Mailbag

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

It’s that time of year again, ladies :0)

Originally published February 27, 2017

mailbag

 

Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Top 10

Top 10 Mailbag Articles of 2018

I always enjoy the annual “year in review” articles and TV shows that run in abundance in late December, so I thought I’d contribute my own. Several Mailbag articles were among this year’s most popular, so I decided to make two separate lists. Check out my top 10 non-Mailbag articles of 2018 tomorrow. Here are my ten most popular Mailbag blog articles from 2018:

Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

LT calls Calvinism heresy…my views on baptism…Why isn’t 1 Timothy 2:9 emphasized as much as v. 12?…responding to a rude e-mail…


MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you…


False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid?
Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?


What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

Since there’s no official NAR creed or statement of faith, beliefs and practices can vary from church to church, but, loosely speaking, the NAR takes the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) heresy and kicks it up a notch with outlandish “supernatural” manifestations, blasphemously attributed to the Holy Spirit…


BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

While I totally support the idea of delving deeply into the Scriptures with other women, there are a few of aspects of BSF that concern me… 


Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?

Remember, everything we do should be governed by Scripture, not our opinions and preferences, or whether we happen to like a particular song or not…


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 1

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Lisa Harper, Karen Kingsbury, Rebekah Lyons, Raechel Myers, Shauna Niequist, Jennifer Rothschild, Susie Shellenberger, Sheila Walsh, Amanda Bible Williams


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3

Jill Briscoe, Lauren Chandler, Tony Evans, Rachel Hollis, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Brenda Leavenworth, Leslie Ludy, Bianca Olthoff, Wellspring Group, Jen Wilkin


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 2

Jennie Allen, Lisa Bevere, Rachel Held Evans, Heather Lindsey, Ann Graham Lotz, Kelly Minter, Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth


What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”?

If I had to sum up this article in one word, it would be “vague.” I have more questions than answers after reading it…What, specifically, is the church supposed to do in response to this nebulous accusation of misogyny?…


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


I was very troubled by a recent stance the discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails has taken – calling Calvinism heresy – and wondered if you had seen it. It’s one thing to just have a difference of opinion on Calvinism, but to put it this category?¹

Yes, I saw it when they made the big announcement on social media a few months ago. I expressed my disappointment to LT and have decided, going forward, not to use their materials or point readers to them as a trustworthy resource. There are several reasons for this:

1. The tone used in most of the LT anti-Calvinist posts, comments, and articles was derisive and condemnatory at best. There is no place for that among Believers, regardless of their stance on Calvinism (frequent readers will note I don’t recommend Reformed resources that take this sort of tone either).

2. It was clear from the LT materials I read that they don’t even have a complete and accurate understanding of what Calvinism is. Indeed, some of what they addressed was not Calvinism (which is biblical Christianity) but Hyper-Calvinism (which is heresy). That does not speak well of a discernment ministry. You must have a correct understanding of a doctrine before attempting to address it biblically, especially if you’re going to come to the conclusion that something is “another gospel” (heresy) as LT did with Calvinism.

3. Addressing a doctrine they haven’t thoroughly researched, as well as anathematizing something that is clearly biblical Christianity (even if they don’t agree with it), calls the discernment and biblical understanding of the entire organization into question and casts doubt on LT’s previous and future evaluations of doctrine. In other words, if they’re going to make this egregious an error over such a simple – and settled – biblical construct, how can any of their conclusions on other, more nuanced aspects of theology be trusted?

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful:

What is Calvinism? by Maurice Roberts

Calvinism & the Bible by Brian Godawa

What’s the Difference Between Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? by Tom Ascol

Calvinism Is Not Hyper-Calvinism by Josh Buice


I had viewed the Gospel Message video embedded on your site and had concern for the presentation. It is apparent you have hermeneutical concern for today’s God study, so I wanted to clarify what your view may be on baptism.

I hold to a Reformed Southern Baptist, credo-baptist understanding of baptism. You can find further details at these links:

Statement of Faith (tab at top of this page)

Basic Training: Baptism

(Remember, the search bar and the tabs at the top of the blog are your friends! :0)


I have only recently come to understand 1 Timothy 2:12. However, why do we so passionately receive verse 12, yet neglect verse 9? Why do people choose which parts of the Bible to obey?

No Christian should be making a conscious choice to disobey any command(s) of Scripture that pertains to Christians. Willful disobedience is sin which needs to be repented of, and might even indicate that the person is not saved. Genuinely regenerated Christians desire from the heart to keep God’s commands.

I am not sure whether your question is based on your own church (or local churches you’re familiar with) in which women embrace their biblical roles but are dressing immodestly, or if you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 (in books, online articles, conferences, organizations, sermons, social media, etc.) and not as much on verse 9.

