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Posts Tagged ‘modesty’


It is that time of year to consider all the “best of lists.”

While it has been a great year for Boston sports (the Patriots nearly made the Super Bowl again to gain revenge on the 49ers, and the Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Red Sox won their 3rd World Series championship of this young century) I’m thinking of the best books I’ve read this year. This is not necessarily books that came out in 2013, but what I read this year.

I’ll take them in the order in which I read them. What you will notice is that I’ve probably read less this year, and clearly blogged less. Having 4 kids will do that. As will being pastor of a church that has grown enough to have to expand it facilities to expand ministry capacity. I also read some enormous books, and that takes time.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp. I couldn’t identify with all the problems he talks about, and that is a good thing. Some issues are connected to how we “do” seminary and preparation for pastoral ministry. Others have to do with the manifestations of pride and sloth.

Resurrection and Redemption: A Study of Paul’s Soteriology by Richard Gaffin. This is not an easy book to read, but it is a significant book to read. As I noted in the review, for Gaffin soteriology is eschatology. This book explores the significance of the resurrection for our redemption which is a neglected area of thought.

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and Christian by John Piper. John Piper looks at his own history with questions of race and brings the gospel to bear on the question. I wish he would have co-authored it with a person of color to balance the perspective. But much of what he says is excellent

The Book of Revelation by G.K. Beale. This is a humongous commentary on Revelation but is well worth the time needed to read it. This is the one to read to understand its connection with the Old Testament. While I don’t agree with all he says (like I prefer an early date) this is excellent.

Freedom & Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church by Kevin DeYoung. He is correct, it is a primer. He concisely addresses the most important texts and questions that arise. He presents a complementarian position but not an extreme one. I highly recommend it.

Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft. This little book was an excellent treatment of common mistakes church leaders make. Some I’ve made and I don’t want to make the others.

Sex & Money by Paul Tripp. He talks about the 2 things that occupy most of our time, energy and thoughts. He focuses on the tendency toward idolatry and the healing power of the gospel. Great stuff.

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul. Typical Sproul. He explains sound theology so the average person can understand. Here he’s explaining the atonement, which every Christian should understand.

Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester. Books on the Trinity are pretty rare these days. Helpful, interesting and accessible books on the subject are even more rare. This is a book that is all three. It isn’t very big, but it is worth reading.

Gospel Centered Leadership by Steve Timmis. This is a very helpful little book that helps us understand how the gospel should shape our leadership in the church. I gave this one to my elders and we’ll study it soon.

Modest: Men & Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies & R.W. Glenn. I haven’t read any books on the subject before. What was good about this one is that it is about both men & women, and it is about how the gospel changes the equation. It is not about rules and a moralistic spirit.

Love into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard. This was an excellent and challenging book. He tries to balance truth and love (I think Paul said something like that) when we speak to homosexuals. We should not back off biblical teaching, which he explains by looking at key texts. We should not treat people as lepers either and he talks about how we can love them as we communicate the gospel to them as sinners, not just homosexuals.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame. This is another enormous book. I have not quite finished the appendices since I’ve been focusing on other projects. This book examines ethical systems and then moves into understanding and applying the ten commandments before briefly discussing sanctification. This is an excellent book even if you agree with his particular end points.

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson. This is another very good book on ministry. His focus is the importance of the doctrine of justification on who we are and how we go about ministry. Theology applied!

Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. It is very short. I read this during a crazy busy time that mercifully should be coming to an end. I gave this to my elders and those who have gotten to it have appreciated its message. It is not just about techniques but the heart.

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. I’m not quite done with this book yet so it might end up on next year’s list too! As I preach thru the prologue of John’s Gospel this has been a great help. He really pushes the point of “God is love” as we think about the Trinity and Christianity. This is definitely a must read in that rare category of books on the Trinity. Like Chester’s of the same name this is relatively short.

Interesting-

  • 2 books by Paul Tripp and Kevin DeYoung
  • 2 books on the Trinity
  • 5 books on ministry
  • 2 books on salvation
  • 2 books of over 1,000 pages

Not one book by Tim Keller (I left off the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness). Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be at least 1 next year.

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There are few subjects guaranteed to raise a ruckus like that of modesty. This subject tends to bring out the worst in us. We often act immodestly when discussing modesty.

