Monday, December 11, 2017

The Societal Cancer We Don't Address, Part 4 of 4

The best way for me to conclude this post is for me to be very clear on what I'm calling for.  

Yes, in my previous post I said that we need to get rid of all pornography.  I can understand if your immediate response is, "Yea, like that's going to ever happen!  It's about as likely as us getting rid of all greed."  Why would I call for something that I realize is unrealistic?  By addressing pornography one person at a time, we can see the consequences of pornography (broken homes, wrecked lives, drained bank accounts, sexualized culture, etc.) get real help by addressing it one person at a time.

Here's what I'm realistically calling for:  I'm calling for each person who is reading this to do away with pornography in your life.  I urge you to, first, stop watching it in all forms, even the subtle yet real promotion of sex through movies that treat sex and sexuality in a casual way.  Second, I urge you to stop endorsing, stop attending, and stop allowing your children to go to movies that have nudity in them, that clearly are using nudity to attract viewers.  Third, I urge you to take the high road.  Use Covenant Eyes or Net Nanny or another service that either keeps you from certain sites or keeps you from viewing sites undetected. These sites have done an excellent job of both keeping trash out of your home and eyes while not hindering you from doing normal things that you need to do on a day-to-day basis.  Fourth, I urge you to have high standards of screen watching in your home, that computers be in plain site of all, and that hand held devices be highly monitored.  If you have cable, satellite, or a video streaming service, utilize the parental controls as if you're physically protecting your home from a predator.

Do your part.  Say, "Not in this home.  Not in this place.  Not on my watch"  Then, take it a step further.  Be an advocate of healthy respect of other people, that we see each person as valuable, no matter their mental capacity, their history, their affiliation, their race, or their age.  That you go out of your way to ask them questions, to look them in the eyes and listen to their response, to treat them with truly unconditional love.  Be that person that looks that girl in the eye and says, "Hi!"  Especially, dare I say (and I regret that I have to say it this way, but our culture has already judged women this way), those girls who are not accepted because of their looks or who have bought into the lie and are clearly seeking to earn a place in society by the way they dress.

IF you're a young man and you are of a dating age, I urge you that, if you find a girl that you like, treat her with respect.  Open doors for her, don't make any sexual advance on her, tell her that you've chosen not to have sex until marriage because you don't think it should be the basis for marriage.  And if you don't believe this then don't be dating at all.  Because until you're at a point when you can love a girl the way God has made her inside and out, you have no right dating.  Be a man!

If you're a young lady and you're reading this, I urge to be the woman that you were made to be by treating all others with respect, by not making sexual advances on a boy; by dressing in such a way that you don't need to be noticed physically in order to be accepted; by not watching things that will feed the romantic fantasy in your life where the next boy that says the "right thing" will sweep you off your feet.

Let's address this, not by villainizing every man that's had a bad thought about a woman, not by blaming women who "dress to kill," and not through well-worded social media quips.  Rather, let's each repent of the part that we've played and let's each respect and love people for how God created them, not how the world has defined them.

Please, do your part, that's what I'm asking.  Do your part.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Societal Cancer We Don't Address, Part 3 of 4

The Bible has all we need to live productive, healthy, fulfilling lives.  So, do what it says.  

Even though we have not, nearly, perfected this life, there's a reason why we don't do what the Bible says.  It's because there's someone who has been granted rule over this world, an actual person who has one thing in mind:  bring as many down with him as possible.  Satan has a huge say in what is going on in our world.  Can you really doubt this truth?  How else can you explain the fact that, after all our history of hatred in this world and what it leads to, it is still alive and well.  Love is truly the answer, but we're ignoring the very source of love.

To choose love is to choose the one good choice.  Any kind of important decision that you or I make is either a good choice or a bad choice, there is no in between.  You're either doing it God's way or you're doing it Satan's way.  You're either going to address your sin and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, or you're going to ignore your sin and fend for yourself.  You're either going to admit that God's love is the only love that works or you're going to keep trying your definition of love.  What are you going to do?  The Bible gives the only clear definition of love and how to practice it - "This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

Remember the reason for this post: The inability to connect the dots between our culture of sexual harassment and our culture of open sexuality.  Part of why I will be able to never give up, never stay silent, and leave it all on the field once I die, is that slowly but surely I will care less and less about what people think of me.   I have no choice now but to be a voice that speaks up for the full respect of women.  I don't want it to be just  publicized respect, or public relations respect, or a social media official statement, but full respect.  I have done this already doing away with pornography in my life.  I will do this moving forward by contributing to every effort that would rid this world of pornography and I will speak out against how pornography and our sexualized culture treats women and promotes them as objects.  Pornography, quite clearly, defines women as objects, not real, thinking, productive members of our community.  Let's be honest, the SI Swimsuit Issue is not really a swimsuit issue, for it's filled with swimsuits that nobody will ever wear on models who look (before and after the photo altering) unlike almost any other woman in the world.  It feeds into the fantasy world of men who say, "that's the kind of woman I deserve."  It feeds us the lie that women's bodies define them before their minds and hearts define them.

