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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

One Little Word

casting-out-demons

In A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, we sing, “…One little word can fell him.”

What is that word?

When Jesus cast the demons out from the possessed men, He uttered one word: “Go.” And so the demons did go into the pigs and “… behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters” (Matthews 8:28-32).

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two women talkingAnother Titus 2 for Life Retreat has concluded.  I am tired, but encouraged.  In a culture such as ours, the need for mentoring grows daily.  This was affirmed most especially this past weekend by the younger women who attended.   Perhaps it will be helpful to share a few quotes from their evaluations.

  • I wasn’t sure what to expect . . . considering the topics, I thought it might all be too judgmental . . . but it was not.  You see, I spent my childhood and good part of my young adult life wishing I was a boy because no one had ever pointed out the joy and biblical blessing of being a woman.
  • I will be getting married soon and this was a great springboard and encouragement for helping me understand my role in our new family.
  • It’s o.k. to be a woman!  This retreat really laid to rest a lot of the horrible post-modern and feminist myths that were always a part of my life but were causing such pain and discontent.  Thank you for being such a real person and addressing the foolish women in all of us with forgiveness.
  • As I approach motherhood, I wanted to attend this retreat again . . . I love how you share with us God’s purpose and esteem for women and womanly traits . . . there is no indignity in God’s design of the woman as ‘helper’ . . . it helps to remember that Christ was submissive and that the Holy Spirit is a helper.
  • Many of my friends are unhappy, kind of restless and certainly discontent.  They hear so many voices of the world which seem in conflict with their own heart.  This retreat was like ten years of godly mentoring in just a few hours!
  • I was afraid this retreat might be hours of anti-abortion rhetoric.   Instead, it affirmed my value to God, reminded me that my Christian upbringing is not a lie, and why my faith makes me so weird to the world . . . I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that God made women not to compete with men but complete them.  I’m very competitive . . . high school girls need to know about biblical womanhood.
  • The discussion on sex education and our mistaken identity was so important . . . I have had abstinence education for years but, no different from the culture, it was a constant focus on sex.

And what do I say to these young women?

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

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tornadoAll is not well.  The earth knows… and groans.

When God created the earth and every living thing, He designed an earth in harmony with those who dwell upon it.  Sin changed everything.  The tornado that stole away precious lives in Oklahoma was evidence of a sin-altered world.

I pray that we all mourn the loss of lives for whom Christ died.  More importantly, I pray that parents everywhere prepare their children for eternity.  In a blink of an eye, any one of us or our children or grandchildren might draw our last breath.  After death, where will we be?

The arms of Jesus are open for all who call upon His name.  May we parents and grandparents teach our children by word and example that Jesus is the only Savior.  He is the only way to perfect life… literally out of this world.

May we help children know their identity as God’s sons and daughters in Christ.  Why?  So that they grow in Wisdom… and, whenever their last day on this earth might come, we’ll know where we’ll see them again.

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Identity matters.  Knowing whose we are and how to live accordingly makes a difference not just for us, but for those around us.

This in mind, I’m concerned that Barack Obama may be struggling with his identity.

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.  He is a specialist on Islam.  In recent commentaries, he writes that President Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, has stated: “My whole family was Muslim.”  Pipes continues with a quote from Barack’s half-brother George Hussein Onyango Obama to an interviewer in March 2009.  George said, “He may be behaving differently due to the position he is in, but on the inside, Barack Obama is Muslim.”

Pipes also quotes from the American Muslim writer Asma Gull Hasan.  In My Muslim President Obama, Ms. Hasan writes, “. . . In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family  members to  Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel . . . that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama . . . ”

“If Muslims get these vibes,” writes Pipes, “not surprisingly, so does the American public.  Pipes notes “an even split between those who say Mr. Obama is a Christian and those who do not.”

Openness and honesty is important for any candidate running for office.  But, writes Pipes, “Mr. Obama remains the mystery candidate with an autobiography full of gaps and even fabrications.” Pipes cites several examples.  “Mr. Obama claimed that he ‘was born in Kenya.’  He lied about never having been a member and candidate of the 1990s Chicago socialist New Party.  When Stanley Kurtz produced evidence to establish that he was a member, Mr. Obama’s flacks smeared and dismissed Mr. Kurtz.”  Pipes references many inaccuracies and falsehoods in Obama’s 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father.  But, what about Obama’s faith?

Here’s the account according to Pipes.  In March 2004, Obama was asked, “Have you always been a Christian?”  Obama replied, “I was raised more by my mother and my mother was a Christian.”  In December 2007, Obama gave a different answer.  “My mother was a Christian from Kansas. . . . I was raised by my mother.  So, I’ve always been a Christian.”  In February 2009, he offered, notes Pipes, a completely different answer: “I was not raised in a particularly religious household.  I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion.  I didn’t become a Christian until . . . I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college.”

