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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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boy scout pledgeA Boy Scout learns how to survive in the wilderness.  Trained correctly, he can sense danger and steer himself and others clear.  But when faulty ideologies reconfigure the training ground, a young man’s moral sense is compromised.

Adults who should know better can boast, “Look at what we’ve done!  We broke new trail for young men!”   But this trail most definitely leads off the edge of a cliff.

Why would anyone want to tamper with moral behavior and remove boundaries put in place for the human good?  Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).

There is little that influences society more than mentoring a boy to be a man.  Dennis Prager writes,

Wise cultures have learned that happiness is attained only when we conquer our nature . . . Historically, societies and parents have always known it’s a good thing to teach boys to control aspects of their male nature – their sexual desires and their predilection for violence.  Decent men were taught from youth to touch a woman sexually only with her permission and to channel physical aggression into sports or into helping fight evil by joining the police force or military.  Men who didn’t learn to control these aspects of male nature not only became bad men, but unhappy men.” (“Wanted by women: A few good old-fashioned men,” The Washington Times 6/30/08)

When a scout questions his male nature, how will his troop leader respond?   Will he help the young man practice self-control?  Will he remind the scout of his pledge to “do my duty to God . . .”?  And, if so, what god will he be pledging to?  Here he faces the most dangerous cliff of all.

Defined as a “sexual being,” a boy may be tempted to give himself freedoms that God does not; to trust his own reason and desires; to, in fact, worship and serve self rather than God (Romans 1:24-25).  In time, sexual identity can influence everything… even the way a boy sees God.  When society redefines morality, identity and even the character of a Boy Scout, then it redefines God.  It will not just be young men who are in danger.  It will be all the others who fall into idolatry with them.

I’d like to believe that many young men, in doing their “duty to God,” have been encouraged to see themselves as God does.  God does not call a boy “gay” or “straight.”  He calls him “holy.”  Even in the midst of conflicting desires, God equips a boy to rise above self to Him and through Him resist dangerous attitudes and behaviors.  God says, you “will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).  Identified this way, a young man can blaze a trail for himself and others away from danger.

What god does a boy pledge to — the Creator who made woman a “good fit” for man in the faithfulness of marriage, or the god who declares sexuality not a moral issue but a civil rights issue?  It matters.  It matters a lot because a god in our own image is no god at all.  Such a god cannot help any boy navigate the wilderness of life.

Foolishness is tampering with marriage.  Now it threatens another institution.  God did not establish the Boy Scouts, to be sure, but He did establish the boundaries of morality and character.  He does not give us license to do as we please.  He does not make square pegs to fit in round holes.  He does not delight in a boy’s frustration and misery.  But He does offer wisdom and strength to change… or practice self-restraint.  Only the God of all creation enters the chaos of this world to bring order and goodness to life.

New trail for scouting may have been broken, but it leads off the cliff.  Rather than sinning against God and all that is holy, the most courageous thing a boy might do is to turn away to a trail less traveled.  Separate from the pack.  Together with dad, grandpa, and men of faith, set safer course.

P.S.  Looking for a collection of outdoor adventures and character building supplies?  I highly recommend Vision Forum.

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Boy scout logoThe Boy Scouts now allow homosexual boys to participate fully in its programs.

What does this mean?

Weren’t all boys always welcomed into the Boys Scouts?  Weren’t all boys invited to be morally trained in courage, tenacity, community service, trustworthiness, and good citizenship?  Weren’t all boys equally mentored to develop character and skills that honor God, country, and neighbor?

Has there ever been a time when a Boy Scout had to declare himself a heterosexual?

Who turns the heads of boys to think they must demand their rights to sexual preference?  Is sexual identity a pre-cursor to responsible citizenship?  In the name of common sense, we’re talking about children here!

Sexual identity rules the day… even for a Boy Scout.   Alfred Kinsey would be proud.  He’s the one who coined the phrase we’ve heard over and over again: “Children are sexual from birth.”  Prior to Kinsey, no one ever referred to children as being “sexual” or inferred that they enjoyed or responded pleasurably to a sexual experience.   Prior to the 1950s, a child was never defined as “sexual” except in the mind of a predator or pedophile.

A Boy Scout pledges on his honor to do his best “to do my duty to God and my country . . . to help other people at all times . . . to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”  What does it mean to honor God who never once identifies children as “sexual beings?”

God calls boys and girls by name.  He entrusts children to moms and dads within the faithfulness of marriage so that they won’t be mistreated by those who do not see them as He does.  To guard their personhood, God sets children apart from animals who are captive to instincts and bound to do whatever it is they do.  Honoring God, boys are equipped to mature into self-controlled men who rise above selfish interests.

In a sin-drenched world, boys battle sinful natures and the distortion of identity.  But a boy who is baptized is a son of God in Christ.  He is not defined as sexual, but holy.  He is not common, but uncommon.  He is not slave to the weakness of body, but strong of spirit.

