Being a Woman of Integrity

It seems to me that there are a lot of articles, sermons and books exhorting men to be “men of integrity,” but there doesn’t seem to be much of a push for women to do the same. Why is that, I wonder? Is it not equally important that women – especially women who claim to be Christians – to live with integrity? I’ve been dwelling on that thought for the past several days. Subsequently, the thought has given birth to a desire for a new blog post.

First things first, let’s define integrity. A quick Google search yields this:
Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.30.39 AMThis is a pretty basic understanding of what integrity means. As a Christian, I believe it’s even more specific and all the more more important, as we are God’s representatives here on earth. Charles Swindoll, of Insight for Living, has this to say on Christian integrity:
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That’s not a very popular view today, is it? It seems all that matters nowadays is looking after one’s self. Just turning on the television will give an idea of how society regards integrity. The most popular shows are the ones that glorify adultery, sexual promiscuity, murder, theft, violence, you name it. No one bats an eye at the idea of using lies and manipulation to further self interests. Even Christians watch these shows and without realizing the impact they’re having on our hearts. But these things are the very opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Let’s face it: being a Christian is tough. Most of the time, being a Christian means taking the path of most resistance. In a culture that glorifies living in the flesh, Christ admonishes to rise about our debase human instincts to be more like Him. A woman of integrity strives to be like Jesus in public as well as in private. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect or somehow without sin because, there’s no getting around it, we all goof. What it does mean is that we’re aware of our choices and consistently striving to choose to live according to our convictions. It’s so important to realize that when we tell the world we’re Christian, people are going to be watching us and scrutinizing our actions. What are we telling the world by our lifestyle? Are we being a light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16), or are we a part of the darkness itself? Are we obeying Biblical commands or using our salvation as a free pass to live however we please? If we never told our friends and family that we are Christian, would they still be able to know it based the way we live our lives? These are important questions to ask ourselves on a regular basis. One quote that frequently comes to mind when I think of integrity is this:

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As Christian mothers, I find it especially important that we live with integrity. Our children are watching our every move. Our choices are shaping their little hearts. When they see us living one life at church or in front of Christians friends and another life in private or with our worldly friends, what message is that sending them? Are we pointing them towards God or towards the devil?

I realize that this is a difficult topic for many of us, but it’s of the utmost importance that we talk about this as believers. Morality is on it’s way out, so it’s my conviction that living a life of integrity is more important than ever. Let us remember The Great Commission in all the ways we live our lives, not just our words and actions in front of a select few – and in so doing, we will reflect Christ to the unsaved world. Amen.

On Josh Duggar, Sexual Sin, and the Sanctity of Marriage

Anyone with an internet connection has probably heard the news that Joshua Duggar was found guilty of viewing pornography and engaging in extramarital sexual affairs. From Duggar haters to Christians who once defended Josh in spite of his actions as a teenager, the internet is abuzz with this latest gossip and many people are happily riding their high and mighty horses.  I will admit to being one of those who once stood behind Josh and attempted to defend his actions as being a teenager who screwed up but since learned his mistake and mended his ways. I promise that I will try to stay off any high horses while I write this blog post. In fact, I am stopping intermittently as I type to pray and ask for guidance in my words so that it’s not my words coming out, but words reflecting God’s heart.

Josh Duggar is a sinner. His sins, it would seem, are rooted in sexual deviancy. He looked at pornography online. I also once viewed pornography before Jesus got a firm grasp on my heart. Josh is guilty of committing adultery. I was once the “other woman” and my sole reason for engaging in those acts was to get back at the woman he was dating because she was the “other woman” while he was in a committed relationship with me. Josh sought out extramarital affairs. I, too, engaged in sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. Like Josh, I am deeply sorry for those sins in which I partook. I absolutely will not stand here and throw stones at this man for committing sins of which I am also guilty; neither will I defend his actions. He was wrong. I was wrong. There you have it.

Here’s the thing that gets me, though. The primary difference between Josh Duggar and myself is the fact that I was never a public figure and willfully drawing attention to myself and parading around pretending to be a paradigm of righteousness while living a secret double life. As Christians we are not free of sin. We still mess up and have to fall back on God’s grace daily to help us. But when we struggle – and I promise you, we all struggle – we ought not to hide it, but rather we should look it straight in the face, repent and get help. Josh is so desperately in need of that help right now, but so many people are too busy judging him to stop and offer to help. When our brother in Christ struggles, let’s try to get past the initial shock and work on building him up and freeing him from the bondage of his sin.

