Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It Matters What We Wear

I grew up in a time when kids didn't have a lot of "say-so" about what we wore. Almost everything I wore was hand made, but, many of my friends from school wore clothes their Mom made for them, too, and clothes weren't the issue then like they are today. Yes, they were important, and yes, the girls enjoyed shopping, buying and wearing them, but our Mom was the final authority on what we wore, and she set the example. I have a friend whose Mom was such a skillful seamstress that I, nor anyone else knew but that her clothes came from one of the many retail stores that were prevalent in our town back in the 60's and 70's. Then came the mini-skirt and my great act of rebellion against my Mom's authority was that as soon as I got out of sight of our house, walking to the school bus, I rolled my skirt up at the waist band!! It wasn't a mini by any means, but it was shorter than my Mom would have allowed me to wear it!! Every generation is the same; there is always that "daring" that need to be provocative, to catch the eye of a man and cause him to take a second look. A short skirt, a revealing shirt, a way of presenting ourselves that cries out, "look at me."

Clothes are a big deal for women. Most of us actually love clothes and we love to shop. We feel good when we wear something new, and clothes get us noticed more than our hair, make-up or even jewelry. The Bible tells us in Genesis that clothes are important and God made the first garments for our first parents Adam and Eve. The Bible also tells us that Sarah, Rebekah, Lydia, the woman in Proverbs 31 and others had beautiful clothing. And I believe God has placed within the heart of women a desire to look good. But this post is not about that; this is not a post for women who are unbelievers; this post is not about what we wear to the beach, mowing the yard, or just hanging out at home. This post is about what is appropriate for Christian women to wear to church. Because you see, I believe with deep conviction that when we dress appropriately for church, it will be a natural thing to dress appropriately when we go to Kroger, when we go to our kids soccer game, when we have friends over, when we're at home and when we're on vacation, even at the beach.

Something else I believe with strong conviction is that many women who are new believers simply haven't been taught about modesty and dressing appropriately when they go to church. That's where Titus 2 women come in and lovingly, patiently and with grace mentor her in modesty, discretion, etc.; not ridicule her behind her back or be un-Christ like in what we say, but in a spirit of grace and mercy and by example teach that new believer what is appropriate. But I also believe that if a woman is a Christian, she will feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and she will not dress inappropriately for long. She will want to please her Heavenly Father.

So let's start with the basics and it doesn't get any more basic than this; my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God lives within me. I take Him with me everywhere I go and I dress Him every day. Because you see, as Christ lives out His life through me, it means His influence and life are represented by how I dress, by how I present myself. What people see of me, they see of Christ.

It seems that this summer, more than any other, I have heard concerns about the suggestive clothing that women are wearing to church, even women's ministry leaders. And though I am writing this at the risk of being misunderstood and labeled as "old fashioned" and  "out of touch", I still feel it must be said. I cannot control what anyone else may do or wear but me, and there have been times when I, too, have worn something that was inappropriate, but my prayer is that you will read this with an open mind and heart and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking. And as always, I love to hear your responses to the blog. You are always welcome here to express your feelings and concerns, even if they differ from mine.

I believe going to church is a special privilege, not to be taken for granted, and the focal point of our week.. Church is the one place that Christians should be able to gather and not have to worry about the influences of the world, especially in the way women dress. Here are a list of questions that will determine if you are appropriately dressed for church. I'm sure there are others, but this gets us started.

1. Does what I have on say, "I am going to church"? I enjoy dressing for church and as Dr. Charles Stanley often reminds us, "do your best, look your best, be your best." How we dress when we go to church conveys to others how we feel about the house of worship. How we dress for church shows our level of respect for our church, our pastor, our teacher, friends, co-worshippers, but more importantly, ourselves.

2. Before you leave the house ask your husband: Are you comfortable with what I am wearing? Does this draw attention to areas of my body that might cause a man to lust? When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, he will not want her (or his daughters) to be the object of other men's comments or lust.

3. Can I bend over in what I am wearing to pick something up without revealing my backside or my front, or.....go to the altar in prayer, on my knees and get up gracefully without displaying anything inappropriately?

