Obedience is the Secret: Underwear Model Chooses Jesus Over Career

No matter your culture, faith, ethnicity or class, most every woman on the planet would be thrilled for many reasons to win a model search and secure employment with one of the world’s top lingerie retailers, Victoria’s Secret. This fate fell to Kylie Bisutti in 2009 when she beat 10,000 other girls in the company’s annual modeling competition. Bisutti signed with VS and modeled not only clothing but lingerie and swimsuits. In an interview with Fox News, she confessed this was her dream:

“Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise. I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast.”

Curiously, at this year’s Victoria’s Secret runway show, Bisutti was nowhere to be found. Why? She realized her career clashed with her Christian faith.

“I’m Christian, and reading the Bible more, I was becoming more convicted about it….It was pretty crazy because I finally achieved my biggest dream, the dream that I always wanted, but when I finally got it, it wasn’t all that I thought it would be.”

Who will benefit from Kylie’s decision?

“My body should only be for my husband and it’s just a sacred thing….I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.”

Wow. Yes and amen Kylie.

Before Bisutti, others (professional athletes and singers who are Christians for example) have freely admitted the difficulty of maintaining their faith in the midst of fame and fortune. Why is her story noteworthy? Because she’s an attractive Christian girl? No. Because she relinquished money and fame? Possibly. Because of the criticism and mocking she might receive from colleagues and the press? Maybe.  Her story is important because she valued obedience to Christ above all.

Bisutti submitted to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. She gave Jesus lordship over her marriage and career and allowed the word of God to penetrate her heart so deeply that obedience to God became more valuable to her than anything. Instead of giving a flippant shout-out to God while the cameras were rolling and never acknowledging Him otherwise (as do some celebrities who claim Christianity), she counted the cost of discipleship and chose Jesus, in the face of Victoria’s Secret and the whole world.

When the media catches wind of a famous self-proclaimed Christian, many of us cringe, hoping and praying they don’t embarrass or undermine the faith. In this case, Christians can rejoice and be challenged by this genuine glorifying of our Savior in the public square.  Most of us have never been underwear models and have not experienced Bisutti’s dilemma. We can sit back and say, “Well of course she should have quit…that’s a no-brainer for a Christian. She shouldn’t have gotten involved in that business at all!” That’s a moot point. All Christians get into stuff they shouldn’t from time to time. The first of Martin Luther’s famed 95 theses is, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

God knows we won’t always get it right; it’s our response to missteps that’s important. Christians must constantly evaluate their choices and determine if they line up with Christ-likeness and God’s calling according to the Bible. No matter the situation (great or small, obvious or barely noticeable), God requires our obedience which is the highest act of worship. Will we follow Kylie’s lead?

Fox News interview:

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/02/02/kylie-bisutti-left-lingerie-modeling-because-it-didnt-mesh-with-her-christian/

More of Kylie’s story

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/02/10/from-victorias-secret-model-to-proverbs-31-wife/

Emily

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Missing the Point: On Pop Music in Christian Worship

Liquid Church is one of the fastest growing mega churches in the state of New Jersey. They recently made waves by announcing a new message series entitled “Pop God.” During this series the church’s worship band will be leading the congregation with songs by Adele, Bruno Mars, Cee-Lo, and the Foo Fighters. Anticipating some blowback from these selections, the church leaders announced some justification for this departure from the norm.

Lead pastor Tim Lucas claims the “heartbroken torture” of the Adele song Rolling in the Deep will allow his listeners to connect with the tone of the book of Hosea – which features the prophet Hosea’s tumultuous marriage to a prostitute named Gomer.

He went on to say churches can either reject the dominant culture or redeem it. The Christian sub-culture is disconnected from the broader world. By bringing these songs into worship the church is redeeming the dominant culture.

Ultimately, playing these songs is about connecting with a wider audience. Lucas says the church is trying, “to live in that tension of the weight of theology, but making it accessible to [as] wide [a] variety of audiences as possible.”

It would be interesting to have a further conversation with Lucas and find out how the “weight of theology” has influenced their worship. The desire to redeem culture and connect with a wider audience is certainly commendable. A passion for evangelism and relating God’s Word to the average American is necessary for any church. Yet, in the case of pop music in worship, it seems like cultural relevance is a bus and theology is the unlucky possum that crossed the road at the wrong time.

