by Sharon Tubbs

Take a look at the magazine covers in the check-out line. One thing many have in common: women showing lots of skin. Plump cleavage. Firm thighs. Bikinied backsides.

They’re on their way to Fifth Avenue, to exotic beaches, to movie sets, to the arms of handsome men. One place they’re likely not headed, however: church.

Today’s pop culture images in all their scantily-clad glory have little to do with God’s definition of beauty. Yet, even in the sanctuary, we see women clearly influenced by society’s need to bare all.

The subject of how Christians should dress and present themselves is touchy, for sure. Some women get really angry about this, accusing their spiritual sisters of looking like skanks and trying to seduce men. The offenders, meanwhile, might get defensive. Why should they be held responsible if men choose to stare? Besides, shouldn’t we be focused on the condition of a woman’s heart, not the way she dresses? Oh, and who determines what’s appropriate anyway?

Things get even more complex when we consider the Word:

  • “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” (I Timothy 2:9)
  • Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

The problem: Modesty is subjective. What one woman sees as modest, another sees as anything but. And the thighs that make one man stumble barely raise another’s eyebrows.

I recently wrote an online article about the debate over women’s attire in church. Imagine my surprise when I got this response from a reader who, coincidentally, attends the same church I do. He was a new believer who said that women used to be his “addiction.” He gave me permission to share his thoughts.

I try to follow God’s word as closely as I can and each time I go to Grace, I stumble. It bothers me to see women dressed like they were at the club. I understand some of them may not be mature enough yet, but why should their lack of maturity cause me to stumble? My sisters in Christ should be helping me, not become a stumbling block. I want to go to church and feel safe and renewed from the world, and it’s difficult when I go to church and I see the same things of the world and it shames me. I feel embarrassed because this is something that is not easy for me as a single Christian man…

As believers we shouldn’t be bound to live by others’ opinions, but the Word does compel us to avoid being spiritual stumbling blocks that cause others to commit sin or to have sinful thoughts. So what should we do?

We can talk about the issue with one another in love, rather than harsh judgment or accusation. We can humble ourselves enough to examine our own hearts—and wardrobes. The next time we’re in the fitting room or getting dressed in the morning, we can consider our own hearts: Is my motive to gain attention by seducing men? Am I exposing so much of my body at church that I could distract attention from the worship? Is my goal to express the beauty that God has given me, inside and out—or am I just trying to look like one of those women on the cover of a magazine?

Sharon Tubbs is a freelance journalist and author of “Milk & Honey: 10 Principles to Embracing Your Promised Land” and “Living in the Pink.”

 

by Julie Jaunese

In Mark 16:15 Jesus said “Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  For Barbara Neu, founder of the ministry, Loves Way Out, there is no location too intimidating to take the truth of God’s word, including to Tampa’s strip club industry.

Loves Way Out goes into exotic dance clubs in Tampa and ministers God’s love to the dancers and club staff. Started in 2004, Loves Way Out has two chapters and goes into 14 of the 45 strip clubs in the Tampa area. A new chapter is beginning in Pinellas County in August.

Several weekends a month, a group of women volunteers from Loves Way Out head into the clubs. They take gifts to each dancer along with a note about how much God loves them. The gifts aren’t extravagant – nail polish or lotion – but each bag includes homemade cookies and treats. When they arrive at the club they begin by giving the gifts to each dancer.  In some clubs they are welcomed into the dressing room where they are able to witness to the dancers, share a devotional and pray with them and for them.  The dancers, with names like Pink, Kit Kat, Passion, Juicy, Coco and Pepper, often join in the prayer.  They are hungry for lessons from and about God.  They desire to know the God who loves them. 

Each dancer has a different story as to how they came to work in the club. Some got started because they went in once to make some money to feed their children. Many of them continue to dance because they see no hope for a way out. They have children that need food and a roof over their head. Others are in college and are looking for a fast buck. The dancers express that Loves Way Out brings them hope.  Hope for a different life for them and their children. Barbara said the majority of the dancers longing to get out have never known a man in their lives they could trust. God is the man they can trust.

