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Nehemiah buildingWhat is a Christian to do?  It’s as if God asks the impossible of us.  He wants us to build with one hand and resist evil with the other.  But with more cultural decay comes more evil.

Mindful of raising up a new generation of Christians but also keenly aware of our own inadequacies and failures, parents, pastors, and all who love children become discouraged and even fearful.  With fear comes the temptation to doubt the sufficiency of God’s Word and more easily accept the help of passionate unbelievers.  “Why do you cling to ancient traditions?” they ask.  “Can’t you see?  We have something new!”

There is a lesson to be learned from God’s people who, in a time before us, were also discouraged, overwhelmed, and taunted by unbelieving neighbors who offered something new.

The remnant of Israel that had survived exile in Persia returned home to find the walls of Jerusalem broken down and city gates destroyed.  To this small number of faithful people was given the arduous task of re-building the temple and walls of Jerusalem.  God also wanted His people to grow faithful families.  He wanted them to be holy and set apart in their worship and practice.  When people in the neighboring land saw that Jerusalem was being restored, they offered their help.  After all, these people explained, they worshipped God, too.  (In reality, they were a people of blended religions.)  Fearing that they would commit themselves to false worship, the Israelite fathers refused the offer of resources and help.  They knew that God had entrusted the job of rebuilding the temple and walls only to them.  So “the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5).

The culture in which God’s people found themselves made the building project very difficult, but the Word of the Lord consistently commanded the people to persevere.  God also reminded His people that they were to be holy and set apart for His good purpose.  But the people of Israel, following the example of some of their leaders, mixed themselves with the Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and others through marriage (9:1-2).  The people were guilty of breaking faith with God and allowing impurity of worship, teaching, and practice.  There was confession and absolution but, because the potential for continued corruption of worship was so great, illegal marriages were identified and ended (10:18-19).  The rebuilding of the temple, restoration of the walls, and growing of faithful families began anew.

However, when the neighbors in the land saw that the Israelites were again doing the work of God in rebuilding Jerusalem, they were angry.  “[T]hey all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:8).  It was easy to cause confusion and discouragement among the Israelites because fathers, mothers, and grandparents were overwhelmed by the task that lay before them.  “There is too much rubble.  By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (4:10).  The enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (4:11).  Nehemiah encouraged the people, “Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14).  When the walls were rebuilt and the gates restored, the law of God was read to the people who were both joyful and repentant (chapters 8 and 9).

Everything was coming back into order and Israel was prepared to live by the truth of God’s Word.  What could go wrong?  What went wrong is incredibly significant.  Eliashib, the priest appointed over the chambers of God, gave Tobiah the Ammonite a place in the temple (13:4-5).  Under the guise of helping God’s people, Tobiah was given a room formerly used to store the offering for God.  There, within the temple, sat Tobiah and his possessions.  Nehemiah was away when this happened, but when he returned, he “was very angry, and [he] threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber.  Then [he] gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and [he] brought back there the vessels of the house of God” (13:8-9).

God entrusted the rebuilding of His temple and the city walls to His people.  He entrusted the growing of holy families to husbands and wives equipped with His Word.  He does the same today.

God wants His people to keep their worship, teaching, and practices pure and different from that of the dark and unbelieving world.  Certainly, there are resources in the world that can be practical and helpful to the Christian.  But we must take care especially when it comes to instructing Jesus’ little ones.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).  It is a frightening thing indeed to compromise one of the Father’s children.

Compromise happens, however, when God’s people are weary and burdened, or prideful and above reproach.  Compromise happens when we let down our guard and grow comfortable with the world.  At such times it is easier for an opposing foe to gain access by offering some kind of help or resource.  It was for this reason that Nehemiah “stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows … each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Neh. 4:13, 18).  The men were on guard at night and labored by day (22).

We are weary and overwhelmed by a multitude of life issues.   Sometimes we are prideful after doubting God’s Word and trusting something else.   As the culture decays and evil abounds, we may believe that God asks the impossible of us.  But, Martin Luther reminds us that the task of rebuilding the temple and shoring up walls was given to a weak people, few in number; a people against whom stood powerful princes and nations, which lived round about and daily threatened imminent destruction.

There will be days when failure distracts us from the building project.  There will be those like Tobiah who mock our faithfulness to an ancient faith while tempting us with new practices.  In the face of evil, let it be said of us:  Look!  They remember “the Lord who is great and awesome,” and they “fight for [their] brothers…sons…daughters…wives…and homes” (Neh. 4:14).

