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What did I see the night of the President’s State of the Union Address?

I saw people gathered, some believing that had come to tolerate the words of a fool.

When this fool exposed New York’s celebration of legalized full-term abortion and the governor of Virginia’s promotion of infanticide, I saw a senator from New York with a smirk on his face. This man, in office long enough to know that the camera might very well be focused on him, continued to smirk while a fool spoke what some pastors will not: “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children—born and unborn—are made in the holy image of God.”

I saw women dressed in white stand with applause when a fool recognized women’s rights and bursting opportunities as legislators but sit stone-faced when that fool spoke of “dignity of every person,” most especially “children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”

I saw those women dressed in white, but why? The early suffragettes once wore white as they sought the dignity of voting rights. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others agreed there was no dignity in the right to abort children. “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” (Stanton in a letter to Julia Ward Howe, 1873)

I saw a fool speaking against socialism. I saw people stand and applaud while those women in white remained seated and silent.

I saw a fool renewing his promise to “build a wall” in order to stem the tide of human trafficking and sexual slavery. When the chamber burst into applause, those women in white called attention to themselves by their silence and stone-cold betrayal of defenseless women and children. But another fool—his name Nehemiah—told the citizens of Jerusalem to build a wall. Of course, the neighbors surrounding the crumbled Jerusalem laughed at the ridiculous notion. Wouldn’t it, after all, be the mark of progressive people to see all ideologies as equal, all blessings evenly distributed, and a utopian dream come true? But Nehemiah understood human imperfection and the potential for corruption. So, for the sake of homeland security, he instructed that the wall be built, the gates repaired, and the citizens armed with weapons and the Word.

I saw a fool who was unafraid to speak truth. Admittedly, I have never spoken to this fool whose buffoonish ways irritate restless souls. But his words to American citizens remind me of who I am called to be.

“… We have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [disciples] are wise in Christ … When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

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swordEllie is a 30-something wife and mom. Last fall, she came to hear a book presentation, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, followed by a panel of pastors. She was attentive during the discussions about created order, biblical manhood and womanhood, and purity in singleness and marriage.

A week later, Ellie attended a Titus 2 retreat. She scribbled notes as we disproved the feminist myth that “equal” means “being the same,” proclaimed God’s Word that male and female are not interchangeable, and contrasted the worldly sexualized identity with our baptized identity as daughters of God in Christ.

Winter and spring passed. Ellie was aware that in schools across the country dangerous decisions were being made in the name of sexual identity. For example: The Fairfax County Public School Board in Virginia voted to add “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination policy in spite of massive protests from parents. Boys who identify as girls would be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice—and vice versa. This school also announced changes in the family life curriculum for their 2016 school year. Lessons will be included on “sexual fluidity” and “spectrum,” the idea that there’s no such thing as 100 percent boys and 100 percent girls. In other words, girl parts and boy parts are really just the same.

When Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner, Ellie went public with her concerns. She posted an article describing Jenner as “not a hero” on her Facebook page. Many women responded. Some posted Scripture passages or brief statements of faith. It was a woman “pastor,” however, who increased the intensity of the discussion with two primary claims:

  • Jenner is courageous because he knew there would be judgmental people like you who need to remember that Jesus said “Judge not.” And, by the way, there are upwards of 40 different gender possibilities.
  • You have your truth, but it’s not the only truth in the world.

Ellie did not despair. She explained that she was not judging. As a sinner, she was not depending upon her own feelings but on The Word which is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Ti. 3:16 ESV).

The woman “pastor” persisted with her insistence of multiple truths and warned that Ellie should not pass judgment on a Scriptural interpretation different from her own. At this point, Ellie beseeched the shepherd of her congregation to engage. And he did. A few days after Holy Trinity Sunday, he posted “The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Holy Scripture.” It began,

“My Church has recently been called into question on Facebook for holding to the Scriptural truths regarding the creation of man as male and female. This does not surprise me nor do I think that it is an isolated occasion. When one holds to absolute truth in a relativistic age, one should expect nothing else than retaliation and attacks from those who raise the banner of ‘tolerance.’ When considering how best to address the questions raised by those who would attack my members and their confession of faith, I realized that the issue revolves around one thing: inspiration. That is, are the canonical books of the Old and New Testament breathed out by God in a pure form, or are they merely the thoughts of men wherein one might find truths intended by God? Also included in this discussion is whether we should take all of the New Testament as God’s Word, or only include those ‘red letters’ spoken by Christ.” (Complete document.)

