Godly Nakedness

[From the archives.]

I learned a new word: gymnophobia. It’s not a fear of gyms. It’s not an aversion to working out. It’s not hatred of a six month gym membership when your job got transferred and you still had five months left on the gym contract.

Gymnophobia is a fear of being seen naked. According to this article:

There really are people with a crippling fear of nudity, a condition called gymnophobia.

“There are people who are not comfortable being naked in front of other people — and there are other people who are not comfortable looking at themselves naked,” said Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, and author of “The Anti-Anxiety Workbook.”

Now I may cringe once in a while if I see an expanding waistline and realize there really is a price to pay for eating entire pepperoni pizzas by myself (hey, don’t judge me!), but I can’t say I have a phobia about the sight.

I get the part about nakedness and fear, though. It’s in the Bible.

“I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10.)

Did you ever notice that Adam said this after he and Eve made coverings for themselves? He knew the truth: God knows we’re naked under our clothes.

God also knows how to handle our fears. He made new clothes for Eve and Adam to wear, made from the skins of animals. Is this because the plant coverings couldn’t cover nakedness? No, we wear plant coverings all the time. In fact, I have a cotton shirt on right now.

God used the skins of animals because without blood there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22.) Getting that skin meant shedding blood. This was the first animal sacrifice, occasioned because of the first sin. God covered their bodies but more importantly, he covered their sin. God did the covering for them; their own efforts were ineffective.

God’s simple act of providing the sin covering for his people foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice for sin, the death of Jesus Christ, God the Son. It is his perfect blood that now clothes us in righteousness. (Romans 3:25-26, 2 Corinthians 5:2-5.)

Like I said, God knows we’re naked. Without him we’re naked in our sin, naked of righteousness, uncovered for him to see our iniquity. But because of Jesus, our heavenly Father offers us the finest clothes possible, and they never wear out.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. …

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 13-14. See Revelation 3:18 as well.))

Covered in the blood of the Lamb, the great atoning sacrifice of God, who knew our nakedness and gave himself for us.

Gymnophobia has no place in God’s kingdom.

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You’re Never Too Old and It’s Never Too Late

I went to a weight lifting competition recently where my wife was coaching a couple of the lifters. It was a small competition but diverse. Some lifters were mere teenagers, some were competing for the first time, and some were there in hopes of performing well enough to advance to a national competition.

Never too old

There was one lifter who competed in a class by himself. Wearing a Sikh head covering and worn out knee braces, Randy (short for Randip) approached the platform and gave it his best effort:

His fellow competitors joined the spectators in cheering Randy on. Randy, who spoke little English and had a friend translating for him during the sign-ups, might not have understood everything the crowd was shouting, but he knew they were urging him on to complete the lift.

He did.

In fact, Randy performed well enough to qualify for the most senior competition on the national level. Why the most senior class of competitors?

Because Randy is over 75 years old.

Never too late

Old and young people alike think about God, wondering who he is and whether to bother with him. The longer this goes on, the more a person probably thinks it’s too late to do anything about it.

It’s not.

The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9.)

And in his patience, today is always a good day to turn to him, as the Ethiopian official did when he learned of Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” … Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38.)

Indeed, what can stand in the way of you being in a relationship with Jesus? Turn to him now.

And if you already belong to him recall too that nothing can stand in the way of serving him. What has God called you to do? It’s never too late and you’re never too old to do it.

Remember Randy and get out there and try. In God’s strength you’ll complete the lifting he has given into your hands.

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Affairs Don’t Start with Texts

In this guest post, Sarah Taras and Jon Wymer respond to Relevant Magazine’s article Is It OK for Married People to Text the Opposite Sex.

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Don’t do in private what you wouldn’t do in public. It’s an important message. If we took it to heart, our communities would be better off.

Conversation Doesn’t Equate to Infidelity

It’s not helpful to assume that conversation between a woman and a man leads to sex. Would there be less sex if men and women didn’t talk? Perhaps. But while we’re stoking the fear that conversation leads to fornication, are there other values we should consider? Are we really suggesting that God’s design for creation is two genders that can’t safely talk one-on-one without making babies? Is instruction for men and women to avoid one another consistent with the message of the cross that we are united into one body?

We’ve created a whole new set of problems by teaching our fellow believers to treat every one-on-one interaction with the opposite sex as a potential sexual encounter. This is a distortion of God’s design in creation. It’s a distortion of the Jesus we meet in the Scripture, who has many important conversations with women. And it’s a distortion of the relational ethic we find in Paul, where he seems to believe that every believer, regardless of gender, lives in the mutual blessing and responsibility of the covenant community.

