The Modesty Debate–Going Deeper

If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study or church or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.

I reserve my most frightening moments for my family. (You thought bedhead was bad; try bedhead with rebellious, curly hair.)

Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.

When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.

But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. That’s not to say we should run around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.

This past summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.

We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”

That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.

Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.

I felt benevolence toward her and didn’t give a thought of what I wore or how I was perceived. At that moment, I was focused on her, not me.

But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.

It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.

Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.

Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?

There’s that ugly self-love again, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.

The next morning I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. When I got to verses 9 and 10, it was like God had shone a flashlight into my heart, and I saw that passage in a way I hadn’t before.

In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”

“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).

That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.

Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?

Pride isn’t Pretty

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Pride is something that everyone struggles with. In today’s guest blog post, author Mariah Morgan discusses how pride affects our relationship with Christ, and how we can combat it. As you read, be thinking about how you can fight your prideful nature.

Pride isn’t Pretty by Maria Morgan

Pride isn’t pretty. It takes on many forms – thinking we’re superior to others, making decisions without counsel, even putting ourselves down. Whether we want to admit it or not, all forms of pride are rebellion against God.

Pride has been around since the beginning of time. Once an angel, Lucifer (Satan) was cast out of heaven because of pride:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Where it begins  

Notice where pride began: in Lucifer’s heart. He held a prestigious position. He was the anointed cherub according to Ezekiel. Maybe his position caused him to get puffed up. Maybe it was his good looks (Ezekiel 28:17). Whatever the case, he desired to be God – serving God was no longer enough.

Satan used pride to get Eve to question God’s goodness in the Garden, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1b). Basically, Satan wanted Eve to think God was withholding something from her and Adam. Wasn’t it possible God just didn’t want them to be “gods, knowing good and evil”? (Genesis 3:5).

Wayward steps

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Eve looked at the fruit of the tree. It did look beautiful and ripe. What harm could come of taking just one bite? Without seeking Adam’s input, Eve plucked the fruit and gave some to her husband.

Before we’re too hard on Adam and Eve, don’t we do the same thing? Instead of living within the parameters of His will, we want to be the ones calling the shots. Our will seems to make more sense. One wayward step becomes two and pretty soon we’ve established our own little kingdom where we’re on the throne.

God is good

Fortunately, the Lord is well-acquainted with our weaknesses. With every temptation to give in to pride, He gives us a way of escape, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Because of the payment Christ made for our sins on the cross and God’s goodness, we can be victorious. When we’re careful to submit to God’s will, and resist the devil, pride won’t have a foothold in our lives. Walk in victory today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for reminding me that there is a very real battle going on in my life between pride and humility. Help me fortify myself with Your Truth so I can stand against the enemy’s schemes. Today I submit to Your will knowing that You must increase and I must decrease. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

V4 - Louie and the Leafpile cover3Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Her newest release, Louie & the Leaf Pile, shares the truth about pride in a child-friendly way. Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties ~ the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

 

 

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Let’s talk about this! How would you describe pride? How do our small prideful acts take us farther from God’s will? When you are focused on your own wants and goals, what brings you back to God, and what can we do to avoid falling into temptation? What steps will you take to walk in humility today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those of you who are local, this month on the 7th, I will be having a book signing at Divine Truth. For those of you who aren’t local but would still like autographed copies of any of my novels, either for yourself or as Christmas gifts, contact Rodney, the store manager at 402-592-4866 and he’ll make that happen!

For those of you who enjoy following my blog tours, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Today I’m visiting Ally Carter’s blog, talking to moms about making the most important thing most important. You can read this post HERE.

Yesterday I visited Ralene Burke’s blog to talk about finding confidence in the uncertainty, and the part unhindered, unconditional obedience plays in that. You can read that post HERE.

At Faith, Friends, and Chocolate, we celebrated our subscriber give-away winner and released our latest newsletter edition. You can check that out HERE.

On Friday, I visited Sharon Scrock’s to participate in a “Wild Card” interview. You can read the interview, along with an excerpt from Intertwined, HERE.

