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Family Basics

We all know the Bible talks about family.  That’s a given.  Today I just wanted to share with you a few passages that have stood out to me recently about family.  They are all found in the book of Psalms within less than 20 chapters of each other.

Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.” – Psalm 133

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace. May our barns be filled with crops of every kind. May the flocks in our fields multiply by the thousands, even tens of thousands, and may our oxen be loaded down with produce. May there be no enemy breaking through our walls, no going into captivity, no cries of alarm in our town squares. Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the LORD.” – Psalm 144:12-15

As you can see, there are some powerful words that the Psalmists use about the how a family will flourish.  Simply put, your family will flourish if it is grounded in God.  I also bolded 3 key phrases – one from each passage.  There are certainly other points to be gleaned from these chapters, but these are the 3 I want you to remember.

1. Unless God is your family’s foundation, then everything you do is pointless.  This passage goes on to talk about the blessing of having children.  Most people today are cautious about not having too many kids because they can be such a handful.  Yes, they can be.  And I’m not saying I want to have 10 kids myself.  But children are God’s personal blessings!  No matter how many or how few children you do or will have, all your work may be in vain.  That is, unless you make God (the whole Trinity) the foundation and center of everything you do.  Any other way will not succeed in the long run.

2. Spend your time cultivating a close and healthy family.  Not every family will be picture-perfect like Swiss Family Robinson, the Brady Bunch, or Leave it to Beaver.  That’s not what I’m saying, and I seriously doubt that’s what the writer of Psalm 133 was trying to communicate.  The passage simply indicates that it is wonderful and pleasant when brothers are at peace.  This stands true for your whole family.  The thing is, such a family culture doesn’t come out of nowhere.  You have to work at it hard!  And you may not see fruits of this for years.  Even the best of parents can have kids that “go astray”.  Do the best you can to be intentional about cultivating such a culture, and let God take care of the rest.  Sometimes family is all you’ve got.

3. Pray for strong sons and beautiful daughters.  I don’t mean this physically.  Sure, physically strong sons and beautiful daughters are nice, but not all boys are built to be the next World’s Strongest Man and not all girls are going to be the next Top Model (I wouldn’t want my future daughter(s) to be a model to begin with.. modesty is too important!).  All that physical stuff is beside the point.  I mean to pray that your sons are spiritual rocks – powerful leaders – in their generation, and pray that your daughters be the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman.  Pray that your children will grow up to be wise adults, not just good kids.  Pray that they will exceed your personal spiritual growth one day.  Pray that they do extraordinary things for God!  This certainly won’t be easy either.  In fact, the beginning of this chapter David is prayer for deliverance, and by the end he’s asking for peace for the next generation.  You will have to fight for your children to have a healthy environment in which to grow, especially given today’s culture.  Start by praying for them!

There are certainly countless principles, techniques, and ideas that could be offered up concerning godly families.   I truly believe that these three principles are foundational and will guide you in that direction.  What other Scriptural family principles are a must (comment below)?

-Alicia

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Why Modest is Hottest

I write this post with a heavy heart, and too much to say to sum it up in one post.  We live in a sex saturated world, and we have become numb to the atrocities going on around us.  We are plagued by social media and ads that live by the phrase, “sex sells”.  Not only this, but we even stoop down and become part of the epidemic ourselves.  Today’s post is in response to Jason’s on Monday.  Only today I want to talk to the women out there – leaders, wives, mothers.  We are all familiar with the phrase “Modest is Hottest”, but do we really know what that means?  Are we even close to living that out in our lives as women and instilling that in the teenagers in our youth ministry?

I’ll be honest, I have never really struggled with modesty in the sense that I never wanted to wear immodest things.  I only once was told to change, and that was only because the jeans I was wearing had shrunk in the dryer (and I was a growing teenager and didn’t want to give up my favorite pair of jeans that I was growing out of!).  I have always been extremely self aware about how I present myself as far as modesty goes – something I’m deeply passionate about.  However, I know this is rarely the case with teenage girls.  And even grown women (only they don’t have mommy and daddy there telling them to cover up).  I feel like I’m always telling our girls to pull up their shirts or down their skirts when I have the window to say something to them.  But they don’t need a quick fix – they need a heart change!