The last thing that I want to address is how this all affects the sanctity of marriage. Joshua Duggar hypocritically went around speaking out against homosexuals and lobbying for Washington to put an end to homosexual marriage because of the negative impact it would have on the sanctity of marriage, meanwhile he was privately violating the sanctity of his own marriage. The Christian community as a whole needs to stop sweeping the subject of sexual sin under the rug. It’s time to address the giant pink elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. We Christians tend to be quite fond of being vocal about how wrong homosexuality is, meanwhile we’re turning our heads to those among us who are having sex with people to whom they aren’t married, living with significant others before marriage, and divorcing and remarrying left and right. Y’all, this is absolutely an epidemic of sexual immorality we’re dealing with. We tiptoe around these people scared to death to call them on their sin because it’s not “PC” (even in the Christian world) to talk about those sins. But, hey, let’s all go throw stones at the homosexuals. Hello, brothers and sisters, it’s time to wake up! The sanctity of marriage is not in jeopardy because of the LGBT community; it’s in jeopardy because of lukewarm, apathetic Christians who no longer value fighting for biblical morality.

If you are professing to be a Christian while viewing pornography, having sex with someone to whom you are not married, partaking in sexual fantasies that are not being righteously fulfilled (a.k.a. within the boundaries of marriage), or even not “technically” engaging in sexual acts but are trying to bring sexual attention to yourself and causing others to stumble because of it, you need to repent immediately and seek out help. If we’re going to defend the sanctity of marriage we need to first stop pointing our finger at others for their sins and turn that finger right around and look at our own sins. When we get right with God, then we need to pray about finding a way to lift up our fellow brothers and sisters and help them overcome their obstacles in a spirit of love, grace and forgiveness.

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My Rebuttal to Diary of an Autodidact’s Blog Post Entitled “The Duggars: How Fundamentalism’s Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior”

I read a blog today which I found so deeply offensive that I felt compelled to take the time to type out a response to his post. I am going to attempt to address each of the author’s points and explain why I find his generalized, sweeping statements to be logical fallacy and downright outrageous. Keep in mind as you read that I, myself, am one of those “fundamentalist Christians” about whom the blog author is writing. I am also a survivor of childhood molestation at the hands of a family member. For the record, I was not raised fundamentalist; I wasn’t even raised Christian, for that matter. (Please read the original post here before reading my comments.)

The author of this blog starts out by saying , “Fundamentalist teachings on sex tend to lead to young men who would not otherwise be predators act out in predatory ways.” Here are his various statements to back up his claim, which I intend to refute.

“Thinking about sex is lust, and lust is as bad as doing it…This idea is hammered into children by Gothard and others. The hope is that they would be able to banish all sexual thoughts and desires until that magical wedding night when the switch is flipped.” This statement is asinine and not at all based in fact. I presume his assertion comes from Matthew 5:28 which says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In this verse, Jesus is addressing intentionally lustful thoughts; in other words, the sexual coveting of another person. That’s not to say that men are never allowed to look at women and find them attractive, or vice versa. Simply put, what it means is that we believe it’s wrong to have mental sex with someone who is not your spouse, reducing them to the role of a visual prostitute. It is disrespectful of that person. It dehumanizes them and turns them into nothing more than an object. Lust distorts, dishonors, and destroys. As a so-called “fundamentalist Christian,” it’s my belief that we should practice self-control in all aspects in life – and that certainly includes our sexual thoughts and desires. Even within marriage we must practice sexual restraint at times. The verse is about keeping our hearts and thoughts in check and not allowing sexual thoughts to take over our lives; it’s not telling us that we’re never allowed to find another individual attractive.

“’Modesty Culture’ teaches that female bodies are the source of said sinful lust…The source of male sexual sin is the woman, who, by virtue of being attractive, causes him to lust.” No. Seriously, just…NO. This is completely wrong. I’ll be the first to say that I’m huge proponent of modesty, but it isn’t just about the way we dress. It’s about the state of our hearts. Modesty means humility and not living one’s life so as to constantly bring attention to one’s self. Being modest means holding ourselves accountable for not only our own thoughts, but also for our actions. Luke 17:1 states the following: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.'” I believe that means that we are not to be stumbling blocks to other Christians. Also note that Jesus never specified that toward just women, either. None of us should be carrying on in such a way that would cause a brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin. In terms of modesty, we are all (men and women alike) held accountable for the way we present out bodies to the world. No, we cannot, and rightly should not, be held accountable for the thoughts of other individuals; however, Christians should make a conscience choice not to blatantly dress or behave in such a way that would cause others to be tempted to sin. The aforementioned verse about lust demonstrates Jesus clearly putting the guilt of immoral thoughts squarely on the individual thinking the lustful thoughts, not on the one who is the victim of said thoughts. This verse in Luke goes hand-in-hand with the verse in Matthew and addresses everyone else, making it clear that we should never be guilty of intentionally seeking to cause others to stumble. This, I believe, is the point the author fails to see. Like all of Jesus’ teachings, it comes down to our hearts. Are we putting ourselves and our own needs first, or do we have a servant’s heart that prioritizes others above ourselves? The very essence of Christianity is selflessness.

