Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't Tell ME What To Do!

Some days I have difficulty with my flesh. I want to please myself and find myself wondering what is legalism and what isn't? Most of the time, I argue with myself find a loophole for my comfort zone.
In the 80's, the term *legalism* emerged. It swept through churches across the world and suddenly; we were free from any rules. Is that what the Bible actually teaches? Anyone?
"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" (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
This is New Testament teaching. So HOW do we validate what is legalistic and what is modest?
The word modesty is from the Greek term kosmios. It means: orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest, harmonious arrangement, adornment. This Greek word also appears in the Septuagint (Ecclesiastes 12:9) and is translated "set in order" and is applied to Solomon's proverbs. Kosmios is derived from kosmos which means: order, regular disposition, ornament, decoration, embellishment, adorning and is used, among other ways, of the world on which we live (Matthew 13:35; Mark 16:15). Kosmos is used of modest attire and translated as "adorning" in 1 Peter 3:3.
"Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel."
It's pretty obvious to me that God desires a pure heart in His believers. But as my Mennonite Preacher and friend recently commented; "A cape dress or suspenders will not get you into heaven". So WHY this either or mentality? Why is there not balance? When did it become acceptable to wear shorts, spaghetti straps or push up bras to church??? Why do some who do dress modestly scorn anyone who doesn't dress like them?

Here is why: God wants you to pray and figure this all out yourself. He wants us to read the Bible and apply it liberally, but not to the point that you believe your clothing merits a ticket to the Pearly Gates. The Bible doesn't teach that Grace=Loopholes and no accountability. Not at all. Grace is the what bridges the gap between what you truly understand and what you don't. Not everyone is convicted at the same time, over the same issues. Some are convicted strongly over issues that you may rarely consider. I genuinely believe that a person feeding the poor, loving the unlovely, helping the widows, etc.. is more in tune with what is biblical, even if she is wearing pants. The issue of modesty has simply been ignored, or overlooked.
*If* you are someone with a rebellious nature, you don't like being told what to do. Period. Rules are always questioned. But the Bible has pretty clear answers. Be cautious of accusing those convicted in dress of being legalistic. And those convicted, be patient and do not judge those who don't share the same exact convictions.

Perhaps you don't understand what the big deal is?? Lust. That's the big deal. And our society is selling lust in many pretty packages. Men are visual creatures and the problem is in all of our minds. If we go to church showing off our figures as women, or if men go into assembly LOOKING for the slightest provocation... our hearts are not following Gods.
Lust is a sin which especially men are cautioned in Scripture to avoid; is it any more praiseworthy for women to dress provocatively and excite lust? Lust is viewed by our Lord as adultery only not yet enacted (Matthew 5:28). Lust is a sin for which souls will be lost (Titus 2:12; Romans 6:23; James 1:14, 15; 1 Peter 2:11).
This is serious stuff.

So before you dish out the term: *Legalistic*, just so you don't have to follow a rule or abide by a rule... pray about it first. Be cautious using the term, because the Bible does have applications in the New Testament. And yes, Jesus came to set us free, but not free to do whatever we want and call it "Grace".

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

In a sermon I heard not long ago, a Mennonite Preacher recalled how his own Grandparents behaved towards each other, even in their old age. He said; "They were so kind, and loving towards each other... like two old *sweethearts*. He went on to describe their behavior towards each other as *unselfish, tender, and thoughtful*.

I've put a lot of thought into the subject of marraige and aging since that sermon. Ok, let me be direct; I've put a lot of thought about MY marriage and aging since then! This verse immediatley comes to mind:

EPH 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

That sounds very balanced and equal to me. My Grandmother quoted it as; "Wives, show all respect to your husbands, and husbands likewise!"... of course she was paraphrasing. But it sure makes sense.

I'm watching my parents and in-laws age. I can sense the defiance they all posess at becoming *the elderly*, just as they watched their parents do the same. But something my family all has come to treasure in their golden years is their relationship with their spouse. They become cemented over time, and stand together as a united front against what time ebbs away. And most of all; they are loving & respectful towards each other. It is a blessing to witness this love, open affection, and know it doesn't have to be lost just because ones hair turns gray, or crows feet appear.

