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Posts Tagged ‘holy’

love your neighborWho is our neighbor? In God’s world, our neighbor is more than the person who lives in the house next door. Our neighbor is the stranger in need, the student in our class, our associate at work, our parent or grandparent, and our child. Our neighbor may not think and act the way we do. We may feel awkward with them because our beliefs are polar opposite. But, in God’s world, they are our neighbor.

What are we to do with our neighbor? Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This love is second only to the love we are to have for God.

I am thinking right now of four Christian friends. Each one is the parent of a son or a daughter who has admitted they are in a gay or lesbian relationship. These parents love their children but, with the desire to live under the character and authority of God and His Word in Christ, these parents cannot accept the behavior and lifestyle of their children.

My friends, and others like them, agonize, asking: What can we do? How do we embrace our child but not their behavior? How do we nurture a godly relationship with our child? In fact, how do we even engage in conversation with our child on some kind of common ground?

Glenn T. Stanton, author of the new book Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, offers six truths that he defines as “mere Christianity.” These points, writes Stanton, “are the great equalizers of humanity, putting us all in the same boat for good and for bad, proclaiming that no one person is better or worse, loved more or less, nor more or less deserving of love than another.” These truths are:

  • Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  • Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions.
  • Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  • Unfortunately, everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  • All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  • Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions.

Because we live in such a sexualized culture, there is need, I think, to explain what it means to be a “human person.” In this culture, sexuality is “central to being human.” But the Christian parent is called to see their neighbor; indeed, their child, differently. Parents of a son or daughter who struggles with any kind of sexual desire (for the opposite or same sex) will best love that child in light of how God sees them.

To be human means to be male or female created in God’s image. Although fallen from that perfect image (and burdened with the terminal illness called sin), God still wants His people to reflect His holiness. Nowhere in Scripture does God say: be sexual for I the Lord your God am sexual. What He says is this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1Peter 1:14-16). Sexuality is not the central part of being human. Sexual describes feelings, desires, thoughts, and physical intimacy. Because of sexual procreation, life goes on. We have birthdays and anniversaries. But sexuality is not the sum total of who we are as male or female persons.

Here is the evidence. Who we are in this temporal life is who we will be for eternity. If we were fundamentally “sexual,” then this would hold true not just before the resurrection but also after the resurrection. (Otherwise after the resurrection, we would be less than human.) But what does Jesus say? When asked whose wife the widow of seven deceased husbands would be in heaven, Jesus answered, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). Therefore, being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection. And if it is not part of our divinely-created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity now. In heaven, there will be no act of marriage, no “one flesh” union. So, do we lose our identity in heaven? No! Our true identity will remain intact. We will be as He created us—fully human, but perfect in every way, sons and daughters at the Father’s table. We will still be His treasures in Christ but, at last, able to truly reflect His magnificence.

Our human yet holy identity is the common ground for even the most awkward discussions between one neighbor and another, between parent and child. Failing to see our neighbor or child as God does will ultimately affect the way we fear, love and trust God. It may cause us to love conditionally rather than unconditionally or close doors rather than open them.

It’s true that I am not facing the same challenge as my four friends. If they said to me, “You speak so easily of all this, what can you possible know,” I would have to confess that I know only what Jesus tells us all: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we see our neighbor—indeed, our child—matters. It changes the way we approach them, welcome them, speak to them, serve them, and endure with them.

(“Six truths” from “The Odd Couple” by
Glenn T. Stanton in CITIZEN, March 2015.)

Suggested resources:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity by Linda Bartlett (Amazon.com)
and Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

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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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Bill O'ReillyMany people attempt to speak for God.  But it is a dangerous thing to play fast and loose with God’s Word.  Bill O’Reilly, who consistently reminds his listeners that he attended Catholic school, is one example.  He recently told his guest, a priest, that the whole homosexual thing doesn’t trouble him.  Really?  And, I wonder, why might that be?