Excerpted from The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
(pp 61-63) by Linda Bartlett;
Amazon.com.  Please also visit Our Identity Matters.
Image: mudpreacher.org

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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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children sketch

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when sex education was brought into schools and churches.  “We are sexual from birth, so let’s get comfortable with it!”  Five decades later, communities are brimming with “nobodies” who were denied their childhood; who know a lot about sex but very little about manhood and womanhood; who are cohabitating, pregnant but unwed, fearful, depressed, relationally dysfunctional, discontent, insecure, and paranoid about “sexual identity.”

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when abortion was legalized.  Today, mothers, fathers, and grandparents grieve lost relationships with 56 million “nobodies.”  Our nation is poorer economically because 56 million “nobodies” do not pay taxes, buy products, or invest in communities.

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when girls were told that “equal means being the same.”  In the effort to equalize the “playing field”—in sports, the workplace, and the bedroom—girls were taught that the two genders, male and female, are interchangeable.  Today, three generations of “nobodies” are at odds with their own bodies and minds.

Nobody will get hurt.  That’s what they said when gay and lesbian advocates began to circulate the schools.  That’s what they said when same-sex “marriage” was legalized.   That’s what they said when restrooms were changed from “men” and “women” to “whatever” so that people who have trouble identifying themselves can use whichever they please.  How many “nobodies” will have to suffer the consequences?  How many impressionable “nobodies” will believe the unnatural is “normal?”

Do we really think that nobody will get hurt when we tamper with God’s design?

Camille Paglia is a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  She is a feminist, social critic, and a lesbian.   She is also surprising.  When it comes to “identity politics” and transgenderism, Paglia says, “This hyper-self-consciousness about ‘Who am I?  Where exactly am I on the gender spectrum?’ is mere navel-gazing while, in the Middle East, ISIS is beheading people.  It is a kind of madness of self-absorption.”

Paglia says she pities “young people today” because “it’s one thing to feel, ‘I’m not quite comfortable in the gender I was assigned at birth,’ but the pressures are to change, change, change, and to telegraph it to the world.  People are pushed into making choices about surgical interventions and taking hormones, which is dangerous, and they will have all kinds of medical problems in the long run.”

Paglia believes “there are authentic transgender people who had a genetic issue from the start” and points out that “medical science is still developing to help these people.”   But transgenderism has “become a fashion statement, or a mask [for other problems].  People are being induced to think that all their unhappiness—in family life, in school, in relation to society—is to do with this gender issue.  Well, maybe it isn’t.  Maybe there are other issues a person needs to deal with.”

In a way, Paglia is speaking about the “nobodies that won’t get hurt” or, in this case, today’s college students.   She says, “They have no sense of the great patterns of world history, the rise and fall of civilizations like Babylon and Rome that became very sexually tolerant, and then fell.”

She continues, “If you’ve had no exposure to that, you can honestly believe that ‘There is progress all around us and we are moving to an ideal state of culture, where we all hold hands and everyone is accepted for what they are … and the environment will be pure … .‘”  This is their “magical utopian view,” explains Paglia, that “we are marching toward perfection.”  But what is the “sign of this progress?”  They believe it is “toleration,” observes Paglia, “for homosexuality, or for changing gender, or whatever.”

But to Paglia, “[I]t’s a sign of the opposite, it’s symptomatic of a civilization just before it falls.”

Babylon and Rome did fall.  They fell because men and women shaped themselves after the imaginations of their own heart.  They exchanged the natural for the unnatural and were foolish enough to believe that nobody would get hurt.

Our civilization may be rushing toward the abyss, but the Christian can blaze trail away from destruction.  We do this when we believe that there is no such thing as a “nobody” to God.  Every child—born or yet to be born—is already redeemed and called by name (Is. 43:1).  Every child—born or yet to be born—will be affected by what we do or do not tolerate.

We may wrestle with our identity and, therefore, the way we choose to live.  But, the Lord identifies us in His Prayer when He invites us to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.”   We are not “debtors to the flesh.”  We are not slaves to our own fear.  What we are, in Christ, is God’s adopted heirs!  Tolerating no other identity, we and our children’s children can navigate out of hopelessness and away from the abyss.