Should churches use pop music in a worship service? Should they use non-Christian pop music? Should the congregation sing it? To answer these questions we must turn to a definition of the corporate worship of the church.

John Stott defines true worship as follows:

All true worship is a response to the self-revelation of God in Christ and Scripture and arises from our reflection on who He is and what He has done. The worship of God is evoked, informed and inspired by the vision of God.

Bob Kauflin defines the task of a worship leader in his book Worship Matters:

A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.

David Peterson depicts corporate worship in his book Engaging with God:

The gathering of the church is meant to be an anticipation of the heavenly or eschatological assembly of God’s people. It is to be characterized by worship or divine service in the form of prayer and praise directed to God and in the form of ministry to one another… We gather together to encourage one another to live out in everyday life the obedience that glorifies God and furthers His saving purposes in the world.

Corporate worship is founded on who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do and on our response to Him (Ps. 21:13, 99:3, 105:2, 117:1-2). It is not only praise directed to God, but it is also the body of Christ building one another up by declaring and celebrating truth corporately (Eph 4:19).

Adele’s song Rolling in the Deep is about the heartbreak of a broken relationship, assigning blame to the other person for wrong doing and desiring to inflict pain on them. A number of things in the song encourage harmful and sinful approaches to relationships that run counter to what the Bible teaches (Matt. 5:44). Should a congregation be building one another up with the “truth” of Adele?

Furthermore, the song says nothing of the character of God, what He has done, or our response to Him. It doesn’t magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t utilize the Word of God. It doesn’t proclaim the gospel or lead people into the presence of God. It doesn’t exalt the glory of God. So the song cannot be used to praise God – unless that god is ultimately oneself.

The problem with using pop music – and sometimes even Christian pop music – in worship is that it fails to conform to any of the purposes of worship. Worship is centered on God; the Billboard top 40 is not centered on God. That’s not to say it’s necessarily wrong to enjoy it, simply that it does not belong in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some may object – isn’t evangelism a purpose of worship? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25:

…if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Evangelism is a purpose of worship. But notice when the outsider enters worship, the congregation convicts the person, calls them to account, and reveals God to them. This cannot be accomplished if worship is simply a reflection of the culture the outsider comes from. It is the discontinuity of our worship with the dominant culture that makes it convicting. Our words and worship should be intelligible to outsiders, but if worship blends in completely with the surrounding culture there will be nothing left to convict and call them to account. We don’t see outpourings of salvation and repentance at Foo Fighters’ concerts. Why would we expect the same songs to bring different results in a worship setting?

We worship God in response to who He is and what He has done. We worship God because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We worship God through the power of His Holy Spirit at work in our lives. We worship God to build up our fellow Christians in the truth of His Word. This is why we gather to sing with the body of Christ.

Could we attract more people by singing Cee-Lo’s “Forget You” like Liquid Church? Maybe. But the New Testament never commands us to pack a church building; it commands us to glorify God by making disciples. I have a feeling God will be glorified and more disciples made as the church joins in singing “In Christ Alone” than a song that degrades those who may have wronged us in a relationship. Just sayin.

Brian

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Don’t Hate On the Tiger Mom

Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and mother of two, published her controversial and highly criticized memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in 2011. It chronicles her journey of parenting daughters the Chinese way on American soil. Rather than allowing children to become self-indulgent, underachieving drains on society (her perception of Western children), Chinese parenting aims for the child’s highest success in every endeavor at all costs for the glory of the family.  Chapter one opens with bullet points of things Chinese children are never allowed to do, including: attend sleepovers, watch TV, choose their own extracurricular activities or get any grade less than an A.

Since their toddler days, daughters Sophia and Lulu followed rigorous routines to pave their way to elite futures, academically and musically. Instruments dominated non-school, non-homework hours. Chua cashed in some of her pension funds to buy Lulu one of the finest violins in the world. On every vacation, the first order of business was securing the hotel lounge piano for practice. These practices were frequently punctuated with harsh remarks from Chua such as: “If you don’t get this perfect, I am going to burn your stuffed animals!” and “Oh my god, you are just getting worse and worse.” This intensity drove both daughters and Chua to shouting matches, public embarrassment and icy distance. Chua admits that being hated is part of being a Chinese parent but is ultimately worth it.