“Sexual desire is presented in a gendered way…The idea is that women don’t really want sex…Thus, females will always want to say no to sex, so the man will have to impose on them to some degree.” I’m guessing it’s been a while since this person has read Song of Songs. In case you need a refresher, Song of Songs is a collection of love notes from a man and woman to each other. It is a beautiful book about love and the gift of sex that God gives married people. God created men and women to enjoy sex! In many healthy Christian marriages, wives sometimes desire sex with their husbands more often than the husbands. That’s not abnormal or unhealthy, it’s simply the unique way God creates people. Never at any time have I been taught, nor will I ever teach others, that sex was designed solely for male pleasure. There’s nothing Biblical about that, and it’s certainly not a belief held by conservative Christians.

“No outlets for sexual feelings are acceptable – until marriage.” This one is broken down into several subcategories, so I am going to address each of them separately.

“Keep in mind that what applies to Gothardism also applies to most Fundie systems, and in some cases applies in significant part to mainstream Evangelicalism these days. Because of the obsession with preventing sex, these systems impose significant ‘safeguards’ against it occurring.” First of all, let me make it clear that Christians are not “obsessed with preventing sex.” I think I can speak for all conservative Christians when I say that what we are concerned with preventing is premarital and promiscuous sex. Those are different things entirely. Premarital/promiscuous sex leads to so many problems, both within the hearts of individuals and within intimate relationships as a whole, that if I were to touch on all the ways that these things cause permanent and sometimes irrevocable damage, I’m pretty sure it would take up an entire blog post in and of itself. From the emotional baggage it leaves behind to statistically-proven increased divorce rates, STDs to the perversion of sex it leads to… suffice it to say that sexual immorality is not good.

“For example, as I have already noted, they insist on constant work to repress any and all sexual feelings, because these are ‘lust.’ Second, as I noted, they work to keep female bodies from being visible. They must be hidden away as best possible, because without them, (presumably), young males wouldn’t want sex. This is what is behind the obsession with the way young girls dress, as I pointed out in my series.” I addressed all of these topics above.

“Third, in many of these systems – including Gothardism – cross-gender friendships are discouraged, and in some cases forbidden altogether. The young people must be kept from each other, or sexual feelings might develop.” Actually, this isn’t quite correct. That’s not to say that some families don’t go too far in their desire to help their children avoid sexual immorality, but I have never personally experienced this nor is this belief cultivated within my own family. We certainly are going to discourage the cultivation of inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, such as allowing teenagers to spend long amounts of unchaperoned time with individuals of the opposite sex, but that’s because we have been teenagers ourselves and we know full well what can and does go on in those circumstances. Adolescents aren’t exactly known for their wise decision-making skills, so it’s my belief that there are times when it is appropriate for parents to establish guidelines for our children to follow to help them keep themselves accountable. If that’s wrong, then I will happily accept blame for that. We certainly do believe that boys and girls can be friends. If no one was ever permitted to socialize with the opposite gender, then how would anyone ever progress to the courtship stage?

“Fourth, many of these systems discourage sex education because it might lead to lust. This is particularly the case for girls, who ideally would learn about sex from their husbands on the wedding night. I wish I was making that one up. Certainly, a robust family discussion of sex is out of the question. Instead, sex isn’t talked about, except to say ‘don’t do it and don’t think about it.'” This is so far off base that I actually laughed when I read it. No, Christians are certainly not refusing sex ed. As I said before, I cannot speak for all families, and I know that in all sects there will be those extremists who do not account for the majority. His assertion is incorrect for not only my family but ALL of the like-minded families I know. We teach our children about sex from a Biblical view. We teach our children that it’s a wonderful gift God gives us and in the bounds of marriage can and should be thoroughly enjoyed. I answer questions my children may have in an honest and age-appropriate way, holding back only those things which discretion tells me their ears may be too young to hear.