Two thoughts come to mind.  O’Reilly is a deceived creature who has raised himself above the Creator. He dangerously follows the example of Eve who, after putting herself in God’s place, spoke for Him.  When Satan asked, “Did God really say . . . ?” Eve responded, adding words that God never spoke (compare Genesis 3:2-3 with 2:16-17). Does O’Reilly doubt that Jesus Christ is The Word (John 1:1-5, 14)?  Jesus, who is God, calls homosexuality a sin in both the Old and New Testaments.

Second, it’s quite possible that O’Reilly has no difficulty with two men or two women living a gay or lesbian lifestyle because of another deception.  It is much easier to accept homosexuality as just a personal form of sexual expression when we are deceived by false identity.  That false identity is sexuality.

Identifying humans as primarily sexual beings is what motivates women to aggressively support “reproductive rights” and an American president who blesses Planned Parenthood.  But with little or no fear of God, men and women worship the created rather than the Creator.

Once we have been deceived to see ourselves as “sexual from birth,” our thinking, speech, clothing and behavior soon reflect the lie.  When we celebrate our sexuality — rather than the God who made us — we are more easily captive to the flesh.  We may, indeed, proclaim: This is who God made me to be!

Homosexuality is accepted when we believe the lie: “my body, my choice.”  At the core of all issues of life — abortion, marriage, homosexuality and euthanasia – is identity.   We will most certainly have an identity problem when we deny or doubt the Word of God.

God identifies us not as sexual beings, but as holy beings.  God is holy.  He calls us to be holy.  Holiness means seeking after the things of God, not the things of the flesh.  It means denying self and, instead, being a vessel for noble purpose.  This goes against the grain of the world’s thinking.  “Express yourself,” we’re told.  “Satisfy your natural desires.”  And, in this present culture, what could be more natural than expression of our sexuality which appears to be the sum total of who we are.

O’Reilly (and the rest of us who call upon the name of Christ) should take care.  It is a dangerous thing to play fast and loose with things of God.  Our identity – and with it, our behavior – is defined by God.

To everyone who is called by God’s name, who has been created for His glory, He says, “. . . I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1, 7).

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The question was asked, “What is the difference between ‘modern sex education’ and ‘comprehensive sex education?'”  The answer: Both are education in sex.  Education in sex is quite different from God’s Word to instruct in purity and guard modesty.  So, perhaps, when we know a particular class is called “sex education” or “sexuality for boys and girls,” or a set of books is labeled “a sex education series,” or even “Christian Sex Education,” we ought to ask: What are the desired outcomes?

One of the desired outcomes of modern sex education is to help boys and girls become more comfortable with their bodies.  With their “sexuality.”  A well-known Christian author/teacher in the field of sex education once confronted me.  He said: I understand that you’re displeased with our church’s sex education.  In that particular time and place, I could only respond quickly with my concern about modesty.  “Yes, I am concerned.  Couldn’t we, at the very least, teach boys and girls separately so as not to break down their natural inhibitions and destroy protective boundaries?  Doesn’t God desire that we protect the innocence of children?”  His response?  He said he was pleased that his son, at age ten, knew more about sex than he did at that age.  I wondered aloud: “Is that a good thing?”

Modern sex education has, indeed, achieved a desired outcome.  Everywhere I look, I see young women who are comfortable with their bodies.  Their “sexuality.”  They are comfortably exposed at the Lord’s Table much to the discomfort of pastors offering the sacrament.  They are comfortably exposed at the mall, on the beach or at the pool, on dates, playing sports, at church youth events, or in Bible study.

Girls are, indeed, comfortable with their “sexuality.”  Christian girls shop at Victoria’s Secret or Abercrombie & Fitch just like non-Christian girls.  They purchase sensual dresses for prom or other social events, often to the delight of moms who gush pride in their “sexy” daughters.  Girls are not embarrassed by sexually-suggestive remarks.  They speak, text, and post sensual messages.  They are so “comfortable” with their bodies — their “sexuality” — that very little is left to the male imagination.