Did her method succeed? Both daughters are music prodigies, straight-A students and fluent in Mandarin. Such accomplishments might convince any parent of this strategy. One might expect her book to end victoriously with a ten step plan to copy her success. Instead, these five lonely sentences end her story:

“Given that life is so short and so fragile, surely each of us should be trying to get the most out of every breath, every fleeting moment. But what does it mean to live life to its fullest? We all have to die, but which way does that cut? In any case, I’ve just told [my husband] that I want to get another dog.”1

After accomplishing world-class results parenting her daughters, Chua is left pondering what it means to fully live in light of life’s certain end. Sure, her daughters have every success any parent could hope for, but in the quiet corners of her mind she is left wanting.

It’s easy to criticize her. We American Christian parents would never demand so much from our kids in such demeaning ways. We also want the best for our children but express it differently. Rather than berate them, we praise them endlessly. Instead of hyper-scheduling their days and months, we let them decide what they want to do and divide up taxiing duties with neighborhood moms. When it’s time to prepare for tests, think about college, compete or behave, we make deals and offer incentives (video games or cars), hoping for the best outcome. Children might forgo family dinners, church activities and even homework along the way; as long as they are well-behaved, moderately successful, attend church on occasion and are above all happy, we’ve done a good job – right? If so, why does parenting leave many Christians asking the same questions as Chua?

Both parenting strategies are problematic and lacking. One idolizes the family’s success; the other idolizes the child’s individual success. Neither strategy employs life-giving methods for God-glorifying ends. Neither strategy points parent nor child to Christ.

Because purpose and identity are found in Jesus, Christians do not have to subscribe to the world’s parenting methods. Tedd Tripp observes:

“You want your child to live for the glory of God. You want your child to realize that life worth living is life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Your methods must show submission to the same Lord.”2 (emphasis mine)

It should not surprise us that “good church kids” grow up with similar habits, goals, worldviews and issues as non-church goers. God is often an add-on in Christian households rather than the focal point. While most Christian parents would affirm the quote above, their practices oppose it. Jaws drop at Amy Chua’s behavior, but are children served any better when they are affirmed as privileged, moral centers of their own universe?

Scripture consistently teaches that only God can quench the thirst of every soul, parents and children included. The Psalmist declares, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore (16:11).” In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” All satisfaction, joy and purpose are found in Him, not in raising phenomenal kids or being phenomenal kids. As parents, we are responsible for organizing the lives of our children to reflect the gospel as the center of life. To do anything else teaches them the world’s offerings are better than our Savior.

Academic prestige and financial success are deceitful dreams to pass on, as are high self-esteem and extracurricular happiness. When Jesus is the goal of parenting, we are free not to demand our children bring home good grades; we are free to say no when they covet the newest, most expensive clothes. If children misbehave in public or lose another competition, we are not devastated. When they come home crying because they’ve been bullied, there is no retaliation or pumping them up about how great they are.  When a friend’s child is smarter, more popular and better looking, we thank God for the eternal, not temporal, work He is accomplishing in our children for the kingdom. God’s word is robust enough for the task and more satisfying than the world’s answer to child-rearing.

Short cuts don’t exist in raising children who worship Jesus with the whole of their being. This counter-cultural approach to parenting will cost enormous amounts of time, peer approval, affection from your children and many tears. The pay-off is a home structured around the worship of an eternal King, turning out generations who live for Him and not worldly success.

The violin and good grades will get a child far, but will they satisfy? Birthday parties and good manners are fine things, but can they sustain faith in Christ?  As Chua observes, we all die…will getting another dog fill the void until that day and in the days that follow?

-Emily

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  1. Chua, Amy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, pg. 229.
  2. Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 71.

Loving Some Leviticus: Christians and the Mosaic Law Part 4

In the first part of our series we examined the problems Christians face when attempting to understand the Law of Moses found in the first five books of the Bible. In the second part, we looked at some false assumptions we bring to the text. In the third part, we explored the message of the first five books of the Bible – known as the Pentateuch. In this final part, we will discover what the specific laws mean to us.

One of the most important things any Christian can do is to read through the entire Bible. If the Bible is what we claim it to be – the Word of God – then failing to read through it as a Christian is either prideful arrogance or sinful laziness. If God has spoken, how can those who claim to love Him fail to devote themselves to knowing, treasuring, and applying what He has said? They simply cannot.