“Fifth, the whole system of ‘courtship’ or ‘betrothal’ further separates the genders until that magical wedding night. For those not familiar with ‘courtship,’ it forbids dating of any kind until both parties are ready to marry. That is, until he has enough money and income to support her. At that time, he asks her father for permission, and the courtship takes place under closely supervised conditions. Chaperones are present always, and the couple is considered as essentially engaged from the beginning of the process.” Courtship is not as simple as this blogger makes it out to be. It looks very different from one family to the next. Generally speaking, pro-courtship families encourage the couple to work together to make their own set of standards that they wish to follow and utilize tools (such as chaperones) to help them maintain those standards in the event that temptation arises. Some courtships will have kissing and hand-holding, while others might choose to save any and all intimacy for marriage. Ultimately, it’s up to them. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that courtship and engagement are two completely different things; individuals within a courtship are free to leave the relationship at any time if they feel that God is not leading that relationship toward marriage. There are a lot of benefits to courtship or, as some call it, “dating with a purpose” – far too many for me to list here. Check out this article to read more about it from someone who is far more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself.

“My experience in these cases is that the young men involved – again, not adults, but 12-15 years old[sic] – have seriously screwed up beliefs about women, consent, and sex; because the teachings are obsessed with preventing sex, not in creating a healthy view of sexualty[sic], which embraces consent, female sexual desire, and equality within the sexual relationship.” I’m pretty sure I covered all these claims in my comments above. There may be some families out there who are, as the author puts it, screwing up their children’s views of sex, but those families do not represent the majority of conservative or “fundamentalist” Christian families. I encourage the author to step back and truly examine the sweepingly generalized allegations he’s making against Christians and consider amending his remarks to not include a majority when he is clearly only addressing a small minority.

A Touching Post From the Seewalds to the Duggars

This was so touching that I simply had to share. Mr. Michael Seewald expresses beautifully the forgiveness that the Lord extends to those who seek after Him. Please take a moment to read.

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Public Acknowledgment

In case you have been under a rock this past week, InTouch magazine broke the story revealing that Josh Duggar had fondled several underage girls twelve years ago when he was a young teenager. Since that story was published the internet and media have exploded with stories and blogs many of them lining up to throw stones at Josh and the whole family. While Josh Duggar had owned up to his sins years ago with the people that it concerned, he has now publicly acknowledged them with grief and regret, and resigned his position as Executive Director of Family Research Council Action.

Why Am I Weighing In?

I would rather not discuss something of this nature on my blog, especially since it is dredging up past sins that have been painfully grieved over once already by all involved. It pains me to see that they are now having to relive the nightmare that had been laid to rest well over a decade ago with Josh’s repentance and reformation, but I feel compelled to bring some context and reason to the bloodletting that many are engaging in and to come to the aid of our dear friends and family.

Repentance

I am not going to talk much about the criminal aspect of Josh’s actions or if the authorities acted appropriately with the knowledge of what happened. That ball rests in their court. As it stands criminal charges were not brought against Josh but I believe that Josh’s parents acted in a way that godly parents should. They did not turn a blind eye, but earnestly sought help from the church, counselors, and eventually the police. Maybe they didn’t do it in a way that pleases everyone, but they acted decisively to confront the sin, to call a penitent son back from his errors, and to seek to aid the hurting victims. In the end Josh sought forgiveness from those he wronged, repented of his sins, and came to trust Christ as his Savior. He has to the present day attested to the reality of his repentance and faith by living above reproach. In their efforts to salvage the wreckage that these transgressions brought, and bring healing to all involved, Jim Bob and Michelle are to be commended.

People Were Affected

The victims of Josh’s actions should not be lost in all of this. Sadly, this type of thing is all too common. Victims of sexual abuse of any kind often suffer greatly for many years as a result of these sins. We should not downplay the seriousness of these offenses particularly, nor gloss over the pain and confusion they often bring, sometimes for a lifetime.

Sorry Your Honor, The Cat Is Already Out Of The Bag

Some people act as if it was the Duggar’s responsibility to have made this sad episode in their family public knowledge. They are to be praised for not hiding this from the appropriate parties and eventually the police, but they owed it to no one else to publicize the sins of a minor child and the court agrees with that assessment, the judge now ordering that the police report be destroyed. But the cat is already out of the bag. How many of you would broadcast the sins of your children to the whole world? Would you be willing to publicize your own darkest moments? It is miserable indeed that someone was willing to illegally obtain a police investigation involving minor children and publish it for whatever nefarious purpose they had in mind.

Please click here to continue reading.

Should Christians Watch or Read 50 Shades of Grey?

