Monday, April 18, 2016

Swimsuits, Sports Illustrated, and the Safest Place

When God speaks, oftentimes His voice will call for an act of courage on our part.
~Charles Stanley


Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
~ Billy Graham




My husband and I were nearing the end of a Wal-Mart shopping "adventure" :-) with our almost-two-year-old and three-year-old. The end was in sight, and the checkout line awaited our happy souls, glad to be preparing for our "final descent" and entrance back into the sunlight. 

When I saw it. Staring at me from the end of the checkout line. The notorious Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and as my husband with his quirky humor aptly described it -"There was a whole lot of swim, but not very much suit." 

I'm used to seeing tabloids with voluptuous figures emblazoned across the front gracing the checkout lines of our "liberated" society, but this one was over the top - and something that children should not be exposed to. My first reaction was to hurriedly place a seemingly less "toxic" magazine across the front of the Swimsuit issue, but then I thought twice about it. 

I am not by nature a bold person. But there are times when the "fire enters my bones," so to speak, and I feel that the Holy Spirit is urging me not to remain silent. As a customer of Wal-Mart, I should be able to express an opinion or voice a concern - as a follower of Jesus Christ, I should be willing to step out of my comfort zone and speak the truth in a loving fashion, even if it is not welcomed or appreciated, even if it is ignored or if I am laughed at -  and so I did. 

Taking the whole stack up to the cashier, I asked him respectfully if this was something that he would want his children to see, explaining that these types of magazines are usually covered or placed in a separate "non-child-friendly" aisle. Surprisingly, he seemed to agree, or at least acquiesce, assuring me that he would voice my concern. My husband took a step further, expressing our concern to one of the managers of the store, who also seemed to agree that the magazines should be covered or kept out of the view of children. 

I honestly doubted that anything would come of it. I would just have to keep covering up the offending Sports Illustrated issues with Good Housekeeping magazines whenever I exited Wal-Mart. 

But the next time we shopped there, they were gone - the management must have taken our concern to heart and covered them or placed them in a less conspicuous place, at least. 

It was worth it to "speak up; " we did it kindly  and we did it graciously, and the Lord touched the hearts of the management. 

And this experience reiterated to me the importance of speaking the truth in love, of living out our faith in Christ through our daily actions and interactions with unbelievers, and with slowing down our pace enough to be concerned about the direction that the world is going--because it will surely impact the future of our children. 

Because as Christians we should care - and no, we should not be worried, not be consumed, not be taken up in cultural issues in the sense that we forget that this world is not our home, but we have a responsibility. 

To our children, to our fellow humans, to our God - to preserve truth as much as it depends upon us - to speak when we are given the opportunity, to dam up the floods of ungodliness before their toxic waste overpowers the culture utterly and completely and irrevocably. Do we care enough?

How can we be silent who hold the truth? In the face of evil, how can we remain silent? 

Our pastor is preaching through the book of Esther, and I think of Mordecai's words to his cousin that he recently preached on -

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV)

Esther's response - prayer, fasting, and - ultimately - boldly speaking the truth.


The result was deliverance. Life. 

If we remain utterly silent, will our consciences perish with the culture? Will we remain unscathed? Can we know God in truth if we are ashamed to speak it? Do we even care enough to pray about the issues impacting our culture...?

These are questions that I must ask myself. 

I have heard Christians say or infer that their calling is not to offend, only to connect with others on issues that are edifying. 

But I say this boldly -- truth is edifying -- truth spoken in love and with grace and with a good conscience before God edifies and revives and ultimately brings life instead of the lukewarm waters of death.

You may lose "followers" on your blog. You may lose friends. You may lose popularity.

Do we realize that there are believers in other countries who lose their lives for the sake of truth? 

What is Christ worth to us? Do we love Him even enough to warn those around us? To protect our children, our families, our own souls? 

Are we willing to speak truth? 

And we think that we will have to go out on a limb and risk it all if we really take Christ seriously. And we are afraid. We are afraid of losing our comfort, our friends, our life as we know it. 

It seems unsafe.

And yet, following Jesus Christ is the safest place. The place where the rock meets our feet, the unsinkable sand, the Refuge, and the Retreat of our hearts. 

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26 NKJV)

All other ground is sinking sand. All other gain is loss. 

And sometimes we're just too caught up in the cares of this life to care - the vacations, the luxuries, the comforts... until we surrender all -

As He did - the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life -

The Truth sets us free. 

And speaking it in love is life. 

May we find it - and rest for our souls - in His Safe Place, the place of life. 


But we never can prove
the delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way; 
What He says we will do;
Where He sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.
~ John Henry Sammis




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38 comments:

  1. You were brave to speak up and share your concerns. Thanks for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup.

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    1. You're welcome, Mary! I'm glad that the Lord gave me the opportunity and the strength to speak! The Lord bless you!

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  2. What an amazing post, Mrs. Neal. I loved reading it. What an encouragement this was to me. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    Love,
    Ashley

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    1. Ashley, I'm so glad that it was an encouragement! The Lord bless you; have a wonderful week! :-)

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  3. Amen. Amen. Amen. Thank you for this example and encouragment to all Christians to boldly speak Truth, in love. This was much needed.

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    1. I'm so grateful that the Lord used it as an encouragement; the Lord bless you!

