Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What's hanging in your closet?

The question posed on my blog is not to be nosy, but rather to hopefully spark conversation, and maybe provoke some thought about what may be hanging in your closets.

Recently I was asked to bring the devotion at our monthly ladies meeting. It was in conjunction with the SPG girls hosting the December meeting, which happens to be our annual cookie and candy exchange (our theme this year was a Hawaiian Christmas a.k.a. 'Mele Kalikimaka'), but that's beside the point. Our pastors wife could have chosen really anyone of us SPG ladies to bring the devotion that night but she felt led to ask me, which turned out to be a great blessing. Some of us ladies had just finished reading the book Dress the Heart of the Matter, for the Women in Ministry class in our Bible Institute and chapter four is about being feminine in our dress, which happened to be what I was asked to bring the devotion on. This topic seems to be a hot button issue for some people. I know why it is, but after having studied it out for myself what the Lord asks of us as ladies in our dress is very simple. It's really just a matter of submission and looking at what the Lord says rather than what our hearts, or friends may say. However, people are all in different stages of their life and spiritual growth and it really needs to be something that a lady willingly chooses to do, otherwise the changes that a lady makes will never stick and she'll never find success or peace in this area of her life. Instead of dress being relegated to a rule or regulation in her life, the only way for true success to come about is for her to look at it as more than that and embrace it as part of a woman being who she is and who God has called her to be as a woman.

Now that I have hurdled that soapbox I invite you to continue reading through the devotion that I brought to the ladies of my church this past Monday night. Whether you feel the same or not, whether you are a "baby" or more "mature" Christian it's good information that God wants us to have, and there may be something that He addresses in your life that you may not have considered before. This was what I heard from a few ladies Monday night. You never know what God will do.

Dressing with Distinction, Delusion & Dignity: What's hanging in your closet?
(All scripture references are taken from the Authorized KJV 1611 Bible)

Even though I’ve surrendered this matter over to the Lord it is still something that Satan likes to challenge me with. It’s a topic that affects us all as ladies and I trust that you will allow the Lord to use what he has showed me, and some of my own testimony, to minister to your heart and to put your desires in line with the Lords view on the subject. How dress is at the heart of our femininity as women. I believe the matter of dress, and out femininity, are good topics for every Christian lady no matter how long she’s been saved. New and old Christians are affected by this topic and with the New Year right around the corner and people making resolutions and cleaning out their “closets” so to speak making room for the new ventures in their life, we too should take inventory of what fills our closets and what we may need to hand over to the Lord so that He can refill them with those things that would edify the spirit and our testimonies for Christ.

When it comes to the matter of how we dress as Christian ladies it’s very easy to look at the issue as a rule, or a means of blending in with the crowd. We as people are very good at figuring out how to blend in with our surroundings in order to maintain the status quo. After my salvation it wasn’t very difficult for me to adhere to putting on a dress or skirt for church. I was raised with religion in my life and that was just what people did. Men wore a suit and tie and ladies wore dresses. It was easy for me to “conform” inside my new element. What was more difficult however was understanding that the Lord wanted ladylike dress, and femininity to be implemented in my life on a daily basis, however, instead of trying to figure out rules and “uniform” standards I ask you to instead consider what the Lord says about His dress standards and how they affect our femininity. Obedience is the Lord’s desire, and my dressing like a lady for church service was right, but like all parents, the Lord wants our obedience to come from an honest place in our hearts towards Him. Think of something that a child, that you either parented or have interaction with, did of their own accord, after only some simple instruction. When I’ve had that experience it pleases me to no end, and I have every confidence that this is the Lord’s same desire for us as well. That we can take His simple instructions and implement them into our own lives voluntarily.

There are three points that the Lord showed me concerning the subject of femininity and our dress, and I hope you will allow the Lord to use them in your life. First, how, through our dress, the Lord made us distinct as women. Second that there is still a prevailing view that causes a delusion in ladies dress standards and finally that there is dignity in maintaining a feminine appearance.

1. Dressing with Distinction
Mark 10:6 - “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female."

I don’t know about you but I’m very thankful that the Lord made me different from a man. However, it’s very easy in today’s world, especially if we are not walking in communion with the Lord, to loose sight of those differences and take our testimonies, and our femininity, for granted.