This movie has been a topic of much debate lately. There are those who love the movie and see nothing wrong with it. There are those who are indifferent and say, “To each, his (or, in this case, her) own. Live and let live!” Then there are those who are vehemently against it. I’m not going to lie to you – I am in the “vehemently against it” camp. It’s not because I think people should be persecuted for what they read. I’m not even suggesting that we ban the book, contrary to what some people may think. My views are solely that of a Christian with a biblical world view. What I have to say will probably be irrelevant to those who are not saved and do not care to be held accountable to God’s standards. If that is you, you might as well quit reading now. If, however, you are a follower of Christ then please read on.

First things first, let me start by saying that this isn’t just about 50 Shades of Grey. There is an entire genre of books and movies (and so much more) that caters to a similar mentality of promoting lust, perversion, adultery, pornography and…well, sexual sin of all sorts. It’s not an innocent book/movie when you are a Christian. God expects His followers to be above the world’s standards. We are told time and time again to rise above fleshly desires, including sexual sin.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

Do you see what Paul is exhorting us to do there? We are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world. Our bodies are living sacrifices for the Lord. Think back to Old Testament times. Sacrifices and offerings were given for atonement of sin. The Hebrews would choose their firstfruits, spotless lambs, and the very best of their crops to give to the Lord. God deserves nothing but the best we can offer Him. Going even further, 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the temple, or Tabernacle, was the Most High Place and the dwelling place of the Lord. Since Jesus’ death, our bodies have become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Knowing this, that our bodies are a sacrifice for the Lord and a temple for the Holy Spirit, how then can we ever justify partaking in such sexual sin? Should we fill the temple with thoughts of sexual immorality? Should pornography be the entertainment found within God’s temple? If those passages alone do not convict you, then I believe you will find the answer plain as day right here:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

You, my friend, are a child of the King. You are an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). As such, your body is the dwelling place of the Lord here on earth. You are royalty! Your worth and value are defined not by the carnality and immorality of this world, but by God’s love for you, and Christ’s sacrifice to assure you a place in heaven. I encourage you to use Philippians 4:8 as the filter for everything in your life, from the books you read to the shows you watch to the conversations you have. Let’s strive to honor God in all we do!

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Truths About Divorce

Divorce. It’s an ugly word, isn’t it? But as nasty as it is, it’s so much more common than it should be. Per DivorceStatistics.org, every single couple that walks down the aisle has roughly a 50% chance of ending in divorce. And that’s just first time marriages; if it’s your second marriage, you have 60% to 67% chance of divorcing, and if you’re on your third marriage, that number jumps to 70% to 73%. The trend that I see there is that once you’re accustomed to bailing on your marriage, you’re more inclined to do so in the future.

I do not speak as someone who simply reads the statics and draws conclusions; I speak as someone who has been there. I am on my second marriage. (For the story of my first marriage, click here.) I know what it feels like to make a commitment that should last a lifetime, only to find myself divorced (and a single mom, to boot) a year later. You see, lots of people talk about divorce statistics and the importance of keeping families together and can quote statics all day long, but they have no idea what it’s like to actually BE that person. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to educate people about the importance of staying married! But they can never prepare you for what’s it’s really like, and the scars you will carry for the rest of your life as a result. Until you’ve been there and gone through it, you can never fully comprehend how difficult the consequences are, and how long they will stick with you.

As I was cleaning and organizing my home today, I found myself going through some old papers and trying to decide what should go in the safe. I wasn’t expecting to find the divorce decree in that stack of papers. I found myself staring at the documents with the official stamps of the court, signatures of lawyers and judges, all in legal jargon that I still don’t fully understand 10 years later. Also in the stack I found my old marriage license, the restraining order I was issued, and various other documents that came up throughout that period of time in my life. My mind began flashing back and I found myself in tears as I relived it all. Even though it’s been a decade, there’s still so much hurt. This man I was supposed to spend my life with inflicted so much pain on me, and the damage didn’t stop when I filed for divorce. It didn’t end when the divorce was finalized. It didn’t even end when he stopped harassing me and I got him out of my life for good. There are so many implications that I never was able to foresee.

I was one of the lucky ones and found love again two years later, but I still carried the baggage of my first marriage. It was so hard to open up and trust someone again after I had been betrayed. You are never warned what it’s like to try to fall in love again after you’ve been divorced. There’s a stigma out there, especially if you are a single mother. Your future in-laws may be hesitant to accept you for fear that your baggage could harm their son. You will struggle to get close to anyone because you fear getting hurt. One of the hardest consequences of divorce is on those with children who are products of the marriage that ended. I wanted so much to have a father in my child’s life, but I also wanted desperately to protect her. It’s a fine line to walk, trying to open up and love again while also protecting yourself and your child if things go badly.