“Red letter editions” of the Bible can be helpful but, at the same time, our doubting nature may tempt us to think: If the Scripture passage isn’t in red, then Jesus didn’t say it and, therefore, if Jesus didn’t say it, then it’s just the opinion of the men who wrote that chapter or verse. But, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:1-5; 14). Jesus is the Word. All of it. Old and New Testament, from Genesis 1 all the way through Revelation. To deny any part of the Word is to deny Christ.

Church-going people in this present age seem to have a particular struggle with the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture when it comes to identity issues. When considering abortion, the Christian may ask, “Does Jesus identify a fetus as His own?” Yes! The Word, “the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb” probes, “Will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?” (Is. 44:24; 45:9-11)

When considering gender, the Christian may ask, “Does Jesus really say there are only two genders?” Yes! The Word Jesus, second Person of the Triune God involved at creation, says, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Gen. 1:27; Mt. 19:4-5)

When considering behavior in singleness or marriage, the Christian may ask, “Does Jesus really define who I am and, if so, what does this mean?” Yes! The Word, Jesus, defines baptized Christians as “temples of the living God,” “my people,” and “sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:14-18) called to be “obedient children” who are “holy” because God is holy (1 Pt. 1:14-16).

We may often feel overwhelmed by a world gone mad. Even some church leaders re-interpret Scripture in light of “new” information and their own inspiration. But, this is idolatry! Jesus says: “In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9).

Human reason is not equal to divine truth. Where God has spoken, the right of personal judgment ceases. The Apostle Paul was inspired to put it this way: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5 NKJV).

We will surely be troubled by those who distort God’s Word. But Jesus is the Word made flesh. Nothing else can be Truth, not even if preached by an angel (Gal. 1:8).

The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
may be ordered from Amazon.com.
Learn more at Our Identity Matters

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two women talkingReady for a second opportunity?   Here’s #2 from Ezer’s Handbook

#2 — MENTOR CONFIDENCE IN THE CREATED ORDER

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Find Hope in the Order of God’s Creation.  Woman was not created at the same time, in the same way, or for the same purpose as man (Genesis 2:7, 15-22).  But many women perceive the role of “helper” (2:18) as being inferior or second-best.  Encourage younger and older women in your circle of relationships to read John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7-8.  Who is “the Helper” of whom Jesus speaks?  “Helper” in Greek is parakletos which means “comforter” or “advocate”.  “Helper” might also mean “encourager” or “ally”.  The question for women is: how will we choose to help or encourage? Submission is another troublesome word for us as women, but a biblical perspective helps bring understanding.  God uses the order of His very nature—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—to bring hope to a sinful people.  The Trinity is equal, but with different and definitive roles.  Jesus Christ is God, yet He submitted Himself to the Father for the sake of our salvation.  To bring order out of chaos, God uses the headship of husband and father in marriage and family for the benefit and well-being of children and society.  God uses the submission of the Son, Jesus Christ, to save His Bride, the Church, and serve with humility.  What begins to change when we understand “helper” and “submission” in light of God’s Word rather than our own opinion?

Trust the identity bestowed in Baptism.  A woman’s identity is not dependent on a man’s love, her appearance or what she does.  God does not define a woman as “sexual,” but as “holy”.  In Baptism, a woman becomes a daughter of God in Jesus Christ.  Yes, she is still a sinner, but now God sees her covered in Jesus’ robe of righteousness.  From a biblical perspective, the word “holy” means “set apart by God”.  “Holy” is the opposite of common.  Something common can be used by anyone, but a holy woman is used by God for good and holy purpose.  In light of her Baptism, how can a woman view herself?  How does true identity affect our choices and behavior?

Believe That Male and Female Are More Than Sexual. Too often, we skip from Genesis 1:27 to Genesis 2:24.  In doing so, we miss something very important about the complementary purpose and vocation of male and female.  Before God brought Adam and Eve together as “one flesh” in His institution of marriage, He called man to be a steward of all that He had made, to remember God’s Word, and to choose life.  God called woman to help man in the stewardship of all creation and help him remember God’s Word and choose life.  Do men and women have to be married in order to serve God in these ways?  Although it has become commonplace during the last 50 years for men and women to be identified as “sexual beings,” we are more than that to God.  While it is true that God designed male and female in the faithfulness of marriage to procreate, it is just as true that unmarried men and women are “holy” in Christ Jesus and can work together as caretakers of God’s world and be people of His Word and advocates of human life.  We are not defined by our sexuality—in this life or the next—but by our holiness.  What do Jesus’ words about marriage in Matthew 22:30 tell us about our “sexual” identity?  To help yourself and others better understand true identity as male and female, google The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (publication release: May 2014 by Linda Bartlett).  We can help others understand that no matter our age, health or circumstance in life, every male and female has unquestionable identity and purpose as “holy ones”.

