Jul 31, 2010

To Swim Or Not To Swim: Modesty Is The Question?

The question, in question, was simple. How come I cannot swim in your public pool with a shirt on? The response was interesting, and of course, I received several quick answers. I hope that they were well thought out, because the responder, was indeed a public official. Although, I am not sure if it was an 'elected' or an 'appointed' position, surely if she were elected her speech would have been more eloquent. Or not.

The story is not so exciting or outside the norm. If you really consider that my expectations are not usually too high, you would learn that the outcome of my dialog with said city official was not horribly disappointing. But, in lieu of the principals at stake, me having a strong desire to advocate for others, and that I am quick to pull the "I am a social worker" card, I decided to take action for the wrong that you are about to hear about.

I arrived at a park, a public park, in Grosse Pointe Park, early afternoon for a 'company' picnic. After mingling and eating for a short time, some of us decided it was time to take a swim in the pool. I must say, I was attracted to the diving boards almost instantly. I have always loved diving boards. I found the locker room, changed, and showered, in my swim attire. Of course, state mandatory regulations require all pool patrons to shower with warm, soapy water. I suppose that is to cut down on the bacteria that the chlorine does not kill. I complied, and then proceeded toward the pool for some summer fun!

Now, here is where some detail is necessary. I do not swim as most men choose to swim. I swim with a shirt. I know it might sound absurd, or maybe even hindering to my aerodynamic form when I do laps, but I still wear it. Not only do I wear it to protect against harmful UV rays, but I wear it for modesty sake. Yes! You heard me say modesty. In response to this I have often heard some people say, 'Oh it is really no big deal, nobody is paying attention to that!" Or, some reply with a cackling, "You think you are hot stuff huh?" The worst response that I usually get is, "You think you swimming without a shirt will cause a woman to sin?" Yes, for what it is worth, these typical, bantering responses do annoy me to some degree.

In case you have not figured it out for yourself, modesty for men is quite different than modesty for women. We have the benefits of a wider array of socially accepted norms and mores. This does not mean that our culture has not experiences a huge shift in the tolerance of clothing (or lack thereof) for women, it just means that men can walk around half-naked and not be chastised, or arrested for it. But, should a woman practice this same behavior (shirtless hiking per se) then she would most likely be arrested for indecent exposure. Why? Well she has exposed her chest. Thankfully, we have not reached such a tragic depth of public voyeurism just yet and most law enforcement entities would restrain or request to cease behavior like this. After all, there are children to consider right?

Comparisons aside, what is the point of my monologue here? After swimming in the aforementioned pool for almost an hour and a half, a few dives off the old diving board, and one killer thigh smacker I returned to the picnic for a little rest. After spending some time chatting, a few of us decided to return to the pool for a few more dives before leaving. This is when it became interesting. As I lined up at the board, the teenage lifeguard observing the diving end yelled out to me, "You cannot wear that shirt in the pool." Instantly I was startled. See, I heard the statement, but I could not see where it came from. Swimming means no glasses, and glasses mean almost blind. Then I looked up and said, "Huh?" This is when it became clear that the young man was telling me I cannot wear my shirt in the pool.

Instantly the folks around me said, "Just take it off!" Another woman had responded, "It is no big deal, you do not need a shirt to swim." The young lifeguard told me that I could dispute the matter with the head lifeguard, who in turn referred me to the park director.

We caught up with the park director and discussed the pool policy regarding clothing and swim attire. She informed me that there is a pool policy requiring all swimwear to be just that, swimwear. There were no posted signs, the park website contains no listing of these said rules, and I have made two requests to the parks and recreation department for a listing of rules, or the location they are posted for observation. During the discussion with the park director, she informed me that it is a policy they actively enforce because there is no way to know whether or not people are practicing good hygiene in relation to their clothing choices. For instance she said, "I could have been mowing the grass in this shirt." And the head lifeguard said, "You can just go down the street to Harper sports and buy a shirt." And the biggest contention that they offered was that my shirt was made of cotton.

