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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

“People have trigger warnings and safe zones because they feel powerless against the ideas they’re facing, but when students grasp reality through a biblical worldview they don’t feel powerless.” (Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries).

When I was a young woman, I don’t remember being “triggered” or needing to seek a “safe zone.” But then, I wasn’t nurtured by parents, teachers, pastors, or the culture to think that an emotional gut reaction to a problem or alternate way of thinking is acceptable and healthy.

Ok. I get it. The times have changed.

But people have not. Women and men have always had–and on this earth will continue to have–emotions triggered by sights, sounds, smells and, yes, those ideas that oppose our own.

Whenever given the opportunity, we ought to engage not a whole crowd of “triggered” people, but one triggered person at a time. For example, when someone rants against Christianity, we can ask, “Why are you angry? What has caused you to respond in this way? What barriers stop you from living the Christian life?”

When we talk about the things we haven’t done right, we give others liberty to talk more freely about things they haven’t done right. Carrying the burden of guilt can prevent someone from living a life that’s wholesomely committed to Jesus. Holding on to guilt, pride, or fear puts us all in the position of being taken captive by some deception, myth, or dangerous ideology.

So perhaps, when we encounter a “triggered” person, we can be an example of how to confess sin. We can explain the mercy and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and, in this way, lead from despair to hope. We can make use of the fruit of the Spirit which includes patience and kindness as opposed to emotional outbursts and harsh rhetoric.

We can profess with confidence, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Source: “Generational Guidance,” WORLD, 9-1-18

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3-Two grandpas - CopyMy dad is my hero.  He is not my only hero, but he is my first. 

At 93, he continues to be my hero because, as my father, he is still teaching me what it means to be human.  In other words, he is teaching me what it means to be a person created in God’s image.  

I’ve always looked at my dad as my hero, but until recently I didn’t truly understand the reasons why.  Early last summer, I asked Dad if he would write his story; a kind of autobiography, if you will.  I promised that I would serve as his editor, creating a book for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Bless my dad’s heart!  He did it!  His willingness to record history and his perseverance to stay on task gives evidence of his respect for family.  More so, it is an act of obedience.  “[T]ell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done” (Ps. 78:4). 

The wonder of my father’s life is that he is a common man set apart for uncommon use.  He writes about a very ordinary life, but therein is the truth about being human.  From ordinary dust of the ground, God formed man to reflect His own extraordinary image.  Dad is the first to admit that he is a poor reflection of God’s image.  In his poor, sinful condition, he could have chosen to follow the pattern of the world.  But he did not because he sees his human identity in light of the fact that he was formed by God’s own hands for God’s own purpose.  My dad’s story proves to me that to be human does not mean to be self-defined, but God-defined.  And in each ordinary life experience recorded by Dad, I see that his identity affects his attitude and behavior. 

As you think about my dad writing his story, bear in mind that he writes with two hands, his left needed to steady his right.  One day, he appeared at my door, asking, “Do you still have that portable electric typewriter?”  By the end of summer, my hero entrusted to me a precious bundle of typewritten papers.  “Here!” said Dad with a knowing grin.  “You have some work to do!”

To be human means to be given work to do.  Work was a privilege given to the first man by His Creator.  It was God’s design that Adam work in the garden and keep it.  As a farmer, my dad has shown me the “thorns and thistles” that sin brought into this world.  I’ve seen the sweat on his brow, but also heard his sigh of accomplishment at the end of a long, hard day.  My dad has shown me that work is neither a punishment nor unpleasant.  When done to the glory of God, it is a source of contentment. 

To be human means to be male or female.  My parents did not preach to me when I was a child about the differences between men and women.  Rather, the behaviors and interaction of my mom and dad demonstrated to me that male and female are the two eyes of the human race, each needed for their unique perspective.   My dad valued my mom’s opinion and help.  He respected her even when she frustrated him.   My dad might not realize it (and perhaps I didn’t either until now), but he showed me that men and women are more than sexual.  God does not say: Be sexual, for I am sexual.  He says, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  Men are especially tempted by sensual thoughts and desires, but my dad showed that because of Jesus Christ, a man (or woman) is not captive to them.

To be human means to have choices.   Dad helped me understand that choices are best made in light of our relationship to God and with trust in His Word because to be human means that Satan will surely slither up to us at the moment of decision, asking: “Did God really say…?”  Adam was given the instruction for life and the warning against death, but he failed to engage Satan with that Word for the sake of his bride.  My dad, being mindful of this, nurtured my respect for men because he’s never stopped trying to lead his family away from harm. 

