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Archive for March, 2012

I often hear: “Your faith is a good thing… but, you should keep it separate from real life.”

So, I must ask: Of what good is faith in something if it can’t be used to make a positive difference in the world?

Biblical faith is useful because it pairs perfectly with science to protect vulnerable life.  In this case, I’m talking about adolescents and teens.  My faith tells me their lives are valuable.  Faith compels me to post this blog.  It is science that explains why.

Science tells me that the body and mind – intricately woven together — are in need of protection.  Faith tells me that parents are the best defenders of their child’s body, mind (and soul).  Planned Parenthood and local “teen pregnancy prevention coalitions” have concerned themselves with teen pregnancies.  When my sons were in high school (they now father their own children), comprehensive sex education was believed to be the answer:  “If we can give as much information as possible starting at early ages, then adolescents and teens would be able to make better choices.”  Twenty-five years later, we have an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, diminished respect for self and others, emotional anguish, and increased teen pregnancies.

It’s not lack of information that’s the problem.  It’s lack of judgment.

Faith and science explain why:

1) Children need parents to protect them from themselves.  The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain is not fully developed or functioning until the late teens or mid-twenties.  The PFC is responsible for the executive functions of judging, reasoning, decision-making, suppressing impulses, and weighing the consequences of actions.  However, the amygdala, or “feeling” and emotional part of the brain is functioning early in life.

2) Daughters need their dad’s appropriate love and set boundaries.  They  need their dads to explain why they are worth waiting for.  A girl’s mind and body just aren’t ready for sex.  An immature cervix has only one layer of protective cells to guard against infection; a mature cervix has 20-30 layers.  The risk for a life-long disease or even sterility is too high.  (Not to mention the psychological damage of relational bonding, un-bonding, bonding, and un-bonding.)

3) Adolescents need help with self-restraint.  In “cool” conditions, children can appear to have excellent thinking.  For example, in the classroom a boy may say, “Sure, I’ll wait to be sexually active,” or “I’ll remember to use a condom.”  But, “cool” conditions are not the real world.   Place that same boy in the “hot” environment of an unsupervised party with a “sexy” girl looking for love and, well, his emotions hijack his ability to think and be self-controlled.

More information on sex isn’t the answer.  Nor is letting children “decide for themselves.” The answer is a distraction from sex and help with putting on the brakes.

God says wait; biology explains why.

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The Hunger Games opened in theaters on March 23.  Some Christian parents read the novel and plan to let their children see the movie, but others are asking a lot of questions.  If I get the opportunity, I plan to view the movie for myself.  For now, I’m reading various reviews.  Perhaps the following may be helpful to any parent wondering about this PG-13 movie.

Dr. Brenda Hunter, a psychologist and the co-author of From Santa to Sexting, warns that the movie is really about child sacrifice.  According to Hunter, the adults portrayed in the story are either impotent or voyeuristic and watch as children kill each other.  Parents, she says, should be concerned.

Dr. Hunter writes that kids are being “desensitized to violence” on a regular basis.  “There are over a thousand studies linking media violence to aggressive behavior in some children.”  And once desensitized, she says, the children are no longer afraid or revolted by what they see.  Hunter says “that begins to erode their God-given sense of humanity.”

“There’s a new philosophy that parents and adults seem to have in this culture,” Dr. Hunter explains.  “And it is: Let’s expose kids to everything.  Let’s expose them to sex.  Let’s expose them to violence — and they’ll be the better for it.”

Those of you who know me are well aware that I have grave concerns — have had for a long time — about the goal of getting children “comfortable with their sexuality.”  I’ve just finished writing Faithfulness: One Child at a Time (Q & A on Sex Education vs. Instruction in Purity for Christian Dialogue).  It reveals the roots of what Dr. Hunter is talking about: “Let’s expose kids to everything.”  This concept is not Biblical, but secular.  The concept of “exposing kids to everything” opposes God’s mandate to protect the innocence of children and mentor them away from evil and the darker side of this world.  Sex educators have this theory that if they give kids all knowledge… all information, then they’ll be o.k.  But, an adolescent brain is not like an adult brain.  Adult brains use the PFC (pre-frontal cortex) to think, rationalize, or apply brakes to emotional responses.  The PFC is not fully developed in an adolescent.  In fact, it may not be fully functioning until the mid-twenties.  Is it any wonder that God wants parents to set boundaries for their sons and daughters?  The emotional systems, hormones, and “gut reactions” of an adolescent may be fully functioning, but without the ability to reason or use good judgment, this age-group is extremely vulnerable.