4. Is strapless appropriate? If your answer is yes, why?

5. Is a plunging neckline conducive with worshipping in the Spirit?

There is a class, dignity, self-respect, submission to the Holy Spirit that is evident in a woman when she allows God to dress her for church. And that brings me to this question:

6. Why? Why wear to church those things that draw attention away from our face, away from our identity with Christ, away from intimacy with a Holy God Who deserves our best? The answer may not be what we want to hear, because many times the answer is......I like the attention of men; it feeds my ego; I am more concerned with the attention I get than I am in truly worshipping a Holy God. In other words, "It's all about me."

Be brave dear sister in Christ and ask Him if what you are wearing is acceptable to Him, appropriate for His house, and something He is proud of. Trust me, if you ask Him, He will tell you.

Our enemy Satan works tirelessly to place "stumbling blocks" in the path of unbelievers, as well as immature believers. As unbelievers gather in our sanctuaries this Sunday, will they be distracted by how we are dressed and miss the message of the Word? I hope not. God is so good, He is so faithful, He deserves our best. What you wear to church reveals your level of spiritual maturity and submission to the Spirit.

Please check out Life Way women's newest blog post; Teaching Modesty to our Kids. Well worth the time to read it. One more question and I will put this to rest:

7. If you are wearing strapless, short, and sheer, what will your daughter wear? What will she think is appropriate to wear to church? What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces. We are daughters of the King. We represent His kingdom. We are called to "come out from among them and be ye separate." (2 Corinthians 6:17. Please read this verse)

Ladies we are role models, the younger women in our churches will take their cue on what to wear from us. Be appropriate; be modest; dress for God and your husband.

I am finished and climbing down from my soap box. We may discuss "booty shorts" in another blog. Come on girls, really? Do you think they are appropriate for a Christian lady...especially at church?

Love you!


Friday, May 29, 2015

Do You Believe in Prayer?

Do you believe in prayer?? I recently read about a church that had a "prayer chain" ministry set up through their email, facebook, and text for their church members who had a need for prayer. And what I thought was so great is that when a prayer need goes out, the person in charge of the "prayer chain" always signs it, "Prayer Works!!"

I believe prayer works and I believe in the power of prayer. Whether it be a group of people, all agreeing in prayer (read an earlier post, Agreeing Together in Prayer) or one desperate person, totally humbled and on her knees before God, I believe in the power of prayer. But I also believe there is a difference in believing in the power of prayer and knowing the power of prayer. Most people, whether they are Christians or not, will say they believe in prayer. But only a person who has experienced the power of prayer, knows the power of prayer. And ladies, when we know the power of prayer, we aren't content to just believe it.

I learned many years ago that if I want to know the power of prayer and pray in a more powerful way, then I must do four things;
1. Pray scripture based prayers.
2. Pray in God's will.
3. Pray in submission to my Father.
4. No matter the answer, agree with God.

You may be a new believer and wonder, "And just how do I do that?" Or maybe you've never known there was any other way of praying than those safe, simple prayers at bedtime or mealtime. And oh what you've been missing!!

Hope you have your prayer journal (that's in another post, too) and pen ready; here we go:
Pray scripture based prayers.
There is supernatural power in praying God's word back to Him, but in order to do that, you must be a student of the Word; can't do it any other way. I love to pray Colossians 1: 9-14 for my family. I call each family member by name, (mine, too) and I read each verse and insert a family member's name. Example;
v9; "Lord, I pray that "David" will be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding", then I go through the other verses inserting his name and I do that for all 15 of us. It takes time to pray scripture, but the rewards are worth it. Facing a difficult conversation? Pray Psalm 141:3; "Lord, set a watch before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips." Afraid? Pray Psalm 27:1;
"Lord, You are the Strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid." Use your Bible concordance or get a good Bible program for your computer and when you have a need, look up or type in that word and every scripture you need will pop up in front of your eyes. Ladies I'm telling you, praying the Word is supernatural power!!

