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Posts Tagged ‘evil’

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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shadow of girlMany years ago, I began researching Planned Parenthood (PP) to learn what kind of information they give young women.  I read books about PP’s founder, Margaret Sanger, to learn her worldview and goals.  I ordered PP brochures and instructive pamphlets.  I studied the PP teen website.  With two friends, I took a private tour of a well established PP facility so that I could learn firsthand what goes on inside the place where “parenthood” is “planned.”  I’m more familiar with PP than I care to be.  This summer, I’ve been following the undercover investigation of PP by Live Action in midwestern cities.

Live Action reveals that PP tells 15-year-olds: “In the sexual world, anything is normal.”  PP says that the bondage, sadomasochism and pain inflicted in Fifty Shades of Grey is “normal” as long as it is “consensual.”

I’ve never read the novel Fifty Shades of Grey.  I don’t plan to read it.  I am ashamed to learn that women in my church have read it.  But I wonder how they would respond if they knew that PP counsels fifteen-year-old girls to practice the same kind of sadomasochism described in that novel?

PP is dangerous.  Very, very dangerous.  You should see for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Robin Williams with maskIn searching among the many photos of Robin Williams, I’m surprised by my emotion.  I’m in awe of this creature of countless expressions and I believe that God mourns his apparent suicide.  The Potter of William’s life took such care to shape a vessel for esteemed use.  Surely, Williams brought laughter, posed questions and made us think.  But what did he think of himself?  Could he no longer laugh or find joy because his identity was so precariously unsure?

Williams was somebody.  And while we can no longer help him recognize his true identity, we can help ourselves and our children.

Our identity is not actor or senator or founder and CEO of Microsoft.  Our identity is not Victoria’s Secret model or teacher of the year or Supreme Court justice.  All of these are types of vocations or things we chose to do that affect the world around us.  Our identity is not heterosexual or homosexual.  These are behaviors and ways to grow–or not grow–the family tree.  Our identity is what God says we are.  To the baptized Christian, He says,  “You are my adopted child in Jesus Christ.  You are my heir.”  Nothing–no, not one thing save our own rejection of this identity–can change who we are in God’s eyes.

Our value comes not from anything we do, but from what Jesus Christ did for us.  The Savior of our lives has covered us with His Robe of Righteousness.  Now, when God looks at us–even when we’re suffering sin and depression–He sees the treasures for whom Jesus gave all He had.  Did anyone tell this to Williams?  Are we sharing this truth with family members, neighbors and friends?  Or are we reluctant to speak this truth because we, too, are deceived about who we really are?

In her post “Murderous Mendacity of Depression,” Elizabeth Scalia wrote,

Depression is a hissing false witness. It lies and tells someone there is no hope; it lies and declares, “you’re a fraud”; it lies when it warns you to hide your feelings, because people won’t love you if they know how terrified and alone and desperate you feel; it lies and sneers that you’re weak — that you can just snap out of it, anytime, if you really want to; it croons the lie that love is not real, and hope is for suckers; it whispers the most insidious of lies: that your pain will never ebb, cannot be transcended, and has no value at all.

After a while, the pain begins to feel like all you are and all there is: a worthless, pointless void. And when your life becomes just pain-without-end, suffering-without-meaning, tomorrow seems like less a promise than a prison.

When depression wins, it is such a damned tragedy, no matter whether it has carried off a big rich somebody, or an ordinary nobody, because it is the victory of an incessant liar.*

Jesus knows the liar.

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV).

We all hear the hiss of satan.  The evil one tempts: “Did God really say . . . ?”  The question stirs doubt.  In doubt, we put ourselves in God’s place and assume control.  After we do what we want and suffer the consequences, the tempter becomes our accuser: “Did God really say He can forgive you?”

Both questions are intended to separate us from the one who knows us better than we know ourselves.  The one who calls us by name.  The one who promises a future of hope.

It is right to mourn the loss of people who, in darkness or desperation, take their own lives.  Then we must ask: In light of my true identity, how shall I live?

Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or  nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-38 ESV).

