fort mcmurray church girls; setting the world afire one mini-skirt at a time

I had the chance to go to Church this past weekend [name witheld to protect the innocent] and I must say that I had  good time. [recognizing of course that Church does not exist so that I can have a good time]. I though the music was worshipful, the message fairly edifying, the people very friendly, and the atmosphere thoroughly joyful. There was only one thing that really bothered me about the whole affair- the fact that many of the teen girls and young adults I saw were dressed in what I would delicately consider “immodest” attire. Plainly said, there was a looooot of skin.

I arrived there and sat back and realized that summer must be in full force, because many people were dressed like they were ready for a day at the beach. At some point, right after the call for the tithes and offerings, I half expected the ushers to bring out beach umbrellas and sunscreen so that these women might enjoy the message while being properly shielded from the sun. Some of these ladies, undoubtedly youth group girls by the way they all sat next to each other and raised their hands during worship, were quite young- probably in their early-to-mid-teens. Other pocketfuls were older, probably in their late teens to early twenties, and unfortunately were dressed no better.

They were wearing bright tank-tops, short skirts, bra straps strewn across shoulders, shorts, and ripped denim short-shorts which were raised up to an impossibly high angle. One girl had on what appeared to be a tube top. When we stood up to greet our neighbors, multiple women had their cleavage was on full display for all to see.  I watched some older men who were easily old enough to be their fathers, glance down at these girls and then quickly away, embarrassedly trying to make eye contact only, as they shook their hands and welcomed them to church that day. The Church boys, less tactful, simply stared and opened their arms;  awaiting with anticipation their greeting  which consisted of side-hugs.

This was not a small church, and while I concede that they may have all been concentrated in one small area  [I seemed to be behind the “youth section”] I think my random sampling was probably not atypical of how many of the women were dressing. And not just in this church, but probably in several churches in the Fort McMurray area.

A random sampling from various local Church websites will show that they would have everyone come to church dressed in what makes them comfortable. That seems to be the general rule; though I’m not sure how helpful it is when expectations are lowered. I also think I would not be overstepping when I say that this level of “comfortableness” is probably not what they had in mind. I understand that you’re always going to have guests who may come in wearing clothes that are sketchy. I think this is unavoidable and I don’t think it’s wise or particularly loving to confront them as they come in or as they leave and tell them that what they’re wearing is immodest, and that they need to wear something else next time. I don’t think that’s right. At the same time that is very different than girls who have been attending for years coming to Church wearing what I would consider objectively immodest apparel.

Part of me wants to say that these young girls should know better, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Many of these women don’t know better, because their parents, pastor, elders, pastors wife, youth pastors wife, or deacons have never told them that being scantily clad for Church isn’t legit. They go to school like this, to work like this, they go shopping like this and hang out like this, and so why should church be any different?  I think in light of scripture that a disservice is being done, and in fact it would not be out of bounds for these women to be gently taken aside and explained that in light of the biblical commands in scripture that women [and men]  should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control. I’m not sure how well they would react to it. I imagine some would be thankful and some would get upset, but I think this would be a gentle aspect of church discipline, for the sake of the strengthening of the church body as a whole.

What do you all think? Have you been in a Church like this? Am I being too critical in my analysis of what might constitute immodesty? What are the girls and young women wearing in your church? Is it unreasonable to approach them and tell them to dress up a little bit? How has this summer-time situation played out in your Church?

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 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, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10.

John MacArthur; 42 years to preach through the New Testament

Fred Butler at the hipandthigh writes

This past Sunday, June 5th, 2011, John MacArthur accomplished something that is extremely rare in Christendom. He finished preaching through the entire New Testament, methodically exegeting verse by verse.

To our knowledge here a Grace this hasn’t been done in over a hundred years or more. The one person that comes immediately to my mind is John Gill, who preached through both the OT and NT, but that was in the 1700s.

It was an emotional moment. John’s last sermon was on the longer ending of Mark, chapter 16:9-20. It was a encouraging message that explained the confidence we can have in the integrity of the Scriptures.