Intimacy and Inappropriateness

Paul, in writing his letter to the Romans, encouraged the church to embrace a group of faithful co-laborers who meant a great deal to him. This list, comprised of men and women, both married and single, were working alongside one another for the sake of the gospel, freely. Paul wraps up the greeting portion of the letter to the church by saying, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

If we are going to push back on acceptable forms of communication within our present culture, what are we to make of this kind of intimate greeting encouraged by the apostle? Before we glamorize those believers as being more morally upright than we are today, remember that Paul issued the same encouragement in his letters to the church at Corinth. You know, Corinth, the church that was guilty of overlooking gross immorality in their midst? Yet Paul did not pull back this instruction from them, nor did he give law-laden guidelines of how to properly handle such a greeting between the genders.

Heirs Together in Christ

Paul did give instruction for how to handle inappropriate situations that arose in the church but his solution was never separating the males from the females and telling them to avoid engaging one another. He didn’t encourage them to run away from one another in fear or have their spouses chaperone their interactions. Instead, he reminded them of how much they are loved in Christ and then encouraged them to love and respond to one another out of that love — to walk by the Spirit in faith for the benefit of the community.

Somewhere along the way, the church stopped embracing one another as co-heirs with Christ and began treating the opposite gender, primarily, as a threat. In placing purity in importance above relationships, we have cut ourselves off completely from the other half of the church body, thus forsaking God-honoring relationships with each other that are rooted in love. We have segregated the family of God to our own detriment and have hindered our ability to invest in and learn from one another. We are now obsessed with protecting ourselves from one another emotionally because we are oversexed; assuming intimacy and vulnerability can only lead to sexual immorality.

Understand that we are not arguing against wise boundaries. What we are arguing against is this idea that there is no such thing as a healthy relationship between married persons and people of the opposite gender. We’re arguing against the idea that good, beautiful, and intimate non-sexual relationships are not possible between believers of the opposite sex. Together, we are certainly arguing against living on the basis of fear rather than the basis of faith.

Affairs Don’t Begin With Texts

Affairs don’t begin with sex. They don’t begin with texts either. This is horrible logic. By this logic, single Christians should only text people of the same gender if they wish to avoid fornicating.

As Christians, with the resources of the Bible and the Gospel at hand, we ought to be more adept at deconstructing issues. Ours is fundamentally a religion of the heart. We do believe that behavior matters. But we also believe that behavior is symptomatic of belief. People don’t commit adultery because of text messaging any more than they fornicate because of text messaging. Can technology provide another pathway to what the heart wants? Sure. But don’t blame the heart on the technology.

Our fundamental problem is idolatry. What is idolatry if it is not the search for ultimate belonging and intimacy in every place except with the Creator? Wouldn’t it be better to get at the heart of the matter, rather than build a fear-based DMZ around particular technologies?

Guidelines Can Be Misguided

When the church forbids friendships between men and women and then adds legalistic rules regarding how we are to engage one another, it creates a breeding ground for lust. The “don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle” rules that we impose on one another in the church have never kept us from sinning against one another. Why do we continue to depend on them, thus forsaking the gospel which gave us freedom?

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still in the world, do you submit to regulations – Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch – according to human precepts and teachings? These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Col 2:21-23.)

When we impose cheap guilt-laden law on the body of Christ, even with the best of intentions, we end up enticing the forbidden. By telling adults that they can’t interact, especially through text without a baby sitter, we turn every single encounter with one another into a brush with the forbidden. By our rules, we entice lust because we stop looking at one another as brothers and sisters in Christ who are image bearers, and instead unintentionally train ourselves to view one another as sex objects who can’t possibly keep it in our pants long enough to have a God -honoring friendship that would be edifying.

Relational Wisdom, Failure, and Forgiveness

We aren’t suggesting that the church should live apart from wisdom or even in denial that there may be times that we find a friend of the opposite sex appealing, and fall into temptation to communicate inappropriately. While we have been made righteous through Christ, and are 100% just before God by faith apart from works, we are still in this body of flesh that is sinful by it’s nature that longs for gratification, and in that place of accommodating our rebellious flesh, we will find God’s law accusatory and crushing. This is something our “no texting” guidelines can never accomplish.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor … .” (1 Thess 4:2-4.)

When we are tempted to gratify our flesh in the “old ways”, we need to hear the gospel and be wooed back to our first love, Christ. The more we abide in Christ through the truth of the gospel and the Spirit’s indwelling guidance and conviction, we will desire to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, which means living appropriately with our neighbor. God’s matchless love for us pours into the lives of the people around us (it’s dynamic, it will move out from you toward others, bringing you with it).