Quotes of Camille Paglia are excerpted from an article by Carolyn Moynihan
(“Navy-gazing about gender while the world burns,” Mercatornet)
and an interview with Camille Paglia by Ella Whelan of Spiked
Graphic: Etsy

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Jesus Teaches Christian Stock PhotosA man who did not begin his life as a Christian is today appreciated for his understanding and teaching of “mere Christianity.” C.S. Lewis brought together what he saw as the fundamental truths of Christianity. He rejected the boundaries that divide Christianity’s many denominations and found a common ground on which all of those who have Christian faith can stand together. C.S. Lewis makes a powerful case for the behavior and personality of a Christian.

There is common ground that all believers in Jesus Christ can stand on concerning the Christian life of purity. For this reason, I quote C.S. Lewis in my book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity. But, there was space for only so much of Lewis in the book. Here is more. Lewis writes:

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One of the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong. But I have other reasons for thinking so.”

APPETITE FOR FOOD AND SEX
“The biological purpose of sex is children,” writes Lewis, “just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

“You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years [or, in our case, the last fifty years or more], have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.”

SEX CHATTER ALL DAY LONG
“They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up,” writes Lewis. “But for the last twenty years [fifty years for us moderns] it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.’ They may mean two things. They may mean ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.’ If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

“But, of course, when people say, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,’ they may mean ‘the state into which the sexual instinct has not got is nothing to be ashamed of.’ If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters if the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

“Before we can be cured we must want to be cured . . . A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, ‘Oh Lord, make me chaste,’ his heart had been secretly adding, ‘But please don’t do it just yet.’”

THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE
Lewis recognizes that purity is difficult for us to desire, let alone achieve. But there is hope. There is always hope!

“In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural,’ so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth—the truth . . . that sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have grown round it) is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy,’ and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal . . . [T]his is nonsense . . . For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary. . ..

“In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility . . . [I]n war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it . . . [P]erfect chastity—like perfect character—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help . . . [and] after each failure, ask for forgiveness . . . and try again.”

There is hope. There is always hope. C.S. Lewis writes, “Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity . . . may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other hand, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.”

This is why, in The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, I continually point to our true identity as sons and daughters of God through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. God does not say: Be sexual for I am sexual. God says, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” We become holy in the eyes of God when wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness. That robe changes our attitude and behavior. The only fatal thing, then, is to shed that robe and be content with anything less than Christ.

(Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; Chapter 5: Sexual Morality)
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

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grandparents & grandchildrenAs a grandmother, it is difficult—no, impossible—to stomach the arrogance of those who seek to make marriage what it isn’t.
Each of us is alive today because of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who believed in and practiced the “one flesh” union of what only God can define as marriage.

We live, breathe, speak, relate, and contribute to this big world because of the Masterly design and institution of marriage. If there are no complications, the flesh of one man joined with the flesh of one woman creates the flesh of a child–new life! For that, a son or daughter can be forever grateful.

How can a society thrive if two men or two women set up housekeeping and call it “marriage”? What vitality is there in this unnatural pairing? Sure, it may produce certain emotions (“I feel so loved!” “I am so happy!”), but it is the “one-flesh,” male/female pairing in real marriage that produces generational fruit even as it perseveres with patient, kind, and selfless love.

Those who practice same-sex pairing and call it good exist because of those of us who do not. They can continue to define marriage as “two people who love each other,” but marriage isn’t really about love. It is about commitment—one man and one woman to each other and (should God bless their “one flesh” union with new life), that father and mother to their son or daughter.

Even the Greeks, with their tolerance of “man-boy love,” knew that marriage was the bedrock for family and society. When young men grew up, they were expected to marry a woman and father sons and daughters. Aristotle and others understood a “natural law” and the importance of building up rather than tearing down.

For our society to thrive, we need men and women who (pardon me) do it the old-fashioned way: in their marital bed, by design of God, acknowledged by man, and with commitment to birthdays and anniversaries to come.

 

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christian children in palestine

When I look at the photos of children in the Middle East, I wonder:
What if we knew we had one year left of Christian freedom in this country?
What would we most want our children and grandchildren to know…

iraqi christian children

…and what would we be willing to do about it?

 

 

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candle lightTwo thousand fourteen years ago, God came into this sin-tainted world so that Light would shine in the darkness.

But, today, the darkness seems so oppressive.  Will it overwhelm the Light?”