While I don’t know what it’s like to try and change your attitude towards modesty, I am familiar with the struggle to stay modest, yet fashionable.  The fact is, clothes are made to be scanty these days, with low cut tops and high rising skirts and shorts.  And let’s not forget about the dreaded bathing suits (you will never catch me dead in a bikini, and you best believe our future daughter(s) and son(s)’ girlfriend(s) won’t be wearing them either while I have a say in it!).  While it may be difficult to find an outfit that is modest and that you love, it’s absolutely necessary for our integrity as women.

So why is modest hottest?

1. To honor God.  Like it or not, God cares very much about what we wear and how we carry ourselves.  If you are a Christian, you bear His name, and dressing immodestly can instantly lose your respect and testimony with others.  I won’t go into too much detail on this point, because the following points can all fall under this category.  We are called to be set apart in how we do everything, not just in what we want it to apply.

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.” — I Timothy 2:9-10 (see also I Peter 1:1-6)

Don’t get this verse confused.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to buy things like Gucci or Louis Vuitton if that’s what you’re into.  It also doesn’t mean you can only style your hair a certain way and that you can’t wear jewelry at all.  Remember that this passage was written in a very different time when these characteristics were associated with temple prostitutes.  Not dressing this particular way was one of the avenues in which women of their time could be set apart.  Paul wanted Timothy to especially emphasize that women concern themselves with how they act and present themselves towards godliness.  The important part for application is the beginning (proper clothing, modestly, discreetly) and end (good works and godliness).  Remember, God looks at the heart!  The more concerned you are with spiritual things, the more everything else will fall into place.

Practical Tip: Pray over everything that you put on before you leave the dressing room or your house.  And pray that your focus is on Him instead of physical appearance.  This may feel weird at first, but it’s important we discuss even our clothing choices with God.  He wants to be that close to us!  Doing so may make you think twice about what you’re wearing, and God will honor your efforts to honor Him with our presentation.

2. To respect yourself.  The more we are inundated with images of photoshopped actresses and models, the more our self-esteem plummets.  Because let’s face it, we’ll never look like them, have perfect hair like them, or look good in “that”.  This thinking, while it may be realistic, may cause you to do one of two things – become a turtle and hide in your hoodies or become a bird and flit around with no inhibitions (this is never a good option).

I’ll admit, I often hide in my hoodies!  They are comfy and hide all kinds of things you don’t want everyone seeing.  But our confidence should never be founded on how we look on a given day or how our clothes fit after Christmas.  Our confidence must always be grounded in the uniquely beautiful women God created us to be.  Each one of you is breathtaking, whether you admit it or not!  Hiding or exposing yourself for a lack of self-esteem only shows that you respect what you think others’ opinions are of you more than you respect yourself and what God thinks of you.  Watch a few episodes of “What Not To Wear”, and you’ll find they all either don’t realize how awful they’ve been dressing or they don’t respect themselves.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well… How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” — Psalm 139:14,17

Practical Tip: Tape these verses or similar ones to your mirror, in your car, or at your workplace to remind you of what God thinks of you.  We’re forgetful, especially when it comes to our own beauty, in an out.  Remind yourself of these things.  The more you remember, the easier it will be to respect yourself and walk around in (modest) confidence.

3. To respect our brothers in Christ.  Let’s face it girls, we don’t have the slightest idea what it is like to struggle in this area compared to all the guys out there.  They are constantly fighting a very intense battle to keep their minds pure.  Seeing more than they should even once gets ingrained in their brains for eternity, whether they want it or not.  It often seems like they are fighting a losing battle in today’s culture.  So why are we living in such a way that makes them struggle even more?  Why don’t we encourage them and build them up by doing everything in our power to keep what they see to an absolute minimum?  The following verse might seem like a smack in the face (Jesus had a way of doing that sometimes), but it really makes you think:

“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes

!” — Matthew 18:4

Like I said earlier, I am extremely self aware when it comes to modesty.  There are things in my closet that Jason thinks are cute and perfectly modest that I would never wear, or at least feel self-conscious about wearing.  Why?  Well partially because I know that guys have a serious struggle going on, and I don’t want to put anything before them that they have no right to see.  (Also because I have “fat days” sometimes and another shirt might make me feel more comfortable).  Don’t become a stumbling block to our brothers in the name of being fashionable – God won’t take it so lightly!