To be human means to be forgiven.  My dad knows the consequence of sin.  But he also knows that because of Jesus Christ, God’s mercies are new every morning.  If I were to thank my dad for one thing, it would be for helping me understand the free and willing desire of Jesus to be my crucified Lord and Savior.  Easter, for a human being, means nothing without the Cross.

To be human means to suffer.   The only way for God to save humans from themselves was to become one of them.   The Lord Jesus Christ suffered as a human… and He died.  In this sinful world, we suffer, too.  And because of sin, we will die.  But my dad also taught me that to be human means to have hope.  Jesus rose from the grave, ascended back to heaven, and will come again to take God’s weary, but faithful children home.

To be human means to persevere.   Dad has experienced hardship, disappointment, and the loss of his wife, my mom.   But he is my model of daily perseverance no matter the circumstance.  “Keep calm and carry on” is a quote of Winston Churchill, but it is a way of life for my dad.  He has watched this culture change at warp speed, but because he knows that his call to think, act, and live like a Christian changes not, he continues to “run with endurance the race that is set before [him]” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Finally, for the human, “the greatest of these is love.”  Just as God defines humans, so also He defines love.   So, thank you Dad, for not loving carelessly.  Thank you for your patient, kind, and selfless love (1 Cor. 13).  Thank you for showing me “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). 

 

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girl looking in mirror

I am “curved in” on myself.” My curved-inward self lives “as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most” (LSB, p. 292). “The tug of our flesh is always and ever toward self-justification,” writes Rev. John T. Pless. “Self-centeredness is not just socially inappropriate; it is a matter of idolatry. It is the way of the flesh to fear, love and trust in the self above all things.”

Will things improve if I just forgive myself? No! This is “not only a cruel impossibility” writes Pless, “but blasphemy. Only God can forgive sin, and the self is not God! It is one thing to say that one must learn how to live by the promise that sin is forgiven. That’s faith. It is quite another thing to say, ‘You must forgive yourself.’ That’s idolatry because it makes the self the savior.”

In a world that celebrates self as lord and savior, where is my hope? In a world that does not suppress self, nor hold self in suspicion, nor call self to repentance, where is my freedom?

It is in Jesus Christ! He carried my sin to death and reconciled me to His Father. I justify nothing, but the Lord of my life justifies the most unjustifiable! What comfort there is in knowing that this curved-inward and selfishly-bent woman will find strength, good conscience, and hope not in myself, but in the promise of God.

Jesus is Lord… and I am not.

With appreciation to Rev. Prof. John T. Pless
and his article “I’ve Got to Be Me… or Not”
(The Lutheran Witness, October 2015)
Photo credit: canstoc

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Denethor Lord of the Rings

Over lunch and a glass of Merlot, Dr. Deborah Nucatola detailed the harvesting of body parts from partially aborted babies. She explained the “crushing” procedure of the unwanted parts of the baby, including the child’s head, followed by the gentle extraction of valuable organs. She quoted the price per heart, liver, and kidney while swirling wine in a goblet and dining on an elegantly served meal.

You can watch Dr. Nucatola, Abortionist and Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, and listen to her explain the business of abortion in this edited, eight minute video clip. If you can stomach it, you’ll find the three hour video entitled “Planned Parenthood in the Business of Selling Baby Parts FULL FOOTAGE” on YouTube.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, watched the video. Gut wrenched and with heavy heart for the children, she began to pray. But, Alison told me that her prayer was interrupted by an image from Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King. After you have watched Dr. Nucatola casually explain the purposeful killing of children (for a profit), Alison would like you to watch this movie clip.

“Please watch carefully,” says Alison. “Listen to the words of Pippin’s ballad. (You can read the lyrics on the screen.) Ponder the meaning. Then focus on the character Denethor, the greasy man with food dripping down his chin while death is all around.”

Alison asks, “Do you see light and darkness, good and evil?” If you are familiar with J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King, then you, like Alison, might have wondered, “How dead on the inside does someone have to be to have such a voracious appetite at a time like this? He eats with not a care in the world, yet there is blood on Denethor’s hands.”

Dr. Nucatola, is younger and much more attractive. But, Alison wonders, what about her appetite? What about her soul? How can she so casually detail the slaughter and sale of innocent human life while enjoying her fine feast?