Pray in God's will.
All of us have experienced that feeling; Lord, what am I supposed to do?
1 John 5:14, 15; "This is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if (since) we know He hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
We get a "yes" each time we pray in His will. But how do we know His will? We ask Him.
"Father, should I take this job? I want to do Your will, and I know that You will give me whatever "petitions" I ask in Your will. What do You want me to do?" And then.......sit quietly. If an answer doesn't come immediately, stay in a "quiet" state of mind before Him, even as you go about your busy life........ listening. I have discovered that noise and "stuff" can drown out His voice. (Psalm 46:10; Be still and know that I Am God.) And I must confess, there have been times I have avoided the quiet and actually enhanced the noise because I didn't want to hear Him. Elijah learned the power of God's still, small voice (1 Kings 19: 12,13) and knowing His will is in the listening. God does not want His will to remain a mystery; He loves us too much for that and He loves us so much that He wants us to naturally come to Him as a child naturally comes to his mother. Answered prayer builds our faith and He is all about building our faith. Seek His will, then pray with confidence. Learn to listen for I have learned that He speaks, just after the stillness.

Pray in submission to the Father.
Rebellion closes down communication. Rebellion erects a wall between me and God. Before we pray it is important to confess any known sin that might be standing in the way to answered prayer. When sin is forgiven, submission comes easily. When submission comes, our heart is soft and pliable in the Father's hand and He can form it any way He chooses. (Romans 9:20,21) And He always chooses what is best.

No matter the answer, agree with God.
There it is in a nutshell; powerful praying comes when we say, "Lord, whatever you choose, You are right. I agree with You." And what, dear sister, do you think God will do when we agree with Him? He will allow us to experience an intimacy with Him that surpasses human thinking and understanding, because you see, to agree with God in prayer expresses an abandoned faith and trust that defies human reasoning and pleases Him in a way that nothing else can. (Hebrews 11:6). As you see God working in your life and the lives of those you love, say those words: "Lord, I agree with You and what You are doing in my life." It changes everything, and gives us life from a spiritual perspective. No matter the answer, agree with God.

When our heart is focused on praying His Word, when our heart is praying for His will in our lives and in the lives of those we love, when our heart is in submission and we agree with whatever answer He provides, we have stepped into that unseen realm of communion with the Creator of the universe, our Creator. And that, my friend, is supernatural prayer. It is a place where absolutely nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) It is the place where we know the power of prayer because we have experienced it.

I'd love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions.

Have a blest day and listen for the stillness.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What is Most Important?

I am so ready for some real spring weather. This week, in Kentucky, the weather forecast is for highs in the 80's and for me that is simply perfect!! This has been one wet, cold spring. And when it is warm and sunny, I cannot stay inside, I make it my goal for the day to sit in every chair I have in my yard at least once!!

On Memorial Day weekend, my family, brothers, sisters and their families meet at our home place for a family reunion. With 10 children, (one is deceased) many grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, (I think that is as far as it goes), needless to say we have a crowd. My brothers and sisters and I were fortunate to have parents who valued family above all else and they wanted us to keep the home-place and we did. We gather in at Thanksgiving, Christmas, breakfast on Saturday mornings occasionally, (I make the biscuits, almost as well as Mama did) home-comings and when the weather is nice, to just sit on the porch in the swings and talk. Funny, but when I was a kid, I didn't think the home-place was all that impressive, but now, it is where I want to be, it is where I go when I need to truly be alone with God. In those woods I feel His presence like I can no where else, and for me it is my "Bethel". (Genesis 35:1) It is there that my "history" began and it is there that holds my identity.

The older I get, the more I feel drawn to what is most important, and like my parents, family is most important to me. David and I will be married 45 years this week. Where has time gone? On paper, we should not have made it; 17 yr old girl, 19 yr old boy, 2 years later a baby, height of the Viet Nam war, very different backgrounds, job struggles, but by God's grace and His grace alone, we are here today, and at this stage in life I know it is our faith in God, strong family values, and love and commitment to each other that has seen us through tough times and life struggles.