The message can be downloaded here: A Fitting End To Mark’s Gospel

The Sunday evening before that, John did a Q&A with the audience. He opened by sharing a bit about his thoughts and feeling with finishing the NT. A number of the questions asked had to do with his ministry. It, too, is worth the download to listen. Q&A Part 58

You can listen to all 42 years worth of his preaching online for free. This is a gift to the Church, both in its original delivery and its modern availability. Think of it- it took him 10 years to preach through Luke, and 8 years to preach through Matthew, and I was able to download and listen to those particular 18 years of preaching in less than 10 months.  I have been incredibly blessed by John’s ministry, having listened to about half of his sermons thus far.  His impact on my life is incalculable. The main is a wonderful, blessed, imperfect saint, and I love him for it.

The Bible Design Blog

There is a fantastic and innovative blog called the Bible Design Blog, which is run by J. Mark Bertrand. Th stated purpose of the blog, is to be a space where bible aesthetics are reviewed and discussed.  He delves into things like binding, [sewn or glued] paper quality and opaqueness, the quality of the leather,the grain of the leather, paper ghosting, fonts and typeset, layout and design of the text, the colour of the leather, streamers and complicators, rebinding, and everything else that goes into designing a new bible. It is a fascinating look into something that is not often considered, and well worth a look.

Check it out

Example #2

A letter from Lijsken Dircks to her husband Jerome Segers.

This is the second letter which was written by Lijsken Dircks to her beloved Husband Jerome Segers. Both Lijsken and Jerome had been imprionsed in Antwerp in Brabant, and send letters to each other, carried by Jeromes mother, to console and encourage each other in the faith, to be strong amidst the torture, to be brave before their imminent deaths, and to cling to Christ even tighter despite the persecution. I am as always struck at the scriptural knowledge and biblical encouragement that she gives her husband. Not many women talk and think and act this way, anymore.  It is, of course, a moving, beautiful, and devastating  letter.

Grace and peace be to both of us from God the Father, and the love of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with us, to the strengthening, consolation, joy, and salvation of our souls.

My beloved husband in the Lord, know that at first the time seemed very long to me, because I was not used to imprisonment, and heard nothing but temptations to depart from the Lord. They said, “Why do you trouble yourself with the Scriptures; attend to your sewing. It seems that you would follow the apostles; where are the signs which you do? They spake with different tongues, after they had received the Holy Ghost.”  And they said, “Where is your language which you received through the Holy Ghost?” But it is sufficient for us; that we have believed through their word, as John tells us, where Christ says, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” . Herewith I commend you to the Lord; the grace of God be with us always.

Thanks be to God the Father, who had and showed such love to us, that He gave His dear Son for us; may He give us such love, joy, wisdom, and such a steadfast mind, through Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may prevail against all ravenous beasts, dragons, serpents, and all the gates of hell, which are now using great subtlety to seize, deceive, destroy, and seduce our souls. Well may we therefore humbly pray the Lord without ceasing, day and night; for the devourer walks about us, seeking whore he ‘may devour; for we are not ignorant of his designs. But though they are very crafty, yet the Lord’s hand is not shortened, in them that love Him, and do His will; for the eyes of the Lord are upon those that love Him, and His ears are open unto their cry; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Hence, let everyone take good heed, that the face of the Lord be not against him; for the soul that sinneth, it shall die, unless he repent before the Lord come. But we are not assured of the time when the Lord will come; for He shall come as a thief in the night.  Hence, we may well pray the Lord for one another, that our flight be not on the Sabbath Day, when we are idle, nor in the winter, when we have no fruit on our trees, for every tree which bringeth forth not good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire; but every tree that beareth good fruit, He shall purge, that it may bring forth fruit abundantly. The mouth of the Lord also tells us, “If any man sin willfully . . . there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. The law of Moses was so strict,that he who transgressed it had to die without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?”

The Holy Ghost also declares, “If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” “Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame; who threatened not, when he suffered for our sins unto the salvation of our souls.” Thus we also, my most beloved in the Lord, to His praise, and to the consolation of all dear friends. I wish to us both the crucified Saviour for an everlasting joy and strength. I trust to the Lord, who alone is wise, and who has given His wisdom only to the simple, the innocent and outcasts of this world, that He will comfort us till our travail is over.