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  4. This is wonderful! So encouraging! You are right. There are times we have to speak up, graciously, with kindness, but certainly speak up our concern. Otherwise, how would the staff know anyone thought it was a problem?

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    1. Yes; that is true! So many times, I think, "Will it really matter if I speak up?" But it is so important that we speak the truth in love--the world is perishing around us--and we hold the truth of the Gospel. I have found over and over again, that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and that He will give me the words to speak.

      I am glad that it was an encouragement!

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  5. You're right, Rebekah, there are times when we just can't ignore the urging of the Spirit. And, like you, I am surprised at the results that came about from you following His leading. The Lord always acted in love, and yet He was still found offensive. If we are walking close to Him and following His leading in our life, we will sooner or later also be found offensive. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:18 A blessed week to you!

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    1. Heather, your words are so, so true--"The Lord always acted in love, and yet He was still found offensive. If we are walking close to Him and following His leading in our life, we will sooner or later also be found offensive." Sometimes as believers (I know for myself) we are afraid to offend or sometimes, we really don't care about the things of Christ ENOUGH to step outside of our comfort zone. If we are friends with the world, what does that say about our relationship with God?

      Your words are always such an encouragement to me; the Lord bless your week, also, Heather!

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  6. Thank you for preaching truth here, sister. My heart stays in a constant state of anguish over the debauchery and sinfulness of our nation. May God somehow turn our hearts back to Him!

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    1. Yes, truly Cheryl, we need to be on our knees as a church and individually before God--I think of Daniel and his humble, repentant spirit before the Lord--may the Lord give us the spirit of Daniel and revive His church!

      The Lord bless you, Cheryl!

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  7. I am amazed that the management responded to your request! Thank you for your example! May many more do likewise!

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    1. Yes, Lydia; honestly, I was, too! I'm grateful to God that He gave me the courage to speak! At times we (I) are so "comfortable" in our country that we forget that there is a great spiritual battle that is very, very real. May God give us grace to bear His Name without wavering--I am grateful for your example also, to stand strongly on the authority of Scripture and to lean upon the Word of God. May He pour out His grace--

      God bless you!

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  8. Well done, Rebekah, well done! I salute your courage and your sound standing in speaking the truth in love. I think Walmart's top executives tend to be more conservative than many companies and the brand seems to pride itself on being "family friendly" You likely got a better response here than some other companies. Great job!! Great post!!

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    1. I'm so glad that it was an encouragement Pam; the Lord bless you! :-)

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    1. Thank you; I'm glad that it was encouraging! :-)

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  10. So proud of you! I need a dose of your holy boldness!

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    1. Michele; you're an encouragement to me! I am so grateful that He gave me courage--He is truly our Strength!

      The Lord bless you, Michele!

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  11. Wonderful and good for you!

    Yes, we, as Christians have a different worldview and we need to take a stand on what we believe in... otherwise we are watering down God's message of love and worse yet, not helping others discover God's redemption plan.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

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    1. Jennifer, that is so very true! How can the world see Jesus if we do not shine forth His love and truth? I am so thankful that He gives strength to His people and helps us in our weakness--

      The Lord bless you, Jennifer!

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  12. I think you are sooo right. The culture we are in seems to have turned against truth, decency and is calling right wrong and wrong right. But that does not give believers the excuse to remain quiet. Your example of Esther is perfect. She was living in a very hostile climate, but it didn't stop her from doing what was right... even at the risk of her own life. Thank you for this great post!

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    1. You're welcome, Karen; I'm glad that it was encouraging! You are right--we cannot stay silent--this reminds me of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” May God give us the grace to speak in love!

      The Lord bless you, Karen!

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  13. Good for y'all. When I see inappropriate magazine covers on store shelves, I turn them around. Those dear women who are on the covers...my heart hurts for them, prays for them. Thanks for boldly speaking up and for sharing it here, so that we, too, may think twice. ((blessings))

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Brenda; blessings to you, too!

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  14. Good for you for speaking up! Truth sets us free. Visiting from the Faith N Friends linkup

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    1. Yes, it does, Leigh! The Lord bless you!

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  15. Yes. Thanks for sharing. I needed to read this today.

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    1. You're welcome! I'm glad that it was an encouragement!

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  16. Hi Rebekah, I think its great that you spoke up. And its awesome to see that your concerns were taken seriously and something done about it. And I agree with you, always speak the truth, even if you lose "followers" Ones voice should reflect the word and not the world. Great post and thank you for linking up on Winsome Wednesday. I hope to see you there weekly :) www.winsomewednesday.blogspot.com
    Tracy

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    1. Tracy, that was a wonderful way to put it--"Ones voice should reflect the Word and not the world." This is something that I need to always remember! The Lord bless you; I'm glad that you stopped by!

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  17. Good for you, Rebekah. I think it's important for us to speak the truth. It's time for each of us to speak with kindness and voice our concerns. No one knows that were offended if we stay silent. Blessings to you!

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Deb! Blessings to you as well! :-)

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  18. Thank you for sharing this, Rebekah! It has given me some things to think and pray about.

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    1. You're welcome, Kenzi! I'm glad that the Lord used it! Have a blessed week. :-)

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  19. I'm so glad you shared this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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    1. I was glad that I could share it there, Tina; have a blessed week! :-)

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