When they’re in the club, Barbara and the other volunteers encourage prayers from the dancers – women who often think God has forgotten about them. The volunteers share how God doesn’t forget about any of us, and His desire is that not even one person should perish.

There are women in our congregation at Grace Family Church who volunteer with Loves Way Out. I was able to sit down with one of those volunteers who is a former prostitute and drug addict.  She knows that if it hadn’t been for someone loving her and ministering to her, she may never have come to know God’s love. She loves sharing what God has done for her with the ladies of the clubs. She sees how much God loves each woman.

She told me the story of one of her Loves Way Out club visits, which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day. That day, the gifts for the dancers included a Valentine’s letter from Father’s Love Letter, a website that uses scripture to share how much God loves you. She went to the dance stage and placed the gift and the letter on the stage for the dancer.  The dancer came over, got off the stage, and hugged her.  The dancer said she found a copy of the letter in the dressing room the day before and was praying that someone would come and tell her more. The seed had been planted and now and now was being watered.  

Loves Way Out is always looking for Christian women to help further their ministry. You can join with others to go into the strip clubs, serve as a prayer partner, bake goodies or donate items for gift bags. If you’re interested in helping Loves Way Out, please contact Barbara Neu at LovesWayOut@aol.com.

Julie Jaunese and her husband, Mike, have been married 41 years. They have two daughters and two grandsons, and are expecting their first granddaughter this summer. Julie writes her own blog at http://juliejaun.blogspot.com, and leads Fabulous Fems and the Yada book club at Grace Family Church.  She also works full time at Moffitt Cancer Center.

by Rox Yates

I could tell you how I ended up there or all the things I did, but that would take too long and might hurt too much. I could tell you about all the families I probably played a part in ruining, but I can’t count that high. I could tell you about all the celebrities I met or about all the money I made, but it was all worthless in the end.  I will tell you this; I dropped out of college to run a gentlemen’s club.

For the better part of five years I learned everything I know about “gentlemen” from a strip club. I was an eighteen-year-old virgin with a curious stare and open ears who was hungry for money, adaptable to any environment, and charming to a fault. The owners saw all of that in their newly-hired, ninety pound cocktail waitress and promoted me quickly.

Needless to say this atmosphere morphed my beliefs on sex and relationships. But it wasn’t blatant at first. Being thrown into that world was a rapid numbing process, nothing was a surprise anymore. I learned to justify what I was doing with the reasoning that I wasn’t the one taking my clothes off and Jesus would understand that I needed money to live. I worked from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. most nights, and spent my time talking customers into paying for attention or getting advice from strippers. From the age of 18 until I was 23, I took pride in my hustle and the lessons I’d learned:

  • Sex is just sex.
  • To be worth more, wear less.
  • Make a man wait to see you naked for at least one song, but make him wait more than two and he’ll lose interest and walk away.
  • If a guy isn’t showing interest don’t worry, there are plenty of hurt women around that also crave attention you could choose from.
  • Be as fake as possible. Go to any extreme to make your body look more presentable to a man that may only see it once.

Since leaving the club, it has taken me years to let God reprogram my thinking. I’ve learned that I’m not an object and neither is any other female around me.  I’ve learned to value myself and my body, that it’s up to me who I attract, and guys that paid attention to me for the clothes I wore were also paying attention to every other girl that walked by.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that just because you can’t see the consequences to your actions presently doesn’t mean they won’t happen later. It was literally years before I started being hurt by my past decisions, and it’s even harder to see how those mistakes continue to make people around me suffer. Try telling your new Christian boyfriend everything he never wanted to hear from his “future wife,” or revealing a past you’ve kept hidden for so long to your mom.

I can’t change the choices I made in my past, and when I really think about it I wouldn’t even if I could.  Because I had the past that I did, God is getting the glory for making me who I am now.  It may not mean a lot to the people who know me today, but the friends and co-workers who have known me for years have seen a complete transformation in me, and I owe this life to God. He has forgiven me. He has shown me His mercy. When I look back, I really can see how He was always there with me in the darkest place on earth.

