Archive | March, 2017

Advice to a new young pastor (and what all of us can learn from it)

27 Mar

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On July 1, 2008 I became the senior pastor of Faith Church.  I was scared.  What had I gotten myself into?  I had been youth/associate pastor at the church for the previous six years.  The youth group was awesome, and I had a ministry umbrella over me, deflecting the rain of difficulty, responsibility, and leadership.  That umbrella was the senior pastor.  On July 1st, 2008, I learned what it was like when that umbrella was gone.

Actually, I was surprised to discover the umbrella wasn’t gone.  I became the new umbrella.  I was the responsible one.  In the months leading up to that day, I was excited, I had dreams and looked forward to becoming the pastor.  I also held secret fears and anxieties.  Was I cut out for this?  I had a really good gig as youth pastor! Was I stupid for making the change?  So I read and listened to one passage of Scripture over and over.  It is a good one for young or new pastors.  If you’re not a young or new pastor or leader in the church, I think you’ll find that it is very important for you as well.

Take a look at 1st Timothy 4:11-16, and see if you can find out why this passage was meaningful to me.

I identified with Timothy because in verse 12 Paul says to Timothy, “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.”

I wonder who was looking down on Timothy?  When Paul goes on to ask Timothy to set an example for the believers, it is best to understand that it was people in Timothy’s church looking down on him because he was young.

But how young was he?  We don’t know.  The word Paul uses could refer to someone as old as 40.  Some feel Timothy was maybe in his mid-30s.  I was 33 in July 2008, so this verse seemed like it was written to me!  Most scholars tell us that at the time Paul wrote this, Timothy could be anywhere from 25-40 years old.  The point, though, is not his specific age but that culturally it was not normal for a young person to have a position of authority.

Furthermore, Timothy is trying to fill some big shoes.  This church was started by Paul, one of the most respected leaders in the entire Christian church, from Jerusalem to Rome.  These Ephesian Christians could easily be talking to the Christians down the road in a town like Colossae, saying with chests puffed out, “Yeah, Paul is OUR pastor.  You should have heard the other day the discussion we were having in the lecture hall of Tyrannus with some Greek philosophers.  He schooled them!  It was awesome.  It rocks having Paul as your pastor.”

After a few years Paul leaves, and he installs Timothy as leader.  Timothy was young, and because of what Paul says to Timothy in his letters, we wonder if Timothy also had a much more timid style than Paul.

What a difference from older respected Paul to younger timid Timothy!

Over the years I have heard of pastoral transitions gone bad.  A new pastor follows the tenure of a well-loved leader, and the new pastor struggles in the shadow of that leader.  Maybe you’ve heard of a church like that. It happens regularly, truth be told. Anecdotal evidence suggests that 25% of a congregation will leave a church when there is a pastoral transition, and if true, that is sad.  From July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2010, we experienced something like that at Faith Church. Some of the attrition was the result of poor decisions on my part.  Some was death.  But a number of people left because I was different from the previous pastor.  I suspect some moved on simply because I was young, about half the age of the previous pastor, and young enough to be the grandson of many of the senior members of the congregation. I know there was a lot of talk going on during those years.  Some of it made it to me, much didn’t.

You can bet that kind of talk is going on there in Ephesus.  And you can bet Paul has heard about!  “Man, Paul, are you sure about Timothy?  He’s…well…young.  Are you sure he’s ready?  I’m mean, have you heard him preach?”

It is possible that Timothy’s authority, gifts, and abilities for leading the church are being called into question.  I have a feeling that not only has Paul heard about it, but so has Timothy.  It might have been Timothy who contacted Paul saying, “Are you sure about this?  Are you sure I’m ready?  These people aren’t always responding so well.  I’m getting push-back about being young. I don’t know that they will respect me.”

And so Paul says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.”  What does looking down on mean?  It is defined as “to feel contempt for someone or something because it is thought to be bad or without value.”[1]

“Don’t allow people to look down on you, Timothy,” Paul says.  But I think to myself, how is Timothy actually to deal with this?  If people start disrespecting him, is he going to step in and say, “I do not allow you to do this anymore.”  You can hear the snickering if he would try that.  Now if it got to a point, yes, he could make it a matter of church discipline and confront the poor behavior head on. Maybe he had to. If so, that would have been really difficult.

