little boys from whom I, at one time or another, in elementary school received “special” Valentines.

And then we grew up. And so did our love letters. And so did the pain and the angst. And sometimes the awkwardness got really big and the ending of relationships was so much more traumatic than if they’d only involved a big red candy box sticking out of a brown bag taped to a black board tray.

And you know…whether you court or date, whether you live in a Christian home or not, I think there will be relationships that will change you, mature you, help to make you the woman, the mother and wife, after you finally make it to the altar of marriage, that you will be.

One day you will be telling your little girls about Valentines, about dress-up dates, about awkward moments and situations that made you laugh and cry through the dating years. That’s why I’m about dating purity. That’s why I wanted to help my daughter, in tangible ways, make it down the aisle as a woman who could give her husband the wonderful gift of exclusivity. I know what marriage can be like if there are no sexual comparisons (comparing my partner to someone else with whom I’ve been intimate or vice-versa) on the part of either partner–ever. I wanted that for her and I want it for you. It solves a lot of potential problems, not the least of which is guilt over sexual sin…a ghost that, because of His forgiveness, is sometimes not even real; but it still haunts in ways that are painful and sometimes destructive.

I may not know all the reasons for God’s very strong fences around the sexual relationship of marriage, but I do know that He is very serious about abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. And I know that it’s because He wants what’s ultimately going to fill our lives with contentment and give us eternity with Him. He gives us His very best when we purposefully do life His way.

I recognize that abstinence and purity through the teen years is a purposeful choice. It doesn’t just happen. It takes the development of a relationship with God that makes a young heart pliable and submissive. It takes the rare ability, in a world of instant gratification, to wait for the time and circumstance when I can have the best He has to offer (and His best is THE best!). It takes an amazing amount of “turning down” the influences around you and “turning up” the influence of the Word. It even takes a lot of wisdom to decipher through a lot of psycho-theo-babble today from some youth ministers and religious leaders who would try and convince you to “not worry so much about keeping lists of dos and don’ts and worry just about loving God.” (Of course, loving God is about keeping his list of commandments[John 14:15; John 15:10]. The works of the flesh are listed…LISTED…in Galatians 5.) It takes, in short, your steel will to do His real will in a world that’s forsaken Him and His system of morality. Today, for the most part, you cannot look to your peers, your teachers at school, those who are touted as “good” in the media or the leader of the free world on Pennsylvania Avenue as any sort of moral compass. Some of you cannot look to parents and some cannot even look to religious leaders.

But you can look to God. Your relationship with Him is not contingent on your family situation, your educational circumstance, or the spiritual veracity of your elders or youth group. Your relationship with Him is settled in your willingness to get into His Word and apply it, to the best of your ability, in every relationship and decision. There is great power, beyond what you have asked or imagined, when you let the power of His Word live in you(Eph. 3:20)!

May I encourage you to help yourself to happiness? There are some teen materials at www.thecolleyhouse.org that might help you as you try to be light in a dark world through the teen years. Let me know if you need them, will use them, and can’t afford them.

That’s all for now. Except here’s my short list of practical tools for your walk in purity through the teen years. Some of these sound terribly old-fashioned for those influenced by 2017 culture. But I believe this list in strongly influenced by examples and statutes from the Word.

  1. Decide now that you will not be truly alone for long periods of time with any other young person of the opposite sex. This will, unfortunately, automatically mark lots of guys off your radar.
  2. Decide now that you will choose movies and television and music and internet sites that you’d be comfortable enjoying if Jesus were physically in your presence. This will significantly narrow your scope of entertainment, so keep in mind that entertainment is not all the world makes it out to be.
  3. Decide now that you will abstain from alcohol and drugs and from being present when others are drinking or doing drugs. This will be prohibitive of many parties.
  4. Decide now that you will never dress in a way that might be provocative or cause others to think sexual thoughts. Remember, especially for guys, the struggle is real. If this involves a wardrobe re-do, get on that. This decision will also automatically mark some extra-curricular activities off your list.
  5. Decide now which areas of your body are off-limits to the hands of others and never, ever compromise that promise to yourself and God. This will prohibit some activities that are a part of the 2017 teen world.
  6. Decide now that you will get in the word and spend some time in prayer every day. Every day. Ask for His help to be pure in your heart, dress, words and actions. This will open up some unbelievable doors of opportunity for you.
  7. Memorize Philippians 4:8 and decide now to let it saturate every decision and purpose. This will bring contentment and peace as the context of the verse clearly states.
  8. Decide now what you are looking for in a marriage partner. Make a list off “must-haves”, a list of “would-likes” and a list of “can’t-handles” based a lot in the Word and a little in your own tastes and then just stick with the list. Be patient.
  9. Decide now that, once you marry, you’re all in…forever. This should prompt some very careful thought and meticulous elimination of people who can’t be spiritual leaders. Believe me, you WANT a spiritual leader.
  10. Pay particular attention to the word “now” in all of the above. It’s the most important word. (If  past decisions have already messed up your “now”  you can still fix your eternal future. You will, almost always, face negative consequences to sinful past actions. But “now” is still the operative word.) Start now to be what He wants you to be and you will be surprised how He can work through His will in your life to give you victory and heaven!