If it’s the latter, I would say that you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 rather than verse 9 for the same reason you see firemen hosing down a house that’s on fire rather than hosing down one that’s not. When the day comes that celebrity “Christian” women get up on stage dressed immodestly, write books about how dressing immodestly is perfectly biblical, form organizations to push the immodest dress agenda, hold conferences extolling immodest dress, and encourage other women to dress immodestly as they worship, I think you’ll see the same kind of pushback with verse 9 that you’re seeing now with verse 12.

If what you’re asking about is women at your church who embrace their biblical roles but seem not to be obeying verse 9, first make sure you have a correct understanding of what verse 9 is talking about:

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair
and gold or pearls or costly attire,

a) The context of 1 Timothy, including chapter 2, is instructions for the gathering of the church. So, while Christian women should dress in a way that glorifies God at all times simply because we belong to Christ, this particular verse is about how we dress for church, not for a gala, the beach, or the gym.

b) “Braided hair and gold or pearls” are examples – much like head coverings – of specific things that were considered immodest in the time and culture in which 1 Timothy was written. If a woman comes to your church with her hair in a French braid or wearing an understated pearl necklace, she is not necessarily dressing immodestly. There is nothing intrinsically immodest about gold, pearls, or braids, but rather the meaning a culture attaches to them or the statement they make in a particular venue.

c) The term “modest” has more than one meaning in this verse. It does mean to dress in a way that is not sexually provocative (“respectable apparel”). But in the same way we would use the phrase “a modest income” or “a modest home”, it also means to dress in a way that’s not flashy (which, in the first century meant bling like gold, pearls, and extravagantly braided hairstyles), and that doesn’t attempt call attention to yourself or show off your wealth (“costly attire”).

So, in this sense, a woman who walks into the average American church wearing a dress she got at Target is probably not dressing immodestly, whereas a woman who walks in wearing uber-expensive designer clothes, shoes, and handbag, and dripping with jewels probably is, necklines and hemlines notwithstanding. That goes for outlandish apparel or clothing that’s meant to grab attention as well. If your hair is three shades of green and fashioned into a unicorn horn, that’s going to be immodest in most churches. If you walk into church wearing scuba gear or a space suit, that also fits what this verse means by immodest.

In a nutshell, we’re to fit in, not to be a distraction from worship with our clothes and coifs. You are not supposed to be the center of attention in church, God is.

If this is an issue with the women of your church in general, or with one woman in particular, set up an appointment with your pastor and get some counsel from him on the best way to address the situation.


I have a bone to pick with you.

This is a verbatim quote of the opening line of the reader’s e-mail. Normally, I would just hit “delete” without giving such rudeness the time of day, but I thought I’d make an example of it instead. Ladies, rudeness and displays of self-centered anger dishonor Christ, and if you’re e-mailing someone like me who struggles against the sin of impatience, you’re not only tempting a sister in Christ to sin, but you’re probably not going to get a hearing.

I have personally known [female Bible teacher you’ve written about] for over 30 years.

The name of the teacher is irrelevant, but it is not someone I’ve warned against nor whom I consider a false teacher. Additionally, this reader bases her defense of said Bible teacher (below) on knowing her personally and on the reader’s personal opinions and experiences, not on what Scripture says, which does not speak well of what she has learned from the Bible teacher. I don’t think the reader’s rudeness or her lack of biblical understanding are a fair representation of this particular teacher, so that’s another reason I’m leaving her name out.

She gets permission from her husband and her pastor [and the male head of her ministry] before she teaches with men in the audience…I have met some of the men on the board and they have no problem [with her] lecturing with men in the audience.

Please point me to the passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, that says a husband, pastor, or ministry head or board can give a woman permission to do something God has prohibited. No one has the authority to say “yes” where God has said “no.” I’ve addressed in detail this idea of a woman teaching men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” in my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.

Additionally, it does not matter how many people give approval to something or how important they are – that is not what makes something right or biblical. God is the arbiter of right and wrong, biblical and unbiblical, not people.

When you see the men in audience she is giving a lecture not teaching.

But you just said in the previous sentence, “She gets permission from her husband and her pastor before she teaches with men in the audience.” Which is it?

Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether you call it preaching, teaching, lecturing, sharing, proclaiming, exhorting, or delivering a soliloquy, if it’s instructing men in the Scriptures in the gathered body of Believers, it violates 1 Timothy 2:12, and it’s sin.

The men chose to listen to [her] lead the lectures.

That’s true. That means that they are also guilty of violating 1 Timothy 2:12, not that they are guilty and she is not.

You need to come to [one of this Bible teacher’s events]. You will see what is actually being done and said.

When I wrote the article you read about this Bible teacher, I provided videos of her teaching, quotes from her materials, and other objective, verifiable evidence of what she says, does, and teaches. That’s not “what is actually being done and said”?

I am basing my evaluation of this teacher’s words and actions on Scripture, not on my personal experience. I don’t need to be physically present at one of her events in order to do that.

[This Bible teacher] and other teachers: When [this Bible teacher] gets an invitation to speak she asks God if she should do it or not. So you need to ask God if [she] is sinning because she only goes wherever God sends her.

