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Archive for the ‘Culture Shifts’ Category

As a Christian woman, mom, and grandmother from Iowa, I am compelled to ask:

When Jesus returns, what will He say to pastors who advocate for abortion in His name? Who deny rights to unborn children, indeed the most vulnerable of all humans? Who praise a woman’s freedom from motherhood but seemingly care little about a woman held captive to sin?

Last week, a group of Iowa clergy and religious leaders signed a letter to the Des Moines Register advocating for abortion on demand. Signers included Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, and Lutheran.

The letter spoke against a bill that would prohibit abortions from the moment an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable which is about six weeks of pregnancy. Some scientists give evidence for an unborn baby’s heartbeat beginning at 21 days; still others link to evidence that the heartbeat begins at about 18 days.
Oddly enough, the clergy who signed this letter claim that the Iowa bill prohibiting abortions is based on religion, not science. Now here is a real switch-a-roo. Government leaders are speaking up in defense of unborn babies because their hearts are beating, but church leaders are blaming them for being religious.

There are more questions.

The pro-abortion religious leaders maintain that women deserve to make their own decisions about their bodies and their pregnancies. Haven’t we heard this before? Slave owners used to say, “I have the right to do as I please with my property.” Which one of us dare look at another human person created in the image of God—of any color, age, stage of development, or place of residence—and declare them “property?” How does a female pregnant with a male child get away with claiming he is her “body?” What reasonable feminist would agree that an unborn baby girl with her own unique DNA is the “property” of the older woman who carries her?

When a biologically astute Christian woman willingly consents to or encourages sexual intercourse, what does she think might result? Does her choice about motherhood come before she is sexually intimate, or after?

Let’s say that a Methodist, United Church of Christ, or Lutheran woman has longed to be a grandmother. What she would think if her eight-months-pregnant daughter claims, “It’s my body and I’ve decided to abort.” Abort what? To abort means to “end” or to “terminate.” What pastor can, in Jesus’ name, tell a mother and her pregnant daughter that a grandchild is not to be considered human life worthy of protection?

And, speaking of protection, what about the man who fathers a child, but has no legal right to save his child from abortion by scissors, spinal injection, or chemical burning? According to these religious leaders, must a daddy who turns to his own Heavenly Father for courage to do right by his unborn child be ignored?

I am ashamed for these pastors and religious leaders who signed a letter calling pro-life legislation “immoral.” The Lord God, through Isaiah, said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). That time is now.

But there is hope! There is always hope! As a Lutheran who believes God is faithful and just, I confess with all repentant sinners:

Most merciful God, we have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. We have not loved You with our whole hearts, nor have we loved our [littlest, biggest, youngest or oldest] neighbor as ourselves. We deserve Your punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us not according to our will but Yours.

Looking to the Cross of Christ, we hear the One who began His earthly life as an unborn Child say to His Father, “Forgive them.”

 

Link to list of signers

 

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Jack Phillips is the kind of gentleman that most of us would want for a neighbor. I know because I had the privilege of meeting Jack, visiting with him, and buying one of his cakes while recently in Denver.

Jack Phillips is an artist. He is gifted with the ability to paint and design masterpieces both on canvas and cakes. Jack owns and operates Masterpiece Cake Shop in Littleton, CO., and, in this way, has provided an honest living for his family.

Jack is a Christian who incorporates the teachings of Christ into his daily life and decisions. The masterpieces that he creates reflect Ephesians 2:10. So, on the day that Jack was asked to create a wedding reception cake for two men who had married outside of Colorado, Jack politely explained why he could not. Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Jack is the kind of guy who invites others to believe what he believes, but does not force them. People of all colors, beliefs, and sexual identities come into Jack’s shop and he sells to all of them. But designing a wedding cake is very different from baking a brownie. “What I design,” says Jack, “is not just a tower of flour and sugar, but a message tailored to a specific couple and a specific event—a message telling all who see it that this event is a wedding and that it is an occasion for celebration.”

Jack could not celebrate a same-sex marriage and remain faithful to God. “The two men coming into my shop that day were living out their beliefs,” explains Jack. “All I did was attempt to live out mine. I respect their right to choose and hoped they would respect mine.”

They did not. Instead of tolerance, Jack and his family received hate mail, obscene calls, death threats, and a law suit. Jack and his staff were ordered to undergo re-education and file quarterly “compliance” reports to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Jack stopped creating all wedding cakes and, suffering the loss of 40 percent of his income, was forced to lay off employees.