An interview with Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy, is instructive.  When asked why she thinks people are enticed by TV reality shows, she replied, “Well, they’re often set up as games and, like sporting events, there’s an interest in seeing who wins . . . sometimes they have very talented people performing.  Then there’s the voyeuristic thrill — watching people being humiliated, or brought to tears, or suffering physically — which I find very disturbing.  There’s also the potential for desensitizing the audience, so that when they see real tragedy playing out on, say, the news, it doesn’t have the impact it should.”

WORLD magazine responds to this statement: “This is a very poignant criticism of our culture, and one that deserves to be taken seriously. But for all the beauty and moral high ground [The Hunger Games] contains, it’s just as true that the world Collins has created is terribly evil.  Teenagers are dispatched throughout the movie by knives, swords, and mutated dogs; adults are either too powerless or corrupt to help; and [heroine] Katniss herself experiences an inward despair that will (in coming installments) lead her to attempt suicide . . . The Hunger Games  may produce the same deadening effect on the conscience that Collins seeks to warn us against.”  (This review to appear in the April 7, 2012, issue of WORLD.)

No wonder Dr. Hunter says that parents need to learn to say no.  Her recommendation: “Don’t let children go see The Hunger Games.”  (OneNewsNow.com 3-23-12)

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What’s wrong with being a woman?  A woman who is pro-woman no matter our differences?  A woman who doesn’t have to compete with or “one up” a man?  Who appreciates her noble and irreplaceable role?  Who understands that men need women to help them be better men?  Who knows how to build up rather than tear down?  Who does not feel demeaned by the titles of “Mrs., “Mother,” or “Grandmother?”

What’s wrong with being a woman who thinks conservatively?  Who isn’t impressed or foolishly flattered by utopian ideas?  Who keeps herself informed and engages in dialogue?  Who isn’t ashamed to live her life, face each circumstance, and treat other people in ways that flow from her Christian faith – the only worldview that gives her hope?

What’s wrong with being a woman who has never celebrated legalized abortion?  Who doesn’t believe that a woman’s rights are greater than a child’s?  Who recognizes that abortion has only devalued every other human life?  Who agrees with Mary Harnard, staff counsel at Americans United for Life, that abortion is “anti-woman?”  (You can read her article at http://www.aul.org/2012/03/the-anti-woman-world-of-roe/print/ )

What’s wrong with being a woman who doesn’t agree with the worldview, business, and strong-arming tactics of Planned Parenthood?  Who doesn’t want to fund with her tax-dollars an organization that sexualizes girls and then stands ready as the largest profiteering-provider of abortions in the nation?  Who doesn’t appreciate the fact that PP (who does not give mammograms but does mammography referrals) would assault Susan G. Komen when they determined that PP doesn’t really have anything to do with fighting breast cancer and so decided not to grant them 1% ($680,000) of their annual grants?  What’s wrong with being a woman who questions why the $1 billion-in-revenue-monolith PP, in collaboration with Moveon.org, would become so “vile and vicious” against Komen and its donors?  (“The Abortion Empire Strikes Back,” an interview with Komen’s former senior vice president Karen Handel, WORLD, March 24, 2012)

What’s wrong with being a woman who believes that human life is the greatest natural resource of any thriving nation?  Who believes every human life is created by God?  Who finds something perverse in a national health care plan that sees human life as a debit entry on a balance sheet?  Who wonders why Kathleen Sebelius would want to be the “secretary of human prevention” or insist that “poor” and “mostly black and brown” women receive free contraception and abortion-causing drugs?  (Do I hear the whisper of eugenics?)

What’s wrong with being a woman who dares to ask: Why are so many women “anti-woman?”  More girl babies than boy babies are aborted around the world.  Girls mentored to be sexually-free are seldom told their female anatomy is more susceptible to bacteria and infections.  Girls assured that abortion is a “right” are rarely asked if they’d like to listen to the heartbeat of their unborn child or watch that baby on the ultrasound screen.  Young women told that children inconvenience relationships, careers, and success too often become older women longing for the sounds of grandchildren.