Disrespect of a leader in the church is always wrong.  No matter how old or young they are, we should respect our leaders.  We might disagree, but we can disagree in a respectful way.  If there is contempt going on, it must stop.  Disrespect and contempt is sinful.  Timothy would be well within his right to confront sin.

When Paul says “don’t let anyone look down on you”, I suspect he is saying to Timothy “you need to deal with the contempt and disrespect, Timothy.  You can’t let it happen. I know it is hard, but if people are behaving poorly, you need to intervene and make sure it stops.”

That is not all Paul says though.  He also makes a very different second suggestion.  I suspect Paul knows that the root of the problem is the age difference.  People that are older do not always have a hard time submitting to and respecting younger people.  Sometimes it goes well.  But let’s face it, the general tendency is for younger people to have older leaders.

How many of you have gotten a new boss that is younger than you, and you have found it hard to respect them?  I’ve heard the stories.  The new young boss comes to the company with energy and new ideas and starts making changes, and it can be very difficult.  They don’t know the culture.  They don’t know the people.  They don’t know what you’ve been through.  And as much as you complained about the old boss, you now find yourself wishing you had the old boss back.

Think it is any different in the church?  It’s not.

Paul has situation on his hands.  He spent so much time with the Christians at Ephesus.  He loves them.  But he has left them in the hands of his young associate Timothy who he also loves. Paul knows exactly who the people in the church are.  He knows their ages.  He knows by name who is probably struggling with Timothy, and as I said above, Paul might already have been hearing from those people: “Can’t you just come back, Paul?  This isn’t going well with Timothy.  Come back!”

So Paul knows Timothy needs to grow up fast.  He gives Timothy a very interesting suggestion.  He says “set an example for the believers.”  Paul could go on and on telling Timothy to confront and discipline.  But he doesn’t.  He says one line about not letting the people despise Timothy, but he moves quickly into a suggestion that is far more powerful: set an example.

“Timothy,” I can hear Paul saying, “I want your life to shine so brightly, that those people have no reason to look down on you.  Set an example for them.  Let your life do the talking.”

When I was in high school at Warwick in Lititz, PA, we had a pretty good basketball program.  We were always a contender for playoffs, and some years went very deep into them.  We also had a very rowdy student section, which I loved.  Cheering for our guys in the overheated old gym is still one of the highlights of my life.  One of my favorite student section cheers was only one word.  Repeated over and over.  Can you guess it?

The game scenario in which we would use this cheer was when my team was leading, and other team would start rallying.  They would be scoring points, catching up, gaining momentum.  That would fire their student section up, and from the other side of the gym they would get louder and louder. Back on our side, we would be feeling nervous.  We didn’t want them to catch up!  Our guys on the floor needed a boost, and we would say one word: Scoreboard. Scoreboard.  Scoreboard.  It was a great cheer.  We would really draw out the word “Scoooooorebooooooard”.  We wanted it to be a sobering reminder to everyone there that though the other team was rallying, we were still ahead.  We were winning.  In that moment, the scoreboard did all the talking.  We didn’t have to say anything, except to point to the truth.

The absolute worst, though, was if the other came back and won the game.  You know what the student section from the other school would start chanting back at us? “Scoreboard…scoreboard.”  Whew was that painful.  But the point was made.  The scoreboard still did the talking.  We might be walking out of the gym dejected, angry, thinking “we are a better team than that. We are way better than that.  We should not have lost.”  But the scoreboard told the truth about what was really going on.

Paul, in other words, is saying here to Timothy, “Let your life example tell the truth about who you really are.  Those people might be saying all kinds of stuff about you.  That you are too young.  You are an inexperienced leader.  That you are not as good a teacher as me.  That you are not as smart as me.  That you are not me. But let your life be the scoreboard.  You won’t have to say a thing, Timothy.  Let your life do the talking.”

How should he set the example?  In five ways: speech, life, love, faith and purity.  These are crucial areas.  Imagine if you were setting the example in these five?