In my concluding post, I'll lay out what our role is, then, in a culture that seems uncontrollably over-riden with sexual messages.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Societal Cancer We Don't Address, Part 2 of 4

I don't want to make decisions based on how it feels or whether it's popular, there's got to be a better and healthier way.  Guess what, society does not lead us down the right road.

I have not watched pornography in years and yet, in my mind, it doesn't take too long to think about pornographic images that I have put in front of my eyes, even the "light-hearted" movies with nudity that I've chosen to watch.  Back then, I would have to seek out and plan and secretly watch such things.  Oh, the times have changed!  Now, we have Game of Thrones on HBO in homes all across America being watched by youth and adults alike (and most likely children).  It's extremely popular because of its great acting, writing, and such and it is even celebrated for "breaking barriers."  But is this really how we want to our society to learn and relearn sexual responsibility?  Do we even care to put those two words together?  Being public and "free" about our bodies and our sexual activities has been more and more accepted since the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's.  Do I need to quote the clear statistics about the growing problem of unwanted pregnancies and children growing up without both parents?  How about the clear link between pre-marital sex and the increased risk of STDs, unhealthy relationships, and economic challenges?

The only education that works is involved parents (or parent) who have discreet, wise, honest conversations about what it means to respect the opposite sex and how to view your own body.  No parent in their right mind would say to their child, "Come watch us do it!"  Yet, that is what we're doing when we allow images and movies and entertainers "help" raise our children and even influence our parenting decisions.

I write this blog not because I know lots of people will read, but because it's something I need to record.  I will not be silent while I raise my six children in a country that is ignoring signs of their own moral, emotional, social, and, quite possibly, physical demise.  If you can show me any type of proof that says that being "honest" and blatant about your sexuality and doing it whenever you feel like doing it is the healthiest thing for you and for the culture, I will shut my mouth and never type a word about it.  The fact is, the opposite is true.  When we become loose about our morals, especially as it relates to our sexuality, we become as a society more violent, less accepting of others, more selfish, less healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Whole cultures have been effected because they have not been mindful of right and wrong.  They haven't only been loose about sexual morals but have mocked those who have said there is such a thing as right and wrong.  Even if you disagree with Randy Alcorn's conclusion, this brief article from 1993 is hauntingly applicable to today.

I'm not predicting doom and gloom for the USA (nor do I have the intellect and insight to do such), but let me tell you that our sexual laziness is something that's right in front of our eyes.  We're ignoring it because it's too much fun and it's too comfortable.  We don't want to be the oddball.  When it comes down to it, it's an attitude that has betrayed man ever since the beginning: we shake our fist at God by saying, "I know better!"  Friends, we do NOT know better.  We don't know better, but we do need to know the one who is better, the one who created us.

I will, until the day I die, fight for the cause of the word of God (The Bible) because it is the truth.  People will say, "How do you know?  How can you be so arrogant to say that it is any more truthful than any other holy book?" Well, we could go down that road and I would be happy to interact with you somehow, whether it's face to face or email exchanges, to have honest conversations about this.  From my personal experience and after interacting with people and experts for about 30 years and having talked with people who have tried everything else, the Bible wins in all areas. 
  • Go ahead, find out what the other books actually say and actually claim about themselves.  
  • Go ahead, find out which one has been best maintained from the time it was written.  
  • Go ahead, beyond any of these proofs, find out how truth-filled the Bible actually is, from beginning to end, and how consistent it is.  
You wouldn't trust just any doctor that says that they know the healthiest thing to do.  Is a witch doctor the same as a medical doctor?  How do you decide?  Well, there's a trust, a history, a clear evidence of schooling and experience and bedside manor.  But ultimately, does he or she help you make healthy choices and do they really care.