The thing I hear most from my readers is, "I want to hear more about marriage and making it work." So today, let me encourage you to make your marriage the most important thing in your life, after your relationship with the Lord. I tell my Sunday School class on a regular basis that the most important decision anyone can make is to accept Christ as Savior and the 2nd most important decision is who we marry. Those 2 decisions have more impact on our lives than any other decisions we will make in life. The first one has eternal consequences, and the 2nd determines our happiness, joy, fulfillment, and success.

Here are 3 things you can do everyday to make your marriage a priority; there are of course many others, but for me, these are the most important.

1. Pray for your marriage everyday. And get specific!! If you're mad at him, tell God. If you want him to be more demonstrative in showing his feelings for you, tell God. If you're worried about his health, tell God. If you want him to be a better,Dad, tell God. But.......be sure to sit quietly before the Lord and allow Him to speak to you about areas in your marriage that you can do better. Pray everyday about specific things in your marriage and ask God to help you and your husband to have a marriage that honors Him and sets a good example for your kids and others.

2. Protect your marriage.
Our #1 enemy, Satan, wants nothing more than to destroy your marriage and he will stop at nothing. He has waged an all out attack and war on the family and as our son Kyle so aptly put it, "We have a generation of victims, casualties of the war on the family. Children are the casualties of that demonic war." Protect your marriage by praying for it, but then don't stop there. We protect our marriage by keeping our heart soft toward our husband. If I allow myself to bring up past hurts, if I "build a case against him in my mind", if I dwell on his faults, Satan will plant seeds of discontent and those little, tiny seeds will eventually take root and grow into a monster that will destroy the very fabric of your marriage. Protect it by how you think about your husband, how you speak to him and about him, how you care for him and your home. As women, our instinct is to protect who and what we love. Love your marriage and protect it. Marriage is more than loving your husband; it's loving your marriage as well. And when we love and protect our marriage, our children will not be casualties of divorce.

3. Spend some quiet time together everyday.
When our boys were small, we put them to bed by 8:30-9:00 so we could watch a tv show together, sit and talk, and just have a little quiet time at the end of the day. Now, our kids didn't like it, they often reminded us that their friends stayed up till 10, but I personally believe children still need a bedtime, (amazing how that improves their school work, their personalities, etc) and we needed some quiet time. There are days it will be hard to do, especially as the kids get older, but as often as you can, have some quiet time together, focus on each other, talk things out, show love and respect, in other words communicate every single day...amazing what genuine communication will do for your marriage.

There are so many other things that we can do to keep the important......important, but maybe these 3 things can be a starting place for you and your marriage. God loves your marriage and He wants you to love it, too. Could it be that more marriages would last a lifetime if we loved our marriage as much as we love each other?

So thankful for spring and all things new; no place like Kentucky in May!!

Love to hear from you!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Women Who Followed Jesus

I am glad I am a woman. I come from a long line of women who were also glad they were born a woman. My great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth, was married to a Baptist preacher, had 10 children, and worked hard to raise her family on a small dirt farm. She had a knack for making things grow and her daughter, my grandmother, inherited her same spirit and deep convictions. My mother was also a woman of deep convictions and I am thankful for the spiritual principles she taught me as a child. I am so blessed to have sisters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, and women friends who enrich my life every single day and feed my spirit with truth and grace. And maybe that is why the women who faithfully ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, and faithfully followed Him to the cross, then to the tomb, are so interesting to me; their lives were dramatically changed when they met Jesus.

As we celebrate Easter, my mind can't help but linger on the women who followed Jesus to the cross.....
and stayed there when the men left. And to those women who fearlessly came in the dark, cold, damp hours of the early morning to His empty tomb to lovingly prepare that precious body for a proper Jewish burial, I am awed by their devotion. And I am awed that in their world where women were de-valued, Christ first revealed His resurrected body to these faithful women and not the disciples.