That leaves a few arguments that are not adequately answered here. 1. How do you know what people are doing in their 'approved' swimwear prior to their pool activities? 2. What difference would a swim shirt, made of non-cotton materials make if I mowed the lawn in it? 3. Although you never mentioned the spread of bacteria in swimming pools why are you even allowing children into the pool with 'swim diapers' on?

Sure the diaper helps prevent seeping fecal matter, but it sure is not foolproof. What most swimmers probably do not know, is that most issues people face from public pool swimming come from the oral ingestion of water containing contaminants like urine, fecal matter, and other human wastes. Yes, this is disgusting I know! So is the idea of all the people that admit to urinating in public pools despite the close proximity of public restrooms.

Long story short. I was unable to reason with the pool staff about re-entry into the pool. I stated plainly that the clothing I was wearing is for swimming only, and that my point in wearing a top is that I do not find it necessary to swim half-naked. When reasoned with by the director to, "Go ahead, why don't you take your shirt off, you look great!" I responded in return for her to tell all the women in the pool to take their tops off as well. I did not think so. I suppose it does not seem to others to equate. She then told me that she felt horrible about asking a rather large woman to take off her over shirt as well. Not because the woman was swimming, or mowing lawns, or dusting knick-knacks with her shirt on, but because it was cotton.

I firmly believe that my body is for my wife. And likewise, we as believers must understand that the culture does not determine the acceptable level of nakedness, or better yet, determine what level of modesty becomes immodesty, but still socially acceptable. Had I removed my shirt at their command, not only would I have violated my conscience, but I would expose myself in a manner that is for the marriage bed, between a man and a woman.

Thanks Ms. Park Director for your inappropriate commentary, or better said, sexual harassment, but no thanks. You can have your rules and regulations, as for me and my house, well, we serve the Lord.

Jul 28, 2010

KDKR 91.3fm Christian Radio Interview

About a month back I was contacted by Jim Norman of Wise People: Conversations With Christians - Walking in the Wisdom of the Lord.  His show airs on KDKR 91.3 in Fort Worth, Texas. After reading the blog he wanted me to share my testimony and story of the blog with his listeners. The original broadcast aired on July 24th, at 8:30am. Unfortunately, I have been terribly busy and was not able to post the info. But, as excited as you might have been to hear it live, you still have a chance. The link to the original program spot is posted below. Let me know what you think!

Interview Audio

Jul 22, 2010

Dearborn police accused of violating First Amendment Says The ACLU

An interesting spin on the arrests of Acts 17 Apologetics members last month. Call it what you will, political activism, or gospel proclamation. Either way, their American rights were violated, as citizens they were denied constitutional right, due process, and the exercise of freedom of speech, even unpopular speech. As Christians, well, they got what they had coming in an environment that is hostile toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The ACLU weighs in with this article.


Just for a note of opinion. I would say that the detractors (local ones) who stand opposed to the activities of this group, I have one question. While I may not align fully with any side, as I choose to align with Christ, could you stop for a moment and pray? Pray that the Lord would be glorified? Pray that precedence may be established here? That an unfettered door would be opened to the truth of Christ being openly preached amongst Muslims? Have you considered that even your most seeker sensitive message involving conversion to Christ in a closed-door country where Muslims dominate the population and local government will get you killed? Think about it.

Jul 21, 2010

Milestones of an Effective Gospel Discussion

Brother Tom Bear of Stones Cry Out Ministries in Dearborn, MI has written a brief primer on gospel discussions. By no means an exhaustive rubric of how to witness properly but a helpful tool that will steer you along an effective, biblical path. Tom also has many useful tools, studies, and books available at his website. He is a dear brother and I urge you to visit his page if you have a desire to become equipped at effectively sharing your faith.

Milestones of a Gospel Discussion

You can begin a gospel conversation talking about perhaps anything imaginable. The conversation is dynamic so it will have a tendency to go in various directions. Lack of time might prevent you from fully presenting the gospel during the conversation. But if you achieve the following basic milestones, you will most likely end up presenting the entire gospel so that the unbeliever comprehends it at least with his mind. I recommend that you let these milestones guide you through every gospel conversation.

