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Archive for October 2nd, 2010

The doubts begin about a week or so before each retreat.  There is a hissing sound.  “Who do you think you are?”  Taking another look through the Study Guide brings mixed emotions: The Word is exciting, but will my manner of presentation be helpful or harmful?

On August 8-9, my living room was filled with nine women.  My prayer was, “Please, dear God, don’t let me get in the way of Your Spirit.”  There were Lutherans and non-Lutherans.  Older and younger.  Married and unmarried.  Friday evening began, as always, with a meal.  It’s a way to practice hospitality, not showing off, but showing respect.  The women settled in for a night of contrasting the world with God’s Word before recognizing what Titus, chapter two, has to say to each of us in our vocation of mentoring.  On Saturday, we continued with breakfast, two sessions (one being my favorite on “Identity”), lunch, and two more sessions.

This note arrived about a week later: “Thanks so much for welcoming us into your home for the Titus 2 Retreat . . . The material is excellent, well thought-out and organized.  But, you present it with humility blended with confidence and commitment to the message.  At our church, we are seeking transformation, not just information.  And the Titus 2 for Life message is life-changing.”

Another note read, “It’s so wonderful to listen to someone who is so articulate, doesn’t compromise one bit of God’s Word — and gets it.  I could have listened forever.”  Another read: “Prior to this, I hadn’t considered the Genesis connection to Biblical womanhood.”

On September 17-18, a Titus 2 Retreat was hosted in Norfolk, NE.  Eighteen women fit comfortably in Kathy’s peaceful and welcoming home.  She did not “show off,” but showed respect for each guest by way of her caring and servant-style manner.  Lutherans For Life members who assisted Kathy by helping with food explained their conviction and desire to help mentor away from trendy thinking to the foundational Word of God.  By 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, all the women were tired.  But, many lingered as if they didn’t want to hurry from a place of warmth and safety.

Titus 2 Retreats are not easy.  Topics covered are counter-cultural and using the “double-edged Sword of Truth” is divisive.   After a retreat, I am drained.  I know each woman has a story.  But, not knowing the stories, I pray for tender words of hope and encouragement.  I am challenged to stay on track, yet allow discussion; speak what honors God, yet be alert to a variety of emotions.

Dear Spirit, You know my opinions count for nothing.  They are not helpful.  They are shifting grains of sand.  Keep this little ministry rooted in Truth — God’s unchanging Word of Truth.  On October 8-9 in the home of Sherry and with women from the Cedar Falls area,

Let my speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how I ought to answer each person.

And, help me be a worker who

. . . has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.

(Colossians 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:15)

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The man had been taken captive to sin.  It would seem that the man tightly grasped Jesus’ robe of righteousness and let it be his cover.  But, he did not seek help when his marriage and family suffered.  He did not confess sin’s hold on him.  Was there no one to whom he was accountable?

He brought a variety of movies into his home, but was there a reason he avoided “The Passion?”  Many times, I asked his help in equipping us  for spiritual battle.  He didn’t.  Maybe he couldn’t.

Publicly caught in his sin, he did confess — to one time of foolishness. To his wife, he confessed to more.  The public showered mercy and forgiveness upon him.  His wife found herself homeless.  Some tried to hold him to the higher standard of a man who had taken a vow before God, but he maintained that his private life didn’t affect others.

One day, the man told me that his grandson didn’t know how to respond to him.  So, as a grandfather and role-model, the man wrote his beloved grandson a letter of encouragement:  “I understand that you don’t know what to say to me.  Let me offer three suggestions.  You can say, ‘I forgive you.  I love you.  Let’s play golf!'”  After sharing this with me, I feared for the man.  Could this be the summation of his theology?

There was no way I could speak to this man except by using the Word of God.  What follows is part of my letter to him:

My dear friend . . . Moses spoke to the Israelites about the covenant made by God with His people.  No other people had ever received such a promise.  But, in Deuteronomy 29:19, Moses was inspired by the spirit to caution,

Beware  lest there be among you . . . one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’

A commentary on this passage of Deuteonomy reads: “To continue willfully to sin while claiming eternal security in Christ is a dangerous, perhaps even fatal, presumption.”  (One can read the continuing verses 20-29.)

My friend, you have always said that God’s Word changes lives.  For this reason, I proclaim with King David that I love the Word.  It gives me confidence.  It provides instruction.  It leads me to a future of hope.  But, like King David, our bones will waste away and our strength drain away like in the heat of summer if we do not acknowledge, confess, and turn away from our sins (Psalm 32).  You have confessed… in part.  Sadly, I believe you have covered so much repetitive sin with: “I forgive you.  I love you.  Let’s play golf.”

