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Posts Tagged ‘the church’

rainbow flagIt’s likely that we have Christian neighbors, family or church members who celebrate the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Perhaps we know because they have publicly “waved” a rainbow flag on Facebook.  How can we respond?

As an ezerwoman designed by God to be a helper, I would like to pass on some questions that Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition has carefully shaped. If asked with kindness and respect, these questions might help brothers and sisters in Christ to slow down and think about the rainbow flag they are flying. Here are 20 of Kevin DeYoung’s questions. (You will find all 40 at The Gospel Coalition.)

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

2. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

3. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

4. Why did Jesus reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

5. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

6. Do you believe the passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

7. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

8. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

9. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

10. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

11. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

12. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

13. Does the end purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

14. How would you define marriage?

15. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

16. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? If not, why not?

17. If “love wins” (as some say it did with the Supreme Court decision), how would you define love?

18. What [Scripture] verses would you use to establish that definition?

19. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

20. How has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

 

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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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African american with BibleRedefining marriage to be whatever we want it to be is an idea whose time has come.  Those who insist otherwise are a remnant from some unenlightened age.  Or so the media appears to believe.  Perhaps that’s why there was little if any coverage of a surprising victory in the state of Illinois.

Earlier this summer, the Illinois legislature took up the issue of same-sex “marriage.”  A vote in favor of gay “marriage” seemed inevitable considering that Illinois is President Obama’s home state.  He and both the governor and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel endorse the practice.  But a remnant from the unenlightened age was busy at work.  The state’s African-American pastors were working hard to reach and convict African-American legislators.  They were asking them to stand tall for the truth of marriage.

The pastors wanted the legislators to acknowledge marriage as the “institution created by God to bring men and women together for the benefit of children that can only be created through the union of men and women.”

The media informed me that this vote was taking place but then fell strangely silent.  I would never have known the outcome even if I would have channel-surfed or picked up the local paper.  I guess the media just couldn’t bring itself to report the stunning victory…

… of the African-American pastors.  Their faithful truth-telling made a difference.  Illinois did not succumb to the “inevitable.”  Illinois legislators defeated proponents of same-sex marriage in a hard-left-leaning state.

I believe that significant victories in cultural debates are happening more often than we know in families and neighborhoods across the country.  It’s just that the media, with a religious bent of its own, can’t seem to tolerate people who don’t share their convictions.  So, rather than report the news, the media seems more intent on shaping minds.

The mantra of the media beats away, but it does not silence the unchanging Word of God.  Truth is.  Trusting the Truth, the African-American pastors in Illinois refused to be intimidated and went to work.  Their voices and actions mattered.  It matters that all of God’s people “stand tall for the truth of marriage… ” and the order of God’s creation.

But it’s too easy for the believer to fear.  To doubt.  To grieve the loss of morality and see only dark days ahead.  We are tempted to disengage and succumb to the “inevitable.”  Have we forgotten that the Word came to live among us?  The Word cannot be overcome.  Using that Word, the pastors in Illinois exposed the darkness and held it at bay.  If they can do it, so can we.

While we have opportunity, we are compelled to speak what God has given us to say, warn neighbors away from sin, and offer forgiveness and hope to the repentant.

Come to think of it, this is how a remnant of people have pushed back against evil for a long, long time.

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Thanks, Alicia, for reminding me of The Word that stands… no matter what.

“Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, for round us falls the eventide. O let Your Word, that saving light, shine forth undimmed into the night.

In these last days of great distress grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness that we keep pure till life is spent, Your holy Word and Sacrament.

To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold, speak tongues of fire and make us bold to shine Your Word of saving grace into each dark and loveless place.

May glorious truths that we have heard, the bright sword of Your mighty Word, spurn Satan that Your Church be strong, bold, unified in act and song.

Restrain, O Lord, the human pride that seeks to thrust Your truth aside or with some man-made thoughts or things would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true; preserve our faith our whole life through – Your Word alone our heart’s defense, The Church’s glorious confidence.”

Lutheran Service Book, 585

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Today, I was invited to speak for a few minutes on Issues, Etc. — Lutheran Talk Radio.  How does one “speak for a few minutes” on two life-sized topics: Abortion and Sex Education?  It was impossible!