  • Speech obviously is how you talk. No surprise to me that Paul lists it first.  Our mouths get us in trouble!  What would it be like for people to look at you as someone who sets an example in how you talk?  You would be gracious.  You would be kind.  Your words would be gentle, self-controlled.
  • Life is your conduct, your way of life. What would it look like for you to set the example in how you live your life?
  • Love is the word agape. Would people say of you that you are a loving person?
  • Faith, it is important to note, is not just believing the right things. This is best understand as faithful.  Having faithfulness.  Can people say of you: “There is a person who is faithful”?  Not because you know the Bible through and through.  Not because you know a lot of theology.  Faith is primarily not about knowing and believing the right things.  It is that.  But it is much more a choice to live them out.  I recently heard Richard Rohr put it this way “you don’t think your way into a changed life, you live your way into changed thinking.”
  • Paul is kinda saying the same thing over and over here, isn’t he? Be pure.  Be holy.  It’s not easy to do this in our world.  But pursue it. Set an example of purity.

Clearly this passage is not just for young Timothy.  This can apply to everyone.  So review it those five categories, all of us.  Are we setting an example in them?  Might there be one category that you sense God is speaking to you to work on?

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 762. Print.

Do you need a spiritual HIIT trainer?

22 Mar

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Have you heard of HIIT?  High Intensity Interval Training.  This winter my workout partners and I have done some HIIT workouts.  They’re really tiring.  You exercise hard for 20 secs, take a 10 sec rest, and then exercise again, rest again, etc.  We’ve done a variety of exercises and work/rest patterns, and every time we finish, I’m wiped out.  Then at night, I’m sore.

So you might like to know that we did a HIIT workout at the beginning of my sermon this past Sunday! We did 8 rounds of 20 sec exercise and 10 rest.  4 minutes.  It was great!  I invited anyone from the congregation who wanted to come up front and do the workout.  About ten people of all ages came up front, while one lady from our congregation who is a HIIT trainer led us in exercises.  That 4 minutes is all it took for me to start sweating.  When it was over, I tried to continue with the sermon, and I couldn’t catch my breath. You can hear me gasping for breath on the podcast, (if you listen in the month or so after this article is published).

You do a 4 minute HIIT workout and then try to read the Bible out loud!!!  It’s hard!!!

So why would I have our congregation do a HIIT workout in a worship service?  Read the passage I was struggling to read, and see if you can find out.  It is 1 Timothy 4:6-10.

In that passage Paul teaches Timothy to do two things: Stop and Start.

Stop anyone who is involved in telling false stories.  Start training yourselves for godliness.  The word “train” where we get our English word Gymnasium. It is the Greek word “Gymnadzo” and the scholars tells us that it means “to control oneself by thorough discipline…In a number of languages the equivalent of ‘to discipline oneself’ is literally ‘to make oneself obey.’ This may sometimes be expressed as ‘to command one’s heart.”[1]

Before we look at explaining what spiritual discipline toward godliness is all about, look at what Paul says in verse 8. He says that bodily discipline does have value, but he describes it as some/little value. Godliness, though, has value for all things.  It has promise, Paul says, for the present life and for the life to come. So physical training is good.  But its value is of comparatively small value to spiritual training. Physical training benefits us for the here and now, whereas spiritual training benefits us here, now and for eternity.

Paul is saying that spiritual training, then, should be given more time and priority. How about you?

I spend a lot of time in physical training, and I do not look at my time spent running or working out as wasted time.  Not one second of it.  I think it is really important.  The question I need to ask is whether or not I give spiritual training an ample amount of time.

Let’s talk about spiritual training, then.  What does Paul mean in verse 7 when he says “train yourself to be godly”?  To try to answer that, let me first ask you: What does it take to be physically fit?

If you ask me how to train to be physically fit, that is a pretty easy question to answer.  Look at a show like The Biggest Loser, and they have it all worked out.  It involves exercising, a trainer, and healthy eating.  Then take those components and implement them consistently in your life.  What happens?  The pounds fall off your body, and your build muscle.  Ailments start to fade.  A person moves from sickness to health.   I love that show.  I love to see the transformation take place in people’s lives.