Milestone  1:  Get the unbeliever to tell you what he believes is “the way to heaven.”[1]
This milestone can take place near the beginning of a conversation and it serves as THE foundation for the rest of the conversation.

Milestone 2:  Get the unbeliever to either wonder or actually say out loud, “Well, what hope is there for anyone?….you seem to be saying that everyone is doomed to go to hell forever.”
Achieving this milestone may take up to an hour or two in some cases. The only way to achieve this milestone is to talk about God’s absolute righteousness and man’s absolute sinfulness. It requires patience to do this properly. If you gloss over this without the unbeliever coming to this conclusion in his mind, he will not properly see the connection to the cross. Jesus’ death will remain unimportant to him. So keep talking about sin, righteousness and judgment until he begins to wonder,  “What hope is there for anyone?”

Milestone 3: Help him see how Jesus made it possible for him to be reconciled to God through His substitutionary death on the cross.

Milestone 4: Help him count the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Explain what happens when God regenerates a person. Tell him how He did this for you.

[1] If the person does not believe there is a God, you can still get him to tell you what he thinks “Christians” believe is the way to heaven.

Jul 20, 2010

We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought

Was listening to the Rain City Hymnal this morning, and this retake on an old hymn was extremely pleasant to listen to. Not that the old hymn itself is played out, because it is not, I love it! This contemporary version is an excellent rendition. You can find the preview EP for the Rain City Hymnal here. This free download includes the song mentioned above. Also, below you can find the lyrics as they were originally written.

We have not known Thee as we ought,
Nor learned Thy wisdom, grace and power;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light Thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing Thee.

We have not feared Thee as we ought,
Nor bowed beneath Thine awful eye,
Nor guarded deed and word and thought,
Remembering that God was nigh.
Lord, give us faith to know Thee near,
And grant the grace of holy fear.

We have not loved Thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by Thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed Thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart
To feel and know the love Thou art.

We have not served Thee as we ought,
Alas, the duties left undone,
The work with little fervor wrought,
The battles lost or scarcely won!
Lord, give the zeal, and give the might,
For Thee to toil, for Thee to fight.

When shall we know Thee as we ought,
And fear and love and serve aright?
When shall we, out of trial brought,
Be perfect in the land of light?
Lord, may we day by day prepare
To see Thy face and serve Thee there.

Jul 17, 2010

Loving Your Enemy, Martyrdom, and True Non-Resistance: Dirk Willems

I read in this month's Berean Call newsletter, who's mailing list I am on (don't know how), an account of the Anabaptist Dirk Willems. You might have heard of him, but I have not. So, I will share with you the account of his death. I surely would like to know more about his life, but I believe the end of the latter plainly speaks for the former. 

From the Martyr's Mirror:

In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in Holland, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists. But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast unto the end. Therefore, when the chief Shepherd shall appear in the clouds of heaven and gather together His elect from all the ends of the earth, he shall also through grace hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (1 Pet. 5:4; Matt. 24:31; 25:23.)

[Later, Dirk Willems was able to escape from the prison where he was held. He was pursued by the burgomaster and his deputy or “thief-catcher.”]

Concerning his apprehension, it is stated by trustworthy persons, that when he fled he was hotly pursued by a thief-catcher, and as there had been some frost, said Dirk Willems ran before over the ice, getting across with considerable peril. The thief-catcher following him broke through, when Dirk Willems, perceiving that the former was in danger of his life, quickly returned and aided him in getting out, and thus saved his life. The thief-catcher wanted to let him go, but the burgomaster, very sternly called to him to remember his oath, and thus he was again seized by the thief-catcher, and, at said place, after severe imprisonment and great trials proceeding from the deceitful papists, put to death at a lingering fire by these bloodthirsty, ravening wolves, enduring it with great steadfastness, and confirming the genuine faith of the truth with his death and blood, as an instructive example to all pious Christians of this time, and to the everlasting disgrace of the tyrannous papists.