On December 5, Jack’s case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. As I await the decision, I know it will affect my religious freedom. It will affect the freedom to speak… or not speak… of us all.

The morning after Jack’s testimony before the U.S. Supreme Court, my morning devotions included Psalm 56. I could think of nothing better to give Jack than the words of this Psalm handwritten on a personal notecard:

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
All day long they injure my cause
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the people, O God!
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life.
(Psalm 56:1-2, 5-11, 13 ESV)

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What about our children and grandchildren?

Is there hope?  Yes!

It makes no difference if we’re talking about music, the Christian faith, etiquette, speech, or clothing.  We teach our children best by equipping them to contrast what is good and right with what is not.

In his new book, Surprised by Beauty: A Listener’s Guide to the Recovery of Modern Music, Robert Reilly writes:

“I employed a very simple teaching method with my children.  I regularly showed them beautiful things and great movies and played for them some of the finest music.  I didn’t preach about these things; I simply let them experience them.  They gained an intuitive appreciation for beauty and were automatically repelled by ugliness.  I then let them explain to me what was wrong with it.  When my oldest son was still in grade school, he came back from seeing a movie with one of his classmates.  The father driving the car played only acid rock on the car radio.  My son returned very agitated about the music.  I asked him what was wrong with it.  He replied, “It is irritating to the mind.”  I then knew that what I was doing worked.”

Quote from an interview with Robert Reilly
by Michael Cook, MercatorNet, 5/26/17.

 

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There is a strange silence surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls.  Perhaps we are too anesthetized by the legalized mutilation and death of girls (and boys) in the womb through abortion.

According to a 2012 report of the CDC, an estimated “513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of or had been subjected to female genital mutilation.”  Amanda Parker of the Aha Foundation reports that “the increase in FGM in the U.S. is almost entirely, if not entirely, due to the increase in immigrants from countries where FGM is practiced.  Somalia, Egypt, Sudan and others all have very high rates of FGM with more than 90 percent of girls in each country undergoing this abusive practice.”

In America today, FGM is illegal in only 24 states.  My own state of Iowa does not outlaw this crime against women.

Why aren’t more of us speaking on behalf of little girls brutalized by FGM—or babies who feel pain during an abortion?  Because both FGM and abortion have been placed in a religious and cultural context.  Americans who once enjoyed civil discourse over contrasting perspectives now fear being offensive if we oppose or even question a faith or practice different from our own.  To “offend” someone in America today is to risk judgment for a “hate crime.”

FGM is protected by Sharia law.  Sharia law is part and parcel to the religion of Islam.  With Islam’s Sharia law also comes forced marriage, honor killings, pedophilia, sexual slavery… and Sharia courts.  

Christianity does not force marriage, honor murder, or defend sexual sin.  Christianity understands that God wants us to first love Him and then love our neighbors as much as ourselves.  Children are our littlest neighbors and we should not keep silent as they are being carried to the butcher.

Christianity understands that every boy and girl—in the womb or born—has value, not because of how their parents perceive them, but because of what Jesus did for them.  To silence a voice that protests FGM or abortion is to silence the Lord who says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.”  To silence a voice that exposes any child abuse is to silence Jesus the Shepherd who gathers the little ones in His arms.

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They said that Roe v. Wade would shift a nation toward reproductive freedom for women. But Baal demands what the Lord God does not. Nearly 60 million sacrificed babies and wounded mothers later, we ask: What has improved? In what way are women more free or healthier and happier? Are women and children less… or more at risk?

 

Aware of abortion’s piercing blade, thousands of my fellow pro-lifers joined the Annual March for Life on January 27 in our nation’s capital.   On that day, I was reading National Geographic’s Special Issue on “Gender Revolution.”  One contributor asked, “Can science help us navigate the shifting landscape of gender identity?” Again, Baal demands what God does not. Like fearful and navel-gazing societies before ours, we will cry “Freedom!” and burst “the chains that bind us.” We will think ourselves wise. Live as we desire. But when the “landscape” shifts, what kind of people will we be? Who among us will escape sorrow? Where will peace be found?

 

The landscape may shift. Souls will hunger and thirst. The cold, stone god Baal will be silent, but the Lord Jesus Christ will speak as He always has: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden. My burden is light. Repent… and fear not… for My love is steadfast and true.”