There have apparently been many books written on this subject. Many of them very bad. Or so I hear since I’ve only read one other book on the subject, Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. As a result, I am no expert on such books. I decided to read Tim Challies and R.W. Glenn’s book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel precisely because it seemed to take a gospel-centered approach (which it does).

What they have done is write short, but important, book on the subject at hand. They begin with the obvious, and the most common objection to such a book.

“Discussing modesty among Christians is challenging because the subject typically has not been handled well. … And when a man is the speaker or the author or the discussion leader, women brace themselves, fearing an assault on their fashion sense and wondering if they are about to be blamed for all male struggles with sexual lust. Does he think I have to be ugly to be godly?

This is not like many of the books I’ve heard about: there are no lists, calls for the ruler, blaming of women etc. They recognize that many calls for modesty are not motivated by the gospel, but legalism. This has led to, in many circles, a neglect of the subject. Or a very narrow view of the subject, making it all about women’s clothing when it encompasses far more than that.

“When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules. … Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel- a gospel of bondage rather than freedom. … Modesty without the gospel is prudishness.”

They then begin the hard task of defining modesty. They note the dictionary definitions. But they then do something that may surprise some people, they talk about one’s situational context. Modesty is partially a function of your circumstances. They give the illustration of a bathing suit. Appropriate by the pool or beach, but not appropriate for a worship service or funeral (and maybe even Wal-Mart). It would be modest in one context, but immodest in another. Your situation matters.

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She was a heartbreaker- maybe it was the tight clothing.

I was heading to the Men’s Study this morning when I had to stop the seek feature for some Pat Benatar. The lyrics remind me of our plight as fallen people.

Your love has set my soul on fire, burnin’ out of control
You taught me the ways of desire, now it’s takin’ its toll
You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy

That sets us up for what I hope is the final post on sexual chaos, working thru a redeemed sexuality in the midst of sexual chaos. Since my last post I remembered another story of how not to do this. I was working at Ligonier when I had a call. I’m not sure what prompted the call, I can’t see R.C. Sproul having mentioned this, but this older woman told me that oral sex was wrong “because that’s what homosexuals do.” I responded with “they also kiss, hug and hold hands; does that mean we can’t do any of them either?” With that, let’s try to sort all of this out.

1. Consensual- redeemed sex is consensual. It is wrong to force your spouse into any sexual activity whether proper or improper. Consent is necessary, but insufficient for determining the appropriateness of a practice for a Christian. As I mentioned before, this seems to be the only criteria you find in many of the Christian sex blogs. It is a starting point, but not the whole canoli.

18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19  a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5

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Things tend to go in cycles, and modesty is back in the news after a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece on the subject.  I have addressed both nakedness and modesty in the past.  But this piece, and a recent commercial for a sitcom have had me pondering the subject again (I’ll spare you visuals).

The author of the piece does not address modesty from a Christian viewpoint.  Yet she can see there is something seriously wrong.  We struggle with our kids wanting to act like adults when they are not adults yet.  But we are complicit in this (she mentions buying said clothes for instance).  We have also given them a warped view of what it means to be an adult!

I have not seen the show Perfect Couples.  But they run the commercial ad nausium on On Demand (it failed, the show is getting the ax).  It is an effective commercial from a purely pragmatic point of view.  The woman catches her husband or boyfriend staring at another woman’s cleavage.  “They’re just breasts.  They don’t have any power over you.  Look at them.”  She directs his head so he’s looking at them.  The camera cuts to the other woman’s very low cut blouse and cleavage.  “You don’t own me” he mumbles.

“Just breasts.”  Our culture really doesn’t know what is going on.  The issue is not clothes or style or cultural differences.  We have to go deeper into the conversation, to a place most people don’t want to go.  This is because there is no such thing as “just breasts.”

First, we have to think in terms of creation (you could explain some of this via evolution, but I won’t).  God made humanity male and female.  They had obvious physical differences (and less obvious emotional ones).  Those differences were not merely functional, though they had functional reasons.  They were also meant to be attractive to the opposite sex.  You don’t need a C (much less a D or E) cup to produce milk.  Big breasts are not essential to nursing babies.  God made women with bigger breasts than men to be attractive to men.  The wider hips and rounder bottom are also attractive to men.  He made Adam and Eve attractive to one another (yes, she didn’t laugh at his penis).  They took delight in one another.