 

It Starts at Home

On occasion, especially when tired or distracted, our family has a funny, yet not so funny, habit of looking for ways to be served. It normally starts at dinner time as we each, comfortably sitting at the table, watch anxiously to see who might enter the kitchen first. The moment someone shifts in that direction, requests fly, “As long as your up, can you …?”

By the time nightfall rolls around, the “serve-mes” have reached their zenith. Of course, by then, we’re all reclining, me with my Kindle, my husband and daughter with their television program. Those lovely snacks we crave so incredibly far away ….

Once again, we go in go into hyper-alert, ready for that slightest shift, that sideways glance that might indicate someone is heading to the kitchen.

Why is it so much easier to serve those outside our home?

The gimmes can be quite contagious, but so can the givies. Often it jut takes one person to get things started. Acts of service can create a safe, loving, nurturing environment where each family member submits one to another.

Taking that first step might be hard. Perhaps we fear our loved ones will take advantage of us–will come to expect our service. But there is no fear in love, my friend.

If fear and distrust is holding you back from truly giving yourself to your loved ones, ask God to help you. To heal you from whatever wound has created that fear. Is there a real issue creating this fear? Then address this, speaking the truth in love. If need be, seek help. Commit to moving your family toward intimate, authentic, honest mutual submission and total trust. A trust that says, “I trust you with my whole self. I trust you enough to give myself away.” And recognize, if your relationship suffers from distrust, this healing and relationship building could take time.

Perhaps our pride gets in the way. It’s hard to humble ourselves, to willingly take a servant’s role. But love is not proud, and pride is not fun. Pride creates intimacy barriers that ultimately lead to isolation.

For me, it often comes down to plain selfishness–self-absorption. I get so focused on my needs and wants, it’s easy to forget about those around me. I need to become actively aware of the needs and wants of others. Outside the home, my attitude changes because I know I’m “on mission.” It’s an attitude change that heightens my perception. But somehow, when I come through my garage door, that alertness fades. I get lazy. Compliant. Selfish.

Lord, help me to focus more on the needs and desires of my family. Show me how I can serve them daily. Show me how I can tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ not just “out there,” but within my home.

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28 NLT).

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about submitting one to another through daily acts of service. When we read of God’s commands to submit to one another, it’s easy to say, “Yeah, but God says ‘one to another!’ My husband, daughter, co-worker doesn’t serve me! As soon as ….”

That’s conditional obedience, my friend. We are each responsible for ourselves. Focus on your obedience and leave your spouse, brother, neighbor to God. In regard to your sons and daughters, train and model. 🙂

I’d love to hear from you. How can we serve one another in a healthy manner without it becoming co-dependent or skewed? I’m thinking this one could be a book, although I suspect the answer might lie in the motivation. Are we serving out of obedience to Christ or out of guilt or fear? Are we serving without obligation or have we attached strings?

How can we actively combat selfishness in our homes? Do you have an example of a way you served a family member or perhaps how they served you you can share? What was the result? How did it change or enhance the atmosphere of your home.

I’ll give an example of something I did that had greater results than I’d expected. The other day, after my husband went for a long, hot bike ride, I brought his dinner to him along with a cold drink. (Normally, although I prepare the meal, we each serve ourselves in buffet line fashion.) He reacted with such gratitude, beaming as if I’d purchased him major league baseball tickets. My act of love–one that took me tops three minutes–resonated deeply. And added but one more layer of glue to our relationship.

Before I leave you to contemplate over (or fume about) today’s post, I want to thank my July Reach Out to Live Out contributors. It is encouraging to read about all the wonderful ways Christ is loving the world through His children.

The most popular Reach Out story came from Katie Ganshert, a sweet sister in Christ who has been called to reach out to an orphan. (You can watch her vlog here.) Congrats, Katie! You won July’s gift basket. I’ll be contacting you shortly for your mailing address. Please stop by again, after your adoption, and let us know how things progress.

It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again

After sharing yet another, “About ten or twelve years ago,” story, my daughter asked me, “Why did everything terrible happen when I was young?” (Yes, we’re saving money for therapy bills now.) But I considered her question honestly. Ten years ago, my husband and I were $24,000 in debt. Thirteen years ago (or so), we lived in constant, insult-hurling chaos. Fifteen years ago, we said “I do” and promised to love and cherish one another, forsaking all others, till death do we part, and embarked on what we believed to be a fairy tale life of moonlit strolls, giggling children, and stress free living.