My dear husband in the Lord, whom I married before God and His church, and with whom they say I have lived in adultery, because I was not married in Baal; but the Lord says, “Rejoice, when all men shall speak evil of you, for my name’s sake: rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.”

Know, that I have wept much, because you were grieved on my account, having heard that I said that I had often spoken to you about moving away from Assuerus, and that you did not do it; be content concerning this, my most beloved in the Lord, if it had not so been the will of the Lord, it would not have happened; the Lord’s will must be done, for the salvation of both our souls, for He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.

Be of good cheer therefore, my most beloved in the Lord, and rejoice in Him as before, praising and thanking Him for having chosen us to be imprisoned so long for His name, having been found worthy thereto; He knows for what end He has ordered it so. Though the children of Israel were a long time in the wilderness, yet, had they been obedient to the voice of the Lord, they would have entered the promised land with Joshua and Caleb. Thus also we are here in the wilderness, among these ravening beasts, which daily spread out their nets, to catch us  but the Lord, who is so strong, does not forsake His own, who trust in Him; He preserves them from all evil, yea, as the apple of His eye; hence let us be content in Him, joyfully and patiently take up our cross, and wait with a firm confidence for the promises which He has given us, not doubting them, for Hie is faithful that promised; that we may be crowned on Mount Sion, and adorned with palms, and may follow the Lamb, I pray you, my beloved in the Lord, be of good cheer in Him, together with all dear friends, and pray to the Lord in my behalf. Amen.

Jerome Segers and Lijsken Dircks

The Marty’s mirror, I have come to discover, is not simply comprised in any way of sterile accounts of torture and martyrdom, but rather contains civil court records of the trials of these men and women, as well as moving letters of those undergoing said tortures and martyrdom. Case in point would be the Jerome Seger Letters.

Jerome Segers and his wife Lijsken Dircks were part of the Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century. As a result of these deeply-held beliefs, Jerome and Lijsken were both arrested as heretics by the Roman Catholic leaders and imprisoned at Antwerp in Brabant. [pictured above] After their arrest, the couple were kept in separate parts of the prison, but they were able to write several letters that have been recorded in the Martyr’s Mirror. In all, Jerome wrote six letters to his wife, and Lijsken wrote three letters to her husband. These letters are filled with references to the Scriptures and express the couple’s deep love for on another and for God in the midst of their pain and impending deaths.

In spite of their imprisonment, in spite of the threat of death, in spite of the accusations of whoredom and sexual infidelity that were leveled against them,  in spite of the torture in which Jerome was bound to a bench and stretched on a rack, both Jerome and Lijsken remained faithful to their Lord. Even in the midst of their sufferings, they offered thanks and praise to God.

In one of her letters to Jerome, after learning oher husbands torture, Lijsken wrote, “My dear, beloved husband in the Lord, you have partly passed through the trial, and have remained steadfast. . .. And I beseech the Lord with tears, to make me also fit, to suffer for His name.” In his last letter to Lijsken – written the night he was sentenced to death, Jerome wrote, “I go with a glad heart, to offer up my sacrifice to the praise of the Lord.”

At the time of their arrest, Jerome and Lijsken were already expecting a child, but Jerome did not live long enough to see the baby. On September 2, 1551, Jerome Segers was burned at the stake as a martyr for his faith. Five and a half months later, on February 9, 1552, after giving birth to their child while still in prison, Lijsken also was executed as a heretic. She was taken out in the middle of the night away from public view and protests, stuffed inside a sack, and thrown into the Scheldt river where she drowned.

What I did want to focus on though, were three letters. One from Jerome to his wife, one from Lijsken Dircks to her husband, and then finally the last letter from Jerome to his wife, written on the night he was executed. These letters are very long, so I’ve chosen some of the shorter ones.  These letters, of course, are heartbreaking.  They are intimate and personal, and one thing I’m struck by is the tender love and the desire to strengthen the other that they each have. I think that is what moved me most; their single minded praise to God and their trust and faith in him- which they then enjoin the other to hold fast to.