Femininity is important to the Lord, otherwise he would not have seen the need for making such a distinction. Beyond our verse for this section the first book of the Bible mentions the Lord desire for distinction between the sexes. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”. By separating women from men the Lord also gave them a separate identity, a feminine identity. The word feminine is defined as soft, tender & delicate. It also means effeminate; destitute of manly qualities. Now that word effeminate I had to look up because it has become associated with sodomites and it has a negative connotation when they are referenced with the word. However the word means womanlike, tender, in a sense not reproachful; and ladies when we are not feminine it is a reproach to Christ, just as it is a reproach to Christ when men behave feminine.

The distinction in a woman’s apparel is commanded by the Lord, 1Timothy 2:9-10. What is distinctive about a woman’s dress? Well, the dress it’s the dress itself. The very word “becometh” in the verse means “suits”. Have you ever thought or asked yourself about what suits women that professes godliness. A dress, or a skirt and blouse certainly identifies who we are as women and what we should want to identify with. Do we want to identify with the world and what it says is appropriate? Or do we want to want to be set apart like 2 Corinthians 6:17 commands us to? If God had wisdom enough to make us physically different from men, I believe that means that He wants our wardrobes to be different as well.

2. Dressing with Delusion
Deuteronomy 22:5 – “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God."

The delusion that Satan puts in front of women is that they can maintain a modest appearance while wearing pants.

The Greek word for apparel in 1 Timothy 2:-10 is Katastole, which means “a long flowing garment that is let down”. When a women dresses in pants it draws attention to her pelvic area. Shirts that are tight, or to low, and revealing draw attention to a woman’s chest, which are parts of her body that only her husband should be able to view. A long flowing garment, like a skirt and a blouse that gives full coverage, do not have the same affect on a woman’s body because it is modest. Does it seem like sometimes women get more than their fair share of modesty being “hammered” at them? Have you wondered why? It’s very simple. Men are very affected by what they see. Solomon commands his son in Proverbs to keep his eyes on what is right and not to let them to bring him to lust; Proverbs 4:25, 6:25, and Matthew 5:28 paints a very clear picture of what happens when a man looks at a woman the wrong way. Because women are affected differently, we are affected by what we hear and feel, we are told to dress modestly so as not to be a stumbling block to our brothers in Christ, which includes not dressing in clothing that would call attention to those parts of our bodies that God wants us to keep for our husbands.

Modesty itself is not something that is a new concept to what the Lord and His idea of what a woman should look like. The idea of modesty, as with identifying the distinction between the sexes, began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, when the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and they knew the difference between good and evil.

Genesis 3:6-7, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be make one wise, she took of the fruit , and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”.

Now man and woman had been naked for quite a while before this point, but it was the first time that they realized that their nakedness was no longer a private matter between themselves; they realized that their appearance would affect the rest of creation and so they did the right thing and covered themselves. However God took it one step further in Genesis 3:21 and made them coats so that they were completely covered. Adam & Eve had identified their nakedness in their sin, and did the best they knew how to with what they had. Their delusion was that they could do a better job at covering themselves than God could. See they were only half way covered when God showed up on the scene, after He showed up though He was the one that showed them what true modesty is meant to be and He wants to show us as well.

The world’s philosophy is that a woman should wear whatever she wants so long as she is “covered”, and I say it like that because the world has very loose standards as to what coverage is. We now see it with the bikini baristas in the area, and our eyes are accosted every summer when the shorts and tops some back out. As long as she is covered she is fine. These were my thoughts too, even after I was saved. I am covered therefore it does not matter if I wear pants. I am ok because my appearance is not provocative, but based upon my prior statement about how the eyes of men are affected, I was shamefully wrong in my perceptions. My perceptions weren’t just wrong in how I looked, but also in how I conducted myself. My previous experience with dressing like the world or even when I was in the Navy, was that when I would have to wear my uniform or I would put on my jeans was that I would end up carrying my body differently. My walk was different and I was more aggressive with my attitude towards situations and people. Wearing pants put me on an even playing field with men while working in their world, and it does for other ladies as well. However, playing in that field meant that I was forced to take on some very unbecoming qualities pride being the chief one, and God hates pride Proverbs 6:17.

Rather than having the wearing of pants “liberate” a woman from the restrictions that a dress or skirt supposedly offers, it actually has the reverse affect and seeks to demote their integrity and hold them hostage, so to speak, in the world of men. If we dress like a man then the distinction that the Lord gave us as women, in our dress and in our demeanor, is erased and that keeps our enemy very happy because we cannot then be effective witnesses for the Lord, 1 Samuel 16:7b “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”. The Lord may be able to see our heart and our true motivations behind our actions in wearing pants, whether innocent or not, but the unsaved person that we run into in Wal-Mart or the person that sees us walking down the street does not. They only see the testimony that is before their eyes.