 * I am appreciative to Sheila Liaugminas
who quoted Scalia in her Mercatornet article of 8-13-14

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sandy hook school shootingThe Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre caught the attention of most Americans.  It should.  The brutal killing of students and teachers is a national wound.  It should be.  Parents and families mourned the loss of 26 human beings whose lives were cut short.  We all should.  What happened at Sandy Hook was evil.  Evil should always be resisted.

On this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, 54 million other deaths should also capture our attention.  Be felt as a national wound.  Bring us to our knees in mourning.  But, 3,500 preborn babies are aborted every day in this country and people act as if nothing is happening.  An evil of monumental proportions is taking place before our very eyes, yet people who call themselves by Christ’s name appear unmoved and indifferent.

How can this be?

Rolley Haggard, writing for Breakpoint, observes that apathy and silence on abortion are evidence of a theological problem.  He notes that some will argue that Scripture is silent on abortion; after all they say, the term does not appear once in the Old or New Testament.  Nor are there any commands to “vote pro-life” or “peacefully demonstrate in front of Planned Parenthood.”  So, some Christians actually believe they have discerned the “letter of the law” and are obeying it by keeping silent.

But, asks Haggard, what about the “spirit of the law”?   The purpose and intent of the law?  St. Paul was  inspired to write, “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  If there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; 6:2).

Haggard begs the question of us all: Can we hear and believe God’s commandment to love our neighbor and still maintain passivity on abortion?  “The sober reality,” Haggard writes, “is that ‘he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).  Modern technology allows us to see inside the womb.  Having seen, can we un-see?  Are we not compelled to speak of what we have seen?

It’s possible, Haggard writes, that our error in not speaking has been an honest one.  “Perhaps our embrace of the letter rather than the spirit of the law has been unwitting.  Perhaps.  This much is certain: ‘When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken, or cease to be honest.’” (Note: This quote is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln).

Have those of us who call ourselves “Christ followers” heard the truth?  Knowing the truth, how do we respond?  When we see babies (woven together in the womb by God’s own hands – Psalm 139:3-16) being denied their God-given right to life, how do we respond?  When we know that the majority of abortions are done for convenience (not the life and health of the mother), how do we respond?  When we know that abortion says “no” to a new generation of creativity and hope, how do we respond?

(My appreciation to Rolley Haggard, “Brilliant Darkness,” www.breakpoint.org 1/23/2013)

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Jesus Christ never asks for or demands the sacrifice of children.   Instead, Jesus wants us to teach children about Him so that they might love and trust Him.  He tells us to never put anyone — father, mother, or child — in harm’s way.

It is for this reason that people who defend mother and child gather for 40 Days of Prayer in front of abortion clinics across the country.  Many working inside the clinics are already struggling with their conscience.  They’ve grown weary of hopelessness and death.  They have felt the movement of a yet to be born child, seen the look of fear and sorrow on the mother’s face, and tried to find some peace in what they’re doing.  But, peace alludes them.  That’s because abortion is unnatural.  Ripping new life from the womb puts the physician at odds with his profession and the mother at odds with her child and her soul.   It is an act of desperation.

Christ, seeing us all caught in sin’s desperation, offered Himself as the only sacrifice necessary.  He suffered persecution and death so that all of us — born and unborn — might have eternal life.  Yet, mocking the Giver and Savior of life, Planned Parenthood (PP) has put out a pro-abortion prayer guide called “40 Days of Prayer Supporting Women Everywhere.”

PP has set its altar in place.  It is at the foot of Molech.  PP’s Prayer of “Thanks for Abortion Providers” and their “Sacred Care,” reads like this:  “Today we pray for all the staff at abortion clinics around the nation.  May they be daily confirmed in the sacred care that they offer women.”

PP’s 40 days of prayer began March 18 and continues through April 27.  Here are a few more of their prayers:

“We pray for elected officials, that they may always support a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions [i.e. abortion].”

“We pray for women who have been made afraid of their own power [of choice, i.e. abortion] by their religion.  May they learn to reject fear and live bravely.”