Probably because I personally experienced a bit of that myself.

You don’t have to get on The Biggest Loser to train yourself physically.  There are tons of local gyms with trainers and there are training apps.  For me it was Joe Yu.  Joe was an LBC student and pastoral intern here at Faith Church back in 2008-2009.  He also had a background in being an exercise trainer.  He was regularly asking me to work out.  I was in seminary then and never thought I had time.  Then my wife Michelle also started saying I should work out.  I knew I had gained weight over the years, but nothing out of control.  Had some back problems.

One day after Thanksgiving 2009 Joe was at our house, and he and Michelle were both saying I should starting working out.  I said “Ok, ok…but the only time I could meet is early in the morning.”  Joe was a part-time security guard late at night, and I figured it wouldn’t work for him.  So he shocked me when he said “Great! Let’s do it!”  Joe is a very enthusiastic guy.  So that next week, we met up at the gym at 5:30am.  Joe brought one of his friends along, Matt, who was a professor at LBC and also very into training.

I’ll never forget that first day.  And especially that first night.  Those guys put me through a beginning training workout that morning.  At night, I was SO sore.  I woke up in pain, and then put muscle cream on.  But I put too much cream on, and it stunk up the room.  I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.  Michelle couldn’t sleep because of the smell!

Little by little, though, through Joe and Matt training me, leading me, encouraging me, my weight came off.  I started working out four times per week, and eating less, cutting out sugar.  In about six months, I figure I lost 50 pounds.

The running started that spring when Brandon Hershey, Matt Marvin and I ran my first 5K, the Race Against Racism in the city. Now years later at Faith Church we have an informal running group that has completed 3 half marathons and 2 full marathons, and a slew of other events.  We do quite a bit to help each other out.  Accountability during training.  Entering events to give us motivation to achieve a goal.

For me it was personal, and it was communal.  I wasn’t shocked by any of the methodology it took to get fit.  And I think most of us have a pretty good idea of what getting physically fit will entail.  We might not do it, but we at least know how.

But what about training for godliness?  How do we do that?

Spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible, praying, deeply participating in a church family, are all wonderful steps to take.  But I have to admit, those are all standard answers.  Good answers, but they bring to my mind some questions:

Do you do these things on a regular basis?  More time than you give to physical exercise?  More time than you give to TV, phone, etc.

If you don’t do them, why?

And if you do them, have you found them to be helpful in training you to become more godly?

If not, what else do you need to do to train yourself to be godly?

Could it be that something more is needed?  As I think about how I’ve experienced physical fitness, it has always been best accomplished with other people.  Especially when I’ve had people training me, leading, me, helping me see the way forward, encouraging me, holding me accountable.  So when it comes to your spiritual life, maybe you need a trainer?  Spiritual Director.

When we have done marathons and half-marathons, we have done 18 or 12 week training programs.  You run 4 or 5 times per week.  And you follow the plan.  You don’t want to get to race day unprepared.  Race day is going to be hard enough.  But if you don’t train, it might mean either the race will be super painful, or unfinishable.  So we faithfully follow the training plan, and little by little it builds you up to run 26.2 miles.

But do we give anything close to that amount of time and energy to allowing a spiritual director to train us?

Keep that question in mind.  If you know a trainer at the gym could help you get physically fit, then how much time have you spent with a spiritual trainer to get spiritual fit?

This makes me think again of discipleship.  We all should be training ourselves to be godly.  We don’t have to hire a professional spiritual director, though I suspect that for most of us hiring a spiritual director would be a good thing.

During my upcoming sabbatical one activity that I am going to seek out is a spiritual director.  There is a Jesuit retreat center that offers spiritual direction retreats for 5, 7, and even 30 days.

And here in our church family we should also focus on discipleship relationships that emphasize helping one another train for godliness. Who is helping to train you for godliness? And then after you answer the question about who is training you for godliness, the next question to answer is “Who are you training for godliness?”

