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Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category


Dear Gary,

It is with sadness too deep for words that you, my friend, mourn the death of your beloved wife. Through the months and days to come, you will think of Verdeen and all that she was to you.

She was your bride. She was the mother of your children. She was a role model and mentor. She was a skilled craftswoman. She was the love of your life.
But do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

At much too young an age, your beloved began to change as she suffered the progressive disease of Alzheimer’s. How many times did you hear someone say, “She isn’t the person she once was”?

But do they know that the person, Verdeen, was—and still is—so much more?

How difficult it must have been when you understood that your wife could no longer be a homemaker but would, instead, be a patient in the care center.

But, oh my friend, do you know that Verdeen was—and still is—so much more?

Do you know that as a baptized Christian, Verdeen has an identity that never changes no matter her appearance, abilities, or circumstances in life? Illness did not change who Verdeen really is. Nor did her funeral. Verdeen will always be the person she has been since her Baptism. On that day, she was washed with water and the Word, given faith, and dressed in righteousness and purity. She was marked with the sign of the cross and made a daughter and heir of God because of what Jesus her Savior and Lord did for her.

Think of it, my friend! Jesus invited both you and your beloved wife to pray, “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” The Apostle John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

But the world does not know who Verdeen is because it does not know God. If the world does not know God the Father, it cannot know His sons and daughters.

My friend, you are not like the world. Even though it has been difficult to watch the changes in your wife, you treated her with the honor and dignity that an heir of God deserves. It would be a lie to say that you didn’t suffer with her, or that you never experienced frustration, impatience, and even anger. But when we see another human being in the way that God does, our attitude is transformed. Indeed, each human life is a treasure for whom Christ gave all He had.

Dear friend, in all your years of courtship and marriage, did you see that Verdeen was dressed in Christ’s Robe of Righteousness and proclaimed “holy” in the eyes of God? Yes, I think you did. That is why you held her in high esteem and put her needs before your own. That is why you read to her, held her hand, looked at family photos with her, brought her flowers, sang hymns with her, wiped her bloody nose, combed her hair, and prayed with her.

Here, my friend, is your comfort and peace. You did not love as the world loves. You loved with compassion which means to “suffer with.” You loved more than a bride, the mother of your children, a role model and mentor, a craftswoman, and the romance of your life. You loved a daughter of God who now enjoys her “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [her]” (1 Peter 1:4).

My friend, you defended the life of your beloved and honored her as her Father desired. You helped her navigate her earthly journey until her Father said: Well done, good and faithful husband. Now let Me carry My daughter home.

Oh, and there is one more thing, says the Lord: You will see her again.

Image credit:
gerardnadal.com

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There is a strange silence surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls.  Perhaps we are too anesthetized by the legalized mutilation and death of girls (and boys) in the womb through abortion.

According to a 2012 report of the CDC, an estimated “513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of or had been subjected to female genital mutilation.”  Amanda Parker of the Aha Foundation reports that “the increase in FGM in the U.S. is almost entirely, if not entirely, due to the increase in immigrants from countries where FGM is practiced.  Somalia, Egypt, Sudan and others all have very high rates of FGM with more than 90 percent of girls in each country undergoing this abusive practice.”

In America today, FGM is illegal in only 24 states.  My own state of Iowa does not outlaw this crime against women.

Why aren’t more of us speaking on behalf of little girls brutalized by FGM—or babies who feel pain during an abortion?  Because both FGM and abortion have been placed in a religious and cultural context.  Americans who once enjoyed civil discourse over contrasting perspectives now fear being offensive if we oppose or even question a faith or practice different from our own.  To “offend” someone in America today is to risk judgment for a “hate crime.”

FGM is protected by Sharia law.  Sharia law is part and parcel to the religion of Islam.  With Islam’s Sharia law also comes forced marriage, honor killings, pedophilia, sexual slavery… and Sharia courts.  

Christianity does not force marriage, honor murder, or defend sexual sin.  Christianity understands that God wants us to first love Him and then love our neighbors as much as ourselves.  Children are our littlest neighbors and we should not keep silent as they are being carried to the butcher.

Christianity understands that every boy and girl—in the womb or born—has value, not because of how their parents perceive them, but because of what Jesus did for them.  To silence a voice that protests FGM or abortion is to silence the Lord who says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.”  To silence a voice that exposes any child abuse is to silence Jesus the Shepherd who gathers the little ones in His arms.

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I am in need of Good Friday.  That’s because I’m in need of love.  Not the love that people “fall into” or “out of,” nor the kind too commonly used in place of “like” when fawning over a friend’s dress, sparkly ring, or new shoes.

Love, as shown by God, is compassion.  Compassion is “com,” meaning “with,” and “passion,” as shown on Good Friday by the passion of Christ.  God’s passion for me means that He desired something on my behalf so intensely that it caused His suffering.  Compassion means to suffer with.