 

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Nehemiah buildingWhat is a Christian to do?  It’s as if God asks the impossible of us.  He wants us to build with one hand and resist evil with the other.  But with more cultural decay comes more evil.

Mindful of raising up a new generation of Christians but also keenly aware of our own inadequacies and failures, parents, pastors, and all who love children become discouraged and even fearful.  With fear comes the temptation to doubt the sufficiency of God’s Word and more easily accept the help of passionate unbelievers.  “Why do you cling to ancient traditions?” they ask.  “Can’t you see?  We have something new!”

There is a lesson to be learned from God’s people who, in a time before us, were also discouraged, overwhelmed, and taunted by unbelieving neighbors who offered something new.

The remnant of Israel that had survived exile in Persia returned home to find the walls of Jerusalem broken down and city gates destroyed.  To this small number of faithful people was given the arduous task of re-building the temple and walls of Jerusalem.  God also wanted His people to grow faithful families.  He wanted them to be holy and set apart in their worship and practice.  When people in the neighboring land saw that Jerusalem was being restored, they offered their help.  After all, these people explained, they worshipped God, too.  (In reality, they were a people of blended religions.)  Fearing that they would commit themselves to false worship, the Israelite fathers refused the offer of resources and help.  They knew that God had entrusted the job of rebuilding the temple and walls only to them.  So “the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5).

The culture in which God’s people found themselves made the building project very difficult, but the Word of the Lord consistently commanded the people to persevere.  God also reminded His people that they were to be holy and set apart for His good purpose.  But the people of Israel, following the example of some of their leaders, mixed themselves with the Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and others through marriage (9:1-2).  The people were guilty of breaking faith with God and allowing impurity of worship, teaching, and practice.  There was confession and absolution but, because the potential for continued corruption of worship was so great, illegal marriages were identified and ended (10:18-19).  The rebuilding of the temple, restoration of the walls, and growing of faithful families began anew.

However, when the neighbors in the land saw that the Israelites were again doing the work of God in rebuilding Jerusalem, they were angry.  “[T]hey all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:8).  It was easy to cause confusion and discouragement among the Israelites because fathers, mothers, and grandparents were overwhelmed by the task that lay before them.  “There is too much rubble.  By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (4:10).  The enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (4:11).  Nehemiah encouraged the people, “Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14).  When the walls were rebuilt and the gates restored, the law of God was read to the people who were both joyful and repentant (chapters 8 and 9).

Everything was coming back into order and Israel was prepared to live by the truth of God’s Word.  What could go wrong?  What went wrong is incredibly significant.  Eliashib, the priest appointed over the chambers of God, gave Tobiah the Ammonite a place in the temple (13:4-5).  Under the guise of helping God’s people, Tobiah was given a room formerly used to store the offering for God.  There, within the temple, sat Tobiah and his possessions.  Nehemiah was away when this happened, but when he returned, he “was very angry, and [he] threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber.  Then [he] gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and [he] brought back there the vessels of the house of God” (13:8-9).

God entrusted the rebuilding of His temple and the city walls to His people.  He entrusted the growing of holy families to husbands and wives equipped with His Word.  He does the same today.

God wants His people to keep their worship, teaching, and practices pure and different from that of the dark and unbelieving world.  Certainly, there are resources in the world that can be practical and helpful to the Christian.  But we must take care especially when it comes to instructing Jesus’ little ones.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).  It is a frightening thing indeed to compromise one of the Father’s children.

Compromise happens, however, when God’s people are weary and burdened, or prideful and above reproach.  Compromise happens when we let down our guard and grow comfortable with the world.  At such times it is easier for an opposing foe to gain access by offering some kind of help or resource.  It was for this reason that Nehemiah “stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows … each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Neh. 4:13, 18).  The men were on guard at night and labored by day (22).

We are weary and overwhelmed by a multitude of life issues.   Sometimes we are prideful after doubting God’s Word and trusting something else.   As the culture decays and evil abounds, we may believe that God asks the impossible of us.  But, Martin Luther reminds us that the task of rebuilding the temple and shoring up walls was given to a weak people, few in number; a people against whom stood powerful princes and nations, which lived round about and daily threatened imminent destruction.

There will be days when failure distracts us from the building project.  There will be those like Tobiah who mock our faithfulness to an ancient faith while tempting us with new practices.  In the face of evil, let it be said of us:  Look!  They remember “the Lord who is great and awesome,” and they “fight for [their] brothers…sons…daughters…wives…and homes” (Neh. 4:14).