You say, ‘I’m rich. I’m wealthy. I don’t need anything.’ Yet, you do not realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. –Revelation 3:17

 

Rox is a Christian rapper from Virginia who is actively involved with The Move and GFC’s Worship Team. She is an avid “foodie” who will travel far for a good meal. Rox is also in the process of starting her own non-profit, Raising Shiloh, to benefit young adults aging out of foster care and children’s homes.

 

Today’s post comes from a couple who’ve been involved at Grace Family Church for several years. They share how life’s demands caused their love life to bottom out for awhile, and what they did to rekindle the romance.

She said:

When our kids were little, I was tired! Between meals, diaper changes, playtime, leading a mom’s group, volunteering, laundry, and grocery shopping, I was exhausted by the time my husband returned from work every night. As soon as he would walk in the door, I was ready to clock out and have some time for myself. Alone. I didn’t want to be needed by ANYONE.

My evening routine was predictable. I fell into bed early, watch a recorded TV show I didn’t have time to see earlier in the day, and then fall asleep. After awhile, my husband quit coming to bed with me. His evening plans included loving and being loved by his wife, and that rarely happened.  It wasn’t that he didn’t try to make me feel special by planning date nights and doing nice things for me. He did. But I was still resentful of all I needed to be to everyone. Eventually he began retreating to his home office, and we became two ships passing in the wind. 

The seed of resentment I was sowing was producing unhealthy, diseased fruit in my husband in the form of pornography and lust. I found out that my husband’s sexual needs were being temporarily fulfilled through on-line images. I became jealous and skeptical of every real-life relationship he had with other women, as innocent as they truly were. I badgered him and demanded details about who he was spending time with. The truth is I was growing concerned that another woman would make him feel loved and desired. (Matthew 26:41, 1 Cor. 10:13, James 1:14-15, Matthew 5:28, Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 7)

My eyes were opened to the potential destruction I was causing when several friends, Christian friends, had marriages that were ending or on the verge of ending due to extra-marital affairs or addiction to pornography. One person confided to an emotional relationship via email. I was shocked! Appalled! What were they thinking? Then God showed me that I was in a very delicate position as well – no different to the temptations of this world than they are – and I had better heed His warnings or I could very well be suffering the destruction of my own marriage. 

I sought wise council from the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Bible, and a mentor at Grace Family Church. I read The Excellent Wife, Power of the Praying Wife, Sheet Music, and The Five Love Languages. Then, I made a decision. I was choosing to be the wife God equipped me to be. I was going to decide to love sex again. I was going to create interesting, unexpected and fun intimate time with my husband that would not include crossing boundaries that we, or God, would not be alright with. I was going to make him feel like the most fortunate man in the world! (Prov. 4:7, 24:3-6, Hebrews 13:4)

I prayed each morning about what I could eliminate from my schedule, what foods I should eat to increase my energy, and carved out time for a nap even if just a short one. I let a few household chores go by the wayside. I chose to have a smile on my face when he came home and to tease him with what he could expect later. Then I acted on it – no more excuses. 

Everything was great for about three weeks when he said to me, “I’m not going to get too used to this. I know it won’t last long.” I was crushed. But I knew he had valid reasons for thinking my sexual desire in him would be short-lived. But God really had done a work in me. I loved and respected my man enough to make the necessary changes.

Now, almost ten years later, we have maintained our sexual relationship with each other to a level where my husband now says, “You never leave me wanting.” We pray together every morning and cherish what we have. God can restore your marriage if you follow His ways. It takes effort, a little bit of awkwardness at first, some uncomfortable discussions, decisions, lots of prayer…and time. And it is worth it.

He said:

Yes, kids change everything. What an awesome blessing they are but when ours were really young, everything seemed to revolve around keeping them fed and clothed, and getting the food off their clothes, off the floor, etc. Gone were the days of jumping right into relaxing and romantic time with my wife.