Since childhood, I have sung “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  His love is not a mere hug and kiss.  It is not getting what I want.  It is not Jesus thinking happy thoughts about me.  Jesus’ love for me involved His persecution, sorrow, pain, abandonment, and death.  This love cannot be expressed in a romantic way, nor can it be summed up in the modern phrase, “I just want to be with the one I love.”  Defined in this way, love is more about how the one I love makes me feel.

God loves me, but it’s not because I make Him “feel good” or “happy.”  In fact, He is angered by my rebellious sins.  His love, therefore, takes me by surprise.  He does not declare me unlovable!  He does not turn His face from me as I deserve, but comes to suffer with me!  “God loved the world so that He gave His only Son.”  The word “so” is not used here for emphasis; therefore, I really shouldn’t paraphrase John 3:16 as “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.”  This verse more accurately reads: “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave His only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Good Friday doesn’t seem like a “good” day for Jesus.  But, it is a good day for me.  Yes, there is His tortured body on a cross that I would prefer to look past so that I can experience the joy of Easter.  But there cannot be a Resurrection Sunday without a suffering Friday.  On this Friday, the love of God is shown to me!  God so intensely desired my rescue from sin that He suffered with and for me.  He laid the burden of my sins upon His only Son who did what I could not do for myself.

What wondrous love is this?  It is the suffering Servant Jesus.  It is His submission, humiliation, and death.  This Love could not be kept in a grave.  Love is risen… and abides forever with me.  With you.  With all who call Him Savior and Lord.

Even when we’re feeling unlovable.

 

(With appreciation to Rev. David H. Petersen)

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They said that Roe v. Wade would shift a nation toward reproductive freedom for women. But Baal demands what the Lord God does not. Nearly 60 million sacrificed babies and wounded mothers later, we ask: What has improved? In what way are women more free or healthier and happier? Are women and children less… or more at risk?

 

Aware of abortion’s piercing blade, thousands of my fellow pro-lifers joined the Annual March for Life on January 27 in our nation’s capital.   On that day, I was reading National Geographic’s Special Issue on “Gender Revolution.”  One contributor asked, “Can science help us navigate the shifting landscape of gender identity?” Again, Baal demands what God does not. Like fearful and navel-gazing societies before ours, we will cry “Freedom!” and burst “the chains that bind us.” We will think ourselves wise. Live as we desire. But when the “landscape” shifts, what kind of people will we be? Who among us will escape sorrow? Where will peace be found?

 

The landscape may shift. Souls will hunger and thirst. The cold, stone god Baal will be silent, but the Lord Jesus Christ will speak as He always has: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden. My burden is light. Repent… and fear not… for My love is steadfast and true.”

 

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mother and child holding handsGod entrusts children to parents.

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

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

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

God calls us to holy living.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Gives a Model to Parents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purity anticipates a future of hope.

Written by Linda Bartlett for Lutherans For Life.
Available in brochure format (#LFL903T)
from CPH or Lutherans For Life

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man standing reading BibleThe Word is true: “… Male and female He created them.”  But in hastily skipping ahead to “and they shall become one flesh,” we miss God’s description of what it means to be a man or a woman.  This is a costly omission for us all; most certainly for our unmarried sons and daughters.  But there is someone else who has been harmed by withholding God’s word on manhood and womanhood.  That person is our neighbor who struggles in a fallen world with the reality of same-sex attraction.

My neighbor (I shall call him David) is humbled by what he knows is an unnatural attraction.  Although “gay,” he does not want to parade with pride.  David was catechized by Christian parents who offer unconditional love.  He believes God’s Word that places sex within the boundaries of one man, one woman marriage.  But, David wonders, where does a person like me fit?  What does being “gay” mean for my future?  What about marriage and a family?  To me, however, the most heart-piercing of David’s questions is this: What about friendships with other men?

“Sometimes,” David explains, “I look at another man and am attracted to an attribute of his that I wish I had.  I don’t know, perhaps I am jealous.  But here’s the thing.  My self-centeredness and envy of that guy’s admirable qualities tempt me to imagine a sexual bond, but might my feelings actually be those of brotherly love and admiration?”

David is exposing a vulnerability.  He is pointing out how vulnerable any of us can be when we focus exclusively on human sexuality but remain awkwardly silent about biblical manhood and womanhood.

David is one of the compelling reasons why I authored The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity.  Too many in the church insist that we talk early and long about the wonders of sexual intimacy between a husband and wife in the faithfulness of marriage.  This, I’ve been told, will help remedy the problems of premarital sex, teen pregnancy, and divorce.  But it has not!  Nor has it made a place at the family table for our brothers like David who struggle with unwanted desires.

If David had his prayer answered the way he’d like, his same-sex attraction would be cured and his burden lifted.  He does not embrace unnatural inclinations.  He knows he cannot act on his feelings and be at peace with God.  But how, then, can David live… with himself, in relationship with the Man Jesus Christ, and in relationship with other men?  How can we help?

First, we welcome David to the table of the human family where the Body of Christ can remind David that he is so much more than a sexual being.  He is created to be a man: steward of all that God has made, bearer of the Word of life, and leader away from death.  How do we know this?

