Purity

It would be good to think about how sex is presented in church. Or why it never is. Could it be that the right people don't talk about sex often enough and in the right way?

How did Christianity spread like wildfire in the first century when it was "on the wrong side of history"? Tim Keller offers an encouraging explanation.

Much fine gold

When we give people the Gospel or teach them from the Bible ... when we live a godly life before them and demonstrate its benefits ... we're giving much fine gold.

Walk in the light

People don’t make it an aim in life to kill their own children. In fact, when such a thing happens accidentally, it’s a great tragedy. 

As the pro-choice side puts it, “No one wants to have an abortion.” Yet there are an estimated 50 million abortions a year worldwide. How is it that so many of us arrive at that choice?

Many explanations are given, but Jesus said evil comes from our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). Abortion is a grave spiritual matter.

We come to the brink of abortion by following the “counsel of the ungodly:”

It’s your life; no one can tell you what to do.

You don’t owe God anything.

Nothing bad will happen to you.

God doesn’t hear you, or see what you do.

God can’t (or won’t) help you.

God doesn’t know what your life is like.

There is no God.*

So, while a person may not set out to get there, he or she may wind up in a situation where abortion “makes sense” . . . is “the only thing to do” . . . seems as though “it will save me from a lot of other problems.”

How do we avoid abortion? By tracking closely after God (Psalm 17:5, 23:3). The person intent on walking in “paths of righteousness” -- following hard after God, familiarizing herself with His ways, conforming to His patterns -- will be spared horrible choices.

What if you’ve had an abortion? The good news is Jesus died for people who follow ungodly advice, and even for those who give it (Romans 5:6-8).

While we were still unrepentant sinners, He paid the penalty for sin. In Him, we have eternal life and freedom from sin. This promise includes people who’ve had abortions.

Since abortion begins in the heart, its remedy begins there, too. Psalm 32 recommends quick and thorough confession. Because he knew firsthand the shame of guilt and the joy of forgiveness, David advises everyone to be open with God about sin.

If you’re thinking about having an abortion, ask God to show you another way (1 Corinthians 10:13). Your local church or pregnancy care center can help, too, with good counsel and support.

*Psalm 1:1; 2:3; 3:2; 10:6, 11, 13; 12:4; 14:1; 22:8; 42:3, 10; 53:1; 59:7; 64:5; 71:11; 73:11; 78:19; 79:10; 94:7; 115:2.

This text originally appeared on our bulletin insert for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday 2009. It sold out, but is worth revisiting here on the blog.

Christians are good givers. Amid the shopping frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we give as we always have to our churches, to Christian ministries, and to the less fortunate. 

Giving Tuesday is about inviting friends to join you in support of favorite charities. Share this link so they can support biblical pro-life ministries that change lives.

Something else to keep in mind: Opponents of life use Giving Tuesday as a major fundraising tool. Let your giving and/or social-media sharing on December 2 make a difference for life!

Which of the following are being immodest?

  1. Zach is loud and demanding. He acts up in class and loves being the center of attention. Every story he tells is about him, and he’ll interrupt your story to try to top it with one of his own.
  2. Samantha is always concerned about how she looks, and usually dresses better than everyone else. She spends a lot of time on her hair, and money on her clothes, and is always asking her friends, “Do you like my new outfit?” and “Does it look good on me?”
  3. Brett doesn’t care how he looks and expects others to “accept him as is.” He’s known for dressing like a slob no matter what the occasion is. It doesn’t look like he brushes his teeth very often, and sometimes his body odor is offensive.
  4. Aaliyah studies fashion magazines so she can copy the styles of her favorite celebrities and she likes dressing older than her age. Now that her body is starting to mature, she wears clothes that show it off – short skirts and tight-fitting, low-cut tops.

If you answered "all of the above," you'd be able to proceed to the next activity on our Powered by God website for children. It reflects the idea that modesty is about more than how you dress. It's a virtue for all Christians -- not just women and girls.

I bring it up because there's a controversy brewing in the world of modesty programs. A Facebook posting of a Dannah Gresh's Secret Keeper Girls blog post -- Does Teaching Modesty Harm My Daughter's Body Image? -- led me to other entries in the conversation. 

