Browsing Tag

Modesty

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Cycling Out of Pornography Use?

The long and short of it (pun intended) is that the opinions and assertions about modesty are all across the board this time of year as we approach warm days and consider hot vacation spots. But, in truth , surely we must all admit the un-get-around-able truth that, when we wear skimpy, tight and/or revealing clothing, we put godly men in the awkward position of having to “bounce” their eyes to keep their vigil of personal purity of thought. Thus, unless we’d like to have the temptation of lust placed conspicuously before us, we violate the golden rule. At the very least, surely we could agree on that. This violation is occurring…

—whether the passage in I Timothy 2:9,10 is primarily referring to gaudy clothing or skimpy clothing, or both.

—whether or not the exact proper standards of modest dress change from era to era and from culture to culture.

—whether or not God’s definition, for all time, of modesty is prescribed in Old Testament passages about the priesthood. 

—whether or not the men involved have seen a lot of nakedness in their lives.

It’s that last whether or not about which I’d like to make one observation in today’s post. The fact that God made men to be aroused by women who wear very short, very tight, very low-cut or very revealing clothing is simply truth. That’s the reason that, while many women struggle with a temptation to view pornography, the problem will never even approach being as prevalent among women as it is among men. We are wired differently and visual stimuli will always be more exciting to men than to women. 

But is it true that, after men have seen so much near-nakedness or nudity, that they are no longer affected by immodesty?—that it is no longer a temptation for them? (Just get on board this train of thought with me for a moment…)

Isn’t it true that, IF a man could see so many provocatively dressed women that he was no longer tempted to lust, THEN a man who is looking at pornography would lose interest after seeing his quota? Wouldn’t men just cycle out of pornography use if they could see so much and no longer be affected (tempted to lust) by it? If not, why not?

It’s the if-not-why not question of the day. I believe considering this mammoth problem in our society and the relevance of pornography’s ever-tighter grasp on the porn user is helpful in recognizing fallacious reasoning about immodest apparel. The truth is, men do not normally become less interested or aroused by viewing more and more of the “undressed” women that are in public arenas of our country in 2019. As they view more and more they want to view more and more.The data pointing to that conclusion is irrefutable.  

One more relevant point: God placed the response (the sexual desire upon looking) in men for marriage. He’s made the place for that desire’s fulfillment very clear in the Word. The reason (at least one of the important ones) for the desire is that it is glue for a healthy marriage. How long did God intend for men to keep on having this desires–the first five years?…ten?…of marriage. We all know healthy Christian marriages in which the sexual relationship is very strong after fifty-plus years of marriage. The fact is, married Christian men will tell you that they never tire of seeing their unclothed wives’ bodies, even though they have seen them so frequently for so long that they have memorized those bodies. Men do not see so much nudity that it begins to be boring or lose the drawing power God made.

Another relevant question: Why does a woman’s unclothed hand not produce the same result in a man’s mind as her unclothed breast or bottom?   There is a Master-mind behind the design of our sexual attraction. And the Mastermind has commanded our modesty and respect in the use and display of our temples. They are for His glory.               

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Q & A–What to Wear with a Brand New Ring?

Question: This one seems to always surface in June….Some seem to have convictions about modesty, but then when it comes time for a wedding, the attire that would be inappropriate in their minds for most occasions, seems to be perfectly acceptable. What gives?

Response: Well, this does seem to be a bit of a rhetorical question. I would be surprised if the one who asked the question doesn’t already have a fairly strong opinion about situational modesty. But, nevertheless, let me just take the time and space today to say that, of course, what’s too skimpy, tight, short, low-cut or revealing under other circumstances is certainly so at a wedding. It has always blown my mind that some women who are big on dressing modestly throughout the teen years have been willing to show cleavage, bare shoulders and/or naked backs when they are the center of attention as the bride in front of so many men just a little while before they are to give themselves to their husbands in the most intimate and holy relationship between two mortal people. I think if I’d had the discretion to cover myself in other situations when the world was undressing, I would want to stay covered just a little while more, till I could present my body to the man who would own it for the rest of our lives together (I Cor. 7:4). I would want to show that man this respect during the wedding ceremony.

And then it also seems that some in the audience at a wedding are comfortable wearing, on that Saturday evening, outfits that are skimpier than anything they would wear the next morning to worship services. I believe that we sadly give the nod to what is culturally correct rather than what is chaste and discreet as commanded in Titus 2.

I think I get more mail about immodest clothing than any other subject I ever address. Two observations come to mind when I think about the interest in this subject. One is that we seem to be constantly asking “How close to immodesty can I get without actually crossing the line into disobedience to the injunction in I Timothy 2?” The other is that as our culture moves more and more toward culturally accepted nakedness, we, as God’s people seem to be comfortable following so long as we stay a little behind the world in our movement into immodesty. Both of these observations make me want to shout the words of Romans 12:2.

I’m glad for some faithful sisters I know who regret what they wore on their wedding night. I’m glad they have sweet and penitent hearts. While I’m sad they’ve had to remove their wedding photos from Facebook or Instagram because they now know the clothing was surely not in conformity to I Timothy 2:9; that it was not taking into account the seriousness of Matthew 5:28, I am still happy for their conviction and the way they have decided to teach their own children about this subject. Their daughters will have fewer regrets.

I am saddest of all for those who have no embarrassment (or “ability to blush” as the Greek word for modesty or shamefacedness, taken literally, puts it in I Timothy 2:9). I am sad for the lack of concern for brothers who, while trying to control their thoughts, will continue to have to battle the temptations that are put in front of them, even in the family of God. In a world where the devil is having a heyday with pornography and fornication, surely God’s daughters could take some responsibility for making the atmosphere in the family of God a safety zone from the temptations caused by immodesty. The fact that the whole world is doing something should have nothing to do with our choices about morality. In fact, I can think of no better way to glorify Him than in this very visible and noticeable distinction of dress.

Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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!

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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.”

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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?