Baptized or not, we are all – beginning in the womb of our mothers – both body and spirit.  Our bodies will change, but our spirits will live forever – either with God or apart from Him.  Spiritual identity matters for eternity.

So here is my plea to the Christian community: Do not hide behind choice words like “tolerance” or “compassion.”  Linger no longer in organizations shape-shifted by humanist ideologies.  Take a stand for the sake of boys who journey to manhood.  Treat them not as slaves to themselves, but as heirs of a Kingdom not of this world.

P.S.  Fathers, grandfathers and pastors interested in alternatives to the Boy Scouts might visit Vision Forum.  This ministry offers exciting resources to mentor godly young men.

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man at workIt has become tradition for me to read to my husband while he is driving.  Road trips provide opportunity to catch up on good books and engage in hearty conversation.

For a recent journey to the southwest, I selected The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.  We began reading from William J. Bennett’s book on a previous trip.  It was good to return to his treasure trove of writings gleaned from thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Teddy Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and David Aikman on such topics as war, politics, women and family, faith, and work.  As a wife and mother of sons, I’ve always been fascinated by the gender opposite mine.  I want to know what they think.  What makes them tick.  This desire comes naturally to me as the one God called to “complete” or compliment the male being.  In my vocation as a “helper,” I am inspired to daily bring out the best in any male person whose life intersects mine.  How can I compliment or be of help if I haven’t taken the time to study and learn what men are all about?

If you’ve been reading Ezerwoman or have attended any Titus 2 Retreats, you’ll know I’m on a quest to help myself and others better appreciate Biblical manhood and womanhood.  Foundational to all discussions on this matter is our identity.  How we define ourselves matters.  How we see ourselves affects our behavior and choices.  If we call ourselves people of God in Christ Jesus, then we are compelled to live as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.  (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

How does a son of God live?  He is called to daily live out his male vocation in a sanctified or holy way.  In other words, he is not called to obsess on himself or his sensuality, but to do all that he does – in married or unmarried life – in the light of what Christ has done for him and to God’s glory.  He is called to work, serve, protect, teach, and relate to other men and women in ways that honor his Creator and Redeemer.

How a man defines himself matters.  How he sees himself matters.  What he does as a man matters.  God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 4 instructs man to live a life pleasing to the Creator.  It is the will of God and for a man’s sanctification (holiness) that he controls his own body and abstains from what is unholy.  God’s gift of sexuality, or anything having to do with intimacy and procreation, is for use within the parameters of marriage.  Sexuality has very real connections with fatherhood, children and family.

But, what if (as so often happens in this present culture) a man identifies himself as a sexual being?  What will become of him if he can’t live out his sexuality?  Will he simply wilt away into a pitiful heap useful for no good purpose?  Ah, but let us expose the lies and deception.  Man is more than a sexual being.  He is a human being.  A male human being.  Our gender – male or female – is to be lived every day, not reserved for marriage.  To be a man is, literally, a vocation.  To be a good steward who honors God’s created order is a vocation.  The culture is powerfully affected – for generations to come — by the way a man daily chooses to think.  Serve.  Work.

What is the value of work in a man’s life?  Indeed, God created man to be a worker; a good steward of the land, fully engaged in honest and, thus, joyful labor.  Work in a sin-filled world isn’t easy.  It can be frustrating, ordinary, or tiresome.  Nevertheless, work for a man is more than what he does.  Work for a man satisfies his most inner yearnings for order, stability, and significance.

In the prologue to his section on “Man at Work,” William Bennett writes,

Despite what popular culture might convey, we know there is something intrinsically satisfying in being able to plant your own garden, repair your own house, and fix your own car.  Recently, a friend of mine was recovering from life-threatening cancer.  His doctor told him that he could not work, exercise, or enjoy the other fruits of life – all things that men pride themselves on.  I asked him what hurts the most to be without. “Work,” he said.  “I don’t feel like a man.  Work has more to do with me being a man than sex or muscle.”

And so, I continue to study and learn.  And what I learn convinces me of what I know to be true.  God did not call us to a life of sensuality, but of holiness.  Holiness in our vocations as male or female.  Whether we are healthy or not so healthy.  Strikingly handsome or plain.   Married or unmarried.  In work or in play.  In service or at rest.  Not to our glory, but His.

Sensuality may be fleeting; something for this earth.  But, holiness leads to another life and the promise can be trusted.  A son of God lives forever.

(Link: “Heaven and Sexuality,” blog of July 24, 2012)

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What do the Divine Service and sex education have in common?  Nothing.

The Divine Service, with its ordered liturgy and reverence, is not common.  It is not casual.  It is not “do it myself;” rather, it is the Holy God “doing” for me.

Filled by God with His Word and Sacrament, my behavior as a woman of God should not be common.  My choices and behavior should put me at odds with the theories and trends of the world.

What I teach and how I teach it should not be common.  I should, with no apologies, instruct using God’s Word and mentor winsomely in the way of Jesus.  I should resist adapting worldly theories, fooling myself with the nonsense that I can sort “good” from “bad, and attempting to wrap the Word of God around the common.