When someone asks me, “Have you always been a Christian?,” my answer is consistently the same.  “Yes, I became a child of God through Christ at my Baptism.”

But, for some reason, our current President has difficulty sticking to the same story.  Pipes is curious.  “Mr. Obama appears to be hiding something.  Was he the religious child of irreligious parents?  Or was he always a Christian?  A Muslim?  Or was he, in fact, something of his own creation — a Christian Muslim?”

A person who sees himself capable of being my President should have nothing to hide.  Answers to questions — “From where do you come?  What do you believe?  Who are your mentors?  In what direction do you want to move this country? — should be consistent.  If he subscribes to a particular faith — be it Christianity or Islam or Mormonism or theism or atheism — he should claim it with confidence and be able to give reason why.

Obama, writes Pipes, says that he affirmed his “Christian faith” by answering an altar call at Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago.  But, explains Pipes, when his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was asked by author Edward Klein in his book The Amateur (p. 40), “Did you convert Obama from Islam to Christianity?” Mr. Wright replied, “That’s hard to tell.”  Hard to tell?

Sure and certain identity matters.  It matters because knowing who we are affects what we do.

Quotes from Daniel Pipes: “Muslims believe Obama is one of them”
and “Despite his denials, the evidence is compelling,”
The Washington Times, Monday, Sept 17, 2012

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To some, this question may sound bizarre.  What?  Here in America?  Lose our freedom of religion?  No way!  To others, the question may sound like a “conspiracy theory.”  Just calm down, they may say.  Don’t get bent out of shape just because of some minor differences of opinion on whether birth control and drugs that abort babies should be freely provided through medical insurance.

If you’ve been watching American trends, you will see two worldviews at odds.  A secular naturalist worldview (which includes socialism, humanism, and atheism) diametrically opposes the Biblical worldview.  Consider the following: 1) The sanctity of human life has always been defended among people influenced by Biblical thinking, but 30+ years of legalized abortion in the U.S. has changed the way we view human life – in or out of the womb; 2) Faithful marriage between one man and one woman has always been supported by any people influenced by Biblical thinking, but U.S. courts are now ruling in favor of so-called “same-sex marriage;” 3) Freedom of religion is the first freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights written by Founding Fathers influenced by Biblical thinking, but today we are told that “sexual freedom trumps religious freedom” and that while we may have freedom to “worship” (a private practice), we shouldn’t publicly practice our faith during the course of our everyday lives.

Are we in danger of losing the right to practice what we believe to be true?  Think about it.  1) Religious organizations who believe abortion does not please God have been told their health insurance providers must cover contraceptive use (including drugs known to end the life of a baby before birth) and, therefore, go against their faith and conscience; 2) States like Iowa where the majority of citizens do not believe in “same-sex marriage”  must recognize the “right” of two women or two men to “marry” and, in states like California, the majority vote in favor of traditional marriage was overturned by a judge in favor of “gay marriage;” 3) Parents who believe that children are entrusted to them by God are being told to obey the “state” and let schools teach students that homosexuality and “gay marriage” are “normal” and, if anyone speaks otherwise, they may be guilty of “hate speech.”  Are all of these things – and more – indicative that our religious liberties are being removed?

Followers of Jesus Christ have always – and will always – be different from the world.  But, in order to “fit in” with the world, have Christians been silent?  Compromised faith?  Stopped putting their faith into practice?

Atheists, humanists, and secularists all have a faith, too.  It is faith in something other than the God “I Am;” in the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.  They are passionate about their faith.  They practice their faith wherever they are: in the schools, media, workplace, courts of law, and places within government.  Are Christians less passionate about their faith?  Or, have we believed the lie that “your faith is a private matter between you and God”?  Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).  We are to obey government except when it tells us to disobey God.  Then, we must speak up and resist evil.  We must use God’s Word to defend life, marriage, and family — the very foundation for civil society.

When we are told to keep God’s Word “private” and not share it in the marketplace of ideas, then we have lost our freedom of religion.  How, then, can we be “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16)?

Recommended resources include Breakpoint, Family Research Council,
World magazine, and Concerned Women for America

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No.  Neither are those of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Or the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  Or other church bodies which are speaking up in defense of religious liberty.

But, President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius must think differently.  Following the firestorm ignited by his policy forcing religious organizations to pay for “contraceptives” and sterilizations, the President offered a compromise.  “Quite frankly,” said Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, “he’s adding insult to injury.  He must think the Catholics are stupid.” 

The president is playing word games which fail to mask his assault on core convictions regarding the sanctity of human life held dear for decades by many Christians.   Catholics, Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans believe aborting a child by way of so-called “contraceptive” pills such as Ella or “Plan B” is a sin.  The government said, “So what?  You’ll do as we say.”

Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius have blatantly disregarded individual conscience and faith by forcing religious organizations to pay for “preventative services for women.”  HHS, you see, has included unintended pregnancy as “a condition for which safe and effective prevention and treatment” need to be more widely available.  (This sets the stage for mandated coverage of abortion as the treatment when prevention fails.) 

In effect, Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius see pregnancy not only as a burden, but as an obstacle – or disease – that must be overcome.  To commemorate the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, Mr. Obama was unashamedly transparent.  He said legalized abortion is indispensable “to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.” 

I believe Mr. Obama is being honest in a most sobering way.  He is taking a stand against life and liberty.  He is friend to Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions, but foe to the church that seeks to protect and rescue human life in Jesus’ name.  More important than the sanctity of human life to this administration is the sanctity of personal liberation.    

So, here’s what I think.  Catholics, Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Rick Warren, and other conservative believers are not stupid.  But, we are enablers.

I think this government is doing what it is doing because we Christians have enabled the culture to deteriorate.  We let ourselves come under the influence of nonbelieving neighbors in the land.  We went to the university and mingled with those who followed Darwin, Lenin, Sanger and Kinsey.  We set aside God’s Word on all matters of life to follow after human opinion.  We believed ourselves wise enough to separate good from evil. 

Abortion was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court only because many in the so-called faith community had already condoned it.  And, why do you think that might be?  Because they had fallen for the lie that abortion is “a tragic but necessary choice.”   Behind that lie was another: We are “sexual beings” whose right to be sexual trumps all other rights, even the right to life. 

Perhaps we in the faith community ought not be so critical of this government for attacking religious liberty.  Perhaps we set ourselves up for the attack by letting people who oppose God shape the thinking of our children.  Lenin said that America would never be changed by a Bolshevik-style revolution.  Instead, believed Lenin, removal of God and the rule of socialism would be guaranteed if children were separated from their parents and taught to follow after “their sexual instincts.” 

A century of Darwin and at least five decades of Sanger and Kinsey have had their way with American children.  Those children grew up questioning God and standards of morality.  They were taught to be comfortable with their flesh side – their sensuality, but this put them at odds with their Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.   For them, the First Commandment is no longer “You shall have no other gods before Me;” rather, it is: “I am my own god” and “it’s my body, my choice.”  This becomes crystal clear to me as I hear women defend President Obama’s order that all religious institutions provide contraceptives.  They completely miss the fact that individual conscience is being violated and religious liberties stripped away.  They focus, instead, on their sexual liberties and the “right” not to be burdened by the procreative miracle of sex.  “I’m a working woman,” said one, “who must be guaranteed my reproductive rights.”  “This Catholic uproar,” said another woman, “has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with women’s health.” 

Do you agree that Christians have enabled such thinking?  It is fact that even “good” Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, and other Christian parents have allowed their sons and daughters to be educated by those whose worldview opposes God.  Children have been separated from parents and tutored K-12 in “sex education” or “family living” or “human sexuality” classes whose origins are not God but Sanger and Kinsey.  Educated in such an environment, children do come to think about the act of sex, marriage, family, and civic responsibilities in ways that open the door to government intervention.

Legalized abortion and now this bold attack on religious liberties and individual conscience are government policies that happen when the people (that’s us) seek after the unholy rather than the holy.  After sensuality rather than purity.  After self-gratification rather than generational faithfulness. 

People of faith are not stupid.  But, we are enablers.  I’ve always believed that God placed me where I am at this time in history to play a specific role as the woman He created me to be.  As that woman, I have a choice.  To enable neighbors – and, thus, a culture – to seek after things of God… or self.  To raise the standard of behavior for men and children… or to lower it.  To live as if I’m on a journey to eternal life with God… or just “here for the moment, so get all I can.”

There are those who want to strip away the right to defend life.  Purity.  Marriage and family.  Ethics.  Just law.  Freedom of conscience and faith.  We can no longer enable them to do so.

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Megan is an all American girl.  Like other freshmen in college, she considers herself “modern.”  She communicates by iPhone and Facebook, is comfortable with her “sexuality,” strolls through Victoria’s Secret with her boyfriend, and, ready for a serious relationship, scheduled an appointment to discuss birth control with a Planned Parenthood counselor.

Megan also considers herself to be a Christian.  She attended church regularly with her parents.  She was educated in parochial schools.  Her friends are Christian.  She knows the Bible stories and sings praises to God. 

Megan believes Jesus is her Savior.  If you were to ask her if she is a creation of God, she would answer “Yes!”  She has been taught that she can talk to God as if talking to her daddy.  He is “Abba Father” and, Megan has been assured, there is nothing she can do to change this fact.  Even when Megan forgets to pray or skips worship for another activity or sins in any way, God remains her Heavenly Father.  This gives Megan comfort, especially when she’s lonely or troubled.  She adores her “awesome God” on Sundays.  But, on Mondays, she returns to the “real” world.