Jesus was the first Jewish Rabbi to discuss the Law and the Old Testament with women. He drew them into Bible Study and forever changed their status in society. He healed their diseases and gave women dignity and honor that those of that time and era would never even consider. (check out the opinions of the Pharisees and other religious leaders regarding women)

In John 4, Jesus chose the Samaritan woman, a woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who was not her husband, to reveal that He was the long awaited Messiah. (v26)
In Luke 8:43, Jesus, full of compassion for her illness, allowed a woman with "an issue of blood" to touch His outer garment. That was definitely not in keeping with the Law, but she was important to Jesus.
In Luke 10: 39, He allowed Mary of Bethany to "sit at His feet and hear Him teach the word" to the men in the room.

And then there was Salome; I love her! She was all about her 2 sons, James and John, who were called by Jesus to be His disciples. (Matt. 4) Not only did her sons become a part of Jesus' "inner circle", but Salome faithfully ministered to Jesus and was at His side during His darkest hour. And she was standing there at the cross when Jesus asked John to care for Mary. As her oldest son, that would have been His job, but Jesus knew He wouldn't be there in the flesh as Mary aged and He asked His dear friend John to see to her needs. And you know what? I don't think Salome minded one bit!

Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza, who was a steward in Herod's palace. Because of  her husband's prominence, she held a place of honor and wealth. Joanna became a believer and faithfully ministered to Jesus from her wealth and abundance. She, too, was among the women who gathered to make their way to the tomb that first Easter morning. Luke 24:10 tells us that other women were there and maybe Susannah, a woman of great wealth was among the group. Several women named Mary came to the tomb, but then there was also Mary Magdalene. So much conjecture has been written about her, and so much fascination surrounds her seemingly sordid past. All I know and all I care about is that she loved Jesus with all her heart and soul. Whatever else she may have been and done does not deter me for one minute from wanting to meet her in heaven and spend time talking with her about what those days were like.

Were there others? The Bible says there were. Unnoticed, forgotten, sad and forlorn to others, but not to Jesus. He knew and loved each one and in Heaven their love and devotion to Him will be displayed for all to see. But sadly, in some parts of our world women are not valued as Jesus valued them. Many times when the news is on our tv, I get up from my seat and leave the room to keep from hearing the atrocities to women and young girls that are taking place in the name of a pagan religion that still sees women and girls as property to be used and abused and cast away. If only, if only, those same women and girls could sit at Jesus' feet as Mary of Bethany; could touch His garment, like the woman with the issue of blood; could be healed of her demons, like Mary of Magdala; could hear His tender pardon of sin like the woman at the well.
What a difference Jesus makes in the lives of women. Are there women and girls in your sphere of influence who need Jesus? Are they waiting for you to introduce them to Him?

Dear friend, you and I, in our warm, safe, loving homes, where most of us have never known abuse, may feel helpless to change the lives of frightened, abused women in another part of the world, but our God can. May I give you a challenge? It will cost you nothing but a broken heart, tears of compassion, a love that reaches around the world, and a small amount of time. As we celebrate our risen Lord this Easter week of Passover, will you join me each day in prayer for our sisters in Christ and those who still do not know Him; will you help me pray for their deliverance from a life of shame and abuse, will you hold fast to the promise in Jeremiah 32:17?
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for You."

I can promise you this; as your heart grows more tender, as you see new reports of slave trading, and as you look into the veiled brown eyes of those desperate girls and women, you will find yourself praying for them and their plight with an intensity that surprises you.

Women are important to Jesus. And my heart is so thankful that He set the standard for how women and girls and children are to be treated. You my friend are important to Jesus. There is no situation that is hopeless, no devastation that He is not the Master of.

That same resurrection power that was first displayed on that first Easter morning is available to you and to me to conquer every fear, every doubt, every hurtful situation in our lives.
"Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is your victory?" Nothing is too hard for Him, claim that promise as your very own because, dear sister, it is. And pray; pray that the plight of those precious women and girls enslaved in the name of religion will soon know freedom in Christ.

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection morning.    Penny

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Hide Your "Talent"!!!

I love the parables of Jesus. Each one is definitely in a class all by itself. The parables make me feel good; they fill me with hope and promise and an awareness that Jesus really does care about me and everything about me is important to Him. People are healed in the parables. Health is restored, troubled minds are freed from demons, relationships restored, and grace and mercy triumph.