We need to be reminded of how much love and security we have been given by God in Christ that goes far beyond what could be given in a fleeting moment of feeding our fleshly desires and we need to be reminded of the abundant forgiveness and acceptance even when we fall. Man’s regulations have never made us more morally upright, because law has no power to change the heart. That’s the work of the gospel.

The church is comprised of the beloved children of God, and because Christ gave himself up for us in love and because he loves us unconditionally, we are free to walk in that love with and toward people around us. When the truth of the gospel frees us, we begin to see people (all people) as fellow image bearers and not as a means to self-gratification. It changes the way we treat one another, both publicly and privately: bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh whom we long to love and edify.

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Sarah Taras is a new author for Key Life and has a minibook coming out this year with New Growth Press. She co-hosts two podcasts: Fundyland Sees Red and Ezer Uncaged. You can find more from her at sarahtaras.com.

Dr. Jon Wymer is a combat veteran and a wanna-be crossfiitter. He works in Nebraska as a pastor in church, higher education, and military contexts. More content from Jon is available at wymer.com.

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Chief Justice Objects to Federal Immigration Enforcement at California Courthouses

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Kelly:

As Chief Justice of California responsible for the safe and fair delivery of justice in our state, I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.

Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.

Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.

Most Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government, and I am concerned about the impact on public trust and confidence in our state court system if the public feels that our state institutions are being used to facilitate other goals and objectives, no matter how expedient they may be.

Each layer of government – federal, state, and local – provides a portion of the fabric of our society that preserves law and order and protects the rights and freedoms of the people. The separation of powers and checks and balances at the various levels and branches of government ensure the harmonious existence of the rule of law.

The federal and state governments share power in countless ways, and our roles and responsibilities are balanced for the public good. As officers of the court, we judges uphold the constitutions of both the United States and California, and the executive branch does the same by ensuring that our laws are fairly and safely enforced. But enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair. They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California’s courthouses.

—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

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The Color of Your Skin Matters to God

[From the archives.]

People of Color

People are like crayons… It doesn’t matter what color they are, it’s the picture they make. (Anonymous.)

One of our former executives here at the courthouse had a poster on her wall that always made me stop and stare. It was a picture of box of crayons. The tips of the crayons weren’t sharpened to a neat point but instead were in the shape of human heads. They were a box of crayon people, each a different color. They were each a person of color.

(Source)

I thought about that crayon poster when I stumbled across this personality profiler. The page is a quick test that claims to determine your personality based on how you choose among the blocks of colors it lays out for you. It’s a quick test, and when I read the amazingly horoscope-like generic profile it had for me there was only one conclusion I could come to: this color thing is ridiculous.

I wondered whether God cares about color, though. My answer might surprise you.

Color and the People of God

The kingdom of God includes people from every nation, tribe and tongue. (Revelation 7:9.) It’s clear that membership in God’s kingdom under the New Covenant isn’t limited to people of one particular race or color. As Paul said:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28.)

This isn’t just a New Covenant phenomenon either. When some of the Old Covenant leaders tried to denigrate a woman just because she had different color skin, God put a stop to it immediately. (Numbers 12. More thoughts on that passage here.)

It’s clear, God does not deliver his love based on what color skin someone has.

Yet I think God loves color. After all, we certainly are a colorful bunch, us humans. There are innumerable shades from one person’s skin to the next. For that matter, there are shades aplenty just in looking at the skin on a single person’s body.

You want more proof that God loves color? Consider the lilies of the field, because as Jesus said they look more splendidly colored than any clothing we can create. (Matthew 6:28-29.) And God wants us to be creative in our use of color as well. When he instructed the Israelites on how to build the tent of meeting for their camp in the wilderness, he told them to bring yarns of many colors, die the animal hides red, and use a variety of colorful gem stones as well.

Color, then, seems to be very important to God.

Yes, God doesn’t look at the color of your skin in considering whether to bring you into his kingdom. Yet still he looks on the color of your skin … and does so with delight.

All those skin tones, colors and shades are precious to God. Even more so, the people wearing those tones, colors and shades are precious to him.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that one day … little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

And when this happens … we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands … .

The point isn’t to erase color, but to erase the barriers that people put up based on color. God delights in all his children. Should you do any less when looking at the people he brings into your life each day?

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Getting over My Lack of Self-Awareness

self-aware***

Inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was the aphorism Know Thyself. While its origins possibly stretch back to Luxor in Egypt, the saying featured prominently in Greek philosophy. Often used by philosophers as a reminder of one’s place – such as remembering as you approach Apollo’s temple that you are not one of the gods and should be careful in dealing with them – in its most ancient Egyptian form there are reports of the aphorism being used differently:

There are two parts of the ancient Luxor Temple, the External Temple, where the beginners were allowed to enter and the Internal Temple where a person was only allowed to enter after proven worthy and ready to acquire more knowledge and insights. One of the proverbs of the External Temple is “The body is the house of God.” That is why it is said: “Man, know thyself”. In the Internal Temple, one of the many proverbs is “Man, know thyself, and you are going to know the gods”. (Know Thyself.)