“Grace, peace, heartfelt joy, through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, be with you, my dear wife Lijsken in the Lord. I wish you, my dear wife Lijsken, an ardent love to God, and a joyful mind to Christ Jesus. Know that I remember you day and night in my prayers, supplicating and sighing to God for you; for I am very sorrowful on your account, because you have to be imprisoned so long; and I would fain wish, had it been the will of the Lord, that you had been released; but now the Lord has willed it otherwise; because He means to try you, and to reveal His power and strength in you, against all those who resist the truth. Hence, I can do nothing against the will of the Lord, lest I tempt Him; but I will much rather praise and thank Him, that He has made us both worthy to suffer for His name; for thereto are all His chosen lambs elected; for He has redeemed them from among men, as first fruits unto God.

Furthermore, my most beloved, I have greatly rejoiced until this hour, praising and thanking the Lord for having fitted us for this purpose, but when I heard from you, that your sorrow was greater than your lips could express, it caused me to weep many tears, and grieves my heart; for it is a great affliction. And I understood that it is because you often told me to depart from Assuerus, which I did not do. This has cost me many a tear, and I am very sorry; yet I can do nothing against the will of the Lord. Had it been His will, He would have provided a deliverance for us; but He has appointed our bounds, which we can not pass.

Thus, we cannot escape from the Lord; hence let us not be grieved at His work, but much rather, as Christ says, let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is our reward in heaven; and as Peter says, we ought to praise and glorify God on this behalf.  O my dear; this is not said that we should sorrow. Be patient, therefore, in your tribulation and suffering; for Paul says that all things work together for good to them that love God; hence, I have confidence in the Lord, that it will also be for your good, that you have to be imprisoned so long. Therefore receive willingly at His hand whatever He sends you; for He suffers no one to be tempted above that he is able. Hence, be a partaker of the sufferings of Christ; for all that are without chastisement, are bastards, and not sons.  And James says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.”

Be therefore a follower of Christ, patiently and joyfully take up your cross, and follow Him with gladness, since He has suffered so much for our salvation; hence let us also suffer for His praise. Since our hour has now come, let us joyfully strive for the crown of life, which is prepared for us.

Therefore I pray you, my love, that you will not sorrow any longer; for the Lord will preserve you as the apple of His eye; yea, though a mother forget her child, yet shall I not forget thee, says the Lord, yea, my sheep hear my voice, says the Lord, and they follow me, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand. Therefore, my most beloved, be content, and trust in the Lord; He will not forsake you. Moreover, I learned partly from my sister, that you also grieved because you were not more patient with me. See, my dear lamb, you have not been obstinate towards me, and we have not lived together otherwise than we were in duty bound to live; why then will you grieve.

Be content; Christ will not lay it to your charge, for He will not remember our sins. I thank the Lord, that you have lived so humbly with me as you did. Gladly would I be imprisoned for you for a whole year, on bread and water, yea, and then die, a tenfold death, if you could be released. Oh, that I could help you with my tears and with my blood, how willingly should I suffer for you; but my suffering can avail you nothing. Hence, be contented; I will pray the Lord still more for you. I have written this letter in tears, because I heard that your grief is so very great. I pray you, that you will write to me how you are. Herewith I commend you to the Lord.”

New book just came in! Martyrs Mirror

So I’ve been doing some research for a post for some time now, and the final piece of the puzzle just came in. I was pointed to a rare and obscure book by some people and after some digging, found myself a copy and ordered it. The book is called “Martyrs Mirror” [Full title: The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660.] It was written by Thieleman J. van Braght, an elder of an Anabaptist church in the Netherlands  and published in 1660. It was translated into German from Dutch in 1749, and into English in 1837.

Expanded a few times over the years, the one I have sadly does not contain all 1570 pages, but rather just shy of 1200. The truth is that this is a monster tome, but it is infinitely valuable. It is a book which recounts the history of Christians who have been martyred for the first 1600 years. Furthermore, it recounts the torture and martyrdom that the protestant Anabaptist suffered at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. What sets it apart from books like Foxes book of Martyr’s, or something like Jesus Freaks is that this book is fully annotated with citations and references. It is properly sourced with footnotes and end-notes, and the bibliography itself is worth the price of the book.

I’ll be using it quite a bit these next few months, and so I wanted to offer an introduction to it, and post a picture so you could see my new baby.