My workday would end but hers was just kicking into full gear by the time I pulled in the driveway. “Honey I’m home!” turned into, “Where should I jump in?” That is, if I remembered to ask. No wonder we’d finally bump into each other at the end of the night and have different priorities in mind. It was a battle going on in my house – not really me against my wife – but a battle against the distractions of life trying to takeover! I was unprepared for that battle and it was taking our intimacy hostage.

Something that began to help was praying on my drive home to mentally transition from the workday into evening time with my family. If I continued thinking through work projects or troubles going on elsewhere, I couldn’t be fully present when they needed me. What’s worse, I think men have a tendency to escape the frustration of intimacy problems by burying themselves further into their work or hobbies. At first it seems fulfilling but it never fixes the real problem – it’s only a distraction.

Speaking of distractions, the most destructive one is seeking out images on television, online, or worse – seeking casual conversation and attention from women that aren’t your wife. It doesn’t even have to be pornography but a lot of times it starts there. Jesus was pretty clear about it in Matt. 5:27-29. We’re constantly bombarded from every angle with images engineered to ignite our desire. A desire to be desired. For men, part of it is emotional but most of it is simply physical. It’s so very easy to fall prey to the fantasies of online,TV or movie images because they’re available 24/7. But it’s not intimacy and it’s never fulfilling. It’s a slippery slope constantly craving more… like eating an entire bowl of your favorite candy. If you always snack on candy, you won’t only lose your appetite for dinner, you’ll eventually get sick.

At a point where I felt increasingly frustrated with myself, I realized that kind of “snacking” was ruining my appetite for my wife. It wasn’t fulfilling. If anything it was making me bitter and insensitive. It was distracting me from the problem itself.

I wondered: What would happen if I took that energy and attention completely away from un-Godly desires and the things that would never be truly fulfilling, and instead turned that attention only toward my wife?

I took up washing dishes and making sure at the end of each night that the kitchen was clean and ready for the next day. I’d pitch to help get the kids bathed, in bed and try to straighten up a bit. In the morning I’d make her coffee just the way she likes it. Serving your wife is a great place to start building back lost intimacy.

Another big step was when I had an honest conversation with her about how very much I needed her and that I’d been distracted and wanted to desire ONLY her. We were BOTH distracted but with different things. We realized we needed to step up and make sacrifices for each other and be more sensitive to each other’s needs. I needed to reassure her that the whole world wasn’t on her shoulders and that both of us saving energy and desire for each other was way more important than the living room being straight!

It’s easy to say, “Oh, the kids just wear me out during the week,” or, “Honey, I’m too tired from work to help you,” or, “I can’t focus on anything when the house is a mess.” It’s hard to say no sometimes to a few of the less-important things in order to keep some of ourselves ONLY for our spouse. But the sacrifice is worth it and so VERY fulfilling.

What we found is that things don’t always need to be a big deal. Get creative. Women would be totally surprised by how far a little bit of attention goes toward making your husband feel desired. Mine really took the initiative. I’d get home and she’d look as cute as ever. She put little hearts on the fridge calendar marking “special nights.” That was VERY cool.

Over that time we also found great tips by going to couples’ groups and some great resources from FamilyLife.com – a book called Rekindling the Romance and a pack of date night ideas called Simply Romantic Nights. We set date nights and began to enjoy a whole new level of intimacy in our marriage. There are a lot of great resources around but the real fix was getting our attention turned to what was really important.

Now, years later we of course have little bumps in the road here and there, but we know what’s important to each other and how to make each other feel treasured. We flirt like we’re dating and look forward each night to curling up and watching a little TV before bed. And these days, we don’t need to put hearts on the calendar!