I’ve posted multiple blogs in recent weeks on sex education, yet have only covered the surface.  There is so much history!  So much experience!  Such bold contrast between the world’s idea of sex education and God’s command to instruct in purity.  Identity — how the world defines us vs. how God defines us — is core in this discussion.  At the very least, I hope one person was made more curious.

Well, go ahead…  if you wish.  Click on the link and listen 🙂

Abortion and Forgiveness & Sex Education, with Linda Bartlett, 11/16/2011

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Christ says that the devil is the prince of this world (John 14:30; 16:11); and he is a murderer from the beginning and a liar (John 8:44).  If, then, we would live upon earth, we must realize that we are guests and lodge in an inn with a knave as host and with a sign over the door that reads THE HOUSE OF MURDER or THE HOUSE OF LIES.  Satan is a murderer for killing the body, a liar for misleading the soul.  That is the devil’s trade and his work; that is the way he keeps house; that is how business is carried on in this inn.  Whoever belongs to his followers must lend him a helping hand.  But whoever is his guest must expect and risk experiencing rough treatment.  (Martin Luther)   Q: What does this say to you as a Biblical, pro-life Christian?  How do you respond?

The devil, too, can quote Scripture and deceive us with it.  But his use of Scripture is defective.  He does not quote it completely but only so much of it as serves his purpose.  The rest he silently omits.  (Luther)   Q: What does this mean for pro-life Christians and caring pregnancy centers that seek to work with churches, pastors, and youth groups?

The fable is told that when God made man out of a clod of earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life so that man became a living soul, the devil wanted to imitate God and also took a clod of earth in order to make a man of it; but it turned out to be a toad.  (Luther)   Q: What does this say to you?  (Now, sing a hymn of praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — out loud!  Our evil foe cannot endure the Word in music!) 

At all hours the devil is seeking to kill us all.  After you have been baptized, he will not let you have any rest.  If he could kill you in your mother’s body, he would do it.  (Luther)  The devil does not despise God so much as he despises the humans that God so dearly loves.  For it is to us that God gives dominion over Satan.    Q: What does this tell us about the intensity of the pro-life/pro-abortion debate?  Do you think most Christians recognize legalized abortion as spiritual warfare?

All sadness is of the devil, for he is the lord of death.  But, God does not sadden, or terrify, or kill.  He is the God of the living.  This is why He also sent His only-begotten Son, not to terrify but to console.  Christ also died in order to be Lord of death and to give us life and destroy death.  “Rejoice, be confident, be glad.  I have overcome the world and death” (Jesus in John 16:33).   The devil gives heaven before sins have been committed and despair afterwards; Christ does the opposite and gives heaven after the sins.  (Luther)   Q: How does this Truth set caring pregnancy centers and post-abortion ministry apart from Planned Parenthood?

I have read that a man who could have no peace because of the devil made the sign of the cross on his chest and said, “The Word was made flesh,” or, what amounts to the same thing: I am a Christian.  Then, the devil was defeated and chased away, and the man had peace . . . One does not gain much ground against the devil with a lengthy disputation but with brief words and replies, such as: I am a Christian, of the same flesh and blood as is my Lord Christ, the Son of God.  Settle your account with Him.  (Then the devil does not stay long.)  (Luther)   Q: What does this say to you as a Christian living in this world?

When the devil comes during the night to plague me, I give him this answer: Devil, I must sleep now; for this is God’s command: Work during the day, sleep at night.  If the devil persists, and now accuses me of more sins, I reply: Satan, I have heard the record, but I have committed still more sins which don’t even stand in your record.  Put them down, too.  (Luther)  Also, say to the devil: Just by reminding me that I am a poor, miserable sinner, you are placing a sword and weapon into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you  . . . if you tell me I am a sinner, I can tell you that Christ died for sinners.  To Him I direct you.”  (Luther)   Q: How does this affect the way you parent, mentor, witness, teach, serve others, and stand “for life” in this world  — Satan’s “house of murder and lies”? 

With appreciation to What Luther Says,
Concordia Publishing House, 1959 

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Yesterday was Reformation Day.  It is the Sunday that Lutherans worldwide reflect not so much on a man, but on the request made by that man of his church.