I believe what the reader is addressing here is that I have pointed out as unbiblical that the Bible teacher in question has joined in ministry activities with demonstrably false teachers.

God has given us His written Word. Whatever He might subjectively “tell” us in prayer does not override what He has objectively told us in the Bible. God gave His answer to her question about 2,000 years ago in 2 John 9-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, and many other passages. If someone is invited to partner in ministry with false teachers, her answer is to be “no.” God is not “sending her” to partner with false teachers because He has already instructed her not to do that in His written Word. And if she is so learned in the Scriptures that she’s qualified to be a Bible teacher, she should already know that without having to ask Him. And if you’ve known her for thirty years, she should have taught you that by now as well. I don’t need to “ask God if she is sinning,” I only have to open my Bible and read what He’s already said about it.

Before you say anything about a Christian speaker you need to do more research and go to that ministry personally.

“More research” meaning, “keep researching until you agree with me”? I did multiple hours of research on the article you read. I sufficiently substantiated every point I made with Scripture and accurate, verifiable evidence from the teacher’s own words and actions.

As I previously stated, my conclusions about the Bible teacher are not based on my personal experience, so there is no need for me to visit the ministry in person. If you’re alluding to Matthew 18:15-20, that passage does not apply to commenting on and evaluating a teacher’s publicly available statements and materials as I’ve explained in detail in my article Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections (#1).


¹Please note, I do not participate in, nor provide a forum in the comments section for, Calvinism-Arminianism debates. Please refer to the Welcome tab (top of this page) for comment guidelines before commenting.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

It’s that time of year again, ladies :0)

Originally published February 27, 2017

mailbag

 

Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Pastoral Propriety with Church Ladies, and 7 Ways Women Can Help

Originally published September 20, 2016dancing-893206_1280

Yesterday, I read a fantastic article for pastors entitled The Pastor and Inappropriate Interactions with Women in the Church. (I’ll give you the gist of it, but it’d be better if you would take a second and read it. It’s not long. I’ll wait.) It’s not about pastors having affairs, it’s about inappropriate interactions with women at church: full frontal hugs, emotionally intimate conversations, and such.

I thought it was great advice to pastors, and, while the onus really is on pastors themselves to make sure their behavior toward women in the church is appropriate, there’s no reason women have to make it difficult for them, right? So what can we ladies do to help out our pastors and other brothers at church?

1. Oh, man. Remeber that pastors and Christian brothers are men. No matter how godly they are, they’re subject to all the same temptations as other men, including temptations to lust, touch inappropriately, and even commit adultery. Don’t be lulled into some idyllic complacency that your pastor doesn’t struggle in this area and you don’t have to mind your P’s and Q’s.

2. Trade hugs for handshakes. Maybe you’re just a huggy person in general. You probably don’t mean anything more by hugging a man at church than you do by hugging a woman. But what might it mean or feel like to the man you’re hugging? Maybe that’s something he struggles with. How about offerning a handshake or a pat on the shoulder instead?

3. What Not to Wear. Dress modestly. Yeah, I went there. I’m not going to get into inches of skirt length and all that, just serve your brothers by keeping the girls and the gams sufficiently under wraps. If in doubt, wear something else. If you look like you’re going clubbing instead of to church, wear something else. If it would be too tight or revealing to wear to a funeral without people talking behind your back, wear something else. Sometimes your husband, father, or brother can offer a helpful opinion. They have more experience at looking through a man’s eyes and thinking with a man’s brain than you do.

4. (Don’t) Call me on the line. Don’t exchange personal or numerous phone calls, e-mails, texts, or private social media messages with men. Brief, businesslike, back and forths when absolutely necessary due to mutual projects, meetings, etc., at church are fine, but even those can grow into something inappropriate if you’re not careful.

5. Flirty is for floozies. There’s a fine line between friendly and flirtatious. Locate it and stay on the right side of it.

6. None on one. Do not, under any circumstances, meet alone behind closed doors with your pastor or any other man. That includes your pastor’s office, and it includes pastoral counseling. If he doesn’t insist on another person being present or leaving the door of his office open to a common area where others are around, then you insist on it. Don’t meet in public (a coffee shop, restaurant, etc.) alone with your pastor or any other man, either. That looks like a date to most people.

7. The welcome mat chat. Don’t enter a man’s home if his wife isn’t there, and don’t invite a man inside if your husband isn’t home. Maybe you and the pastor’s wife are friends. You’re out running errands and happen to find yourself in her neighborhood, so you drop by to say hello. It turns out she isn’t home, but her husband is. Keep it to a brief exchange of pleasantries on the porch and go finish your errands. You never know who might be passing by seeing your car in the driveway, but not the pastor’s wife’s car.

Those are just a few of the thoughts I had about some safeguards and precautions we can take to help out our pastors and Christian brothers as well as protect our own hearts and reputations. What say you, ladies (and gentlemen- want to give us the benefit of your experience and wisdom?)? Any other ideas?