So, I urge you, take a look at the Bible, for the consequences of not doing so are evident . . . Part 3 will look more into this as we seek to find the real cure to our societal cancer of sexual passiveness.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Societal Cancer We Don't Address, Part 1 of 4

I'm sick and tired of the duplicity going on in our society; the two-facedness regarding sexual immorality.  
     On the one hand, we are legitimately and rightfully up in arms about the sexual harassment we see in the headlines.  We should speak out against it and it should be made public and we should take steps to get rid of it in all facets of our society.  Yet, we will not get rid of it until we stop turning a blind eye to pornography. 
     We practically celebrated Hugh Heffner after he died.  What has he added to our society?  I (and many others) would say he has destroyed our society before he has added any single thing.  He has legitimized pornography in our society and has introduced many people, young and old, to things that ought not be for public consumption.  What has happened?  We have become, in essence, a sexualized culture. 
     Before I make this next point, I must clarify that every wrong action has personal responsibility involved in it.  Yet, we cannot ignore the things in our culture that contribute to sexual harassment and date rape and the irresponsible, unhealthy sexual habits of many.  With all the images and sexual content in print media, TV, movies, and the internet, it's no wonder that men have a fantasy that all women want them.  Men have been convinced that they can have whomever they want at whatever time they want.  Just this morning, there was a study connecting pornography to the change of peoples' approach to relationship.  Most of us do not need an official study to prove that.
    For example, we allow things like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and celebrate models that have finally made it to the cover.  We say that it's all good even though SI sells loads of ads for this issue for one main reason - these women wear next to nothing and have bodies that few women can live up to - adding to the fantasy world that contributes to the problem. 
    The problem?  We are introducing boys of all ages to view women as objects to be had, not people to be respected.  Not only that, but these boys are being raised by dads who grew up in a culture where Playboy is normal, where music videos regularly feature women dancing in all kinds of sexually suggestive ways, and where Madonna is lauded for being "honest about her sexuality."  Now, artists like Miley Cyrus lose their innocence before our very eyes and not only do we not blink but we "reward" such public sensuality.  Miley gathers her riches and receives applause for humanitarian efforts while she's not held responsible for the road she leads our young girls down . 
     So are we OK with never addressing the reason why many people go down that road of sexual harassment and an almost uncontrolled sex life?  Do we really want to know why seemingly normal men have a fantasy life that every person would be shocked by? Yes, even as a pastor, I know what I'm talking about (end of part 1).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What's the Most Important Thing, Pope?

“All of us have a responsibility, all of us, small or large, a moral responsibility. We have to take it seriously. We can’t joke about it,”  What do you think Pope Francis is talking about?

Racism?

Homosexuality?

Sex Trafficking?

Terrorism?

Global Warming?

Eternal Salvation?

It's difficult to know the way to God when the means to GET God's grace is dependent on our submission to the head of the Roman Catholic Church.  It's difficult to know what to focus on in life when all kinds of voices are telling us that we need to work on and in so many different ways.

If you want to live a life that matters and, by the time your life here is ended, make a significant difference, you must admit your inability to do it on your own and learn from the One who knows it all (and Who cares about it much more than we do!).

Let's take Pope Francis's quote as an example.  He was on his plane talking to reporters about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  He was talking about our responsibility in these hurricanes as people who use fossil fuels.

“If we don’t turn back, we will go down,” he says in the same context.  Turn back from what?  Our sin?  Our selfishness?  Our tendency to leave God out of everything?  No, apparently humanity will all "go down" because we have not heeded the right people's advice:

 “You can see the effects of climate change and scientists have clearly said what path we have to follow,” Pope Francis continues to state as he urges humanity to take responsibility for something that, though disturbing and daunting, isn't our greatest concern -- by a long shot!

Now, I know that Pope Francis cares about more than climate change.  I also know that I, as a Christian Pastor in Minnesota, are guilty of muddling the message with unnecessary things at times.  Yet, we always go back to two things that I think are very instructive today, in the wake of hurricane and earthquake and wildfire history.

First, we are not in control.  Even if we have set the atmosphere on fire by our lack of responsible fossil fuel usage, we cannot control things (let alone predict weather accurately - I'm thankful that Hurrican Irma, for instance, missed much of the populated Florida and that human loss was very small).  What do we do when we're not in control?  Fight for it back, give up all together, or choose to submit to One who is in control?

Second, be God's hands and feet in helping those effected by this imperfect world.  From hurricane and earthquake victims to rape and trafficking and abuse victims, those that are called by God (the true Church, worldwide, across denominations and cultures, who have repented of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ), must be one of the first on the scene to share of God's love for them and their true worth - priceless.

Yes, you are priceless, and your soul is more important than our climate change stance or your fossil fuel habits.  Anyone who humbly comes to God will be heard by Him and He will reveal Himself to you and you, then, can heed the instructions of the true head of the church - Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Rural White Guy Dares to Address Racism in America

I may be the least qualified of anybody to speak frankly about racial unity in this country.  I am a white male, almost 50, living in rural Minnesota.  I have one good friend and only a handful of "official friends" on Facebook who are African American.  Oh yea, and I wasn't even born in this country, though I've lived here over 90% of my life.