Sex education is common.  It is worldly.  Tragically, especially for boys and girls, it is accepted by the secular world and many in the church.  Instruction in purity is not common.  It calls me and the people I mentor to be different.  Set apart.  That’s because, as God’s possession and treasures in Christ Jesus, we are different.  What we do flows from our identity as men and women called for holy purpose.

Consider me strange, but I think that Biblical instruction in purity is very much like the Divine Service.  Both are not common.  Both seem strange.  Antiquated.  “Too righteous.”   Both are criticized for being difficult.  Perhaps even “unrealistic.”  But, that’s how it is with things that are not common.  Holy things.  Things of God grow out of different soil.

The Divine Service and instruction in purity both speak to our true identity in Christ.  In Him, we are new creations called to live differently.  Even as new creations we are still sinful males and females who, on this earth, will always be tempted to determine our own worship practice and our own sexual behavior.  Therefore, we are in desperate need of the God who is separated from the common.

Divinely served by God through my pastor on Sunday morning, I am equipped to live different from a secular world the rest of the week.  Failing often during the week, I return again on Sunday to be Divinely served and strengthened.

Instructed in the purity of Biblical manhood and womanhood, boys and girls are equipped to live different from the world and better resist the sinful nature that will surely tempt them throughout all their earthly life.  Failing often, they can return to a life of purity because being different – not common – means being a treasure of Jesus Christ.  His forgiveness for every treasured soul is new every morning.

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It happened several times while I was on my recent road trip.  A decision needed to be made.  Take the interstate and make time, or meander the backcountry road and enjoy the scenery.  Stop two hours earlier and “wind down,” or press on to a further destination.  Stay with a friend or relative another night, or reserve a motel room and get some work done on the laptop.   Relying on my feelings left me hanging in mid-air.  One minute, I felt like exploring the aspen groves and kicking my shoes off by a mountain stream.  But, maybe less than an hour later, I felt like I just wanted to be home.

My feelings changed with my moods.  Refreshed and starting a new day with beauty all around me, I felt adventuresome.  Undaunted.  But, as the sun lost its brilliance and slipped beneath the horizon, I felt like settling some place safe and making my “nest.”  Plans for the day made, I felt like engaging.  Plans changed or unsure, I felt like disengaging.

Feelings are fickle.  They cannot be trusted.

Yet, for a long, long time, I’ve been watching a younger generation make life-altering decisions based wholly on feelings.  The sixteen-year-old knocks at the door of our caring pregnancy center.  “He told me he loved me.  Do you think I’m pregnant?”  The phone rings late at night.  “I felt like moving in with him would secure our relationship, but tonight when I shared my concerns with him, he kicked me out.  Will you come get me?”  Years of separation from God haunt the woman.  “In that moment of despair, I felt like an abortion would make things right again.  But, I never again felt good about myself.  Can God ever forgive me?”  The young man’s shoulders slump under the orange prison garb.  “Pride pumped my ego.   Boundaries were for lesser men.   I felt in control, exhilarated by the risk, and confident in the adulation of others… until they slapped on the cuffs.  Now, my family is paying the price.”

What kind of people do we become and what kind of culture do we build when we are ignorant of “right” and “wrong?”  When we are “self”-guided by feelings?

Some time ago, a sociologist from Notre Dame interviewed 230 young people across the U.S.  The sociologist, Christian Smith, asked questions pertaining to morality.  Smith summarized in his book, Lost in Transition, that the results were “disheartening.”   It isn’t that the behavior of young people today is better or worse than my generation.  The problem is a lack of moral reasoning.  When asked about the “moral dilemmas and the meaning of life,” the young people offered Smith “rambling” replies which testified that “they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary” to even engage in moral reflection.  “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” said one young person.  For these 18-23-year-olds, right and wrong is judged by how a particular action made them feel.  As one put it, “I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”

But, asks Chuck Colson, what happens when doing the right thing requires ignoring how you “feel” and, instead, determining actions by an external standard?  In what ways are parents — with the support of the Church — helping the younger generation to think rather than just feel?  There are those who predict that these young people will grow more reflective with age.  But, reflection requires that we have principles and ideals on which to base our reflections.  Young people who are bombarded by messages from the world, deceived by Satan, and influenced by their own fickle feelings and changing opinions will be ill-equipped for ethical decision-making.  Marriage.  Parenting.  Being a good neighbor.

So, what can we do?  There is a practical tool for congregations to use with parents, college students, teachers, and a concerned community.  It’s a DVD series titled Doing the Right Thing featuring a panel of morally academic “thinkers” interacting with an assembly of students.  Panelists include Chuck Colson, Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, and other astute and principled men.  The series is moderated by Brit Hume.  Our son, Jon, purchased the series and our family has viewed it.  We highly recommend it and hope to make use of it in our own congregation and community.  Why don’t you, too?  Doing the Right Thing is available from The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Fickle feelings can’t be trusted.  But, doing the right thing — based on a standard outside of ourselves — can.

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