I am as much a sinner as you.  I have my confessed and unconfessed sins.  But, I am called by the Father God to repent and, after I have repented, stop repeating the sin.  I need to be held accountable.  I need others to hold me accountable.  I have and will continue to fail in being righteous.  Thankfully, the forgiveness of God in Christ has been poured out for you and me.  We are washed white as snow for eternity.  But, as one called to be holy, I cannot — must not — cheapen the priceless gift of Jesus Christ by asking for forgiveness and then boldly returning to bad habits, old ways, and repetitive sin.  Such actions carry powerful consequences that reach children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

That being sad, God’s mercy is to thousands of generations of those who love Him.

There is opportunity in this moment.  God has allowed some of your sin to be exposed.  You have expressed sorrow and remorse.  But, confess it all.  Don’t persist in the theology of: “Forgive me.  Love me.  Let’s play golf.”  Confront the pain and grief that years of a repeated sin have caused.  Mourn the loss of the wife that, while sinful herself, remained loyal to your high calling as a Christian leader.  Grieve the loss of damaged relationships with your children.  Confront the reality of your choices.  Be heartsick.  Be sorry.  Be shamed.  Then, turn from your sin… and sin no more.

Watching you these past years, I fear that your bones have been wasting away and your strength drained as in the heat of summer.  Has God’s hand been pressing down on you?   I want this to stop.  Don’t you?

Stop with the “Forgive.  Love.  Let’s play golf.”  Start  new by proclaiming: “Yes, I am forgiven.  yes, Jesus loves me eternally.  Now I must not only face but live with the consequences of my sins.  With the Spirit’s help, I can change my ways.  I beg for mercy and discernment to properly handle the Word of Truth.  I put on the armor of God for continual battle against evil and remind others to do the same.”

This is part of a letter I wrote to my fallen friend.  “Two are better than one . . . for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up . . .” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).  This letter is also a reminder to me.  My doubt of God’s Word and the sins that follow bear consequences, too.

It’s a mucky and twisted road we travel.  Danger lurks at every turn.  False security leaves us more vulnerable and places others at risk.  Therefore,

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed . .  .

(Hebrews 12:12-17; 1 John 1:5-10)

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In Iowa, debate continues on the so-called “telemedicine” or “webcam abortions.”  What’s this, you ask?  A doctor does not see the woman in person, but consults by webcam.  Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa offers no appointment, walk-in abortions at its clinics without a physician on site.  How?

By offering dangerous RU 486 chemical abortions at all of their locations with a Des Moines-based abortionist consulting by webcam.  Rep. Steve King notes that this practice breaks with Iowa Code requiring an abortion to be done by a licensed physician.  The chemical abortion, RU 486, may be less messy for Planned Parenthood but it is more traumatizing for the woman because she is forced to deal with the blood and the dead baby at home — alone.

“Nine women have died in less than ten years since the drug hit the market,” reports Concerned Women for America (CWA).    How many more have died or suffered unreported complications?  The process of detecting and testing can be difficult, and families and doctors may be reluctant to report casualties from abortion.

CWA notes that the “FDA approved RU 486 without adequate trials and under intense political pressure from abortion groups and politicians.  In a tragic case of ‘ideology trumping science,’ the FDA neglected its mission to ensure drugs are safe.”  Is death preferable to pregnancy?  Is the “right to choose abortion” a priority over women’s health and safety?

Strangely enough, the FDA recently released a warning to stop using infant sleep positioners because 12 infants died in 13 years.  RU 486 is responsible for at least 9 deaths in less than 10 years.  According to their own standards, the FDA needs to warn people not to use RU 486.

So, here’s my question: Is Planned Parenthood the deceiver… or the deceived?

Satan is the deceiver of all.  Jesus called him a liar.  Jesus should know.  Jesus was there at the beginning when Eve was deceived.  He knows how desperately cunning Satan is.  Satan wanted Eve to be the mother of death.  But, even after she had sinned, God named the woman “Eve” which means: Mother of all the living.  The Triune God is the God of life, not death; hope, not despair.

Today, the deceiver is using his well-honed tactic.  He works long and hard to convince abortion providers that they are “helping” women.  Lest they forget, he reminds Planned Parenthood employees that this “choice” is legal, taxpayer-funded, and endorsed by many churches.

The liar slithers up to the woman with an unplanned pregnancy.  He senses her fear and desperation.  He has no need of a new game plan, but tempts with the same question he used with Eve.  “Did God really say . . .?”  In that moment of doubt, mother is pitted against child.  When the deed is done, the tempter becomes the acuser: “Look at what you’ve done!  Can God ever forgive you?”

Oh, yes, God can… and does.  Even as He grieves the taking of a life He has created and redeemed, God also reaches out with merciful and forgiving love.  Perhaps this is what the deceiver hates most of all.  A God who welcomes repentent sinners.

(Psalm 32:3-5; 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; 1 John 1:8-9)

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