Then reality hit, and suddenly we were confronted with issues and circumstances we were ill-equipped to deal with. But God was faithful, and step by step, year by year, problem by problem, He has removed faulty thinking and negative behaviors that threaten to destroy us, continually showing us His better way. It hasn’t always been easy, especially when we’re chin deep in a mess of our own making and know it’s going to take some heavy, throat-clogging pride-swallowing to get us out. But one thing I’ve learned, no mess is too big, no circumstances too dire that we can’t begin again.

About ten, maybe twelve years ago, after a rather brutal verbal fight, my husband looked at me with a stone cold face and said, “I don’t love you anymore.”

My world ended that day. I can’t quite describe the feeling. I wanted to hurl, to cry, to beg him to take it back, but my pride was stronger. Things quickly spiraled, and before we knew it, we were sitting in a lawyers office talking about alimony and child support.

When we got home, I packed suitcases and stacked them by the door. I held our daughter in my arms. My husband followed me, and I still remember the look in his eyes–it mirrored the cries of my heart. “Stop me! Tell me you don’t want me to leave! Please, don’t let it be over.”

In that moment, as I watched my husband reach out for our daughter, I knew I couldn’t take her daddy from her. Tears choked my voice as I turned to my husband and said those words I should have said on battle night, “I don’t want to go.”

The next few years weren’t easy, and there were numerous other “line in the sand” moments, where we had to choose God’s way over our own and cling to our commitment. We had to unlearn negative habits, rebuild shattered trust, but now, ten years later, I’m so very thankful I spoke up that day. Today, I love my husband even more than the day we wed, and he often tells me the same.

I’m going to send you over to Reflections today to an article Elaine Cooper, author of The Road to Deer Run, wrote that is well worth pondering. And if you are struggling right now, remember yesterday’s post and the story I shared today. It is never too late to turn around and begin anew. It might be hard to make the first step. You’ll have to swallow your pride, and fight your strong yet destructive fight or flight tendencies, but it will be well worth it.

Death by Wheat Squares

Oh, how I’d love to fill a page of all the wonderful, self-sacrificing ways I showed my husband love over the weekend, but unfortunately, lack of wheat squares did me in! Maybe if it had been something big like sacrificing a day with the girls to slave in the yard with my man, or staying up until the wee hours of the night to pray for a struggle he was facing. Maybe then I would have demonstrated some of that die to self I always hear so much about. But coming home to a hot, stuffy house (our air conditioner broke the day before we left on vacation, leaving our house to simmer in the 100 degree weather. It was 85 degrees inside when we returned home Saturday night. Joy.), waking up to an empty fridge, and you guessed it, no wheat squares, I was anything but that self-sacrificing servant I know God has called me to be. In fact, I quickly resembled a beady eyed, grasping vulture jumping on the last cup of coffee before my husband had a chance to steal it from me. Needless to say, I did not give my man the cheery good morning he deserved! And then, after a morning of grabbing, griping and festering, we all jumped in the van to head to church.

OK, so what’s wrong with that picture?

Later that day as I was reading Francis Chan’s book called Crazy Love, reminded of the awesomeness of my Creator, the depth of my sin hit me smack dab in the gut. (It’s amazing how petty my actions seem in light of Christ’s grace.) Now maybe jonesing for the last bowl of cereal or last cup of coffee isn’t serial murder sin, but it did reveal quite a bit about the condition of my heart. And as I poured my heart out to God in honest confession, I realized how truly selfish I am. And totally self-absorbed. Selflessness and love reveals itself most not in grand, awe-inspiring acts but instead in the day to day choices of placing others before ourselves. In hindsight, would it have killed me to go without that last cup of coffee? And was going without a bowl of cereal really worth throwing a Jennifer-sized fit? Or could I have used those same events to bless my husband? And if I had, if I had placed my focus off of myself and onto him, what would our drive to church have looked like? Ouch! Thank goodness God is ever working on this selfish prideful heart of mine!