Archive | January 2013

Burn the Ships!

Philippians 3:13-14  Brethern, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

v .14) I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

On the coast of Spain is one of the world’s most well- known natural landmarks, The Rock of Gibraltar. It is often associated with strength or determination or stubbornness. People will often refer to something that is difficult to move as a “Rock of Gibraltar”. Or if we consider someone to be especially strong, perseverant, or dependable we may say they are like “The Rock of Gibraltar.” Gibraltar is loosely translated as “the mountain of Tariq”, and for good reason too. In 712 AD, and Islamic mercenary named Tariq bin Ziyad stood atop the Rock of Gibraltar and made an astounding decision.

The prince of Spain at the time was terrified that he was about to lose the throne, since his father had died. In a moment of rash desperation, he decided to hire Tariq bin Ziyad and his “army for hire” to come help the prince establish himself as the rightful ruler of Spain. Tariq was a ruthless warrior that had been making his way across North Africa capturing land for the Islamic Empire. When the prince sent word that he wanted his “help” he couldn’t believe the prince’s stupidity and his own good luck. Of course he would come “help”. He was in the Northern African city of Tangier, just over the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, and he had been waiting for an opportune time to move on into Europe and continue his conquest in the name of Allah. This was his chance.

He and his seven thousand men set out for Spain. Tariq was in the lead ship, and could see the Rock of Gibraltar rising up. When he landed, he quickly climbed to the top of the rock so that he could watch the other ships land. As his soldiers began pouring onto the coast, he turned to his next in command and said, “When all the men are safely ashore, burn the ships.”

The officer stared at him in utter confusion. “But…but sir, how will we return?”

Tariq turned on him, “There is no plan to return! We will either conquer this land or perish. Burn the ships!” The soldiers did as they were commanded, and as they watched their option of returning to their old lives, go up in smoke, they realized the level of commitment that was being asked of them. No plan B. Conquer or perish.

With that sense of determination the small army made short work of Spain, and Spain remained part of the Islamic Empire for many years.

There are many situations in life in which a “Plan B” is a wise thing to have simmering on the back burner. But the things that are of sacred importance will require a level of commitment and determination that leaves no retreat option. When we set out to conquer the land of our marriage, our parenting, our calling of God upon our lives, our holiness, our sanctification, our service to others, we must burn the ships that have brought us this far and declare to ourselves and those around us, “There is no plan to return. We will conquer this land or perish!”

Are you planning any retreats today? Are you up against some challenge and everything inside you says, “Let’s just turn around. This is too tough.” You must ask yourself: is this of sacred, infinite importance? Will turning back destroy the respect and confidence of those who truly love me? If God tells you to go forward, do not go backward! Burn the ships and conquer the land!

 

 

Why Modesty Matters

 

Read 1 Timothy 2:9-10

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, looks aren’t that important? I’m interested in what is on the inside”? That sounds very noble, but deep down it really isn’t true. We do care what people look like, and we do judge people by their appearance, probably more often than we care to admit.  Perhaps this isn’t fair, but it is very true. Someone’s appearance creates their first impression on you. But it works the other way around too. Your appearance creates a first impression on others.

The KJV translation of 1 Timothy 3:9 uses a not so popular word to describe a Christian lady’s appearance, the word is “modest”. Not only is this a not so popular word but it is also a not so popular idea. The word modest basically means “not excessive, arrogant or indecent.” In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary he describes modesty as “the sweetest charm of female excellence.”  There are two types of modesty:  modesty of appearance and modesty of attitude. First let’s look at modesty of appearance.

Like Mr. Webster, most of us use the words modest or immodest when describing a female.  The reason is because the female body is usually admired for its physical appearance and shape, whereas the male body is admired for its strength. That’s not my opinion, that’s just biology. So if biologically men pay closer attention to a lady’s body, than a lady would a man, it makes sense that a lady must pay extra special attention to how she presents herself, so that she does not become  “indecent” in her appearance. Just the fact that you are female has placed you under a microscope.  The “male microscope” is set to immediately notice two things: skin and curves. Remember, this isn’t sin, this is just biology, and men are made that way. Biology becomes sin, though, when a lady, knowingly manipulates her appearance and clothing so that she will GET more attention for her skin and curves!