Why are so many women “anti-woman?”  Why do they find little value in teaching their daughters the skills for making a home… a nest for husband and children?  Why do they give them license to unrestrained emotions?  Dress them to be temptresses?  Make them physically, psychologically, and spiritually more vulnerable?

Is the National Organization of Women (NOW) pro or anti-woman?  Are women’s studies classes on university campuses pro or anti-women?  Are Congresswomen and women justices on the Supreme Court pro or anti-women?  When Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Dana Perino, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, S.E. Cupp, Laura Ingraham, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Malkin, and other conservative-thinking women are called all manner of hateful names by Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Bill Maher and other crude un-gentlemen, do liberal-thinking women come to the defense of their sisters?

Why are so many women anti-woman?  What’s wrong with being a woman who is o.k. with being a woman?  Who doesn’t doubt her value?   Who can  re-adjust plans to welcome an “unexpected” child?   Who delights in making a home no matter the size of the house?  Who speaks well of good men?

Women who believe in the vitality and hopefulness of being a wife, mother, grandmother, and encourager of all that is female are just exactly what this country needs.

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The Manhattan Declaration is a historic proclamation promoting the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.  Within a short time after it was released in November of 2009, 500,000 Christians from multiple denominations signed the document.  I am among those Christians.  Co-authors of this document include Charles Colson.  He writes,

“Christianity is more than a religion.  And it is more than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview that shapes how we think and how we live in the world.  It could not be otherwise.”

Colson continues, quoting from God’s Word in John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Word,” writes Colson, “is the English translation of the Greek Logos.  And as a translation, Word falls far short of the richness and totality of Logos.  For Greek speakers (like St. John) all the way back to Plato and beyond, Logos meant ultimate reality, all that was known or could be known, the glue that holds the universe together.

“Jesus Christ,” confesses Colson, “is more than a founder of a religion.  He is more than my personal savior (and I thank God every day that He is).  He is the Logos . . .  If Christ cries out ‘Mine’ about every aspect of life – medicine, music, literature, science, family, law, politics, and so on – then we, the Church when we look at every aspect of life, must cry out ‘HIS’!”

The faithful Christian has both the duty and privilege of bringing Christ’s truth to bear on every aspect of life.  And, says Colson and the authors of The Manhattan Declaration, right now “is a vitally important time to do so.”  Why?  Because we are witnessing a “titanic struggle between two antithetical worldviews: secular naturalism and Christianity.  The one side holds there is no God, that we humans are nothing but . . . glorified germs whose ancestors arose from the primordial soup.  The other holds that God created the universe, that His physical and moral laws are observable and knowable, and that He created man in His image – endowing man with a sacred dignity . . ..”

Colson notes that “we see the struggle all around us: in the classroom, in the courtroom, and on Capitol Hill.  If man is nothing special, then why not abortion?  Why not cloning?  Why not experiment with human embryos?  If there is no moral law, no ultimate truth, why not ‘same-sex marriage’?  Why not enshrine individual preference as the ultimate arbiter of human conduct?  Why not borrow money you cannot repay – and who really cares how that might impact others?”

The Manhattan Declaration is grounded in Scripture and the creeds all Christians confess.  It is a “wake-up call to the Church.”  It focuses on three issues: the sanctity of human life, marriage, and religious freedom.  Why not other pressing issues such as social justice or the environment?  Because, explains Colson, “these three issues are so foundational, so critical, that every other Christian concern – indeed, every human concern – flows out of them.”

Colson explains, “It is the belief in the sacredness of human life that led the early Church to fight the Roman practice of infanticide and abortion; it is this belief that put Christians in the forefront of fighting slavery; it is this belief that led Christians to lead in the promotion of civil rights.  And, today, it is this belief that has charged Christians to fight human trafficking all around the globe.  The sanctity of human life is the foundation of true social justice.”

The Manhattan Declaration proclaims, “Marriage — is the first institution of human society – indeed, it is the institution upon which all other human institutions have their foundation.”  Colson notes, “It is the bedrock institution that no society can survive without.”

The third foundational issue is religious freedom, or freedom of conscience.  It is under assault every day.  It might be the Methodist camp losing its tax-exempt status because it refused to allow a “same-sex marriage” ceremony or the Catholic adoption agency threatened from its ministry because it wouldn’t place orphaned children with same-sex couples.  It might be the steadfast refusal of Congress to protect the religious freedom of medical providers in the current debate of health care “reform” legislation.  “More is coming,” writes Colson.  “These are not political issues.  These are profoundly moral issues that affect the common good.”