Paul will say to Timothy in his next letter, in 2 Timothy 2:2, “the things you’ve heard me say, teach other also, so they can teach.”  Paul trained Timothy, and then he wanted Timothy to train others, so that others could train even more!

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

Go out and get a book that will coach you on how to train for godliness:  Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney.  This is a book that is like a trainer.

I urge you to read that book, and then pick one spiritual discipline to work on this year.  But don’t do it alone.  Get a trainer to help you.  Talk with someone who is better at this spiritual discipline and have them train you!

 

Next, who is your spiritual trainer?

Who are you training?

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

 

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 751. Print.

Is it weird to preach a sermon about leadership that is mostly for those who aren’t leaders?

3 Mar

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Have you ever been asked to lead something in the church and thought “What? Me? No way!!!”

The thought of being a leader can raise a number of feelings.  Here a few that I have heard:

  1. It’s too much responsibility. What if I make a bad decision?  I don’t want to have to deal with the consequences.  What if I have to weigh in on a difficult situation?  What if I don’t know what to do?  I don’t want to know about the dark underbelly of the church.
  2. It would be too hard.  I don’t think I’m leader material.  I don’t like to be up front or in charge.
  3. I don’t think I’m called to be a leader. God never told me that I was to be a leader.
  4. I’ve never been a leader before, so I can’t be one.  I don’t know what to do!
  5. I’m too shy, too quiet.  I don’t like to speak up, and I certainly don’t want to be up in front of a crowd.  I hate public speaking.
  6. I don’t know the Bible well enough.

Have you heard these before?  Maybe you have heard them coming out of your mouth!  Are there other reasons that you have heard, or that you have used, to suggest that a person shouldn’t be a leader?

And most importantly of all, should these concerns invalidate a person from becoming a leader in the church?

As we continue our series through 1st Timothy, we have arrived at chapter 3, and it is all about leaders.  Who should be a leader?  How should they become a leader?  At Faith Church we have wrestled with these questions numerous times.  In 2014 we updated our approach to leadership, and we said we made these changes based on biblical principles. For those of you a part of Faith Church, read what Paul says to Timothy, and then answer: how well do you think we did?

Check out 1 Timothy 3.  Read the selection, then continue reading below.

Paul gives Timothy quite a long list of qualifications for leaders, doesn’t he?  One of my concerns as I prepare this sermon is that at Faith Church we currently have 9 people on our Leadership Team.  Maybe the rest of the church will hear the topic and think “Oh, this sermon is just for those 9 people on the Leadership Team.  So I don’t have to listen in.”   If you’re thinking something like that, I encourage you to still listen in. Here’s why:

This sermon is mostly for those who are not leaders yet.  It is for the rest of the congregation, those who might become leaders, and even those who won’t.  Why?  Because those 9 current leaders have already achieved these qualities in large measure or else there is no way they could have been considered for our Leadership Team.  Our current leaders can hear these words from Paul as an important reminder, for sure.  But it is best for all the rest of us to see Paul as speaking primarily to us. Everyone can and should see these qualities as describing how a disciple of Jesus should live.  Therefore, Paul’s words are for all of us.  Let’s all pay close attention to the life that Paul describes here.  Let’s all ask God to speak to us through his word, as perhaps there is something in these descriptions of overseers and deacons that we need to hear.

Join us Sunday, March 3, 9:00am at Faith Church to learn more!

Why we’re installing modesty scanners in our church lobby

1 Mar

 

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What is modesty???  Who gets to make the call?  What centrally recognized authority do women have so that all can go to that authority to answer the question “Is this outfit modest?”

There isn’t one!  There is no centrally recognized Christian modesty panel that we can refer to.  Men, we really have little idea how tough it is for women.  One author, Rachel Held Evans, describes the struggle this way:

“What I’ve only just begun to realize is that these two extremes represent different sides of the same coin. While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men. In both cases, it becomes the woman’s job to manage the sexual desires of men, and thus it is seen as her fault if a man ignores her on the one hand or objectifies her on the other. Often, these two cultures combine to send out a pulse of confusing messages: “Look cute … but not too cute! Be modest … but not frumpy! Make yourself attractive … but not too attractive!” Women are left feeling ashamed of their bodies as they try desperately to contort around a bunch of vague, ever-changing ideals. It’s exhausting, really, dressing for other people.”