 

Sister to Sister: Figuring Out Godliness–Part One

The following was originally written for PEARLS, a program in Lads to Leaders. Participation in the PEARLS event is just one of many ways young people may grow spiritually through Lads (www.lads2leaders.com). Here is Part One of “Figuring Out Godliness.”

images-5Cassie was in middle school. Walking home from the bus stop one day, she was talking with Aimee, a girl who had recently moved into the neighborhood.  They talked about their classes and their ball teams and then the conversation turned to religion. Aimee said, “Do you go to church somewhere?”  Cassie told Aimee about the congregation she attended and invited her to the youth devo. “Does anyone else at school go there?” Aimee asked.

“You might know Bailey Robelsky. She’s in my youth group” Cassie replied.

“Oh yeah, I have math with Bailey, but I would have never in a million years thought she was a religious person–I mean the way she acts and dresses.”

Sadly, this scenario is not too uncommon. Lots of chances to evangelize; chances to make the kingdom of God appealing to our friends are stolen before they are even presented to us. People like Bailey don’t always mean to hurt the work of the  church. But people like Aimee sometimes get their very first impressions about the Lord’s church from people like Bailey. Sometimes it’s very difficult to overcome those first impressions. Sometimes people like Bailey may even keep people like Aimee from ever learning the truth that saves. See, Bailey is professing to be a Christian, but her appearance and behavior don’t match her profession.

Now let’s take a look at a couple of key verses about the profession of Christian women:

In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,

but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (I Tim.2:9,10).

This passage tells us that there are some outward indicators—things people will notice right off the bat—when girls are godly on the inside. Girls should try to be characterized by these things. Guys should look for these identifying traits as they date and eventually choose their marriage partners.

Do Your Clothes Match?

The first indicator is the way women dress. Our clothes should match! Matching clothes, in this passage, doesn’t mean no plaids with checks. It means what we wear should match or reflect the godliness that we are professing. Then the Holy Spirit goes on to become the wardrobe consultant for all Christian women. He says, first, that our clothing should be modest. Modest apparel is clothing that doesn’t draw undue attention to the wearer. There are at least a couple of ways that we can draw attention to ourselves by the clothes we are wearing. One is when we dress in outlandishly wild or weird kinds of clothing.  I once knew a lady who wore giant hats with various wild colors of wigs to services each Sunday. She was not modest. Gothic clothing is immodest in most circumstances because it shouts “Look at me!”

I think the more common way girls dress immodestly today is by wearing clothing that is sexually provocative. The verse tells us that we are to dress “modestly with propriety.” The original Greek word for propriety according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon means with bashfulness. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says it means having a sense of shame. Our wardrobe Consultant is telling us that there are some types of clothing we should be embarrassed to wear. Then He tells us that we should dress with moderation. The original word there means with soundness of mind. It means sensibly or with discretion. The Consultant is giving us some guidelines, but he wants us to use the good sense He has given us to be certain our clothes match our profession of godliness.

Jesus made an amazing statement in Matthew 5:28. He said that when a man looks at a woman to lust for her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. Understanding that adultery is a work of the flesh and those who practice this sin cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal.5:19-21), the seriousness of this statement cannot be overemphasized.  But Jesus was talking about sin that happens in the heart of a guy. What does that have to do with the way a girl dresses? Let’s examine that question.