How can we love God and serve our neighbor by sitting idly by?  As human dignity, marriage, and religious freedom are under increasing assault, will you visit The Manhattan Declaration to read, prayerfully sign, and then share with others?

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To some, this question may sound bizarre.  What?  Here in America?  Lose our freedom of religion?  No way!  To others, the question may sound like a “conspiracy theory.”  Just calm down, they may say.  Don’t get bent out of shape just because of some minor differences of opinion on whether birth control and drugs that abort babies should be freely provided through medical insurance.

If you’ve been watching American trends, you will see two worldviews at odds.  A secular naturalist worldview (which includes socialism, humanism, and atheism) diametrically opposes the Biblical worldview.  Consider the following: 1) The sanctity of human life has always been defended among people influenced by Biblical thinking, but 30+ years of legalized abortion in the U.S. has changed the way we view human life – in or out of the womb; 2) Faithful marriage between one man and one woman has always been supported by any people influenced by Biblical thinking, but U.S. courts are now ruling in favor of so-called “same-sex marriage;” 3) Freedom of religion is the first freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights written by Founding Fathers influenced by Biblical thinking, but today we are told that “sexual freedom trumps religious freedom” and that while we may have freedom to “worship” (a private practice), we shouldn’t publicly practice our faith during the course of our everyday lives.

Are we in danger of losing the right to practice what we believe to be true?  Think about it.  1) Religious organizations who believe abortion does not please God have been told their health insurance providers must cover contraceptive use (including drugs known to end the life of a baby before birth) and, therefore, go against their faith and conscience; 2) States like Iowa where the majority of citizens do not believe in “same-sex marriage”  must recognize the “right” of two women or two men to “marry” and, in states like California, the majority vote in favor of traditional marriage was overturned by a judge in favor of “gay marriage;” 3) Parents who believe that children are entrusted to them by God are being told to obey the “state” and let schools teach students that homosexuality and “gay marriage” are “normal” and, if anyone speaks otherwise, they may be guilty of “hate speech.”  Are all of these things – and more – indicative that our religious liberties are being removed?

Followers of Jesus Christ have always – and will always – be different from the world.  But, in order to “fit in” with the world, have Christians been silent?  Compromised faith?  Stopped putting their faith into practice?

Atheists, humanists, and secularists all have a faith, too.  It is faith in something other than the God “I Am;” in the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.  They are passionate about their faith.  They practice their faith wherever they are: in the schools, media, workplace, courts of law, and places within government.  Are Christians less passionate about their faith?  Or, have we believed the lie that “your faith is a private matter between you and God”?  Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).  We are to obey government except when it tells us to disobey God.  Then, we must speak up and resist evil.  We must use God’s Word to defend life, marriage, and family — the very foundation for civil society.

When we are told to keep God’s Word “private” and not share it in the marketplace of ideas, then we have lost our freedom of religion.  How, then, can we be “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16)?

Recommended resources include Breakpoint, Family Research Council,
World magazine, and Concerned Women for America

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There was a time when I would have said that worship was something I did on Sunday mornings.  To worship, I thought, meant to “go to church;” to sing hymns, participate in the liturgy, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  While it’s true that this is worship, it is only one kind of worship.

Romans 12:1 describes a worship that takes place every minute of every day.  God’s Word says to me, “. . . In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Worship means living my life in such a way that brings glory to God.  If I truly believe that God had great mercy on me, a poor and miserable sinner, and that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life because of my sins, then I have opportunity to live like a new person.  I have opportunity to respond to God’s great love in a way that pleases Him.  That shouldn’t just be on Sunday during congregational worship, but on every day of the week and in ever circumstance.  The choices I make, the work I do, the way I serve others, the attitude I have – all of these common, everyday thoughts and actions are either worship of God – or self.

It’s far too easy to worship self.  I do this every time I insist on my own way, or put my needs before others, or whine, or pout, or feel sorry for myself.  But, to worship God, my Creator and Redeemer, I must “become nothing” so the Holy Spirit who lives in me can alter my thinking, choices and behavior.  How does this work?