It’s difficult to mentor, guard, or practice modesty when sex education’s goal is to make classrooms of boys and girls together more comfortable with themselves.  When God speaks of modesty, isn’t He calling us to be “holy” as opposed to “sexy”?  Isn’t He calling us to dress and act in ways that call attention not to our glory, but His?  And, as with all things godly, isn’t there a reason for this?

Those who promote Christianized-sex education insist that their emphasis is on chastity.  They claim this is a far cry from secular instruction on how to use a condom or where to go for an abortion.  But, the innocence of children is stolen away by even the most passionate Christian who wants to come out of the Victorian closet of prudish inhibition.  There are many well-meaning Christians who, with the sincere hope of preventing sexually-transmitted diseases and unwed pregnancy, support some form of sex education.  But, Douglas Gresham, the step-son of C.S. Lewis explained to me that he views “modern sex education as child abuse because it is ill-planned and poorly thought out, thus adding to the very problem it is trying to address and eroding the structure of a healthy family.”

What does he mean?  Perhaps this.  So-called “sex education” before Alfred Kinsey was generally a discussion of human biology and procreation, hygiene, and marriage.  It was a discussion to be had in the home with the parent in the role of teacher.  Who would better guard the virtue of children?  Who would better explain “sex” (defined by a pre-sexual revolution dictionary as ones “maleness” or “femaleness”)?  Who would better assist a son or daughter in being patient until marriage and, thus, help build a structure for a healthy family?  But, after Alfred Kinsey, this life-shaping responsibility was transferred to school teachers and so-called “experts.”  Prior to the release of Kinsey’s research, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948, no child development experts suggested that children were sexual from birth or that they benefited from childhood sexual activity (or, I’d like to add, from childhood sexual discussions between boys and girls in classrooms).  (Note: For documentation on this and more, I recommend you read Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences by Dr. Judith A. Reisman, 2000)

In 1986 Planned Parenthood (PP) commissioned a poll to determine how “comprehensive” sex education affected behavior.  “Comprehensive” means placing emphasis on the practice of “safe sex.”  Much to the PP’s dismay, the study showed that children exposed to such a program had a 47% higher rate of sexual activity than those who’d had no sex education at all.  (Planned Parenthood Poll, “American Teens Speak: Sex, Myths, TV and Birth Control.”  Lou Harris and Associates, December 1986, p. 59, table 6-1.)

So, I wonder:

  • Do Christian children exposed to modern sex education (post-1960, teacher/expert, boy/girl classroom-style) have a higher rate of sexual awareness, sensual dress, and sexual inhibition than those who’ve had no sex education at all?
  • Has sexual activity increased more among Christian young people who’ve been sexually-educated in the last three decades than those who’ve had no sex education at all?
  • Do Christian young people who’ve been made more comfortable with their “sexuality” suffer from more sexually-transmitted diseases, depression following multiple bonding, unwed pregnancy, and post-abortion grief than those who’ve had no sex education at all?

I’m thinking that it just might not be a good thing — no, not a good thing at all — if my nine-year-old grandson knows more about sex than I did at his age.

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This mother of sons and grandmother of grandsons has concerns about what some are calling the feminization of Christian worship.

The Barna Research Group reports that American churches are two-thirds female and one-third male.   There is strong evidence to support that music may be one explanation.  Instead of asking, “What music do people want to hear?,” we should be asking, “What music is appropriate and pleasing to God?”

Men like my pastor, Rev. Paul Beisel; Rev. Todd Wilken (host of Issues, Etc.); author Douglas Bond (Fathers and Sons Stand Fast in the Way of Truth); and author David Murrow (Why Men Hate Going to Church) have articulated what I am discovering to be true.   Contemporary worship leans toward the emotions and perceived needs of women and, perhaps, some “sensitive” men.  But, what about men who tend to think and act like, well, like men?  Do they have to put their masculinity aside in order to “meet Jesus”?