The delusion that Satan tells women is that they can be equal with men, on their terms, and that we can dress ourselves better than the Lord can.

In their book “Dress – The Heart of the Matter”, Shirley Starr and Lori Waltemyer give some common excuses that women use to stay in their dressing delusion. I won’t share all for the sake of time, but I would like to share some of those with you.

* It’s not that important – To that I ask really it’s not? Deuteronomy 22:5, the verse that I stared off with for this section states that dressing like a man is an abomination. The word itself means extreme disgust or hatred. I don’t think that I can say it better than the book does when they say that what was disgusting to God thousands of years ago is still disgusting to Him today. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”. That being true, why then would God choose to say something is disgusting and then not consider it important? God does not contradict himself, we rebel against God. Another thing that God considers an abomination is a froward, which means distorted & perverse, heart (Prov 11:20), which is clearly an unfeminine attitude that women adopt when they wear pants.

* That’s legalism – Legalism adds to salvation. Dressing in line with what God says is appropriate is hardly adding to a persons salvation for we know that it is not about what we can do, but rather dress and being feminine is the answer from the heart of a good conscience towards God. 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (You can find that particular word “written” in the Old Testament Leviticus 11:45). But the word conversation in 1 Peter 1:15 speaks to our behavior, and when we are dressed like ladies we behave as ladies.

* I cannot do all I do in a dress or skirt and still remain modest or warm – Warmth can be achieved when wearing a skirt on those days of inclement weather, and we have had our fair share lately haven’t we. It may make you feel a bit “bigger”, which is vanity anyways and another unfeminine quality, but you can layer on tights, or legwarmers (remember the 80’s) and thermals under a skirt, now that the weather is getting colder and we are having our wind storms. Also think about this, Are you really warmer wearing a piece of clothing that is clinging to your skin while it’s near freezing out? That brings the cold right up against your skin. And have you ever considered the fact that there are things that God did not design a woman to do, that there are tasks and activities that are better suited for a man. The women’s lib movement would rather you believe that isn’t true. Think about it. Physically speaking men are just generally made to be bigger and stronger there are tasks that the bodies are better equipped to handle. Not that we can’t do it, but if it impedes upon us maintaining our femininity and results in us disobeying God, is that really an activity that is worth participating in?

* But I like to wear my pants for convenience & comfort – There are to words here that identify the selfishness of why women choose their attire. The words are “I” and “My”. Rather than a lady looking at her manner of dress as a solitary issue she should be willing to seek her high calling in Christ Jesus through her dress, our dress and femininity should reflect what the Lord desires for us. Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a continual work in progress, but he made it his desire to continually strive for God’s best and what God wanted for his life. I ask you to think about where would we be had Jesus not done the same. If Jesus had put his own comfort above that which God had desired of Him. It was not convenient for him to shoulder that cross up to Golgotha, nor was it comfortable for him to have to hang from a cross for our sins. However, his desire to do His fathers will, above his own has led you and me to trust in the power of His saving grace. Should we desire our own comfort above God’s desire for our lives that we might lead others astray? Remember men look on the outside, if they cannot see Christ through us, who will they look too? Especially, for those of us that work with ladies in the making, have daughters, or one day will have daughters. If they see an inconsistent walk with the Lord or us putting our own desire to dress in the flesh above the Lords they will do the same thing, which is why we older ladies should teach them that there is dignity in being feminine and dressing as the Lord desires us to.

3. Dressing with Dignity
1 Timothy 2:9-10 – “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."

Because of the worlds delusion of how a woman should dress it takes a lot of courage and integrity for a woman to be the feminine lady that God desires for her to be. There is dignity in a woman dressing and behaving in a dignified manner and when she does people are then encouraged to look at her character and Christ through her, and not at the attention that she may be trying to draw to herself through her outfit. We have many biblical examples of ladies that desired modest and dignified dress and femininity over the world’s enticement to do otherwise, but I can think of one specifically, the woman in Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31:22 says of the woman here, “She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” Not only did her clothing cover her but it was feminine, made of purple and silk.