Most Christians would agree. The problem is when we begin to read the Bible we typically start in Genesis. Genesis leads to Exodus and Exodus leads to…well… a lot of complicated legal material that seems terribly irrelevant at some points and scandalously shocking at others. Many sincere Christians have attempted to read through the Bible only to get bogged down in the Mosaic Law and surrender. The excitement of the Exodus is replaced with tedious descriptions of rashes and sores which may or may not be a leprous skin disease. However, we must read and understand the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy). The rest of the Bible takes its cues from these books. Without the Pentateuch, the words of the prophets, the songs of the psalmists, the life and death of Jesus, the struggles of the church in Acts, and the letters of Paul will not make sense. So how do we read the Mosaic Law without ending up as confused as a husband buying clothes for his wife?

First, we must remember that the laws are part of the story Moses is trying to tell. They are not a randomly included list of do’s and don’ts, but a selection of laws to help the author of the Pentateuch make his bigger point about the importance of faith. The laws work to that end by teaching us how Israel related to God under the Sinai covenant. John Sailhamer says:

The laws give the reader a realistic picture of the nature of Israel’s worship and fellowship with God. The collections of laws give the readers an insider’s view of what God required of Israel. The sacrifices help demonstrate the nature of sin as a barrier to humankind’s relationship with God and what must be done about it. Hence, as can be seen by reading the various collections of laws, the notion of sacrifice and the analogous problem of sin are of central importance to the author.

The laws show us a genuine relationship with God was possible. They show us the holiness of God and the seriousness of approaching Him as sinful humanity. They demonstrate that all of life comes under God’s sovereign rule and His care extends even to the details of the lives of his people.

Second, the laws show us Israel’s falling into sin due to their lack of faith. In Exodus 19:6 God’s desire is for Israel to be a kingdom of priests who would believe in Him. This is a covenant resembling the one God made with Abraham in Genesis 15. But unlike Abraham, the people are afraid of God and lack the faith to approach him (Ex. 20:18-21), so God supplies the Law. Israel goes from a nation of priests to a nation with priests. Then the priests lack faith and fail by creating a golden calf in the absence of Moses (Ex. 32). Therefore God gives the priests the priestly code of laws (Ex. 33-Lev. 16). Then the people lack faith and make sacrifices to goat demons (Lev. 17:7). Therefore God gives the people the holiness code (Lev. 17-26).

As Israel’s faith fails and they fall into sin, God adds Law. This is why Paul says in Galatians 3:19, “Why then the Law? It was added because of transgressions…” The Law prevented Israel’s lack of faith from dissolving the nation into the sin of the cultures around them. However, the Law is unable to completely make up for their lack of faith (Num. 14) and the entire generation of Israelites – save two – perishes in the wilderness.

Finally, the Law demonstrates the justice of God. The individual laws are not meant to be read as instructions for all people in all times and in all places. Rather, they are the application of the justice of God to the specific situations found in Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. The lives of the ancients to whom the Law was given are so far removed from our own it is impossible to determine everything God intended to accomplish by giving these specific laws. Sailhamer explains:

…the laws in the Pentateuch show what divine justice looked like in actual situations…the goal was to allow the narrative context to disclose an insight into the way God sees our tangled lives. The laws do not answer the question “What should we do in cases like this?” but rather the question “What did God think about specific cases like these and how, or what, can we learn about justice from him?”

We are better able to apply God’s justice to our own circumstances as we understand how it was once applied to the nation of Israel. This may be why the blessed man of Psalm 1 is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” As we meditate on the Law we become more aware of the character and holiness of God, our own sinfulness, and our need for His mercy and grace.

All Christians need to read their Bibles, but they don’t all have to get stuck in Leviticus. When we understand the place of the Law in Moses’ whole message about faith, the depth of Israel’s sinful failure to believe, and God’s character and justice as shown in the Law, the first five books of the Bible will take on new life for us. It will leave us longing for a new covenant of faith (Deut. 30:6) and the Prophet King who will change everything (Num. 24:7, Deut. 34:10, Gal. 3:19). When we begin to read and understand the Law this way, we may even find ourselves loving some Leviticus.

I want to be sure and give credit where credit is due! Most of my thoughts about this series have been formed through careful interaction with the Pentateuch itself and three books:

Sailhamer, John H. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation. Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove, IL, 2009

 

 

Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992.

 

 

Meyer, Jason C. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 2009.

 

 

 

-Brian

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