Martin Luther saw some abuses in the church.  Worldy ideas and opinions had crept into the church and affected both teaching and practice.  Luther was greatly concerned by what he saw.  As one called to speak truth and lead away from danger, Luther warned the people not to put too much trust in one particular practice.  Those in authority over Luther were angered by his boldness.   He was told to stop speaking.  To mind his manners and know his place.  But, Luther grieved for the people who were affected by the abuses of wrong teaching and practice.

Luther’s conscience found no peace in silence.  So, he brought his concerns to the attention of the church by inviting his fellow professors to a debate.  His thoughts were carefully composed into 95 Theses (or ideas), printed and, with a few blows of a hammer, nailed for all to see on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church.  There was nothing unusual in this action.  It was the customary way to announce a debate.  Luther was now public with his criticisms of Rome and concerns for the people.

Rome heard the blows of Luther’s hammer.  “We are the church!  Who is this man?” spoke the pride of authority.

“Behold!  This is a work of Satan to stir up division within the church!” spoke well-meaning but frightened leaders.

“This is an attack!  An apology must be written, or else!”  spoke angry voices in well-established positions.

But, what did Luther request?  And why did his request anger certain people in the church?  Anyone reading Luther’s written concerns today would recognize that he was a loyal son of the church.  He spoke and wrote with respect for the church, but also caring concern for those under the influence of the church.  Luther was not guilty of questioning the Word of God, but of questioning the church’s interpretation and application of that Word.  A practice, indeed, built on human and flawed assumptions.

Luther was heard and understood by many of his peers.  After all, he was not the first to speak up.  Others had recognized certain church practices to be more faithful to human opinion than the Word of God.  Pointing out errors in scholastic theology had already cost some believers their lives.  Luther, who by the mercy of Christ had experienced his own reformation, was motivated to ask important questions of the church.  His concerns were faithful to The Good Shepherd and sensitive to the sheep.  But, Luther’s public posting drew fire.  It caused some to move into a defensive posture.  Ears were ringing from the hammer blows on the church door.

Some ears are ringing today from the blow of another hammer on a church door.  For a long time, some parents have seen certain abuses in the church.   They have been “speaking up” with valid concerns about the teaching and practice of sex education.  Sex education is a concern for Christians in particular because it is founded on human and flawed assumptions.  Alfred Kinsey, often called the “father of modern sex education,” did not seek Wisdom (Jesus Christ); therefore, his perspectives on male, female, modesty, patience, purity, marriage, children, and society are directly opposed to the Creator and Redeemer of life.

So, when a concerned Christian parent does not see that the church’s teaching and practice of sex education is distinctively different from the world’s, she feels compelled to speak.  She writes a kind of request, asking that the church wake up.  Listen.  Think.  Dialogue on the issue.  When he posted the 95 Theses, Luther did not attack the pope. Neither does a discerning and concerned parent attack a particular person.  Instead, she relies on the fact that she has a duty to request that pastors and all church leaders be faithful to The Word and consider the source of every teaching and practice.

With the best of intentions, the church may want to equip parents to better teach their children about male and female, relationships and love, marriage and procreation.  Unfortunately, a weakness of sinful Christians is to believe we can sort through worldly models and make proper use of the “good stuff” in our teaching.  There is wisdom in a lesson from history.  The Israelites, returning from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem, were overwhelmed by the responsibility given to them.  They were tempted to accept the help of unbelieving neighbors in the land.  But, God warned them not to accept such help.  To do so would be to compromise faith and practice.

Luther posted 95 Theses in a public place because faithfulness to the Word — Jesus Christ — would not allow him to be silent.  His compassion for people would not let him be silent.  Once he saw abuses and the consequences that followed, he could not un-see.  It was long past time to dialogue.  To correct error.  Even though he was told not to do anything that might disturb the church, Luther would not — could not — recant.

A Christian parent posts a thought in a public place because faithfulness to the Word — Jesus Christ — will not allow her to be silent.  Her compassion for people, especially children, will not let her be silent.  Once she sees abuses and the consequences that follow, she cannot un-see.  It is long past time to dialogue.  To correct error.  Even though she is told that her concern is inappropriate and might disturb the church, this parent will not — cannot — recant.

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