Sexual immorality abounds. Sensuality is an idol. Girls assume that it’s “normal” to be sexually intimate with boys. Planned Parenthood uses the book Fifty Shades of Gray to explain to 15-year-old girls why sadistic and masochistic sex is “okay” if the girl “gives permission.” Pedophilia is on the rise. Sodomy is tolerated as just another expression of “love.” Marriage is assaulted not just by advocates of same-sex “marriage,” but by adultery, cohabitation, no-fault divorce. Children grow up in homes with their mommy and her boyfriend. Grandchildren see their grandparents “shacking up.”

The darkness seems so oppressive… will it overwhelm the Light?  No!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).

But aren’t we living in times more dark than any other? Isn’t darkness more oppressive and evil more ominous than ever before? No!

Alvin Schmidt, the author of How Christianity Changed the World, explains that from early on, Christians have found themselves in cultures that, indeed, “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,” and because of this, “God gave them over to shameful lusts” (Romans 1:25-26). This is how St. Paul described the Greco-Roman society of his day.

Schmidt writes, “By the first and second centuries after Christ, undefiled sexual intercourse, along with marital faithfulness, had essentially disappeared. Not only were adultery and fornication common, but people engaged in all sorts of sexual methods, many of them obscene.”

He continues, “Roman marriages had greatly deteriorated; they had become a ‘loose and voluntary compact [and] religious and civil rites were no longer essential.’ Marriage was ‘detested as a disagreeable necessity.’ Since people had become obsessed with sex, marital unions were very short-lived.” The Latin Church father, Tertullian, “noted that male/female sex relations had become sadistic and masochistic . . . Heterosexual love had turned into a type of sport.” Prostitution, incest, and mutilation were not uncommon.

The world at that time seemed very, very dark. Overwhelmingly dark.

But, writes Schmidt, “into this immoral sexual environment came the Christians with a radically different sexual ethic and lifestyle . . . [W]hen God instituted marriage at the time of creation, He told Adam and Eve that the sex act made a husband and wife one flesh (Gen. 2:24). The one flesh concept required the married couple to be totally faithful to each other.” Schmidt points to a second-century document that describes how the early Christians differed from the pagan Romans by confining their sexual behavior to married life. The document reads: “They [Christians] marry as do all; they beget children . . . They have a common table, but not a common bed” (Epistle to Diognetus).

One would think that the darkness of the Roman culture was so oppressive that Christians would shrink away and take their Light with them.  But, no!

Schmidt writes that “Galen, a Greek physician of the second century, was impressed with the upright sexual behavior of Christians. He said they were ‘so far advanced in self-discipline and . . . intense desire to attain moral excellence that they are in no way inferior to true philosophers.’”

The Christian doctrine and practice of marriage was “so powerful,” writes Schmidt, that historian Edward Gibbon says, “The dignity of marriage was restored by the Christians.”

The dignity of marriage was restored! And there’s more! Schmidt writes, “The dignity and sanctity of marriage that Christianity brought to Roman culture were mostly due to the early Christian women. They appreciated the dignity and worth that Christ’s teachings accorded them” (prior to Jesus’ earthly ministry, women were too often held in low esteem). Women, “more so than men, understood the seriousness of their biological role as bearers of children in God’s created order. Thus, the wedding rite, the precursor to the fulfillment of that role, needed to be conducted with solemnity and reverence.”

Lest we think this is mere speculation on the part of Schmidt or any other historian, here’s what the pagan Libanius said about the dedication of Christian wives and mothers of that time: “What women these Christians have!”

It is no different today.  A woman who sees herself in the Light of Christ can also see her relationships, choices, and behaviors in that same Light.  As she begins to see the seriousness of her biological role as a bearer of children in God’s created order, she can also help her boyfriend, fiancé, or husband understand this, too.  As she contrasts passionate eros love with patient and virtuous agape love (1 Corinthians 13), she can positively influence not only the man in her life but her children and grandchildren.

It is true that the darkness of sin and evil is oppressive.  Marriage is under assault and weakened by every form of sexual idolatry.  But the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  God is faithful to use men and women who trust the Light to make a difference one person, one family, one neighborhood at a time.  Sometimes, as happened in Rome, even seemingly hopeless and depraved cultures begin to look with favor on wives and mothers, husbands and fathers.

Darkness is oppressive, but the Light cannot be overcome.  And in that Light, the dignity of marriage and family can slowly be restored.

I believe it.

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