For July, we invited women involved with Beautiful at Grace Family Church to anonymously share how sex has impacted their lives. While their testimonies reveal past hurts and poor choices, each woman has seen her life and relationships restored through the power of Jesus Christ. We pray their stories bring hope and healing to your life.
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When it comes to talking about sex before marriage I had a lot of good excuses why waiting was not for me. Staying celibate was more of an “ideal situation” rather than actual reality. I grew up in a family that didn’t know the Lord and wouldn’t discuss any life issues such as sex, marriage, finances, etc. In my family any conversations related to relationships with the opposite sex were a taboo. And we never talked about when, how and who I should date. It was more like no boys allowed….ever.

In my teen years the topic of conversation between my friends was about “first love” and “first time.” All of my girlfriends were in love with real boyfriends and were having real sex. I had little to add to our conversations, so I began imagining what it would be like when I did have a boyfriend and could “make love.” I felt left out and I began searching for my Prince Charming. In no time, I was in a relationship. My eyes were opened to a world where sex was the norm for casual or romantic relationships. I was never the type for casual sex but I believed if I was in love and in a committed relationship, sex was a way to show I was there for the long run.

I had a few long-term relationships, but purity was never a priority in any of them. As I entered each relationship, I was always hopeful he would be “the one,” but overtime, I knew I hadn’t chosen wisely. I found myself staying too long in relationships for two reasons: one, I felt guilty for giving myself physically, and two, I thought things would eventually change for good.

As I started maturing spiritually, I began to understand that God had a purpose for my sexuality. I started to see why God says to flee from sexual temptation and that it is a sin against my own body. I prayed for God to help me practice self control and to forgive me for “doing it.” The truth is, not much changed after that. Let’s be honest, you can pray all you want, but if you don’t really believe that there is a reward for those who wait until marriage and take all the measures necessary to help you in this area, you are fooling yourself.

When my husband and I started dating, our relationship quickly turned serious and physical. Within eight months we were building a new home. We were talking about “our” finances and marriage was on the horizon sometime in the “future.” He was giving me everything I dreamed of, but not in the right order. However, I was willing to compromise; after all, he was saying the right words. We both regularly attended Grace and through many messages, God began to change our hearts and minds about being intimate with each other before marriage. The desire to please God and honor Him became a priority in our lives. We knew we needed to change things. So we began meeting with a Christian mentor, we set up boundaries to help us stay pure and we got married within the next four months. After all Paul warn us in 1 Cor. 7:9, “But if you cannot exercise self-control, you should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

After several years of marriage I have learned the hard way why it is worth waiting to have sex. Marriage, by itself, is not easy and if you add in the baggage of prior relationships, or having been intimate with your mate before marriage, it makes it even more difficult. One of the struggles in the beginning of our marriage was I found myself withholding sex from my husband. Now that I had the “till death do us part,” it felt like marriage had given me the entitlement to determine whether I was in the mood or not. After all, my husband wasn’t going anywhere.  During that time, I heard my husband saying things like, “I don’t know why I got married if I wasn’t going to get any.” Or, “I got more action when I was single. Being married sucks!”  How sad was it to find out that I was not only robbing the one I loved, but I was also robbing myself from what God designed sex to be. His Word says, “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations.” (1 Cor 7:5) Sex is one of the ways God made for husbands and wives to become one flesh.

Looking back on my life, I wish I would have done things differently. I wish I would have waited for my husband. Don’t think that it’s too late to stop and do things in a way that pleases God. It will bring peace to your soul.

Here are few tips that may help single gals on their journey for sexual purity: 

  • Long-term relationships make it even harder to maintain your purity. Set physical and emotional boundaries; share those boundaries with a trusted Christian mentor who will help hold you accountable.
  • Stay away from the emotional, unavailable type of guy. These guys are the ones who like to be in long term relationships and enjoy all the “benefits,” but they will make it clear from the beginning that marriage is something they don’t believe in or have issues with. However, they “pretend” to be very committed to the relationship and you will begin to believe that eventually, you will tie the knot.
  • Finally, if a guy tells you that the physical is part of the relationship, you are better off waiting for someone that will honor you and respect your decision to wait. Don’t compromise in this area. God is clear in His Word.