In the “real” world, Megan was sharing a bed with her boyfriend.  They were in love and being responsibly adult.  Planned Parenthood helped her to separate the act of sex from procreation.  One weekend while visiting her parents, Megan did the usual thing by attending church with them.  But, what happened took Megan by surprise.  This day, the pastor seemed to look right at her.  The Word he spoke did not comfort but, instead, convicted.  Megan heard him say that those who follow the flesh by being sexually immoral, impure, and sensual are in danger of missing heaven (Galatians 5:19-21).  Megan also heard him say that a new person in Christ is equipped to guard against passions and desires (vv. 23-24).

Megan was conflicted.  She did not leave church that morning in a good mood.  What did it mean to be a “new person?”  How did that fit with being a “sexual being” as she had been taught to see herself?  Couldn’t she love Jesus and know He died for her, yet be “modern” in her thinking and behavior?  In an honest moment with her parents, Megan expressed fear.  “I’ve always known God loves me, no matter what.  No matter what, right Dad?  Right, Mom?”  In a way, Megan was asking what so many Christians might be asking themselves: If disobedience or sin cannot make me less God’s child, what does it matter what I do?  Why is it so important to obey God?  Why can’t I just follow my instincts?  Do whatever feels right for me depending on the situation?  Won’t it all work out in the end?  After all, Jesus died so that my sins are forgiven!

This is most certainly true.  Jesus died for a world of sinners.  You.  Me.  Every person ever conceived.  But, dear Megan, our behavior matters.  Why?  Because our behavior changes our attitude toward God.  Evidence of this abounds.  It is seen in a culture that determines for itself what is “right” and “wrong.”  It is the Christian parent who asks the pastor not to speak about the sin of living together lest his daughter co-habitating with her fiancé stops coming to church.  It is the pro-life Christian who has four children but isn’t married to any of their daddies.  It is the Christian woman whose choice of clothing reflects her glory rather than God’s and, intentionally or not, becomes a temptress.  It is the Christian father who, fearing for his daughter’s future, insists she have an abortion.  It is the Christian mother who defends her son’s homosexual lifestyle, saying, “God made him that way.”  It is whole bodies of Christians who want Jesus to wrap Himself around the desires of their hearts. 

The heart, says the world, is good and can be trusted.  The heart, says God’s Word, is deceptive and not to be trusted.   Ah, the fickle human heart!  It is influenced by the world and our own sinful flesh to oppose the Lord God even while it thinks it is still clinging to Him.   

Is Megan doing what we Christians too often do?  She knows she is saved and has the promise of heaven.  But, does she want God to fit her world?  She acknowledges God as her Creator but, depending on her circumstance, does she re-define what He has made?   She says Jesus is her Savior, but does He have anything to say about her relationships and choices?  She finds hope in being a “new person in Christ,” but is she talking and walking like a sinner bound to sin?    

Megan’s identity matters.  She is a child of God because of what Jesus did for her.  She has divine possibilities.  A rich inheritance.   Megan’s behavior also matters.  How does a daughter honor her Father?  How does she reflect His kind of love?  Patience?  Kindness?  Purity?   Megan’s identity as a child of God will never change.  But, her choices and behavior can change her attitude toward God.  Even place her inheritance at risk.

Our identity and behavior matter.  When we separate our God-given identity from the “real” world identity we give ourselves (at any given time, in any given circumstance), we are in danger.  We are in danger when we re-define things of God such as the value of human life, being male or female, purity, and marriage.  We are in danger when we follow instincts of the flesh and stubbornly defend every personal choice.  We are in danger when we exchange His Truth for our opinion.  These are dangerous behaviors that change our attitude toward God.  It is the most dangerous thing of all to make God what we want Him to be.

But, when children of God trust His Word to be living, active, and mighty in “real” life, our perspective of the world changes.  It does not hold us captive.  It is temporary.  It is a place we journey through on our way home to our Father’s Kingdom.  It is opportunity to think, speak, dress, work, play, love, care, and choose in ways that encourage others to ask: “Who is your Father?”  “Why do you do the things you do?” “What is your hope?”

Megan is the King’s daughter with a divine inheritance in store.  This is compelling reason to live a more noble and holy life.  A life with divine possibilities.   A life that reflects God rather than self.  A life that makes a difference in a “real” world.

T2-4Life  is a mentoring ministry that exists to help young ones make choices that 
reflect the holiness of God, but also remind older ones that mistakes of the past do 
not have dominion over changed people in Christ.  You are welcome to visit T2-4Life.

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