Why, then even dare to speak about it?  Two reasons: There is an answer to the tension that needs to be spoken of often, lived out courageously, and applied to people on both (or all) sides of the issue.  Also, I figure I cannot do anything about the color of my skin or the history of my country, but I do have a choice as to how I treat people of all skin colors and I may even have a say in the future of how my people in my country treat each other.

As a pastor and a student of The Bible, I must start every single conversation about every single conflict with our one basic problem - sin.  As has been said numerous times over the years "racism is not a skin issue, it is a sin issue."  My love for every single human being is not rooted in the fact that I'm Christian, or have a great family, or just have that personality type.  Rather it is rooted in the love that has been shown me by others, especially by Jesus Christ, God Himself, when He died on the cross in my place.  He did this NOT because I was so worth it, but because He loves me, period.  I love, period, because He first loved me.

Oh, and, by the way, I need someone to die for my sins just as much as you and anybody else needs it.   I don't care how many bad things you've done (though I know you've done bad things), I don't care what kind of bad things you've done (though I know that you deserve hell, just like I do), I don't care the color of your skin (though I know that African-Americans in our country have been dealt an awful hand).  I care that each person, where they're at, can overcome and deal with racism through Jesus Christ.

Bold prediction:  racism will get worse before it gets better in this country.  I know this because we are allowing seeds of selfishness, materialism, self-sufficiency, and sexual haphazardness find fertile ground in our culture of "no judgment, relativistic, inclusivism."  The only way to deal with racism is through the study of and submission to Jesus Christ himself, the most TRULY loving and inclusive person to ever walk the face of this earth.  Let's learn how He has compassion for the hurting and how the hurting must-need submit to Him.

Until we love the way Jesus loves and accept the love with which He loves us, we cannot truly love and accept people while calling them and ourselves to lives of purity and selflessness.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Earning a voice without losing your voice



Where would we be without the right person, at the right time, saying the right thing about a certain wrong behavior.  We can point to William Wilberforce and the slave trade in England or Martin Luther King Jr. and the treatment of African Americans or even Mother Teresa and the treatment of social outcasts.  They, among many others, choose to address and judge culturally acceptable behavior as wrong. 

I will argue that what gave them that voice, is a combination of two things:  Their willingness to EARN that voice through their actions and their foundation being from something much greater than themselves.

Their actions not only prove how deep they believed in their cause, but their actions also go on to prove how ridiculous the cultural norm was that they were fighting against. 

What gave them even more of a voice and what, ultimately, led to great societal change, was the fact that their judgments were based on a higher authority, voiced in the Bible by God Himself.  It’s clear that they were fueled by a higher calling because in each of these cases, they continued doing what they did until they died, without ever seeing much (if any) cultural change.

What is that cultural change that needs to happen today?  We need an accurate, thoughtful, respectful view of homosexuality.  The church, then, needs to be on the forefront of promoting both truth regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality as well as unconditional love and compassion to all people . . . ALL people, because they ALL deserve it.

Yes, I agree, the church has lost its voice because we have NOT faithfully done either of the two aforementioned necessities.  We have not accurately portrayed the truth of Scripture nor have we accurately modeled Christ-like love.
I started this blog in early 2014 and have yet to post it after tweaking it here in May, 2015.  As I continue to revisit this topic and observe how society is handling it, my original premise, which is based on Scripture being the authority, will hold true:  The current societal norm regarding homosexuality will eventually be found out for what it is, a submission to what feels right through the path of least resistance as opposed to a submission to what's right.

Well, now in March, 2016, our country has neither submitted to God's authority nor is even interested in His authority.  We are embracing Presidential candidates who see no need for a personally involved God in any way.  As a church, and as a church leader, we need to wholeheartedly embrace the principles on which the first church was founded:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name than Jesus, given to man, by which we must be saved (see Acts 4:12).  If you're not a follower of Jesus, I should do all I can to show you Jesus, NOT tell you how far off you are from what I believe or expect you to honor the Word of God.  If you are a follower of Jesus, I should discover, with you, what God's Word says about everything, NOT try to make the Bible say what I think it should say or allow cultural norms to determine correct biblical interpretation.

May we earn our voice the way Jesus did.  As He was approached by a self-righteous rich man who declared his own righteousness, Jesus knew how far he was from the Kingdom.  Yet, Scripture says in Mark 10:21, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him . . . "  There is a compassion and love for those who are "far off" that is missing from the Evangelical community.  By the grace of God, may we capture that and boldly live it out.  At that point, our voice will be heard more and the counter-cultural, life-giving message of Scripture will be heeded. . . only by God's grace.