“We pray for a cloud of gentleness to surround every abortion facility.”

“We give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.”

But, abortion is not safe.  The grim procedure kills a human child already named by God and places the mother’s life at risk physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The only cloud of gentleness is outside the abortion clinic where those willing to help women in times of difficulty lift their voices in prayer not to Molech, but to Jesus Christ.

PP has partnered with a group called Faith Aloud to write these pro-abortion prayers.  Perhaps you should visit the web site of Faith Aloud.  Contrast their worldview with that of God.  If our choices and behavior are to be blessed because they are right in our own eyes, they why do we need Jesus Christ?  If taking the life of another human being — no matter how small or seemingly inconvenient — is not evil, then what is?  Why did Jesus, when tempted by evil, say, “Be gone, Satan!”  Of what evil does Jesus ask us to be delivered in the prayer He taught us to pray?  And why did Jesus give His life on the cross and rise again to victory over evil?  Calling abortion a “good” thing is giving in to evil.  It is bowing at the altar of idols.  Those idols are more than the stone god Molech.  They are our own fear, selfish desire, and uninhibited sexuality.

I know of a woman who called abortion “the sacrifice she had to make for herself.”  But, not once — not in all of His Word — does the Triune God ask for such a sacrifice.  Recently, the woman president of the Episcopal Divinity School attempted to get her audience to join her in a chant: “Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.  Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.”  But, not once — in all of His Word — does the Triune God ask us to choose death.  Instead, He says,

. . . I set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days . . .  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

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Titus was a young pastor who served his people on the island of Crete.  Young Titus and his congregation found themselves in the midst of a pagan culture.  “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12).

How could Titus and the men and women of his congregation not only remain faithful to God in the midst of evil, but affect the culture?  Shine light?  Share hope?  Titus was in need of a model, something that his people could use in the midst of selfishness, unhealthy lifestyles, and false teachers.

St. Paul warned Titus away from the worldly influence, but also was inspired to give him a model for mentoring generations of hope.  That model is found in Titus 2:1-8.  That model — indeed, the wholeness of the Gospel — brings salvation and leads to self-controlled living.

Titus 2, however, is one of the least popular chapters of Scripture.  It is not particularly favored by Christian women.  There are at least three reasons.  Most obvious is the fact that Titus 2 speaks to men and women separately… because we were created equal, but not the same.   Painfully obvious is the part about women “submitting” to their husbands.  (Ouch.)  But, a third reason that Titus 2 may be dismissed or ignored is that older women are instructed by God to mentor younger women.  Oh my!  How is an older woman — who has not made right choices; who has had an abortion or lived with a man not her husband; who has been abused, or become addicted, or suffers depression — going to mentor a younger woman?

This weekend, at a Titus 2 Retreat, we’ll be talking about why an older woman (in age, experience, or spiritual maturity) might feel too intimidated to mentor.

I’ve heard older women say, “I can’t mentor!”  But, every one of us mentors… at any given moment… whether we realize it or not.  We are mentoring some kind of faith, lifestyle, or way of thinking.  We are being an example… of something.

There is a reason God calls an older woman to mentor the younger.

Let’s push aside all of her past circumstances, sins, fears, and failures.  If she is a new person in Christ, she is forgiven and set free to live in a way that glorifies God.  In 1 Timothy 5:9-14, we read that the Church was to distinguish older widows from younger widows.  The older woman is distinguished by her “faithfulness” and “reputation for good works.”  She is distinguished if she has “been the wife of one husband, brought up her children, shown hospitality, washed the feet (served) the saints, cared for the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work.”

The younger widow, however, is different.  She is more easily drawn away from Christ by her romantic passions (v. 11).  She may be more easily tempted away from the “faith” (Greek: “oath” or “solemn promise”) if she had promised not to remarry, or to abide by the Christian faith and teaching.  The young widow (v. 13) without a father, husband, children, or a job might be prone to social problems such as being idle, falling to gossip and the behavior of a busybody, or losing control of her tongue.  The Church was to encourage young widows to “marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary (Satan) no occasion for slander” (v. 14).