In this connection, it is related as true from the trustworthy memoirs of those who were present at the death of this pious witness of Jesus Christ, that the place where this offering occurred was without Asperen, on the side of Leerdam, and that, a strong east wind blowing that day, the kindled fire was much driven away from the upper part of his body, as he stood at the stake; in consequence of which this good man suffered a lingering death, insomuch that in the town of Leerdam, towards which the wind was blowing, he was heard to exclaim over seventy times, "O my Lord; my God," etc., for which cause the judge or bailiff, who was present on horseback, filled with sorrow and regret at the man's sufferings, wheeled about his horse, turning his back toward the place of execution, and said to the executioner, "Dispatch the man with a quick death." But how or in what manner the executioner then dealt with this pious witness of Jesus, I have not been able to learn, except only, that his life was consumed by the fire, and that he passed through the conflict with great steadfastness, having commended his soul into the hands of God.

Jul 12, 2010

Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi Answers The Dearborn Mayor And Critics

Okay, since the local ministries in Dearborn believe that Acts 17 Apologetics are just troublemakers, and the Dearborn Mayor accuses them of being greasy money grubbing evangelists trying to raise money by making a stir, maybe it would help to hear what Nabeel Qureshi has to say regarding the matter?

Jul 9, 2010

A House Divided Againsts Itself?

The Arabic International Festival in Dearborn has become a controversial centrifuge regarding First Amendment freedoms. It has been fueled by the increase in Christian and Islamic interfaith dialog once a year in Dearborn, MI. Presently, the festival has ended, the outreach is over, and current litigation regarding Christian leaf-letting, journalistic dialogs, and freedom of speech remains pending. Following the suppression of distribution by groups in 2009, the enlarged obstacles and increasing opposition have resulted in total hindrance to gospel literature being passed out and the subsequent arrests of four Christians.

The aftermath of these events has not only stirred controversy in the courts, news outlets, and local churches, but has apparently polarized Christians. The appearance of unity is a marred visage of what one would imagine would be when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims. However, this is simply not the case with local Dearborn ministries who lay claim to year round evangelistic and ministry efforts. They feel very strongly that the groups who come in from out of town leave a miserable mess when they leave and increase the difficulty of reaching an already difficult to reach people group.

Groups from around the country drive, fly, and commute locally to the festival to seize an opportunity that will provide one to one access to Muslims, Non-Muslim Arabs, and Chaldean's who live in the Metro-Detroit and Dearborn area. These individuals have participated in the outreach efforts for the past few years, some going back as early as the first festival itself. It has also been a personal privilege of mine to work with these groups, side by side, hoping to accomplish the same task, bringing Muslims to the foot of a blood stained cross, and hoping they too will repent of their sins, and trust the Savior Jesus Christ.

For the record, some of the groups who participate in the ministry here (but not limited to) operate under public banners like Ministry to Muslims and Acts 17 Apologetics. Beginning as early as last year, the Dearborn Police Department has been cracking down on Christian evangelism occurring within the festival boundaries, most particularly the aforementioned groups. Last year, members of Acts 17 were physically "encouraged" to leave the festival grounds by festival security staff. The video of this event eventually went viral via YouTube and stirred up a hailstorm of controversy surrounding the semantics of what exactly transpired during that event. This year they were the ones arrested. They also had their camera equipment illegally seized without return.

There are also out of town groups that come on their own volition. They are not sent by missionary boards, funded by para-church organizations, or commissioned by local church's to do special 'mission' assignments. They come here to minister the Gospel to one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the country. Some of these visitors come from California, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Arizona, Indiana, and even right here in Michigan. These groups largely remain unaffiliated with any organizations and choose to simply state their allegiance with Christ. Essentially, the motive is tell the truth of God's Word through Jesus Christ and show the false claims of the Qur'an to be found wanting when followed as a means of being right with God.

Then, there are those who live locally year round. There are groups, ministries, churches, and individuals who reach out to the Arab and Muslim population in ongoing efforts to share Christ with them. These efforts treat many various needs in the community as well. With the array of social services, members of these communities receive monies, food, English as second language education, and vocational assistance from these groups and ministries. There are also church groups and individuals who go door to door administering the Gospel and follow up with discipleship when professions of faith are made.