“I pity her,” Alison told me. “What has been stripped away from her heart and mind to leave her in such an icy state of callousness? Is her conscience so dulled or deadened that she can discuss the price of a human child’s body parts and the crushing of that child’s skull in much the same manner as she might discuss the price of furniture or office supplies?”

Tolkien probably never imagined that his work “would be tied to abortion or the profit motivations of the human tissue industry,” Alison said. “But, while I was praying, the comparison between Dr. Nucatola and Denethor came so clearly to my mind that I cannot be silent.”

Alison believes that Jesus forgives women who repent of their abortions. He forgives the repentant boyfriends, husbands, or parents who insisted on abortions. He forgives the doctors who repent of doing abortions. Upon forgiveness, the Lord Jesus wipes the sinner’s slate clean so that he or she is as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). With true repentance and sorrow, the Lord Jesus freely gives His mercy and the gift of salvation to all, no matter the offense (Psalm 86:5).  Then, He says, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

But, she asks, what of those who do not repent? What of those who not only do evil but defend evil? What of those who call themselves Christian but support Planned Parenthood or refuse to acknowledge what happens on the surgical table in a Planned Parenthood facility?

Alison is concerned about the spiritual health and salvation of people that you and I know—people in our families, our congregations, our neighborhoods who continue to insist that abortion is a “woman’s choice.” She wonders: If a person defends Planned Parenthood while forsaking the “little children whom Jesus wants to come to Him” (Matthew 19:14); if a person champions the death of their littlest neighbor—the babe in the womb, then does God turn His face away?

Alison is right to be concerned.  There is a spiritual battle that rages for our very souls. During prayer, Alison was moved to compare the callousness of a Planned Parenthood abortionist with that of Tolkien’s lord of death. The powerful imagery brought to Alison’s mind should leave you and me as gut wrenched and soul sickened as it did her. “There is a burden on my heart,” Alison told me. “This burden causes me to ask a hard question to all who call themselves Christians: Will God forgive any of us—whether we have sinned by defending abortion or by keeping silent—if we have not confessed sorrow and repentance of that sin?”

Alison knows that “choice” is the word used by those who seek self-gratification and lordship of their own lives. But “choice,” she points out, is something we all really do have. We can choose evil… or good. We can choose to serve ourselves and the world… or God. To the Israelites, freed from captivity, Joshua said,

Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).

Alison asks, “Will we, the people who proclaim Jesus Christ, ignore Dr. Nucatola, Planned Parenthood and the imagery of Tolkien’s Denethor? Or will we say, ‘No more! My eyes are open! I will speak!  I will speak for my littlest neighbors, the ones Jesus calls by name.”

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crown of thorns with crossJesus Christ welcomes sinners.  He wants us to acknowledge and repent of our sins, but He does not identify us by our sinful desires and inclinations.

It is for this reason that I, a confessional Lutheran, am appreciative of the documentary produced by Blackstone Films to help the Catholic Church share its view on homosexuality.  The film is entitled The Third WayMercatorNet notes that even though it is “not perfect” and features “stereotypical religious” settings, the film is powerfully compelling because of the “authentic, convincing and coherent” voices of seven men and women who live with same-sex attraction.  These men and women  do not deny their personality nor do they argue that same-sex attraction must lead to same-sex lifestyle and same-sex “marriage”.  They confess that homosexuality is a sin even as they confess the struggle to live self-controlled and pure lives.  In the struggle, however, comes joy.  Joy comes when we relinquish our own identity and, in Jesus Christ, see ourselves the way God sees us.

The Word tells us to remember Whose we are and to live accordingly.  In Baptism, Jesus assures our true identity as sons and daughters of God through His sacrificial and redemptive work.  What does this mean?  It means that we are daily called to resist the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  It means that we are not common for use by anyone, but uncommon for use in the hands of the holy God.

I am especially appreciative of The Third Way because, for many years, I have been moved by the stories of men and women who were caught in a lifestyle shaped by the lie of a homosexual identity.  Their life experiences and encouragement of the Holy Spirit motivate me to speak Truth on their behalf.  Forgiven of every sin, the repentant sinner stands at the foot of the Cross where we hear Jesus say: Come!  Deny yourself!  Take up your cross and follow Me!  Lose your life and in Me you will find it.  (Matthew 16:24-25).

Please.  Take the time to watch this film.  Its message is for all who are deceived by mistaken identity.