As a child sitting beside my mother in church, I vividly remember the first time I heard the story of the Parable of the Talents. As I listened wide eyed to the preacher, I honestly thought a talent was well....a talent, like singing or playing a musical instrument. Growing up in a family of musicians and singers, that was naturally what I thought the parable was about. And I can remember being horrified that Jesus would take the one talent (I thought it was singing)  He had given to a servant and give it to the servant He had already given five! I soon learned that the "talent" in the parable was a term for measuring in ancient times, but I still remember my childish indignation that the person with only one talent had it taken from him and the person with five, was given one more.

Beginning in Matthew 24, the disciples are seated at Jesus' feet, and verse 3 tells us they asked Him "in private" to explain to them what He had preached publicly in the Temple about the "end of the age." And for the next 2 chapters, every single word that Jesus spoke is devoted to teaching His disciples (you and me) deep, rich, life altering spiritual truth about His eternal kingdom. And in verse 14 He teaches them the Parable of the Talents.

v14: "For the kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling into a far country."

The master of the house was preparing to take a long journey and he called 3 of his most trusted servants and gave them explicit instructions as to the overseeing of his affairs while he was gone. To one servant he gave 5 "talents", to one he gave 2, and to another he gave 1. The master knew his servants well, and he knew how much responsibility and wealth each one could handle. He promised he would return and when he did, each servant would give an accounting to the master for the talents he'd been given to invest.

We aren't told what was being measured, but if it was gold, then it was definitely a fortune, especially in their day, because 1 talent of gold would have been $29,374.50. Of course today, a talent of gold would be considerably more, but that's still a lot of money. Multiply that by 5 and the first servant had a small fortune to invest for his master. So for the sake of this post, we'll say each talent was a measure of gold.

In v16, how did the servant with 5 talents oversee his master's gold?
In v17, how did the servant with 2 talents oversee his master's gold?
But in v18, what did the guy with 1 talent do?

His gold may not have been worth as much as the the other 7 talents, but it was worth it to the master. If it wasn't as important to the master, he wouldn't have entrusted it with the servant, he would have simply given it to one of the other servants. Maybe the 3rd servant felt undervalued, not as worthy or important, and maybe he felt that gave him the right to disregard the master's trust in him and just go bury it somewhere and use the excuse that he was afraid of the master.

Do you ever feel that you aren't important? Do you look at other women who seem to have it all together and feel, well, less than......Do you ever wish you looked better, felt better, had more money, had a better marriage, better kids, yada yada yada? I bet (and I don't bet) if every woman was honest, she would admit to feelings of less than.....

Today, your "talents" are every thing the Master has entrusted into your capable hands.
On this cold, snowy, stay in the house and make snow cream kind of day, drying countless wet snowsuits, socks, gloves, hats, and refereeing countless fusses and squabbles, it's easy to dig a hole and hide the talent. But all the Master is asking us to do, is to take what He has given us, invest it wisely, give it back to Him, and watch Him multiply it for our good and His glory.

Marriage is worth our investment, raising kids who love God and serve Him, is a wise investment, serving Him by serving others is worth it. He doesn't expect you, or even ask you, to be like anyone else; He just wants you and me to be who He has created us to be.

Did the servant with one talent feel less valued than the other 2? Maybe. But he was important to the master.
Look at the "talents" the Master has given you; if you start right now investing in those "talents", how much would each of those "talents" be worth when the Master returns? And that is what this parable is saying; the Master will soon return and we will give an accounting of the "talents".

You're the one God has chosen to raise those kids. You are the one God has chosen to be a wife to your husband. You are the one God has chosen to teach that Sunday School Class, take care of sick patients in the ICU, lead a Bible Study on Wednesday night, teach those rowdy kindergartners, prepare those lunches in the school cafeteria, read to those dear elderly saints in the nursing home, and be an intercessor in prayer for those suffering around the world. And nobody can do it like you. Be proud (a God given proud) of those "talents" and invest yourself in each one, refuse to compare your "talents" to any other woman, and watch those "talents" double and multiply!

Revelation 22:12
"Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every person according as his work shall be."

I love the parables of Jesus!!