In what way would the young widow, perhaps more easily influenced by the world, be helped?  By the mentoring of an older, experienced, spiritually mature woman.  A woman who had also been wrongly influenced, but was brought out of darkness into light.   Who was rescued from the mess of life and covered by Jesus’ robe of righteousness.  The older woman is not distinguished because she is sinless, but because she has learned to trust God.  Not be deceived by silly myths.  Have faith in God’s created order.  And keep her eyes on the Cross of Jesus Christ.

An older woman does not need to fear being a mentor.  Her very experience — from floundering and failing to recognition of her identity as a treasure of Christ — makes her an instrument in God’s hand.  Using God’s Word, she becomes an example of humility.  Service.  Patience.  Self-control.  Hope.

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Did I get carried away with too many blogs about girls and wrestling?  Just when I was beginning to think so, I received a surprising e-mail from a man I’ve never met.  This gentleman (I’ll call him Bill) has a PhD in biology.   Apparently he pays close attention to any and all discussions of boys and girls on the mat.  Somehow, he found ezerwoman.

It’s important that you hear from this gentleman, not only because he agrees that “equal” does not mean “the same,” or that he encourages me to continue mentoring Biblical manhood and womanhood, but because he proves that Christians help build bridges for the benefit of the human race when we ask questions that help people think.  When we enter into dialogue on moral and ethical issues.  When we appeal to what was once called “common sense.”

This gentleman wrote,  “I am an arrant agnostic — a self-styled poet-philosopher-canary-priest-with my spiritual roots in nature.  But I could not agree more vigorously with your objections to the decadence — as in Roman — of allowing (or more accurately) of forcing boys to wrestle girls.  I have been following this issue for at least ten years.”

It was obvious that Bill had carefully studied the most physically intimate of all contact sports.  He offered many sane and sensible reasons why boy/girl wrestling is a terrible idea.  He is concerned that civilization is wounded by such foolishness.  He wrote,  “I believe in self-sacrifice for others, in kindness, in consideration for others before myself.  I remember the mantra of our YMCA boys’ camp:  God first, others second, me third.  Today, as we watch boys and girls in violent combat on wrestling mats, that mantra seems to have become ‘Me first, me second, me first.'”

Then, he really caught my attention.  “The values you mention in your blogs are simply ignored in our modern culture,” wrote Bill.   “Even as an agnostic biologist, I think your Christian values are essential to any civilization that wants to live above the animal level of material-sensual gratification.”

I thanked Bill for taking the time to write me.  He responded with a second e-mail, explaining that he had become a writer after leaving the scientific community.  But, after some time passed, he wanted to get back in touch with biologists.  For a few months, he subscribed to the blog of an evolutionist.  Bill found the site “instructional in professional matters,” but disappointing in its Christian bashing.  “Christianity was dismissed as sheer stupidity without any redeeming value.” Bill explained to me that he felt “uncomfortable in this steady current of arrogant meanness,” so he unsubscribed.  He didn’t agree with such hatred being poured upon an institution (Christianity) “that embraced all of life, from birth to death, from reason to faith, from beauty and goodness to ugliness and evil.”

Then, wrote Bill, “this wrestling incident occurred, and because the young man cited his Christian faith, it catapulted the small, cloistered world of wrestling into the national spotlight and presented to view the grotesque, distorted values that have evolved there.  It seems like a microcosm of society at large and the moral decadence we have enshrined as moral good.  And against all this, the best aspects of Christianity began to emerge from the smoke — the dignity, the calm, the pure, measured decency of 2000 years of Christian ‘evolution’ (can’t help myself!).  Anyhow, just wanted to express this to you.”

Thank you,  Bill.   You remind me that Christianity is needed in this hurting world as much today as yesterday.  I’m so sorry that we Christians do such a poor job of following Jesus Christ and are more easily influenced by false teachings.

But, I am encouraged to stay the course by a secular biologist who sees that good and evil, right and wrong, morality and decadence really do exist.  Each rises from a core belief.  Each has a consequence.

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