Linda Bartlett is the author of
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (Amazon)

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parents standing w childrenGod entrusts children to parents.

Parents are called by God to guard the innocence of childhood.  This is a serious challenge in today’s society.  From early on, boys and girls are surrounded by the visual images and messages of a highly sexualized culture.  The Christian parent may feel overwhelmed by their role.  But parents today—as always—are equipped for the job.  The Word of God is sufficient.  The Bible provides all that is needed to help boys and girls respect themselves and others, understand why male and female are not the same but complementarily different, resist temptation, and protect human life from the moment of conception.  When sin and failure occur, the Bible points the way to forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.

One topic that perhaps most intimidates and even confuses parents is sex and sexuality.  Sex education sounds like a good idea, especially if it is taught in a Christian environment; however, the origin of sex education is not biblical.  It is founded on a humanistic and secular theory.

A zoologist and follower of Charles Darwin by the name of Alfred Kinsey concluded that children are “sexual from birth” and can enjoy and benefit from early sexual activity.  He believed that society should reflect his “science” by altering its moral codes.  Thirty years of study by researchers such as Judith A. Reisman, PhD., prove that Kinsey’s research was built on sexual experiments by known pedophiles on children ages five-months to 14 years.  The research was both fraudulous and criminal; nevertheless, it accomplished what it intended.  By the 1960s, Kinsey and his followers were recognized as the “experts” on matters of “sexuality.”  Kinsey associates and students opened the doors of SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.) and partnered with Planned Parenthood to aggressively make their way into schools and churches.  Pro-homosexual and pedophilia groups were emboldened.  Over the next fifty years, moral codes based largely on the biblical worldview were dangerously compromised.  Never before had anyone considered a child to be “sexual” in the way that Kinsey meant, but today children are sexualized not only by the media but in sex education, health or “family living” classrooms.  The innocence of children is stripped away in classrooms where boys and girls together learn about their bodies, what their parents do in the bedroom and what it means to live a “sexual” life.

God Calls Us to Holy Living.

God does not call His children to be “sexual.”  He calls His children—of all ages— to be holy.  Therefore, the Bible does not educate in sex, but instructs in purity.

Purity is not prudish.  It is prudent.  Purity is not Victorian and antiquated.  It is God’s plan for children and adults whether married or single.

Purity focuses on our identity as redeemed sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus.  God says, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).  We are “vessel[s] for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:21).  Daily remembering our Baptism, we see ourselves not as “sexual beings” captive to instinct and desires, but as heirs of the promise and clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).

Purity is about more than abstinence.  Abstinence says, “No, I can’t be sexually intimate right now.”  But purity says, “Yes, I can be the male or female God created me to be right now.”  Instruction in purity begins with an explanation of biblical manhood and womanhood.  It draws attention to the many ways that male and female, of any age and married or single, can work, worship and serve together without a hint of sensuality.

Purity is about God’s design and order for life.  It is also about mystery and modesty.  God’s Word says, “Do not awaken love or arouse love before its proper time” (Song of Songs 3:5b).  This is why purity must be nurtured in a special garden tucked safely behind a protective fence.  That fence is the boundary of home.  God entrusts the training of children to their parents.  Children trust parents.  The Church supports parents by equipping them with God’s Word of Law and Gospel, the catechism, and models for instruction.

Purity is nurtured in an environment where modesty is preserved.  This is not a classroom where boys and girls together learn about sex or sexuality.  It is nearly impossible to train in purity when intimate topics are discussed between boys and girls in a common and casual manner.  Why?  Because holy people and the behavior God expects from them are not common but, rather, uncommon.

Modesty emphasizes the importance of the sexual organs (which God placed out of view and behind hair, 1 Corinthians 12:23) reserved for the special and honorable use within marriage.  Rather than trying to remove embarrassment (a natural protection from God in a sinful world), adults should do everything they can to maintain modesty.  A father can best explain to his daughter that there is mystery in more clothing rather than less, and that a girl’s behavior can raise—or lower—a boy’s standard of thinking and behavior.  A father can encourage his son to guard a woman’s virtue and lead him away from the “temptress” (Proverbs 7).