Excerpted from The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
(pp 61-63) by Linda Bartlett;
Amazon.com.  Please also visit Our Identity Matters.
Image: mudpreacher.org

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children sketch

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when sex education was brought into schools and churches.  “We are sexual from birth, so let’s get comfortable with it!”  Five decades later, communities are brimming with “nobodies” who were denied their childhood; who know a lot about sex but very little about manhood and womanhood; who are cohabitating, pregnant but unwed, fearful, depressed, relationally dysfunctional, discontent, insecure, and paranoid about “sexual identity.”

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when abortion was legalized.  Today, mothers, fathers, and grandparents grieve lost relationships with 56 million “nobodies.”  Our nation is poorer economically because 56 million “nobodies” do not pay taxes, buy products, or invest in communities.

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when girls were told that “equal means being the same.”  In the effort to equalize the “playing field”—in sports, the workplace, and the bedroom—girls were taught that the two genders, male and female, are interchangeable.  Today, three generations of “nobodies” are at odds with their own bodies and minds.

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when gay and lesbian advocates began to circulate the schools.  That’s what they said when same-sex “marriage” was legalized.   That’s what they said when restrooms were changed from “men” and “women” to “whatever” so that people who have trouble identifying themselves can use whichever they please.  How many “nobodies” will have to suffer the consequences?  How many impressionable “nobodies” will believe the unnatural is “normal?”

Do we really think that nobody will get hurt when we tamper with God’s design?

Camille Paglia is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  She is a feminist, social critic, and a lesbian.   She is also surprising.  When it comes to “identity politics” and transgenderism, Paglia says, “This hyper-self-consciousness about ‘Who am I?  Where exactly am I on the gender spectrum?’ is mere navel-gazing while, in the Middle East, ISIS is beheading people.  It is a kind of madness of self-absorption.”

Paglia says she pities “young people today” because “it’s one thing to feel, ‘I’m not quite comfortable in the gender I was assigned at birth,’ but the pressures are to change, change, change, and to telegraph it to the world.  People are pushed into making choices about surgical interventions and taking hormones, which is dangerous, and they will have all kinds of medical problems in the long run.”

Paglia believes “there are authentic transgender people who had a genetic issue from the start” and points out that “medical science is still developing to help these people.”   But transgenderism has “become a fashion statement, or a mask [for other problems].  People are being induced to think that all their unhappiness—in family life, in school, in relation to society—is to do with this gender issue.  Well, maybe it isn’t.  Maybe there are other issues a person needs to deal with.”

In a way, Paglia is speaking about the “nobodies that won’t get hurt” or, in this case, today’s college students.   She says, “They have no sense of the great patterns of world history, the rise and fall of civilizations like Babylon and Rome that became very sexually tolerant, and then fell.”

She continues, “If you’ve had no exposure to that, you can honestly believe that ‘There is progress all around us and we are moving to an ideal state of culture, where we all hold hands and everyone is accepted for what they are … and the environment will be pure … .‘”  This is their “magical utopian view,” explains Paglia, that “we are marching toward perfection.”  But what is the “sign of this progress?”  They believe it is “toleration,” observes Paglia, “for homosexuality, or for changing gender, or whatever.”

But to Paglia, “[I]t’s a sign of the opposite, it’s symptomatic of a civilization just before it falls.”

Babylon and Rome did fall.  They fell because men and women shaped themselves after the imaginations of their own heart.  They exchanged the natural for the unnatural and were foolish enough to believe that nobody would get hurt.

Our civilization may be rushing toward the abyss, but the Christian can blaze trail away from destruction.  We do this when we believe that there is no such thing as a “nobody” to God.  Every child—born or yet to be born—is already redeemed and called by name (Is. 43:1).  Every child—born or yet to be born—will be affected by what we do or do not tolerate.

We may wrestle with our identity and, therefore, the way we choose to live.  But, the Lord identifies us in His Prayer when He invites us to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.”   We are not “debtors to the flesh.”  We are not slaves to our own fear.  What we are, in Christ, is God’s adopted heirs!  Tolerating no other identity, we and our children’s children can navigate out of hopelessness and away from the abyss.

Quotes of Camille Paglia are excerpted from an article by Carolyn Moynihan
(“Navy-gazing about gender while the world burns,” Mercatornet)
and an interview with Camille Paglia by Ella Whelan of Spiked
Graphic: Etsy

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