the sermon the hurricane drowned

Hurricane Irene left so many people without power, or a mess to clean up, or unable to get around swollen creeks that many missed my sermon Sunday on women dressing modestly.  Admittedly, not a fashionable topic.

Growing up Anabaptist I remember hearing sermons on how women should dress.  Having left the Mennonite church over 20 years ago I never thought I’d be one to one day preach that sermon.  But what some Christian women are wearing–and not just teenagers or the twenty-somethings–in effect shouts down the gospel, and undermines their brothers–some of whom are in a life and death struggle with the lusts of their sinful nature.

Let’s forever reject the notion that godly women are supposed to be ugly, or unfashionable.  I say,  “Ban the burkas!”  I don’t see anything in Scripture that applauds the notion that some extreme Christian groups have that her clothes should successfully erase a woman’s form.  Ladies, God made you look like that.  And while it’s dangerous to say this is ok or that isn’t, personally I don’t know that your knees need covered up.

But ladies, the real question is, do my clothes glorify God?  Do they let me make much of Jesus or are they busy making much of me?

When you shop, as well as asking, “Does it look good on me?”, ask “Does it look modest on me?”  Too many fashion designers are selling you tops which you may not even realize from your view in the mirror, put your breasts on display–especially when you lean forward.  If I’m the person you happen to be talking to at the time, I’m put in a predicament: do I look away while we’re talking and appear rude, or try to continue looking at your face while doing battle with the male magnets in my eyes?  Young women (and some older) wear strapless gowns or dresses to proms and weddings–sometimes even to worship–which are at risk of succumbing to gravity.  While watching men pray for fabric failure, every few minutes the woman has to yank the slipping assembly up again.

Sisters, the more skin that’s exposed, the more underwear parts that are not covered up, the more many men around you waver.  Brothers, we have a responsibility to learn to control our own bodies [and minds] in a way that is holy and honorable–not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God. (1 Thess.4:4-5).  Our control is not the ladies’ job.  But ladies, please help us.  We desire to glorify God and point people to His gospel.  You can make that more difficult…, or more likely.

To hear the entire sermon, click on

Are spending cuts or protracted debt immoral?

Here’s a question: if I owed you boatload of money you know I’ll never be able to pay back, would you keep loaning me money?  Think of the $14 trillion America’s in debt.  Once despised, debt has become a way of living not only for individuals, but for the government.  Some critics swear it’s driving us off a precipice while others insist it’s good for the economy.  Kinda like arsenic is good for your fever blister.

The political brinkmanship both parties played last week before the S & P downgrade of US creditworthiness, shows that our so-called debate over the national debt really isn’t a debate; we’re on two different planets.  At least two.  Conservatives insist we must stop spending money we don’t have while liberals (“progressives” if you prefer) insist we must spend play money because the innumerable federal programs they pay for help so many people in need.

This blog’s not for analyzing national politics but when holding the line on spending is labeled “immoral” by people like NY Senator Chuck Schumer, I’m going to wade in.  Suddenly, everybody’s got religion–even on Capitol Hill where they’re asking, “What would Jesus do?”  Democrats insist that because Jesus favored the poor in his teachings, he would condemn the proposed cuts in increased spending demanded by Republicans.  And Republicans claim that because delaying coming to grips with our soaring debt could bankrupt future generations–or even this one, Jesus would insist we get our financial house in order.

At the crux of any discussion on the morality of a federal budget and debt must be right thoughts about borrowed money.  My wife and I are not wealthy by American standards but proportionate to our income, we try to give away a lot of money.  Yet, we have never donated someone else’s money.  Or borrowed money to donate to someone.  I once heard of a pastor who borrowed $50,000 to give to his church’s building project.  That’s just looney.

The Bible says that borrowing turns people into slaves.  Meaning, since the lender could call in the loan at any time, we must dance to his tune.  We are not free to do as we wish (think of China playing a flute in 2025).  And, we have a spiritual/moral obligation to repay any loan (Let no debt remain outstanding… Rom.13:8). 

What would Jesus do?  It’s true that He advocated for the poor.  He condemned the rich who mistreated them.  He condemned all the people who were unconcerned about them.  But when he was preaching to thousands on a hillside, what Jesus wouldn’t do is have one of His disciples write a letter to Rome demanding that they feed his audience.  He fed them Himself.  King David and King Solomon did not use the Israeli treasury to feed those who were in need.  It was not the government’s responsibility to feed the poor, that was the responsibility of the citizenry; to be generous.  Too often I see people apply Scriptures for individuals, to government.  Careful.