I admit; it must be a struggle to keep your inner sweetheart alive, when your challenged with physical and maybe some mental decline. But in keeping that reverence for each other, you have something that noone can take from you. As a couple you retain a lively part of your youth, simply by holding hands, or giving your spouse a peck on the cheek. I cannot imagine a day when I would not feel loved, and valued from such actions, can you? May we all press on, and love our spouses with the same enthusiasm now and tomarrow as we did when we first married. Let us be known as *those old sweethearts* to our children, so they may do the same. Amen?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Keeping It Real *Simplicity*

The issue of *SIMPLICITY* keeps coming up over and over in my life. Simplicity is the sister to *CONTENTMENT*, and together they equal: *HAPPINESS* in the most genuine form.

I rarely buy anything for my home, and when I do, it's heavily discounted. I admit it; I'm not just frugal, I'm downright cheap. If you visited my home, you might be tempted to think I intended to decorate. Actually, it evolved over the course of my many years, and is accumulations of gifts from friends, inherited artwork from long-dead relatives, or stellar finds at the local Goodwill. I am an opportunist where deals are concerned and love to shop at flea markets.

I have a pretty home and comfy surroundings. But if I had to live in a tent, I would make it comfy too. I would find joy in the sunrise, in my health, in the ability to breath and pray for others. Our society preaches MORE! MORE! MORE!, but I believe that is a lie. Over my 40-some-odd years of living, I have aquired a lot. But the *stuff* I have isn't all of a use to me. Would it be to someone else??? This is the question I am struggling with.
Even the most humble home today seems extravagant compared to the homes of average Americans 40 years ago. What most would consider a *rent-house* or at best a *starter home* would have been the average abode for a family of 4-6 in 1968. One bathroom, small closets, and about 12oo square feet was the norm. Look at us now. When I hear stories of people with walk in pantries, heated toilet seats, and closets as big as my guestroom, it amazes me. I understand there is no sin in being wealthy, but it amazes me regardless! We seem to need so much room to hold so much STUFF!
I once offered my brother a set of ornamental tables that had belonged to our Mother. He rejected them and I couldn't understand why? Later my Aunt passed. I inherited more *knick-knacks* and *stuff* that had belonged to her and held sentimental value. As I tried to pack it all in my already cluttered home, I realized he wasn't refusing Mothers memory. He was trying to keep his balance. I now understand. But the question of what to keep and what to give away isn't so simple. If I give away something useless but pretty, am I just enabling someone else? I hope not. And there is nothing wrong with having something pretty, like a picture, or a piece of art. Although I admit my favorite pictures are 20 years old, and made from macaroni and crayon.

I have friends who also share my passion for simplicity and contentment. They inspire me daily with their choices to be happy... so find beauty in God, and His creations. We share our thoughts on the little things that bring us joy. This in itself is a wonder to me.

On the other hand, I know of people who wear simplicity as if they were shackled to it... as if it was a burden. Even though they have more than enough to eat, a roof over their heads, and their health, they whine, moan and lament about their lot in life. As if they have been victimized by society,... as if they are the butt of a cruel joke. I do not understand this mentality. Many of these people I speak of are lazy. They have *expectations* that society should provide for them.

I suspect television is the reason so many are so unsatisfied. It's a gadget, just like a computer, or telephone, or wheel for that matter. But it can be abused. The message sent out is: What you have isn't good enough.... you need the newest version of __________, and it doesn't matter that what you already have isn't worn out. Just buy it. We need to be careful what our little eyes see.
Have you heard of; *Peace Pilgrim*?
She walked to bring attention to simplicity and peace.
Now, as I purge my collection of *stuff* I will try to keep what is sufficient.. what is purposeful, and utilitarian. I will also keep some of my mothers belongings, what brings back good memories, and let go of the rest. I will find contentment in that which serves to bring me closer to God, what feeds my body and soul, and leave behind that which diverts my attention from God to what the worlds deems as desirable.
I also will not compare what I have to what others have, more or less. We all walk daily on our journey heavenward, and have different trials, successes, and convictions. I would hope that those who have more than us give a fair amount away. I hope those who have less, never do without what they need, and I pray that I we all do our share to help each other. A person could have lots of money, but still be lonely. A poor person could have their health, while a rich person can't buy it back. Mostly, I wish for my loved ones; contentment. You do not see a U-Haul behind a hearse.
Find you peace in God and your contentment in your ability to help others.. in the simple joys that are present in daily life.

Longfellow said it well:
How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust & heat, In the broad & fiery street,
In the narrow lane; How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs;
How it gushes & struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout.
Isn't that an example of an overlooked joy?
Have fun finding yours.