Once the trust was established and our relationship grew we decided to get engaged, but with that came a new problem. What would my child call her stepfather-to-be? How would we go about explaining things to her when she was old enough to understand? He wished to adopt her, which was a beautiful blessing, but his decision was met with negativity from those wishing to protect my new husband from being used by me. He did adopt her and we ended up having the support of those around us, however the road to adoption (which we thought should be a joyful one) was filled with even more obstacles and heartaches. My ex didn’t want to relinquish custody, we had to pay lawyers to fight for us and to prove parental abandonment, our pasts were dug into and our motives were questioned. Even once the adoption finalized, we had to go through the process of getting her name legally changed and her birth certificate amended (nearly 7 years later, I am still fighting with the state of California to give me an amended birth certificate).

Even with all that, it’s still not over. I can never get rid of my memories. I can never change the fact that my eldest child is the product of a divorce. I am doing everything I can to make sure that fact doesn’t negatively impact her life or her view of herself, but the truth is that it does. I try to teach her that marriage is permanent and that when we say “I do” it should be forever, and yet I have to be honest with her and explain that I did not live up to that expectation in my past. She will at some point, I am sure, wonder about her real father and perhaps even consider meeting him. One day I will have to cope with that (though I thank God that day is not today). You see, it will never truly be over for us, and it’s never over for anyone who has been through a divorce.

When the Lord created marriage, He knew how beautiful it could be. He also knows how devastating it can be when the marriage promises are broken, and I believe that is why He wishes marriage to be forever. My advise to everyone is this:

Please, do not walk down that aisle unless you are absolutely sure. Make sure you truly know the person and that he or she is really is the one you wish to spend the rest of your life with. And once you are married, make sure it’s for good. For your sake, your spouse’s sake, and most importantly, the sake of any future children, do not take marriage lightly. You will never fully understand the consequences of divorce until you get there – but let me assure you, it’s rarely worth it. When you make the choice to wed, make it for life.

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My Dream

Last night I had a dream, and I would like to share that dream with you. I’m not going to lie to you. It was disturbing beyond belief, but I believe God was speaking to me in the dream and so I am going to share it – but be forewarned; it’s unsettling.

I don’t recall all the details of the dream, but what I do remember is that it seemed to take place in an apocalyptic world. I was arrested for being a Christian and taken to a place where other Christians were being held. I recall that there were some deranged people going around killing Christians (and Jews) as they saw fit. Those of us who survived were all taken to a sort of concert hall, but there was no musical performance going on. People were being chosen at random and taken to the stage, where unimaginable horrors were done to them for the delight of the “audience,” and then they were finished off and disposed of in order to bring the next victim onto the stage. I’ll spare you the details of what was done to these Believers, but suffice it to say that it was not pretty. I can still hear the screams of the victims, and it seemed far too real even though it was only a dream.

There were guards assigned to small groups of us, and it was their job to see that none of us escaped this bloody “show.” The guard over our particular group did not seem to be enjoying the spectacle and he kept his back turned to the entire thing, but he still performed his duty to make sure we did not get away. I tried speaking with him in the hopes of reasoning with him during an intermission of sorts. He seemed as thought he may have been a likable person outside of those circumstances, and he didn’t enjoy what was happening one bit; however, even though he knew it was wrong, he continued to do his job so he wouldn’t be placed among those of us awaiting slaughter. I remember crying out to God in the dream, begging him to intervene and strike them all with something – blindness maybe – so we could all escape to safety.

I suddenly awoke from the dream at this point, very near tears thinking about what I had just “witnessed.” I immediately began to pray, but found I didn’t know what or how to pray after that dream. I suppose I could have asked the Lord to spare me, my family and my friends from ever having to experience such horrors, but then I realized that there are Christians all over the world experiencing things like this and more at the hands of the Enemy. Then I thought of Jesus himself, and the torture he suffered before and during his crucifixion. How could I pray to be saved from things like that which my Savior was subject to in order to secure my place in heaven?