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, you’d expect imitations to look like the real thing. After all, where else is a person described as the dwelling place of God? The Bible. As Paul assured his friend Timothy:

Guard the good deposit [that is, the gospel] that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:14.)

So while some ancient philosophers and religions said the gods dwelt in people, Christianity teaches that the One True God dwells within his people.

Looking again at the Luxor Temple’s inscription, there is another part that is also near the truth: “know thyself, and you are going to know the gods.” It’s close but still missing the mark because in Christianity it is not by knowing ourselves that we come to know God but by knowing God that we come to know ourselves more fully.

Take Job for example. After a long gripe session about how he’d like to tell God a thing or two, God gave him the opportunity. Job came to a sobering realization:

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3-6.)

This sounds close to the Greek philosophy: know yourself so that you will not step out of place in your relationship to God. In other words, never forget that he’s God and you’re not. Job’s response makes sense when you consider that he’d spent hours claiming the right to put God on the spot and make God justify himself.

Paul had a similar realization when it came to understanding himself as a sinner in need of God’s grace.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25.)

But despising yourself or considering yourself wretched is not God’s ideal for how you understand your place in relationship to him.

Becoming Aware of Who You Are in God’s Family

God wants you to know him and your place in him:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
(Psalm 34:8.)

He is always mindful of you:

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
(Psalm 8:3-4.)

And as Psalm 8 goes on to explain, your place is to be a glorious and honorable ruler in his kingdom:

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.
(Psalm 8:5-8.)

Yet being below angles is not your ultimate position in his kingdom:

Do you not know that we will judge angels? (1 Corinthians 6:3.)

How is it that you will rise to become a judge of angels? It is because you will be like Christ:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2.)

Becoming like Jesus, being raised to a position above the angels, happens because Jesus makes it happen:

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5.)

Everything new includes you.

How would you know this about yourself if you didn’t first know who God is? And that is why in order to know who you really are you must know God first.

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Indifferently  Indifferent About Indifference


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The Sunday We Got Beat by Daylight Savings Time

We’d woken up feeling great. The morning sun shined through the window onto the breakfast table and as we ate we agreed that this was a Sunday that couldn’t be beat: we were up early, we were rested, and we were ready for church without any rushing out the door whatsoever. In a word, we were chipper.

Then the phone rang.

“Tim, it’s Donna.” Donna was our church’s secretary. “Are you and Liz all right?”

I looked at Liz. That would be my wife.

“Sure. What’s up?”

“You two are supposed to prepare communion this morning.”

My hand covered the phone. “We’re supposed to do the communion plates this morning.”

“Tell Donna we’ll be there soon.”

I told Donna.

She said, “Church starts in 15 minutes.”

I looked at the clock and shook my head. “It’s over an hour until church.”

“We set the clocks ahead last night, Tim.”

I had my hand over the phone again. “It’s daylight savings time today.”

“Tell Donna we’re leaving now.”

We got to church and a couple of people had jumped in to get the plates ready. Which meant we could go in and not be too late for the service that had already started.

I don’t remember being asked to prepare communion again.

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Top Three Christian Dating Tips 

[From the archives.]

We watched a lot of game shows at my house when I was a kid, and one we never missed was The Dating Game.

The show’s format was simple: One person (usually a woman) sat on one side of a wall, trying to choose a date from among three people (identified only as Bachelors 1, 2 and 3) on the other side of the wall sight unseen with only her questions and their answers to guide her choice. One lucky bachelor would then get to take her on a date, all paid for by the show.

It wasn’t as racy as today’s reality romance shows, but it was a hoot.

Dating and the Will of God

I worked in youth ministry for years and saw a lot of kids dating each other. Some of those teen romances even led to marriage, but not most. If the kids ever wondered how to discern the will of God for dating, I’d give them three points:

  1. Are you thinking about Jesus or your boyfriend/girlfriend? (Hebrews 12:1-2.)
  2. Do the things you want to do together build your relationship with God? (1 Corinthians 10:31.)
  3. Are you having any fun? (Psalm 16:11.)

These are simple points, but if some thought goes into them I think kids (and adults) would have fewer questions about whether they are following the Spirit of Christ in their relationships.

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Loving Truly and Truly Loving – you can’t have one without the other

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16, 19.)

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