Before God created Eve and brought her to Adam as his wife, He “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Although the work is made more difficult outside the Garden in a sinful world, man is still called to be the good steward over God’s creation.  The “Lord God also commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (2:16-17). Adam’s failure to remember and obey brought sin into the world.  In this fallen world, God’s perfect design and rhythm of life are distorted; nevertheless, God’s order of creation stands.  Man is still entrusted with the responsibility of bringing order out of chaos by speaking the Word of life and leading away from destruction and death.  This is David’s call from God.  It is his first vocation.

We can help David focus on the identity bestowed upon him at Baptism.  God does not identify him as “gay,” “homosexual,” or even “heterosexual.”  We all struggle with sinful desires, but because of our Baptism, they do not define us nor do they have to enslave us.  We were “far off” from God, but in Baptism, we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).  We are “washed … sanctified …  justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Co. 6:11).  We can cry “Abba!  Father!” because “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7; Ti. 3:5-8).

At Baptism, the sign of the cross is made over us to indicate that we are redeemed by Christ the crucified.  We have His mark on us.  We are baptized, not in the water of sexuality, but in the water of pure Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are called not to ways of weak flesh, but to holy and noble purpose.  We are encouraged not to glorify self, but to glorify Jesus Christ who makes us children of God.

We can remind David that his Baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).  Even as Baptism cleans the sinner, it gives strength to be different from the world and restrain our own fickle desires.  Through daily contrition and repentance, the Old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all wrong thoughts and desires.  A new person in Christ rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity (Rm. 6:4).

We can remind David that sons and heirs of God are not promised an easy life.  Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  We are promised the Holy Spirit who helps (Jn. 14:26) and intercedes for us (Rm. 8:26).

We can grieve with David.  The mistaken identity of “sexual being” and exaggerated place of sexuality misleads and often destroys the godly relationships of men with women, men with men, and women with women.  What is to become of us if we find a friend of the same sex—someone who is patient, kind, and selfless—but confuse lust with brotherly affection?  It is a dystopian world when boys and girls are mentored in all things sexual, but actually grow up fearing masculinity and femininity because they are untrained in biblical manhood and womanhood.

We can rejoice with David.   God created us to be relational people but, because He did not make sexuality central to being human, we can relate to one another in non-sexual ways.  Yes, my friend David!  You can admire the attributes of another man without sensual implications.  That’s because mature manhood (and womanhood) is about relating to one another in light of our baptismal identity.  As brothers and sisters, God wants us to be what He created us to be: holy people who live our daily lives as male or female not just in marriage, but in familial and social relationships, in school, at work, and in worship.  We do not need sexual intimacy to be a man or a woman, but men and women do need to be relational.

We can assure David that the Tenth Commandment has something to say to single men and women.  We are not supposed to covet “anything that is your neighbor’s.”  This includes our neighbor’s sexuality.  Marriage is the sacred place for all things sexual, but being a husband or a wife in this fallen world is a vocation for some and not for others.  It is important for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore—whether young or old, married or single—“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).

We can encourage David to practice self-control which, evidenced by the Apostle Paul (1 Co. 7:7), is a gift.  With the gift of self-control comes order and strength for life.  Mature manhood and womanhood receive the gift of self-control and are not dependent upon sexual intimacy.  Chaste singleness is not an affliction nor is it lessening of personhood; rather it, too, is a vocation and way to serve God and our neighbor in a way different from marriage.

We can point David to the Man Jesus Christ.  Jesus was fully human.  He was true man.  Yet, only in error would we identify Jesus as a “sexual being.”

We can assure David that Jesus has something to say about human identity being far more than sexual.  Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven (Mt. 22:30).  Therefore being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection.   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 here and now.

God tells His beloved human creation to abstain from sensuality.  But He does not tell us to abstain from being male or female.  We don’t do battle with the attributes of manhood or womanhood, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry …” (Gal. 5:16-24). To be lovers, that is, to share sexual intimacy and literally fit together as “one flesh,” is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. But to be male or female is not bound by marriage.  Each is a vocation or calling for daily use in glorifying God.

In Christ, we can fully engage in our vocations of manhood and womanhood in ways that will not bring shame on the Day of the Lord (1 Jn. 2:28).  We can think, work, create, serve, communicate, encourage, problem-solve, mentor, build relationships, and practice agape love.  This is truth with promise for those who bear the cross of same-sex attraction but don’t want to parade with pride.

The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity

is available from Amazon.com
(image credit: westminpca)

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elsa frozenThere are those who say that Elsa’s special powers are her repressed lesbianism.  Thus, the song: “Let It Go.”  Disney!  You let it go!  Don’t give Elsa a girlfriend in Frozen 2.  Give her a someday Prince Charming… and all of our daughters and granddaughters a break!

Once in a while, it is the most helpful thing I can do — not to post a blog of my own — but to share an article written by someone else who seeks to rightly inform for the good of biblical manhood and womanhood.

http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/give-elsa-a-girlfriend-no-give-the-kids-a-break/18087

Image: fanpop.com

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