That’s the culture we live in.  Other people live in other cultures which approach modesty quite differently.  Tribal women dress  in ways that our culture would find quite immodest.  So let’s start off investigating modesty by trying to become culturally aware.

Take a look at these photos.  What assumption do you make about a person who dresses like this?amish

 

That they are Amish, right?  When you first saw this picture, did the thought jump into your mind that these ladies might be headed to a Halloween costume party?

Or did you immediately think, “Amish”? Did you assume something about these ladies because of their dress?”

What about this guy?cowboy

 

What kind of music does this guy probably like?  Country!  But how do you know he doesn’t like opera or gansta rap?  Are you assuming something about this person because of his outer appearance?

Let’s do a couple more:

goths

 

What style are these people dressed like?  Goth.  What are some general tendencies of someone who dresses like this?  They like heavy metal music with rebellious themes.  But how do you know they aren’t having a Bible study?interview

One more.  Which clothing style is more likely to get this guy hired at a job interview?

 

The suit, right?  Why?  We believe that when a person puts on a suit, it says something about them. But what if the interview is for a tattoo parlor?

So what do all these questions and pictures help us learn?

It is a societal norm to make assumptions about people based on their appearance.  We know that God does not look at the outward appearance.  He looks at the heart.  And we also should strive to look at people God’s way.

But we should be extremely conscious of the fact that many people do not look at things the way God does.  Instead many people in our society judge you based on how you look, and even more, they treat you differently based on how you look.

Perhaps you rightly feel a sense of injustice about that.  People shouldn’t treat you differently based on how you look!  God’s way of looking at the heart is the right way.  But it would be extremely short-sighted for any of us to fail to take into account how some people still look at and judge others based on outward appearance.

I am not excusing bad behavior.  Not in the least.  If a person lusts against another, that is wrong in Jesus’ teaching.  If they rape another, or if they do anything in between, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Sin is sin.

Hear me on this: I am not saying that sin is OK, or that it is OK to view people differently based on their appearance.  I am saying we live in a world where people commit sin against other people based on their outward appearance!  Therefore, when you live in a world where people do not have self-control, you should prepare for it.  You would be wise, very wise, not to invite sin in your life.  There is a great wisdom, therefore, to modesty.

So once again I ask, What is modesty?  As the pictures above remind us, our view of what is modest, decent and proper is socially conditioned.  You might not like the way someone dresses.  But that doesn’t mean that your opinion is the only valid one.  We simply must have humility about that.

And that brings me to passages like 1 Cor 8-10 or Romans 14-15 where Paul talks about what to do when Christians disagree with one another.   We are not going to come up with a universally agreed upon Christian standard of modest dress.  Even if we took a vote and agreed on a Christian dress code, we might have a majority opinion, but there would still be many who disagree with it.  So what do we do when we disagree?  First and foremost, we love one another.  We can and must exist together, especially in a local congregational setting, where there are differences of opinion about modesty.  We must fight the urge to judge one another.  Here what Paul says:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

So with that spirit of love and unity in mind, I refer to my mini-sermons that I mentioned last week. I believe they speak valid points from both gender!  Let’s start with what some women have said:

Dear brothers in Christ, we women are ogled at in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard. We get weary.  The last thing we want is to have you checking us out.  So help a girl out. Please look up.

Men, you are responsible for your own thoughts and actions.  It is not the women’s fault if you cannot control yourself.  It is your fault.  You need to take ownership of your own lust.  You should not be objectifying women, checking them out, etc.  Do not blame the women for lust.  So do the hard work of opening yourself up to an honest appraisal of yourself.  Men, none of us wants to admit that we have a problem with lust, or a porn addiction, or a self-control issue.  But if we do, we need to know it and admit it, because it is only from the place of honest confession that we can begin to see transformation.  I encourage you to have an accountability partner or group.  Men, you should almost certainly have content filtering and accountability software on your devices.