Then I began to think about the “guard” in my dream. He was opposed to what was going on and didn’t want to look at it or even think about it, and yet he continued to play a role in it. He is like so many lukewarm Christians; he recognized the sin, and yet he turned a blind eye to it and refused to take a stand for fear of what would happen to him. How like him we can be! We see what’s wrong all around us, and yet we do not speak out against it. Are we not just as guilty as those committing the sin? Ephesians 5:11 tells us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” 

These are dark times we’re in, and they’re only going to get darker. My prayer is that we remain steadfast and true to the Lord’s commands. For many of us, true persecution seems so foreign because we have never lived it; however, so many Christians around the world ARE being persecuted and this is daily life for them. Whether we choose to think about it or not, this reality is making its way toward us. As the End Times draw nearer, things are going to get ugly. We need to stay strong in the Lord and seek strength from him. Let us continue to pray for those Christians who are bing persecuted, and do all we can to spread the message of salvation so that we can save as many souls as we can during our short stay on this earth. Let us not become so caught up in the mundane day-to-day tasks that we forget what it is truly important. May we never lose sight of our purpose for being here. Let us always keep our eyes upward and focused on Jesus.

The Days of Lot

 

What are “the days of Lot” Jesus referred to in the book of Luke? I have seen a number of references to this verse lately, so I decided to do an in-depth Bible study on it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Here’s the passage in context:

Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30)

The first thing to notice here is that Jesus is talking about the end times. He is describing what the world will look like before his second return. He’s giving them several warnings: false teachers will come, there will be suffering, and things will be as they were with Noah and Lot. So, how were things with Noah and Lot? Genesis paints a pretty clear picture about how things were in the “Days of Noah”:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

The Biblical account of the “Days of Lot” is even clearer. In Genesis 18:20, the Lord himself states that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great,” and that “their sin is very grave.” I don’t know about you, but this definitely piques my interest. What were they doing that was so very grave? Genesis 19 answers that question.

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” (Genesis 19:1-2)

If you read on, you see that they go with Lot to his home. Here’s what happens next:

Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” (Genesis 19:4-5)

To be clear, “knowing them carnally” means to have sex. Yes, the men of Sodom saw angels of the Lord appearing in the form of men and wanted to have sex with them. I don’t know about you, but that is just about the most repugnant thing I have ever read. These men were so perverse, so depraved, that they planned to rape God’s messengers. They were knee-deep in some seriously disturbing sin. It wasn’t just the men, however. The women of Sodom and Gomorrah were also partaking in these goings-on. The Book of Jude verse 7 tells us, “They were giving themselves over to sexual immorality and going after strange flesh.” (In case you’re wondering, “strange flesh” is any flesh which is unnatural; i.e. homosexuality).

The other major sin being committed by Sodom and Gomorrah was haughtiness, or pride.

Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me. (Ezekiel 16:49-50a)

The picture painted is pretty clear. They believed they knew best, and they did as they saw fit. As Christians, we find their behavior shocking and repulsive, but to them it was normal and completely acceptable.  This was a nation blinded by their perversion. Their sin, which was an abomination to the Lord, was not sin to them, and they were too deeply immersed in their lifestyle led by their carnal desires to see anything wrong with themselves. (Does this sound familiar?)

So, when Jesus says that the end times are like the days of Lot, I believe He was telling us that it will be a time when men and women, as a whole, live only for themselves, and will do what they see is right in their own eyes. As Revelation 18:7 tells us, the world will say, “I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.” People will be prideful, thinking they are better than God and have no need for Him. The world will be rife with sexual sin, and these perversions will be seen as normal and perfectly natural, and will be embraced by those who do not follow the Lord. In a nutshell, the world is going to look an awful lot like Sodom and Gomorrah. Based on what Jesus Himself tells us, I believe Christians today should be watchful. We are certainly rapidly approaching the end times. It may be sooner than any of us think.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-3)

But take heart, fellow Christians, for as Jesus tells us, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

Why We Will Encourage Our Children NOT to Pursue Dating

The-Courtship

 

I realize that we are pretty old fashioned in our way of thinking, and I am certain that most “normal” people think we’re absolutely nuts, but after years of God working on our hearts, my husband and I have prayerfully come to the decision that we will not be encouraging our children to pursue dating. We will instead encourage them to consider courting as an alternative.

First and foremost, please understand that we are by no means forbidding them to date. The choice will ultimately be up to them. However, as they grow we will be teaching them the difference between dating and courting, and gently encouraging them to pray about courting and see where God leads them.

So now the big question… WHY?? It’s both very simple, and also rather complicated.