Now, I’m sure there are ladies who have dressed a certain way for so long that it’s just their habit and they have no conscious motive of being immodest or being a distraction to men. However, if you have been unconsciously doing something wrong and then the Lord turns on the light for you and shows you Biblically how it’s wrong, then you have a Christian obligation to change.

So how do you change from immodest to modest in your appearance?  Do I have to become Amish or something? No! Think about it! If the “male microscope” is set to skin and curves then the trick to modesty would be to cover the skin in loose enough clothing! Simple.

The not so simple side to modesty is modesty of attitude. This is more complicated because it’s about our character, not our clothing. Part of the definition of modesty is “not excessive or arrogant”.  If modesty in appearance is about not drawing too much attention to our skin and curves, then modesty of attitude is about not drawing too much attention to any of our other qualities. Modesty does not seek to constantly be the center of attention. Modesty does not brag on its accomplishments. Modesty does not always have to be in charge.

People who lack this trait very rarely see it in themselves because they’ve learned to use other terms for their lack of character.  Examine some of these code terms to check yourself for a lack of modesty:

  • “I’m just really outgoing” code for “I need to always be the center of attention”.
  • “I’m just really confident” code for   “I’m the best at everything so sit and listen to me tell you all about it.”
  • “I’m just a natural born leader” code for “I have to be in charge or I’m not participating at all!”

Modesty of attitude is painful to correct, but not impossible. Sincerely ask the Lord if you have this flaw. If so, begin to consciously put yourself last in some things. Stop talking about yourself all the time. Try to have an entire conversation with a friend in which you don’t mention one thing about yourself, but keep the entire conversation focused on your friend and their day or their accomplishments or their troubles. Suggest for someone else to be in charge of things, ask others their opinions and this just listen. People with a lack of modesty of attitude also usually talk a lot. Just spend a day being quiet, listening to others and focusing on others.

I suppose when Noah Webster said, “Modesty is the sweetest charm of female perfection” he was imagining a lady with a combination of modesty of appearance and modesty of attitude. Her appearance is not a distraction to those around her and her attitude encourages and includes others. That would be a lovely lady indeed. Let us all strive to be such ladies

The Great Hope

John 14:1-3

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Years ago I made a decision to watch as little news as possible. The negative weight of things I had no control over had become overwhelming, so for a good long while I refused to follow any kind of news programs. However, like many others, when the recent shooting took place in New England I was glued to the television. After a few days, though, I realized I was not watching anymore to hear news about the children. The children had passed and it was unspeakably sad, but even after I had heard all of their stories, I keep watching every day. I was wanting to hear something else. I was wanting someone to tell me about the young man. I was wanting to hear how someone’s little boy had grown up to feel so very angry and hopeless. But eventually I turned the news back off (hopefully for another good while) because no one could tell me that story.

Who can explain how hope dies in a human heart? What toxic ingredients mixed under the right amount of pressure produce and individual’s despair? I can not explain it, except perhaps to say, just as fungus grows in the damp absence of sunlight, despair grows in the lonely absence of God. A soul not in contact with its Father, falters and fumbles like a small child left behind to navigate the brambles alone.

But in the above verses can’t you just hear the Savior’s desire for intimacy with us. “Believe in me, I’ve made a place for you, I want you to be with me. I’m coming back for you.” These aren’t words of a Bible commentator, or preacher, or saint, or even of an apostle. These were Christ’s own words to you. Words of hope if ever there were. Hope that there is more than just this small planet full of great pain. Hope that we can be more than scared, lost children in a dark fairy tale. Hope that there is just infinitely more.