A few years ago my husband was teaching a class of high school boys at a large summer camp. He asked the guys this question: “What is your most difficult temptation as you try to be like Christ this week?” The unanimous answer was “It’s the way the girls dress.”  When asked to elaborate the young men explained that “it’s really hard to concentrate on the devotional talk when  a girl comes in and sits down in front of you on the bleachers and you can see her exposed lower back and maybe even her  underwear.” They explained that tight clothing, low-cut tops, clothing that sometimes exposes a girl’s middle, and short skirts were all great distractions as they tried to keep their minds focused on God’s Will and avoid the sin of lust.

Sometimes girls who profess godliness may be unaware of the effect of immodest dress on the thinking of guys around them. But that’s why God’s Word instructs older women to teach younger women to be chaste and discreet (Titus 2:3-5). That’s what I’m hoping to do in this chapter. It is simply a proven biological fact that normal men are far more visually oriented than women. To put it bluntly, normal men are naturally excited, both physically and psychologically by a scantily dressed woman. That’s why Jesus’ statement about looking and lusting was addressed to men. Christ was, by implication, commanding guys to guard their eyes in order to maintain purity of thought.

But does that mean women bear no responsibility in helping our brothers (as well as men, in general) abstain from fleshly lusts?  Of course not! If you were walking through a room full of nitroglycerin with someone you love, would you light a candle?  Christian guys in America today are navigating a treacherous path. There are visual temptations all around…at the beach, the mall, at school and at the movies. Guys who are guarding their thoughts have to learn to look the other way a lot. But fellow disciples should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If I am really about helping my brothers go to heaven, I will be less concerned about what is fashionable, what makes me look good, or what is comfortable (those things are all selfish wardrobe factors), and more concerned about helping my brother avoid temptation. In this way, my clothing will match!  What I am wearing will coordinate perfectly with what I am saying:  “I am a Christian and I want to do all I can to avoid anything that wars against my soul or the souls of others” (I Peter 2:11). Friends don’t tempt friends to sin.

And a word of wisdom to the guys: As you make your dating decisions, make it easy on yourself. Choose girls who look the part. If you want to end up marrying a faithful Christian,—someone who will help you go to heaven—then date girls who dress to reflect godliness. In our society, a young woman who consistently dresses modestly is making quite a statement. She is saying “I want to be Christ-like even if it means making unpopular choices.”

Sister to Sister: Why Are We Not Embarrassed?

images-13It’s hard to even imagine the splendor of the ancient priests of Israel as they appeared before the people of Israel and approached the holy place:

“And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him” (Ex. 28:40-43).

Why did God put this modesty safeguard right here at the close of a blockbuster chapter on consecration? I do not know all of the reasons, but I believe it says something huge about how God views the responsibility of humans to cover their nakedness. Here, nakedness represented iniquity. When the priests ministered, they had to be covered so that they would not bear iniquity and die. Whatever the reasons were, they were accompanied by some pretty serious implications. Does this command have a figurative implication? Does it mean that there was a sense in which the covering of the priest’s body was to hide the carnality of the priest, who was, after all, a mere man? Perhaps God was to see the “Holiness to the Lord” engraving and not to see the carnal or fleshly man.

Perhaps. But I believe this admonition had more to do with the fact that God did not want others to see the nakedness of his priests. I believe Exodus 20:26 bears this out because, in this passage, God required a certain covering of all of his people and the reason stated was “that thy nakedness be not discovered.” Since God does not “discover” anything (all is naked before his eyes [Hebrews 4:13]), I believe this command was about modesty in front of other people.

At the very least, we can discern from this passage that God has always believed that nakedness was something that should embarrass his people. I’m still not sure why we have such a problem figuring this out today. So many times today, our facebook pictures of vacation at the beach or honeymoon in the tropics reflects that we have no shame whatsoever about our nakedness before others. We rather flaunt it. While I do not believe these verses give us a hard, fast rule for how much of our bodies must be covered today to be modest, I believe they say a lot about the sobriety with which we must be characterized as we strive to keep what is the New Testament injunction about modesty and chastity (I Timothy 2:9,10; Titus 2:3-5).

One final question. Considering the shoulder covering (ephod), the breastplate, the forehead plate, the turban, the crown, the robe with its bells and decorated hem, the coat, and the girdle that Aaron was already to be wearing, do you think that the “nakedness” that God wanted covered in verse 43 was just about not being totally nude? “Well,” you say, “Of course not. The breeches were in addition to lots of other coverings. Total nudity was not really akin to what God was addressing here.”