A few years ago one of my sons, who was in elementary school at the time, heard from other students on the bus about a website they were encouraging him to check out.  We didn’t have filtering software on our home computer, and he snuck on to the site.  Once we found out through the sibling grapevine, I was heartbroken.  In the safety of our home, my son had been exposed to extremely perverse images. Researches and scientists have done excellent and sobering work on the affects of porn on the brain. It create a powerful addiction, with ruinous consequences.  Men, we need to take action to guard our homes, our sons, our minds.  I had failed.  We now have filtering software on our home computer and devices.

We need to talk about sexual addiction and lust in our churches, in our small groups, and take serious action.  When Jesus brought up the topic of lust in Matthew 5, notice his approach:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Who does Jesus say should carry the burden for lust?  Not the recipient of the lust, but the purveyor. Men, when we lust, Jesus says our response should be to take drastic action.  He was speaking in hyperbole in those verses, of course.  I also believe Dallas Willard’s approach to these verses is very instructive.  It could be that when people in the crowd heard Jesus teaching this drastic action about lust, they would have been laughing.  Not at, but with him.  How could this be funny?

Consider, men, how you lust.  If you gouge out your eyes, would that remove the capability for lust? Absolutely not.  We well know that lust is a matter of the heart and of the mind.  So perhaps the drastic action that we need to take is what Willard would call the renovation of our hearts.  That might involve some serious rehabilitation, therapy.  But if work on our inner life is what we need, then let us do that work.

Does this mean that women should be free to wear whatever they want?  Not in the least.  Without question, especially in a church family, women should be free from objectification, though not necessarily free to wear whatever they want. Paul was writing to women in 1st Timothy 2:9-15.  So the second mini-sermon has some important points as well.  Here it is:

Dear sisters in Christ, we men battle lust in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard.  We get weary. The last thing we want is to see some of you dressed immodestly.  So help a guy out. Please cover up.

Just as the men are responsible for how they think, women, you are also responsible for how you dress.  Paul said clearly that the principle you should follow is to be known for your good deeds.  Be aware of how warped our society can be, of what reputation you desire to carry and of what your message your dress sends to those who might not have self-control.  Be known for your character.  May your outerwear be an expression of your inner character.

So, Faith Church, we are installing new modesty detection scanners this week. All women must walk through the scanners before they enter the sanctuary. Men are exempt because Paul didn’t address them. The scanner will sound a buzzer if the woman is not dressed modestly, and our modesty security team will escort her to our new clothing ministry which will outfit her with proper attire. She may then enter the sanctuary.  Image result for refrigerator boxes

We will also be email you all catalogs which will enable you to order our new church uniforms.  That way no will have to face the shame of the scanners.   Except guests.  And they will get up to code quickly, we’re sure.  Here is a picture of the sample uniform.  We will provide kits for cutting out eye-holes.

Just kidding!  No church should endeavor to create a dress code.  Or install scanners.  And neither will we.  But we do ask all women to consider what Paul says in this passage.  What does it mean to dress with modesty, propriety and decency?  Please seek a faithful answer to that question before the Lord. I would recommend that women discuss this together.  Our culture has plenty of clothing styles that are considered trendy, fashionable, and attractive.  But our culture’s perspective should not be seen as the last word on the matter.  The runways in Paris, London and NYC might not be the best place to learn how to answer the question of what is modest.  Then again, they might!  They might have good options. But they also have a reputation of subtly promoting the objectification of women, based on the styles they design.

In conclusion, I return to what Paul said above in Romans.  Let us love one another.  Our love for another should be such a priority that we are willing to practice massive amounts of self-control for one another.

PS – I mentioned a bonus 4th sermon in my post last week.  I did briefly preach that on Sunday.  It was about the role of women in ministry.  My perspective was identical to what I said here.  I continue to believe that in a near-egalitarian culture, such as the USA, Paul would have preached something very different than what he said in 1st Timothy 2:9-15 about women and their role in ministry.  Look no further than how differently he taught in Romans 16, where he mentions Junias, a female apostle.  That said, and because their is a robust, faithful hermeneutic around the equality of men and women in the church, I cannot fathom why other approaches continue to exist that do not allow for total equality of men and women in the church.