I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes I made. I have blogged about my testimony in the past, and in it I mentioned that I have gone “too far” in past relationships without being married. I am not the least bit proud of those choices, but I did learn from them. Possibly the most important thing I learned is that when two young people who are attracted to one another spend large amounts of time alone together, bad things tend to happen – things that are designed to be enjoyed strictly within the boundaries marriage. One of the tenets of courting is that the couple spends time getting to know one another with others around, so as to maintain accountability and uphold their mutual desire to remain pure until marriage. My children, although young, already show a great love of the Lord and a desire to be obedient both to the Lord and to my husband and myself. I have no doubt that they will want to save themselves for marriage. I am also certain that they will seek out potential spouses that will share that desire. The whole concept of courting respects the wish to maintain purity until marriage, and involves friends and family who will help the young couple stand by that ultimate goal.

The other big reason I have become a proponent of courtship versus dating is that it involves the families of the couple. When I married for the first time, I was impulsive and foolish, and I paid the price for that. I did not seek to involve my family in the decision to marry. I realized after that fact that if I had, it may have saved me a great deal of loss and heartache. Our family knows us better than we know ourselves. We may get caught up in the feelings of a new relationship and lose sight of what’s important to us. We can be blinded by love to the extent of not being able to see clear warning signs. Involving family in our romantic relationships not only maintains accountability, but it also keeps us grounded. My husband and I would like to be a part of that process. While we certainly do not intend to make the decision for our children, we do have a great desire to get to know these marriage candidates and to have an open relationship with our children, where our children can hear our input and where they feel free to discuss their concerns with us.

Courting is intentional, as opposed to dating which is often times extremely casual. Also, we will encourage our children not enter into a courtship before they are mature enough to handle a serious relationship. Unlike dating where you tend to get to know the person on a deeper level after becoming committed and emotionally involved (and, often times, physically involved), courtship works the opposite way. You get to know the person on a friendship level first; then, if there is a bond, you enter into courtship where you begin to get to know the person on a deeper, more intimately emotional level. If in fact the relationship is meant to lead to marriage, then engagement and marriage will follow. Only after marriage do you get to know the person physically.

I think the thing that I love the most about courtship is that it supports the values we cherish as a family, while helping our children to find the spouse that God has intended for them. It’s a beautiful, pure, edifying, and God-glorifying thing, and we look forward to the time when our children enter that season of life.

Why all the fuss over modesty?

Modesty. It’s not exactly a popular subject, is it? For most, the word elicits thoughts of Amish women covered from head to toe, Muslim women hidden behind their burkas, or frumpy, formless dresses. That’s not how I see it, however. I see it as a beautiful, feminine, even (gasp!) fashionable solution to a big problem facing our daughters today.

Yes, I said problem. I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to discussing that our culture has a major problem in the modesty department. When I walk past the baby aisle and see little outfits like this, it’s clear to me that we have a pretty big problem on our hands. Sure, it may seem cute and innocent to some, but let’s think for a moment about what this is really doing in the long run. Bathing suits like that on babies leads to bathing suits like this on little girls. And bathing suits like that on little girls leads to bathing suits like this on teens. And bathing suits like that on teens leads to bathing suits like this on young women. I think you get the idea. When we begin instilling these sorts of values in the minds of growing girls, we are ingraining in them the idea that this is an acceptable and desirable way of presenting themselves to the world. We are sending subtle messages to their young, impressionable minds that their bodies are objects to be displayed, and that their worth is measured by how much skin they show and how sexy they can be. Do not be deceived – there is nothing innocent or sweet about instilling thoughts of sex-appeal in a toddler. Trust me, I know firsthand that it’s easier to teach a child self worth from a young age than it is to un-teach those sorts of ideas when it really begins to matter.

When I look at my daughters and think of their future, I do not wish to see them with men who devalue them. Honestly, I see red when I consider the idea of a teenage boy lusting after one of my daughters. (And I’m just the mom! You do not even want to know the murderous thoughts that go through my husband’s head when thinks of boys having impure thoughts about his little girls!) There’s no denying that sex sells – but girls should not be selling themselves. Our daughters are worth so much more. When the world looks at my girls, my hope is that the world will see who they really are: their love for others, their generous spirits, their wonderful personalities. As their mother, it is my God-given responsibility to teach them how to clothe themselves in a way that allows the world to see their countenance and not their sex appeal. The Lord has given me four beautiful little girls – but their real beauty is in their love for the Lord and the fact that they are daughters of the King of Kings. THAT is true beauty that will never fade with age, and it is the beauty that shines above anything the fashion industry can offer.

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Mothers, fathers, caregivers, it’s time for a change. Let’s teach our daughters to value modesty. Let’s teach our sons to value women who value themselves. Let’s raise our children to know that there is more to life than the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. Let’s teach them what TRUE worth looks like, and let’s begin my modeling it ourselves.