Then why, pray tell, do we today believe that we are not naked in the eyes of God when we have on the very next thing to nothing at the beach (or at the cheer competition, the volleyball tourney, or wherever we are showing what amounts to our underwear)?…And why are we not embarrassed?

Sister to Sister: The Sultry Senior Look

blog0Is it just me or are girls’ senior portraits and graduation invitations often looking more like invitations to an old-fashioned brothel? I believe, as we have moved away from traditional draped portraits and more to casual and personalized sessions, we have sometimes given photographers license to position and coach our girls to look sleazy in those photographs for which we often pay high dollar amounts. Before you go calling me a fanatic, a legalist, or, my all-time favorite “the modesty czar-ess”, take a look at a few senior portraits that are easily found online when you google images of senior portraits. Thankfully, there are still many pictures that are innocent and beautiful. But there are more and more pictures of girls that are sultry…even suggestive.

SeniorCollage

Now that you have taken a look, let me explain that I am not writing about any of the girls I love so much at West Huntsville. They have all made godly choices about their portraits. Secondly, I want to say that I am not judging the motives of the girls who allow themselves to be photographed in poses and/or with facial expressions that suggest sensuality. I know girls who have otherwise been shy and demure who somehow come out of senior photography sessions with a CD containing pictures that, at best, look like a photographer was reaching for an inviting, sexy look and, at worst, look like a trailer for a movie that’s rated R for sexual content. You can also see that am not merely writing about inappropriate clothing. Sometimes the clothing is sufficient, but it is the posture and mood that give the photo the raunchy look.

Moms, we really don’t want our girls to understand all the nuances of what it takes to look sexy. We want them to be pure in heart and, thus, when that talented photographer asks them to make a pouty look with their lips, cut their eyes in a certain direction or position themselves “chest-out”  as they lie on a ledge (or all of this and more at one time), we really don’t expect them to know, in every case, that the picture is going to turn out to be eye candy for men who see it.

But we, as married women, know a seductive, come-on look when we see it. May I suggest that we, along with our husbands, let photographers know what we expect prior to putting our money down for that senior session? Could we also be the parents once our girls have those pictures in hand and be sure that those CDs are edited before pictures are posted, placed on invitations or even passed around?  This is both protective of our girls and loving to the good boys who are fighting a constant battle to think on things that are pure (Phil. 4:8). We don’t have to put sultry images of our sweet girls out there. So why should we?

Sister to Sister: Don’t Just “Like” this…Let Him Know!

On February 25, 2013, this blog reported a decision by Freed-Hardeman University president, Dr. Joe Wiley, to provide the FHU Lions’ cheerleaders with uniforms consisting of full-length pants for the 2013-2014 cheering season. While I know that there are those who have complained about this decision to present modestly dressed cheerleaders at FHU’s athletic events, the vast majority of this blog’s readers are extremely supportive of the decision.

While I understand that what a cheer team wears may seem a relatively small thing in the big scheme of a university’s workings, I want to restate that I believe the new uniforms represent a desire on the part of FHU’s leadership, particularly her president, to represent Christian values in every department. I do not believe this desire is insignificant. I believe, since the athletic program is certainly one of the university’s most visible departments, that the move represents a bold statement of distinction and that it honors the Biblical teaching of I Timothy 2: 9,10.

And now, last year’s announcement is reflected on the gym floor. The FHU Lions celebrated homecoming this year on November 8th and 9th on the campus in Henderson, TN. and, as promised, the cheerleaders kicked off the basketball season in uniforms that distinguish them in a very classy way from any other cheer squads at any other Christian universities of which I am aware. I know of some denominational schools that have blazed the trail among their universities, but this is a first in the past 30 years for our brotherhood schools. 1378681_10151639327421396_1375563159_n

Once again, I intend to write a letter of appreciation to Dr. Wiley for his clarity and boldness–for his willingness to make decisions in this and other areas that he understands beforehand will be controversial and even unpopular. I hope you will take the time to do this as well. He can be reached at jwiley@fhu.edu or at the following address:

President Joe Wiley
Freed-Hardeman University
158 East Main Street
Henderson, TN 38340

And once again, if you are able, it would be a great time to send a donation of any size to FHU. It’s a rare opportunity to support a university decision that honors God, women and righteousness.

Finally, I hope you are planning to listen to the Digging Deep podcast next Tuesday night at http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women. Jessica Benavides, a sophomore at FHU, will be joining me. This study is life-changing when approached with a heart of submission. See you there!