In contemporary worship, women may comfortably sway with the music, close eyes or be “moved” to tears, and show other visible signs of emotion.  But, what does God tell us about men?  He created male and female to be equal, but different.  God did not create man and woman at the same time, in the same way, or for the same purpose.  Non-Christian therapists might not phrase it the way I just did (using Genesis), but years ago, I read a helpful secular book entitled Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus in which the author repeatedly illustrated that men and women do not communicate, think, love, feel or respond in the same way.  It makes sense, then, that contemporary worship and music might be one reason why our churches are filled with two-thirds women but only one-third men.

Church growth folks say we need to appeal to a contemporary public.  This public flocks (like sheep) to loud, energized, and high-tech amusements where celebrities say things that make us “feel good.”  Rather than being different, are Christian churches shapeshifting as if to say, “See!  We’re as good as the world”?  Is it a good idea to imitate “the nations” around us (2 Kings 17:15) in order to be evangelical?   I’m aware that I ask this question a lot but, really, does Jesus wrap Himself around the ways of the world?

I have been told by other Christians that any kind of music — loud, rock, rap or polka — can become gospel.  But, in his book Stand Fast, Douglas Bond reminds me of two things.  In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis describes heaven as a region of music and silence.  The demon Screwtape is frustrated by this reality: ‘Music and silence — how I detest them both!'”  Screwtape, the diabolical demon, boasts: “We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”  Later, Bond writes, “Beware.  If entertainment-evangelism advocates can convince you that music is amoral, merely a matter of taste, then the discussion ends — and so does discernment.  Wise young men, however, will be suspicious of conclusions that sweep away moral judgment.”  He also writes, “. . . [L]oud entertainment music . . . conveys its own  message.  Certainly it makes people clap and feel exhilarated, but it’s not conducive to careful thinking about the whole counsel of God.”

Some Christians say, “Traditional (liturgical) worship is too difficult,”  but, what other important things in life are difficult?

Bond continues, “Though the Bible is clear that Christ is ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’ (1 Peter 2:8 NKJV, quoting Isaiah 8:14), we’re still afraid to offend the world.  The Spirit of God removes the offense only through the objective truths of the Word of God — the very thing that postmodern Christians are watering down in their music.  Little wonder, then, that the church looks and sounds and acts like the world — instead of the reverse.”

Until recently I, too, believed I needed a little more contemporary music albeit in a traditional worship environment.  But, as a mother of sons and grandmother of grandsons, I’m being re-directed away from my “feelings” to understand what the Divine Service really is and why I need it.  Why my family needs it.

So, here’s where I stand.  The Creator of male and female gives us not what we want, but what He knows we need.    We may want to “feel good” singing love songs to Jesus, but we need to be equipped for battle against powers and principalities.  The Psalmist and other great male hymn writers knew this.  In his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” Luther wrote,

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.  The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo!  his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”

My grandsons are spellbound by the battles between good and evil in C.S. Lewis’ land of Narnia.  In this present culture war, my grandsons need the armor for battle — and the songs that inspire them to fight the good fight.

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Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate and respect the writings of Chuck Colson.  He’s a man who learned some hard lessons the hard way.  I’ve read many of his books and receive his “Breakpoint” e-mails.  I don’t think he’s Lutheran, but he sure has a respect for the Law and Gospel on which Martin Luther anashamedly stood.

Each Wednesday, Colson features a “Two Minute Warning.”  This past week, he noted how many times Christians quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads:

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

To whom is God speaking?  He is speaking not to our country, the United States, but to the church… to God’s people, those called by His name.  It’s us — members of God’s family, the church — who are being called to “turn from their wicked ways.”  When we dumb down Christ, offer “cheap grace,” cling to parts of God’s Word but not all, practice silence for the sake of being “tolerant,” and adapt worldly ways we are failing to be “salt and light.”