Jenna is in college… and pregnant.  The father of the baby wants to marry her.  They love each other, but the timing is all wrong; after all, she has plans for a career, travel, and the joys of marriage for a while without children.  Her dreams are shattered.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Jenna has the opportunity to sacrifice personal desires for the life of another.  Her choice to adjust plans in order to welcome a precious new life is her spiritual act of worship.

Max is a grandfather.  The patriarch of his family.  He is plagued with one physical challenge after another.  He had wanted to be the strong one for his wife and family; instead, he is the one who needs constant care and medical attention.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Max has the opportunity to adjust his attitude and his plans for “life after 80.” Rather than wasting time by complaining, Max chooses to sharpen his wit and laugh in the midst of adversity.  He encourages friends and family by turning their attention toward running the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1).  This is his spiritual act of worship.

Since childhood, Jake had wanted to be a physician.  Between the university and med school, he served his country in the military as a medic.  On a routine mission, something went terribly wrong and Jake’s life was forever changed.  He endured a series of operations intended to restore the use of his hands, but it was the Holy Spirit who performed the miracle.  In view of God’s mercy, Jake had opportunity to sacrifice personal goals and, instead, travel a different path.  He entered seminary, married, and became a father.  Several  years later, Jake and his family became missionaries.  His spiritual act of worship made a difference in the lives of countless men, women and children who might never have known Jesus Christ without Jake.

Our everyday lives are filled with opportunities to worship God  At work, we have the choice to give the best we can offer… or just get by.  In the neighborhood, we have the choice to engage ourselves in serving others… or remain unengaged and self-focused.  At a party, on a date, or at a sports event, we have the choice to please God… or please ourselves.  In view of His great mercy, we are encouraged to think, say, and do holy things… things that please God.

How do I know what is pleasing to God?  He tells me in His Word found in Romans 12:2.  “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

What does worship mean to me?  The Holy Spirit has been patient with me.  Slowly (and against my will) opening my eyes to see.  To hear.  I’m beginning to understand that I have opportunities to worship with every attitude.  Every choice.  My behavior toward others.  Even my tone of voice.

Do I worship well?  No, I’m still a poor, miserable sinner.  But, in view of God’s mercy, I am a forgiven sinner.  Because of what Jesus Christ did for me, each new day is an opportunity to start over.  To try again.  To live differently than the world around me.  I am not captive to my past mistakes.  Because of Jesus, I have the freedom to make choices that are pleasing to God, but also a blessing to my neighbor.

My prayer is that I will worship on Sunday with thanksgiving and praise for what God has done.  God wants to see our faces turned toward Him.  But, even more, He wants to give to us.  I come to church on Sunday empty.  Used up.  Ready to be filled.  I don’t give to God on Sunday.  He gives to me.  He fills me with His Word and Sacrament.  Walking out the church door, and for the rest of the week, I have opportunity to live in response to His great mercy.

Each word, work, or service can be my worship — to His glory.

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A well known and conservative talk show host recently failed to control his tongue.  More importantly, he failed to be a gentleman.  On public radio, he used words to boldly but negatively describe a young college woman.  The words used are not dissimilar to the words a father uses in Proverbs 7 when warning his son away from the woman of the night who says, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.”  But, the woman is not married to the one she entices for pleasure.

I am disappointed that a man who values “the high road” lowered himself to less than a gentleman.  But, I am also disappointed in the young woman and those who are using her to build a false argument for the cause of women’s health.  Thinking back to my high school and college days, I know for certain what a girl was called when the boys knew she was sleeping with someone and looking for contraceptive hand-outs.  

Really, women.  Let’s be honest.  What the HHS did in mandating that the insurance providers of religious organization cover the cost of contraceptives — including drugs that end a human life — was an assault on religious liberty and freedom of conscience.  That’s my liberty.  My conscience.  To take a stand against churches paying for birth control and drugs that might abort children in the womb is no infringement on women.  If a woman believes that contraceptives will improve her health, then she is free to visit Planned Parenthood where drugs and procedures will be provided (unfortunately with the help of my tax dollars).

Men, please practice self-control and act like gentlemen (that means watching your language and respecting even foolish women).  Women, practice the same self-control and act like ladies.  Ladies who respect themselves and men.  Ladies who don’t calculate that they need $3000 worth of insured contraceptives during their unmarried years at the university.

God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone.  He needed a helper.  Women, there are a lot of good men out there who want to do the right thing by us.  Let’s help them — and future generations — by focusing less on our “rights” and more on our responsibilities.

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