Modesty is a dignified, and discreet, way to dress, and it does affect our actions. Our Proverbs 31 woman being dressed modestly was also able to carry herself with strength and honor as v. 25 talks about. Femininity brings glory to God and a woman that carries herself in a manner befitting the Lord will be dignified in her dress and mannerisms, or she should at least want them to if those abilities do not come naturally to her, and if that is the case then there are sisters in Christ who can help encourage you, council with you and most importantly pray with you as you seek Gods direction for this area of your life. David asks in Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” He will teach you if you let Him.
Here are just a few examples of how our feminine appearance affects us. . .

Physically
* A lady that carries herself with feminine dignity has no need to slouch or hunch over when walking, for what does she have to be ashamed of. After all she is the daughter of a King, and if her attire is appropriate she is glorifying Him and that is definitely nothing to be ashamed of. Good posture is always feminine.
* A lady that carries herself with feminine dignity addresses people properly. It’s not “Hey you” or “Dude”, her speech should always be as Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Spiritually
* A lady that carries herself with feminine dignity will love the Lord, showing it through her obedience. Paul tells us in Titus 2:5, “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” And for those of us that are not married yet this verse does not excuse us. We still have our Pastor to listen to, some of you still have parents that play active roles in guiding your lives, ministry leaders, and of course there is the Lord. A lack of obedience can cause us to feel guilty, which can lead to a downward spiral of not wanting us to feminine and dignified before the Lord.
* A lady that carries herself with feminine dignity will be discreet, not given over to gossip, as well as prudent, weighing matters before she acts on them. Proverbs 11:22 says, “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” I know that must seem as a funny picture in your minds eye, because what in the world is a pig doing wearing a piece of jewelry, but what that verse is saying is that a woman without discretion is a woman that stands out to people, we should not want to stand out to people but we should rather that Christ is magnified through us, our dress and our actions.

A lady that dresses with dignity cares not for what, or how, the world tells her she should dress, she’s not caught up in the latest fad, but rather caught up and caring about exalting her Lord through her actions and behavior. Proverbs 31:30 says “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” If delusional dress demotes a woman’s femininity, dressing with dignity has the opposite affect and promotes her to be the godly woman and character that the Lord desires her to be. Next time you’re in your closet at a loss for what to where ask yourselves these questions as to whether or not your attire would be pleasing to the Lord.

1. Is it Distinct? Deuteronomy 22:5 (Does it make you feel, and look like, a lady?)
2. Is it Godly? Romans 12:2 (Does it demote or promote?)
3. Is it Beautiful? Psalm 45:13 (Does it make you look dignified?)
. . .and last but certainly not least. . .
4. Is it Feminine?

If your answer is “No” to any of these questions then it may be time to take an objective look at your wardrobe, or have a friend come by to help you. Maybe things have crept in to your closet that you had not considered before, I know that happened to me recently and I was forced to take another look at what I had in mine. Maybe you just need a friend to pray with you as you take on this issue for the first time while allowing the Lord to go through your closet. Maybe you’ve never handed whole heartedly over to the Lord and are keeping your closet closed to His inspection. I don’t know where you’re at, but I do know that the Lord wants us to be distinct and dignified ladies in our dress and demeanor, and not given over to the delusion of the world and all that it has to destroy our destinies, and our closets, with.

Thank you for taking the time to read what the Lord placed on my heart. I trust it will be a blessing to you.

3 comments:

The Mold-ee :) said...

Amen! This is indeed a subject God dealt with me on a few years ago. He used many the same scriptures you pointed out, as well as "Dressing for the Lord" by Bro. Cloud, and "Created to be His Help Meet" by Debi Pearl. I, too, know the struggle it is w/dress @ times, but I am so thankful for our Lord who gently reminds me of how I should be obeying Him in this area of my life. Thank you for approaching this subject head on, w/no skirting (pun intended) of the issue. I pray more ladies will be encouraged by your study!

Alyssa said...

Great devotion Carolyn! Your presentation Monday night was great and you brought out a lot of good points. It's a subject that we could all be reminded of frequently. Thank you for your willingess to be used of the Lord to do something that can be really quite scary! Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn. Thank you so much for this devotional! I finally read it :-) I remember you telling me about it and lately the Lord has really been weighing the subject on me, or should I say convicting me. I don't want anything to hinder thr Holy Spirit to work through me and if this is something that God desires of me than I know what I need to do. Like you metioned I wear the pants and still try to remain modest but I think I am understanding things a bit differently now, according to scripture and what God desires. He is holy and my understanding is so minute compared to His. Thank you for helping put things into perspective. ~Mandy Morris

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