Practical Tip: Try different positions when trying on clothes or before you leave your house for the day.  For example, does your skirt come up to high when you sit down or bend over?  Does your shirt show too much when you cross your arms or reach over?  Does your shirt come up when you reach for something on the top shelf?  Is there an area that looks too tight in an place you didn’t think to look?

4. To become and remain pure physically and spiritually.  You don’t have to already be pure for this to apply to you.  If you already are, then stay that way!  But just because you messed up a few times, or a lot, doesn’t mean you’re out of the game.  God is always ready to give you a fresh start!

Purity is key.  Purity goes deeper than “don’t have sex”.  It takes a lot of strength, determination, and dependence on God to define you, not your new boyfriend or what “everyone else is doing”.  If you aren’t married yet, set your standards high!  Always try to stay as far away from the cliff edge as possible.  And don’t you dare buckle under pressure and start compromising on those standards.  No means no, and love does not mean sex.  If all a guy wants is more of you physically, then he doesn’t love or respect you as a person.  Run from that situation NOW; he needs to go!  Purity is still important when you’re married, but it’s completely different (monogamy physically and emotionally is essential!).  Whether married or not, sexual purity is equally physical, emotional, and spiritual.  So don’t neglect one for the other.

Purity is spiritually, even when it’s not concerning relationships.  Colossians 3:2 says to set your mind on things above.  If all of your time and attention is spent on God and things containing His character (i.e. loving your spouse, missions or volunteer work, Scripture, etc.), you won’t have any problem keeping your heart and soul clear of junk.  In fact, you probably won’t have a problem defeating the sins in your life either!  God is all that is pure and the only thing pure.  Proverbs 23 says that a man is whatever he thinks, and James explains that whatever goes in comes back out.  Don’t be throwing His treasure (you) to the dogs by caring more about worldly things than you care about God.  Fill up with God-things instead!

Practical Tip: Never put yourself alone with a guy in a surrounding this is conducive for “slipping” in this area.  It’s hard enough and rare enough as it is to stay pure, and you don’t want to do anything that will compromise that!

Practical Tip 2: Write down any boundaries you want to set, along with Scripture to back them up, and put them in a prominent place.  Pray over these daily, seek wise counsel for additional boundaries, and give a copy to your closest friends for accountability (and boyfriend if you are dating).

Practical Tip 3: Surround yourself with friends that are stronger than you spiritually.  Ask them to hold you accountable and call you out if you start slipping in purity – physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

5. To teach younger women/girls what is honorable.  Paul’s letter to Titus says it best:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” — Titus 2:3-5

There’s not much I can really say after that.  Let me clarify one thing: “Older women” doesn’t mean “old”, just older/more mature than others.  We are called to be honorable and commanded to teach and encourage others to greatness.  Women in general are to love their families deeply (which means modesty too!) and be women of character, purity, and diligence.  Only then can we honor God.  Just as Paul explains concerning salvation in Romans 10, how will the next generation of young ladies know what modesty is all about, why it’s important, and what it should look like unless someone shows and tells them?

Practical Tip: Come up with a catch phrase that you can share with your students.  This can be abstract or literal – something that you can say even when in a mixed group of people to remind them of something in regards to modesty (i.e. to cover up, say “go hiking” in reference to pulling or “hiking” up a shirt or “tug of war” in reference to pulling down a skirt).

Practical Tip 2: Every moment is a teachable moment.  Whether it’s a commercial at the Superbowl, instruction to fix/change what they’re wearing, or approaching the teens in your ministry or family to look out for them and our Christian brothers – use every chance you get to teach them what God has to say about who they are.  You don’t have to have a weekend devoted to talking about modesty and purity to have these discussions!

I started meeting with our student leaders this week.  I asked our two girls if they wanted to pick a book of the Bible, start a reading plan, or study Proverbs 31 together.  They instantly asked that we do Proverbs 31 and explore what it means to be a woman of God and commented that they would like to help the other girls in our youth ministry to understand it better also.  Our young ladies are yearning to know more and tangibly apply what God has to say about this.  Unfortunately, many of us have fallen silent for fear of being called “old fashion” or because we are too comfortable with the way things are.  Let’s not be silent anymore!  Let’s stand up for what’s right and honor God, ourselves, and our Christian brothers.  May we be women characterized by our purity.  And let us not neglect to raise up generations to come who will do the same!

–Alicia

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