5 Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.  Song of Songs 4

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I’ve written on modesty recently.  It is not a popular topic.  It is an under-addressed topic, including among Christians.  The issue was driven home to me the other day while checking the Fox News website.  Under their style section, there was an article on how to best present your “girls”.  I did not click the link since I didn’t need to see “well presented” breasts.  My calling is to satisfied with the breasts of the wife of my semi-youth.  Most men want to see them, but this is meant to be part of the exclusivity of marriage- I am to enjoy my wife’s, and not those of another.  This is not so easy with many women wanting to display theirs for all the world to see.

In his book Undefiled, Harry Schaumburg has a number of appendices.  One of them is on modesty.  In light of 1 Timothy 2, he says that one of the male issues tends to be “anger or quarreling.”  This is painful to hear, but you see it all the time.  Too many times I hear such quarreling come from my own lips, including with my wife.  I can be a contrarian at times.  I am not immune.

The female issue Paul addresses in that same text is modesty.  “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness- with good works.”

Paul hits displays of wealth.  It is immodest to display one’s material wealth.  It can quickly establish sinful barriers in the body of Christ.  Men can be guilty of this, no doubt.  But women are especially vulnerable to this.  One of the things that drew me to CavWife was the absence of flash.  Of course, she was not wealthy.  But aside from a few earrings, she did not wear jewelry or much make-up.  Her concern was with inner beauty.

It is also immodest to display one’s physical assets with plunging necklines, short shorts, miniskirts and the like.  It is a heart issue.  Such people (men can also do this, and as pathetically comical as it sounds I did).  In our hearts we want to be desirable, found to be attractive.  And so, out of this messed up heart comes the flaunting of the physical and material so that people will notice us and find us attractive or important.

Schaumburg quotes Carolyn Mahaney regarding this:

“If we earnestly apply his word in our hearts, it will be displayed by what we wear.  When it comes to selecting clothes to buy and wear, however, we can often feel lost and confused.  Which items are seductive and immodest and which display a heart of modesty and self-control?”

I understand that sometimes this comes from a place of sexual brokenness, a lack of appropriate boundaries due to abuse.  I remember one group I led with a female friend.  One of the women in the group often wore revealing clothing.  I was not sure how to address that, and should have talked with my co-leader.  But one day it became clear.  She announced that the janitor at work has placed his hand on her breast.  She asked us, “is that okay?”.  She thought she was community property, and by her dress he sinfully thought so too.

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In preparing my sermon on the sin of Ham (and Noah), I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry had a new girlfriend who liked to be naked.  There was “good” naked, and “bad” naked.  Jerry sadly discovered that his “bad” naked moment was enough to drive off the girlfriend with whom he tried to connect over nakedness.

In the account of Genesis 9:18ff, Noah inadvertently became drunk and lay “uncovered” inside his tent.  Ham, his youngest son, saw his “nakedness.”  He is contrasted with his brothers who refused to look upon their drunk and naked father.  This was clearly an example of “bad” naked.

We struggle with nakedness, at least most of us do.  We really don’t want people to see us naked.  I’m thinking of the guy next to me in the restroom yesterday who tried to fit his entire body into the urinal lest anyone get an inadvertent glimpse of his stuff.  Very few of us are exhibitionists.  Male exhibitionists tend to get arrest, and female exhibitionists tend to get jobs- but that is a different discussion.  Why do we struggle with naked?

In Genesis 2 we read this:

25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The word for naked in this pre-fall state is ‘arom.  It indicates a lack of concealment or disguise.  This is a good exposure- the type necessary for intimacy.  There was no shame associated with this.  Neither tried to hide, or said “ick”.  It was, very good.

Pere Mates

After they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve realized they were naked.  They were suddenly not so comfortable, and concealed their private parts from one another (even though they were married).  Then they hid from God out of fear.  They felt shame.  Something was different about this naked.

The word is different, though from the same root.  ‘erom has the sense of being defenseless, weak or humiliated.  It is clearly “bad” naked.

I recalled a series of letters to the editor years ago.  I responded to an advocate of public nudity.  He didn’t think there was anything wrong with walking around naked.  He was thinking Genesis 2 naked.  But the reality of the matter is that we now experience Genesis 3 naked.  Oh, we have glimpses of the Genesis 2 kind in the marriage bed, and no reasonable person freaks out if they bathe their young children or are seen by their young children.  But the rest of the time….

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