Colson is right.  We can’t blame the “liberals,” homosexual activists, or evolutionists for changing America.  They’re saying and doing what we would expect them to.  It’s us — the Christians — who need to make a u-turn and go back to God.  If the church would repent of her ways and act more like Jesus calls the church to act, then we, too, would affect the culture.

Colson directs us to God’s Word to His people, the house of Israel, in Ezekiel 36:22-32.  The people had “profaned” His holy name among the nations.  They were unclean and fallen to idols.  “Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.”  As you read, you will discover that God’s call to repentance comes with promise and blessings.

We don’t change the world.  The world is the world.  But, whenever God’s Word in its truth and purity is spoken and acted upon by God’s people, society is transformed.  It’s been done in the past.  It can be done in the present.

Colson provides many practical and faithful-to-Scripture resources for Christians in a challenging world.  I recommend you check them out by visiting Breakpoint.

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What does God say to women?  His letter to us reads something like this:

Dear Daughter,

I loved you before I created you.  You are my masterpiece.  But, sin has distorted My perfect creation.  Sinful people are challenged by difficult choices.  You, My daughter, are tempted by feelings and emotions.  You can’t trust these emotions, but you can always trust Me.  Your life is of such value to Me that I came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ — the God become Man willing to rescue you from the consequences of sin.  I paid the highest price for you.

Because of this great price, your body is not your own — to do with as you please.  It was covered by the Robe of Righteousness when Jesus shed His blood on the Cross.  The sacrifice of Jesus, your Savior, made you a new creation.  You have the promise of heaven.  I don’t want you to be hurt.  I don’t want your heart to be broken or your body abused.  So please, daughter.  Guard your body, mind, and soul by making choices that glorify Me.

It’s o.k. to rebel.  Rebel against all that is sinful and wrong in this world.  Dare to be different from those who follow worldly opinions.  They chase after popularity and selfish ambitions.  When they do wrong, they want you to do wrong, too.  They say, “Follow your heart,” or “Do whatever feels right for you.”  But, a sinful heart cannot be trusted.  It is filled with all manner of bad things.  Your feelings and moods blow with the wind.  They are high and low like a rollercoaster.  Look to Me, My daughter.  I never change.  You can trust your life to Me.  I know you better than you know yourself.  I know your thoughts… your desires… your needs.  You are never alone in My world.

I didn’t create you to be sexy, but holy.  Practice modesty in the way you speak, act, and dress.  Call attention not to yourself, but to Me — the One who made you.  Show your beauty not by revealing your body, but revealing your love for Me.  Resist being a temptress and, instead, lead others away from sin with its ugly consequences.

Be alert to deception.  My daughter, if you acknowledge Me to be God, your Father, then you also acknowledge the evil one who opposes me and despises you.  He hates you because I love you so much.  He will try to deceive you.  He knows when you are vulnerable.  He will tempt you with one question, “Did your Father really say . . .?”  Then, when you doubt Me and fall to deception and sin, the tempter becomes your accuser, “Look at what you have done!  Can your Father ever forgive you?”

Oh, yes, My daughter.  I can and do forgive.  There is nothing you need to do but confess your sin.  In your sorrow, I reach down to lift you from despair and secure the Robe of Righteousness tighter around you.  Forgiven and set free, you are no longer captive to your past.   Satan may tempt you again and again, but I have given you dominion over the father of lies.

Don’t let anyone look down on you for being young.  Instead, let your speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity be an example for others.  Entrust your life to Me.  I’m not a god of chaos, but the God of order and beautiful design.  I made you to be a woman.  Live as a woman — My daughter — while you wait for Jesus to return for you.

Your identity is not found in your appearance or what you do.  Your identity is a creation of God and the treasure for whom Christ gave all He had.  No matter the circumstances in your life, that identity remains.

I am the King… the Lord of life.  Think of what that makes you, My daughter.

With the greatest love of all,

Your Heavenly Father

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