First, way back in December 2011, Sharon Hodde Miller raised the issue in How 'Modest is the Hottest' is Hurting Christian Women (Her.Meneutics blog, Christianity Today). Then came Jonathan Merritt's question, Is the Modesty Movement Harmful to Women? (3/11/13), with a response from Dannah Gresh in A Modest Proposal to My Critics. Emily Timbol's Modesty Culture's Hidden Victims appeared in the Huffington Post August 6, 2013. 

The main concern is that modesty programs not further objectify women and girls by making them ashamed of their bodies. Dannah Gresh, to her credit, yields to that criticism.

This controversy differs from another raging over whether Christian women should wear yoga pants. To get a sampling of that debate, go here and here. Some of the arguments sound like the ones Muslim men use for enwrapping their women head to toe. Frankly, I'm more concerned about Christians attending yoga classes than what they're wearing to class.

I'm glad Powered by God -- both website and curriculum -- has its focus on the attitude of modesty and not on feminine body parts. The Bible uses the word only once (in 1 Timothy 2:9-10) and, according to Strong's Concordance, the Greek term indicates "a sense of shame or honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect." The passage warns against drawing attention to oneself through displays of wealth -- not necessarily sexual provocation -- urges propriety and moderation, and advocates the adornments of godliness and good works instead.

While our clothing choices should not accentuate body parts, we'll be truly modest when we consider other questions as well: 

  • Does my clothes-sense overshadow the good works I'm doing? 
  • By copying the clothing, hair, and makeup styles of ungodly celebrities am I sending a mixed message? 
  • Is more time and money spent on how I look rather than on helping others? 
  • Do I assume that looking good is more important than being good? (Or that a person who looks good is good?) 
  • Do I care more about "expressing a personal style" than about the feelings of others?
  • Must I always be the center of attention?
  • How much gratification do I receive when someone says I look nice?
  • Do I have to make every occasion about me and what I'm wearing?
  • Do I show respect for the needs of others with my grooming habits and clothing selections?

Perhaps all modesty programs could benefit from that emphasis. 

Helpful addenda to the discussion:
Is Feminine Modesty about Sex? on Desiring God
The Gospel on our Sleeves: Where I went wrong teaching about modesty on The Gospel Coalition

  • Suicide or assisted suicide?

  • Experiments with animals or embryos?

  • Having sex outside the bonds of marriage or having a baby out of wedlock?

Since about 2001, the Gallup News Service has been tracking American beliefs about various moral issues. They ask people whether an issue is morally acceptable, morally wrong, or not a moral issue at all. Not only is it interesting to see how viewpoints have changed, but how responses can be ranked in relation to one another.

For instance, the latest results reveal that only 19% of Americans think suicide is acceptable, but 52% agree assisted suicide is okay. Essentially this says if a young, healthy person wants to kill himself we should try to prevent it, but if someone old or sick is suicidal we should help him die. Do you see what’s wrong with that picture? 

It's fairly obvious that Americans have become tolerant of what was formerly unthinkable. Would it surprise you to learn that people are more comfortable with medical research that destroys human embryos than they are with experiments on animals (65% to 57%)? 

According to recent results, having a baby outside marriage is less acceptable than the act between unmarried partners that leads to such a pregnancy (58% to 66%). The implication is that you can have sex outside marriage, just don't bring any resulting babies into the world. 

Something is out of whack. Our nation’s moral compass is clearly “off.” We do not value human life the way we once did.

Jesus looked at a crowd of people one day and likened them to “sheep without a shepherd.” Our society fits that description, doesn't it? And, while we might be tempted to shake our heads and mutter "tsk, tsk," we don't have that luxury. We must do as Jesus did -- feel compassion for the lost and carry on teaching them.  

Support for Life Matters Worldwide enables us to produce teaching materials addressing matters of life and purity. I invite you to browse store.lifemattersww.org for resources such as Powered by God curriculum for children and LIFT (Living in Faith Together) for end-of-life caregiving. And if we can help you another way, please let us know.


Source material -- Gallup Poll Social Series: Values and Beliefs, Gallup News Service, May 8-11, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/file/poll/170798/Moral_Acceptability_140530.pdf, http://www.gallup.com/poll/170789/new-record-highs-moral-acceptability.aspx; accessed 7/7/2014.

"Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 22:6

Tonight, as I listen to the neighborhood children playing ball on the street, I am reminded that the Bible commands us to teach them...

Teach them to love the Lord. 

Teach them to fear the Lord.

With fear and love comes obedience and service.

We must share our knowledge, so that they can know HIM. 

Powered by God is a tool that our community can use to share this knowledge with those very children. Visit this website to see this program in action! 

http://www.poweredbygod.org/

Know someone we should talk to that fits one of the following descriptions? 

  • Parent of a 4th-6th grader
  • Grandparent of a middle schooler
  • Teacher
  • Principal
  • Curriculum Director
  • Mentor to young children
  • Media Specialist- Involved in Radio, TV or Web Content
  • Pastor/Youth Minister
  • Counselor
  • Sunday School Volunteer
  • Home School Activist
  • Church Elder or Deacon

Contact Life Matters Worldwide at staff@lifemattersww.org to share the details of who we should be talking to. 

Which would be harder to hear: "Mom, Dad . . . I'm pregnant" or "Mom, Dad . . . years ago I had an abortion because I was afraid to tell you I was pregnant"?

It's not a hypothetical exercise. Given the numbers of teen pregnancies and abortions in this country, for many families it's all too real . . . like the family to which the Garden of Hope recently introduced us.

A young woman called their hotline last week, seeking information about abortion. She thought she'd "quickly and secretly" terminate her pregnancy while on a visit to Grand Rapids. As a college student, having a child would complicate her life, but her greatest challenge would be telling her parents.

We talked for a long time and this dear, sweet girl had no clue about the devastation brought on by the decision to end the life of her child. I assured her that her parents would know something had happened because the sparky, happy young girl that left their house to come to GR would never be back and they would want to know what was happening to their daughter.

As she hung up the phone, she promised to talk to her parents, and the next day she called back to report. Her mom "felt badly" she'd been afraid to talk to them. They support her plan to continue the pregnancy and assure her they'll work out everything together.

Not all parents are this understanding -- some overtly pressure reluctant daughters to abort their babies -- but most are mature adults who know how to handle disappointments and setbacks. Parents love their children, have sacrificed much on their behalf already, and genuinely want what's best for them. Young people need encouragement to enlist parental input and not act on mistaken assumptions their parents will "kill" them when they receive bad news.

Still, as Russell Moore cautions in his response to TIME magazine's cover story on how the pro-life side seems to be winning, "It’s easy to identify as 'pro-life' when one sees nothing really at stake." He goes on:

A feminist leader once said that most Americans are pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and “my situation.” When the teenage daughter is pregnant, the theory is abandoned and bloodthirsty pragmatism rules. I fear this feminist is all too right.

Pharaoh was pro-immigrant until the Israelites threatened what he wanted. The first Herod Administration was pro-Messiah until the actual Messiah threatened his throne. The second Herod Administration was fine with desert prophets until one meddled with his “adult entertainment.” Lots of people are pro-life and pro-child until the lives of children become personally inconvenient.

. . . [W]e must have a realistic view about how ingrained the abortion-rights worldview is in our culture.

Yes, in our culture, and in our hearts. As with other temptations, it's well before we face this one that we need to determine what our response will be. If we expect our teens to do the right thing when their backs are to the wall, we also must be firm in our minds how we'll react when they make a mistake.

Most Christian parents are zealous about getting the message of sexual purity across to their teens. The trick is striking a balance between that and the equally biblical message of the sanctity of human life. So that his daughter wouldn't err into thinking abortion was better than coming home pregnant, our president Tom Lothamer repeatedly told her, "If you make a big mistake, like getting pregnant outside marriage, don't run to the world for help. Come home! It's safer. Whatever it is, we'll handle it together."

Truly, grace is greater than all our sin. The challenge is to be "cross-bearing for the child-bearing," as John Ensor writes. "To be a lifesaver, you must do what lifesavers do every day" in pregnancy care centers. In closing, I summarize his points:

  1. You must listen and love
  2. Lower her fear and increase her hope
  3. Amplify the voice of her own moral conscience
  4. Inform and educate her
  5. Offer your personal help

Related: 

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