Stand Guard Against the Enemy of Life.  Satan despises God’s order of creation because he wants us to live in chaos.   His one question, “Did God really say . . .,” was all it took for Eve to doubt God’s Word for her life (Genesis 3:1).  In doubt, Eve loosened her grip on the Sword of Truth.  Did she believe that she was the privileged recipient of some new knowledge that God was keeping from her? Do you see how quickly she not only spoke for God but inserted words God never spoke (compare Genesis 3:2-3 with 2:16-17)?  Nothing has changed.  Satan continues to stir up doubt by asking women the same question.  “Did God really say . . .?”  Like Eve, do we respond by speaking what God does not about sexuality, marriage, abortion, headship and women’s ordination?  Do we try to establish our own standard of right and wrong?  Challenge yourself to help younger women fear, love and trust God above all things.  Help them to recognize what is counterfeit and of Satan by knowing Jesus Christ, the Word of Truth (John 1:1-5, 14).

What’s next?  #3: Mentor Biblical Womanhood

Ezer’s Handbook is a resource developed by
Linda Bartlett and presented at Titus 2 Retreats

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women & health careGod created woman to be a helper (Hebrew: ezer).  God knew man would not be complete without woman to help him remember and trust God’s Word, be a good steward of all that God has made, and build a culture of life.

In a fallen world, however, woman is challenged by Satan, sin and her own doubting nature.  But there is hope in Jesus Christ!  And, because of Jesus Christ, there are countless opportunities for each ezerwoman to make a positive difference in her home, church and community.  Where can ezerwoman begin?  By making use of a resource I call Ezer’s Handbook.  Let’s begin with opportunity #1 —

#1 — MENTOR FROM A HOUSE BUILT ON FIRM FOUNDATION

The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down (Proverbs 14:1).

Build on The Word.  The Word is Wisdom.  It is unchanging Truth.  The Word provides everything a man or woman needs for living in today’s world, meeting today’s challenges, and mentoring generations.  Paraphrased Bibles are fine for personal reading, but don’t count on them for accuracy.  Highly recommended is The Lutheran Study Bible (ESV).  The commentaries offer historical and archeological evidence as well as Greek and Hebrew origins of words.

Prepare for the Battle of Worldviews on Sex and Sexuality.  Begin with the Bible study Men, Women and Relationships: Building a Culture of Life Across Generations.  This twelve-lesson study is appropriate for men and women who are single or married.  Although the world tells us that men and women are the same, no different from one another and both just “sexual beings from birth”, God tells us we are far more than that.  (This Bible study with leader’s guide may be ordered from Concordia Publishing House #LFL901BS or by calling 888-364-LIFE.)

Be Equipped with Resources.  Married or single, a woman has a sphere of influence that leads others to–or away from–God.  How are you mentoring biblical womanhood in your home?  From your office?  At school?  In the your church and community?  You will find resources for mentoring biblical womanhood at Titus 2 for Life and The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Be Careful Who You Let Shape Your Worldview.  Ideas of sex, sexuality, love, relationships, marriage, motherhood, morality, clothing, behavior and life in general are mentored in one way or another by every newspaper, magazine, website, TV commercial or self-help book.  As a follower of Christ, it is our responsibility to be discerning.  WORLD and CITIZEN are publications that offer a biblical perspective in contrast to Newsweek and Time.  Websites with current information offered from a biblical worldview rather than humanist perspective include Parental Rights, Answers In Genesis, LifeNews, the Family Research Council, MercatorNet, and Concerned Women for America.

Use Spiritual Discernment.  A Titus 2 mentor reaches out with the Truth of God, both Law and Gospel.  We are called, however, to be discerning in the proper use of each.  The woman who doesn’t recognize her sin is in need of the Law, but the woman who has been convicted of her sin longs for the Gospel (Psalm 32:3-5).  A suggested book that will help you better distinguish Law and Gospel — as well as the time and place for both — is Handling the Word of Truth by John T. Pless.