Interestingly enough, the very people attacking conservatives for not caring about those in need, give away the least.  Arthur Brooks’ book Who Really Cares? studied who gives the most to charity.  Armed with certain assumptions, he was stunned to learn that conservatives give 30% more than liberals.  Google’s research was even worse: conservatives give twice as much as progressives.  Noted liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof says “We liberals are personally stingy.”  In 2008 he wrote, Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.


If there’s no personal sacrifice, can you really claim to be compassionate?  If to meet John’s need I reach for your wallet instead of mine, would you call me compassionate?  When congressional representatives vote to increase taxes to fund both their worthwhile and their worthless programs, there is no personal investment or sacrifice.
And who with a straight face can define compassion as voting to spend money you know you won’t have?  That too is immoral and something for which future generations will demand an accounting. 
Part of the “immorality” charge against those promoting spending controls and tax breaks is that very wealthy people and large businesses are using tax loopholes to pay little or no taxes.  Looking for additional revenue, critics want them to pay “their fair share”.  I could not agree more that our tax system is inequitable.  Which will not change until we send enough people with moral backbones to Washington to eliminate all tax breaks for anyone–especially those who can afford lobbyists–and impose some sort of a flat or fair tax.  Now THAT would be moral.

Is there something sinister in the Campus Crusade name change?

You may have heard a couple of weeks ago that the worldwide ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ is changing its name to “Cru”.  I heard it mentioned briefly on the news but didn’t know much about the rationale.  One thing I heard that was instructive was that founder Bill Bright’s widow Vonette said a name change had long been in the works and that Bill had been supportive of it.  Having recently learned what fears name changes can spark, I was reluctant to judge CCC until I heard more.

I hear some believers are afraid CCC is throwing Christ overboard since they’ve dropped His name.  That’s hard to imagine for a ministry which has historically been so driven to evangelize.  Can anyone say “Jesus Film”?  Now I’m learning that donors are dropping their support of individual Cru missionaries for no other reason than that their organization has changed its name.  If these men and women are still doing the same work and have been faithful, that’s ungodly in the middle of an economic perfect storm where more and more faithful servants of Christ are being forced from their mission fields due to insufficient support.

John Piper has done the Church a service with this incisive assessment: 
Since Campus Crusade for Christ announced (and explained) that it will change its name to Cru, some donors have withdrawn support from Crusade staff. I am writing to say: That’s not a good reason to withdraw your support.
Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Glenn Beck ridiculed the change as he wadded up the report and threw it away. His entire focus was to attack the wimpy people who avoid using the name Christ for fear of giving offense. The problem with Beck is that he cared nothing about dealing with the real problems created by the name “Campus Crusade for Christ.”
    The problem was not “Christ”. The problem was the limiting word “campus” (when CCC ministers to millions that have nothing to do with any “campus”) and “crusade” (which for millions of people has one main connotation: Medieval crusades against Muslims). Beck’s approach is not responsible journalism but careless hype for the religious right.
  2. Bill Bright was moving toward a name change much earlier, and Vonette Bright approves of the change that is being made.
  3. The fact that one of the earliest names for the Christian Movement in the New Testament was the fairly innocuous “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22) did not imply that these radical followers of Jesus were ashamed of the Name (Acts 5:41).
  4. The fact that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26), does not signify that the disciples were ashamed of “Christ” in the years before the Antioch mission.
  5. The fact that the church I serve is called Bethlehem Baptist Church does not mean that I value being a Baptist more than being a Christian. Nor should the Christ-exalting faithfulness of any church be judged by the absence of “Jesus” or “Christ” or “Christian” in the name.
  6. There is no parachurch movement or denomination where all the leaders are equally theologically astute or articulate or solid. Therefore, our alignment with, and support for, missionaries and churches should be discriminating. No one should be assumed as doctrinally sound because of being a part of any organization. Neither should we assume they are unsound. The individual is key to what the individual believes. In our support of missionaries at Bethlehem we are far more concerned with their personal beliefs and commitments and practices than we are with the organization they are connected to.
  7. In my judgment Campus Crusade seems to be more doctrinally awake and sound today than in decades gone by. But in the end that is not decisive when it comes to whether I would support any particular Crusade staff. What the staff believes is decisive in the end.
  8. Therefore, I encourage you: Don’t drop your support from Crusade staff simply because the organization made a decision you disagree with. That would be like saying to a fellow-soldier on the frontlines: I’m not giving you any fire-cover because I don’t like the new name the Colonel gave to your unit. Is the soldier faithful and fruitful? That is the decisive issue.

Must see video

There are any number of good reasons to click this link and watch John Piper interview Jon Knight.  It will be a very fast 24 minutes.  What I especially love is how the church was the church to this good but lost “elder brother” who has gone through very deep waters: a son born blind and with many other problems, and a wife with cancer.