In 2006 I was ministering the Gospel at the festival when it was on Warren. It was getting late and many patrons were dispersing. I had found myself speaking with a younger man who had plainly entrapped me with his questions and became instantly antagonistic the moment he confirmed that I was handing out Gospel's of John. Within moments of the exchanged I was surrounded by a large group of Muslims chanting "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadar Rasul Allah." Not only was there extreme intimidation playing a role here, but I was instantly swallowed up in the middle of the group, no police nearby, and only a few brothers within distance.

The claim of the local ministry's is found wanting. The ideal that there is catastrophic effects from the ongoing outreach of Christians who are indeed proclaiming the Biblical Gospel in the Biblical pattern is simply ludicrous. The objective of the groups that do organize on a larger scale is to train locals and plug in converts to the existing ministries for discipleship. However, for fear of exposure to the attacks of true Muslims, most local church's have refrained from involvement. Even the hosting church for one of the conferences showed little to no participation of the local congregants. It is sad to see that other conferences and local churches promote a mediocre and modern day gospel that falsely converts millions of Americans daily falls even more short when it comes to challenging the claims of Islam.

World Magazine reported on the recent events surrounding the arrests and quoted statements by some of the 'local' ministries, as well as notable author Josh McDowell,

"Other Christians were quick to say that they participated in the Arab festival without incident. For the second year in a row, Christian author and popular speaker Josh McDowell had a booth there, and has handed out over 22,000 autographed books, he told me. "I must've answered 300 questions from Muslims, and not one person raised their voice, not one person argued." McDowell said local pastors and the Chamber of Commerce invited him, and he asked a local committee to review the materials he handed out beforehand. He said he understood the local restrictions: "When you have a festival in a few blocks of a downtown area with 300,000 going through, you've got to have a few rules.""

It's interesting to observe these statements when you actually take time to see the stark contrast between what 'Other Christians' were doing as 'gospel witness.' As far as I am concerned, and no disrespect to Mr. McDowell, but your statements in this whole scenario mean diddly. McDowell is passing out free copies of a fictional book that personifies the cheap propagation of christian junk that you can get at any local Family Heresy Bookstore. Sorry Mr. McDowell, your book, is not the Gospel, therefore of course you are not going to upset Muslims with it.The few rules in place for crowd control would be understandable, but preventing Christians from passing out materials, creating an aura of fear, and even arresting Christians who were having peaceful dialog (of which I personally witnessed) is not a rule instituted for crowd control, but appeasing the dominating population of Muslim sentiment so that there is not a full scale riot. In turn, that means silencing the Christians who are directly confronting the false claims of the Muslims and the Qur'an.
So, the essential facet of truth here really is simple. What is the dividing line between the local and visiting ministers? Well, I believe that the local ministries may not truly understand that itinerant ministry is a Biblical norm and when someone converts they should be plugged in. I also believe that the visiting ministries may not fully comprehend the delicate balance that is upset when they come in to town en masse and leave en masse with a whirlwind of controversy that could possibly be avoided or minimized by using a little more tact, or shrewdness. But, in consideration of all perspectives, no side will get it entirely right.

But, opposition to the message of Jesus Christ is a good indicator that men are being convicted or confronted, and the enemy writhes with discontent when the truth of the Bible is set forth in his deepest and darkest strongholds, Islam. I suppose I would leave you to be the judge of the entire ordeal. As for me, I say amen for the brethren withstanding persecution for our Lord's namesake. If men praise you, be weary...but if they persecute you, it is because they first persecuted Him.

Which message do you want to preach?

Jul 2, 2010

A Marvelous Light - Mark's Testimony, A Former PKO Rapper.

Please check out this month's featured testimony. His name is Mark, and he was once a rapper who lived the street/thug life. He wants to share what Christ has done in his life, and through the changing power of salvation by grace through faith. You can view it in the upper right column of the blog. I hope you enjoy.