Mentor, Don’t Preach.  The woman who builds her house on firm foundation must be prepared for “hot button” issues that stir memories and emotions.  In our circle of relationships are women who have been mentored by someone with a humanist or feminist perspective.  Among us are women who have been wounded by a past abortion, divorce, or physical or mental abuse.  Jesus never compromised the truth nor did He break an already bruised reed.  May we, too, speak truth with a gentle love for souls.  One very effective way to mentor without preaching is story-telling.  No one can deny the lessons learned from a person’s real-life experience.

What’s next?  #2: Mentor Confidence in the Created Order.

Ezer’s Handbook is a resource developed
by Linda Bartlett and presented at Titus 2 Retreats.

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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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pontius pilate & jesusIt is Good Friday.  I am thinking about courts of law… and truth.

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Pilate asked,

What is truth?”

There are Pilates everywhere.  They say that truth is “whatever you want it to be.”  There is “my truth” and “your truth.”

So, on this Good Friday I have the answer to Pilate’s question.  It is the only answer that will serve the good of self and others.  It is the answer for ethics, relationships, and courts of law.   What is truth?

Jesus Christ is Truth.

A truth by any other name is shifting sand.

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bride & groom in countryMarriage is what it is.  Define it any other way and it is not.  Those who want to experiment with a different kind of arrangement should come up with a new word.  “Marriage” is already taken.

Marriage is defined by the One who created it.  That would be God.

Marriage is time-honored for a reason.  It benefits men, women, children and civilization itself.

Marriage, reasoned the Greeks, was upheld for the good of the state.

Proponents of homosexuality often point to ancient Greece as a culture that embraced men with men and women with women.   But Robert R. Reilly, writing for MercatorNet (3-11-13), has helped me understand that the great classical philosophers would have regarded such pairings as destructive for society.  Socrates and Plato condemned homosexual acts as “unnatural.”  The notion that someone was a “homosexual” for life — or found his identity in this behavior — would have struck them as quite odd.  The practice of sodomy was accepted between an adult male and a young boy, but only temporarily because the youth was expected to get married and start a family as soon as he reached maturity.

Plato called the act of men with men “contrary to nature” and “due to unbridled lust.”  Socrates loathed sodomy, noting that it is the practice of one enslaved to his passions rather than one who seeks the good of others.  “The lesson,” writes Reilly, “is clear.  Once Eros is released from the bonds of family . . . passions can possess the soul.  Giving in to them is a form of madness because erotic desire is not directed toward any end that can satisfy it.  It is insatiable.”

“That which causes evil in the soul,” said Plato, will ultimately result in political disorder.   Plato understood the unbridled practice of sodomy to cause such evil and, thus, bring chaos to a nation built on order and logic.

It is for this reason that Greek philosophers spoke of the virtues of chastity and procreation within marriage.  Aristotle described man and woman together in family without which the rest of society cannot exist.

Reilly explains, “Without family, there are no villages, which are associations of families, and without villages, there is no polis.  ‘Every state is [primarily] composed of households,’ Aristotle asserts.  In other words, without households – meaning husbands and wives together in families – there is no state.  In this sense, the family is the pre-political institution.  The state does not make marriage possible; marriage makes the state possible.  Homosexual marriage would have struck Aristotle as an absurdity since you could not found a polity on its necessarily sterile relations.  This is why the state has a legitimate interest in marriage, because, without it, it has no future.”

The Greeks understood the importance of marriage which is, as they saw it, the pairing of male and female as husband and wife.  With that in mind, Reilly explains, “then chastity becomes the indispensable political principle because it is the virtue which regulates and makes possible the family – the cornerstone unit of the polis.  Without the practice of this virtue, the family becomes inconceivable.  Without it, the family disintegrates.”

“Homosexual” marriage, to Aristotle, would have been a self-contradiction.  Perhaps that is why the word “homosexuality” did not exist in Greek, or any other language, until the late 19th century.  Why would it?  Truth dictates that “homosexual” is an oxymoron.

Jesus is Truth.  He is also Love and Life.  He instituted the agape love of marriage so that life might abound.  He mourns the consequences of sinful choices.  He does not rejoice in the pain that comes from confusion and slavery to selfish passion.  But, He is faithful to the repentant who call upon His name.

Sin deceives.  It distorts the meaning of love and alters relationships.  But, the wisdom of Truth prevails.

The Greeks might not have acknowledged the source of truth, but they saw the wisdom of it.

Appreciation to Robert R. Reilly, MercatorNet, 3-11-2013

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