Purity grows from the truth of Genesis.  The first man and woman were created in a complementary but different way, each with a unique and vital role.  Purity understands that a man is a good steward (Genesis 2:15) and defender of life (Genesis 16-17) who takes a stand against evil.  The man is to lead, not as lord and master, but as one who goes first to make sure the path is safe.  Purity understands that a woman, as a “helper” (Genesis 2:18) and a “rib” or “pillar” (Psalm 144:12b), is strong and supportive, yet vulnerable to abuse.  Purity understands that a woman, as the bearer of life, has the most at stake; therefore, it places her within protective, yet pleasant boundaries.

These boundaries are drawn by God to respect the physical and psychological differences between male and female.  Woe to those who attempt to erase these boundaries by pretending that boys and girls are “the same”.  Woe to the adults who remove the protective covering of modesty and desensitize children.  Woe to the adults who dangle the carrot of joyful marital union in front of children but then tell them to “wait” for marriage after graduating college and securing a job.

God Gives a Model to Parents.

God has given all parents and grandparents a model for the instruction of purity in Titus 2:3-8. Older men are to mentor younger men by being examples of sobriety, dignity, self-control, sound faith, agape love, and steadfastness.  In addition, older men are to model the sacrificial love of Jesus (Ephesians 5:25).  This love is shown today by men who defend the honor of women, rescue children from abortion, and guard the door of homes.  For a young man, it means treating all girls as he wants his sister, mother, grandmother, and someday-wife to be treated.

Older women are to mentor younger women by being examples of goodness, self-control, purity, homemaking, kindness, and respectfulness for God’s orderly design in marriage.  In addition, older women can contrast the “temptress” with the holy woman who calls attention not to self but God (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).

If there is no father present or involved, mothers can point both sons and daughters to their Heavenly Father who is very present and involved in the lives of His children.  Timothy was raised to purity of faith and behavior by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).

Parents can be confident in raising sons and daughters to a life of purity.  They need not be intimidated by the world—or by their own past.  Sins that have been confessed to God are forgiven and forgotten.  Parents can show children the way to the Cross every time a wrong choice is made.  Parents, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can help sons and daughters resist the temptations of a self-focused and sensual world.

It is an awesome thing to know that the God who calls us to holiness also saves us when we are not.    Even when all seems lost to sinful people, we can reclaim our purity in Jesus.

Jesus Christ came to live among us.  He experienced human emotions and feelings.  He knows our weakness.  But for our own sakes, He calls us to lives of purity.  Purity does not seek its own way.  It models biblical manhood and womanhood.  It raises standards for behavior and encourages self-control.  Purity guards body, mind and soul.  It lays a foundation for friendship, marriage and family.

Purity anticipates a future of hope.

(Available in brochure format #LFL903T from http://www.cph.org)

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prison cellThe 28th of October — three days from now — marks the tenth year of incarceration for my young friend Travis.  His life was forever changed when the jury pronounced him “guilty.”  He has no excuses.  Travis knows that he made terrible choices that led to life-threatening drug addiction.

He remembers that day in court when the verdict was read.  His mom reached for him, begging for one last hug but was denied by the U.S. Marshall who cuffed him and dragged him away.  Travis describes himself as a scared little boy in a man’s body unable to grasp the reality of what was happening, yet conscious of frightful images.  Where was he going?  With whom would he be imprisoned?  What would they do to him?  Would he be raped, stabbed or killed?

Travis writes, “I began to plot in my head how to end it all . . . life was not worth living anymore.  I thought of creative ways to use a bed sheet, or perhaps I could pick a fight and hopefully be killed in the process.”  But God was with Travis.  “The comfort I felt when I cried out to Him in one last ditch effort before I ended my life was so amazing.  God really did put His arms around me and lifted me up.”

It would be easy to languish in prison, to let the depression win and the hopelessness take root.  But there, in the most unlikely of places and under the Potter’s own hand, Travis has learned his true identity.  The world calls him a criminal.  A drug-abuser.  A law-breaker.  A bad boy.  A misfit.  But that is not how God identifies him.  God calls Travis His son in Jesus Christ.  A forgiven sinner.  A person of value.  A man with a future of hope.

Travis could remember October 28 as the end of his life.  Instead, he remembers it as the beginning of new life.   Before prison, Travis was captive to the lies.  In prison, he was set free in the Truth.  Before October 28, Travis had forgotten who he was.  On October 28, The Father reminded his child, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

It is in darkness that light shines brightest.  Travis admits to struggling with fear, doubt, sadness, anger, and depression.  But knowing who he is in Christ, Travis also knows he is being transformed.  As a son of God in Christ, Travis has purpose.

You are . . . his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light . . . once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9).

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