Worth Your Time 4/3/15

Each Friday I try to provide a few articles that are worth the time of parents and youth workers. These articles span a number of issues, and not all are written by Christians, but they are all “worth your time.” Here’s the latest edition:

4 Reasons to Believe in the Empty Tomb, by Rez Rezkalla (The Gospel Coalition)
“Was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth found empty after his crucifixion? If not, then Christianity is the greatest lie in history. The apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised fro the dead then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). While the historicity of the empty tomb does not by itself prove the resurrection, it plays an important role.”

Is Mental Illness Actually Biblical?, by Stephen Altrogge (The Blazing Center)
“If I believe that sin has affected every part of my body, including my brain, then it shouldn’t surprise me when my brain doesn’t work correctly. I’m not surprised when I get a cold; why should I be surprised if I experience mental illness? To say that depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, and every other disorder, are purely spiritual disorders is to ignore the fact that we are both body and soul. Mental illness is not something invented by secular psychiatrists. Rather, it is part and parcel with living in fallen, sinful world.”

It’s Time To Bench Virginity Pledges, by Cameron Cole (Rooted)
“Purity pledges tend to emphasize the commitment of the young person. The decision, signified by the certificate or ring, is central. Given our desperate need for God’s help in such a challenging struggle, greater attention needs to be given to God’s commitment to us. When we face temptation, God pledges to give us a way out. When we are caving, God promises us the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin. When we fall, God commits to forgive and restore us in our contrition.”

Researchers Pinpoint the Optimal Amount of Math & Science Homework, by Jim Liebelt (HomeWord)
“When it comes to adolescents with math and science homework, more isn’t necessarily better — an hour a day is optimal — but doing it alone and regularly produces the biggest knowledge gain, according to research.”

Contradicting Bible Contradictions (website)
This is a website that answers specific “contradictions” that skeptics raise to show why we should not trust the Bible. This is a helpful site that is worth bookmarking on your internet browser so you can find it again when the need arises.

Is This Love?!

I saw this online yesterday and couldn’t believe that this is what is being taught about love.  Now before you go off and tell me I’m exaggerating, I want you to seriously read this and just imagine what life would look like if the image below really painted a picture about love.  In many ways, this really is the image of love people would see if they watch a lot of TV and movies and don’t have any healthy examples to observe in their real lives.

Now compare that portrait of “love” to what the Apostle Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

Tim Challies provides a really helpful blog post the other day that’s relevant here: 8 Bullet Points on Marriage.  Love and Marriage are not toys to play with, but deep and rich longings that must not be made cheap and easy.

Finally, I’d like to recommend you to read Jared Wilson’s post here named: “10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know.”  Here’s a little taste of what he writes:

1. It’s not bad to want to have sex with your significant other. It’d be another sort of worry if you didn’t. The key is to want to glorify Christ more than you want to have sex with each other.

4. Nearly every Christian I know who is married to an unbeliever loves their spouse and does not necessarily regret marrying them, but has experienced deep pain and discontent in their marriage because of this unequal yoking and would now never advise a believer to marry an unbeliever.

8. Pre-marital sex wounds a young woman’s heart, perhaps imperceptibly at first but undeniably over time, as she trades in covenant benefits without covenant security. This is not the way God designed sex to fulfill us.

10. You are loved by God with abundant grace in Christ’s atoning work, and an embrace of this love by faith in Jesus provides Holy Spiritual power and satisfaction to pursue relationships that honor God and thereby maximize your joy.

Digging into Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

Lady Gaga has released the lyrics to her forthcoming album and single, “Born This Way,” which she hopes will be another rallying cry for homosexuals and transgendered people in our culture.  I’d like to offer some thoughts on how our Christian faith should inform our thinking about homosexuality, but first, here are the lyrics:

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU LOVE HIM, OR CAPITAL H-I-M
JUST PUT YOUR PAWS UP
‘CAUSE YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY, BABY

MY MAMA TOLD ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG
WE ARE ALL BORN SUPERSTARS
SHE ROLLED MY HAIR AND PUT MY LIPSTICK ON?IN THE GLASS OF HER BOUDOIR
“THERE’S NOTHIN WRONG WITH LOVIN WHO YOU ARE”
SHE SAID, “‘CAUSE HE MADE YOU PERFECT, BABE”
“SO HOLD YOUR HEAD UP GIRL AND YOU’LL GO FAR,
LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAY”

I’M BEAUTIFUL IN MY WAY
‘CAUSE GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY
DON’T HIDE YOURSELF IN REGRET
JUST LOVE YOURSELF AND YOU’RE SET
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE!

GIVE YOURSELF PRUDENCE
AND LOVE YOUR FRIENDS
SUBWAY KID, REJOICE YOUR TRUTH
IN THE RELIGION OF THE INSECURE
I MUST BE MYSELF, RESPECT MY YOUTH
A DIFFERENT LOVER IS NOT A SIN
BELIEVE CAPITAL H-I-M (HEY HEY HEY)
I LOVE MY LIFE I LOVE THIS RECORD AND
MI AMORE VOLE FE YAH (LOVE NEEDS FAITH)

DON’T BE A DRAG, JUST BE A QUEEN
WHETHER YOU’RE BROKE OR EVERGREEN
YOU’RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU’RE LEBANESE, YOU’RE ORIENT
WHETHER LIFE’S DISABILITIES
LEFT YOU OUTCAST, BULLIED, OR TEASED
REJOICE AND LOVE YOURSELF TODAY
‘CAUSE BABY YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY
NO MATTER GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI,
LESBIAN, TRANSGENDERED LIFE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO SURVIVE
NO MATTER BLACK, WHITE OR BEIGE
CHOLA OR ORIENT MADE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO BE BRAVE

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!

Jonathan McKee has posted a great (but long) response to this song on his website HERE.  He’s also written a very good article entitled “Coming out of the Closet… and Into the Church: What Should the Church do About Homosexuality?” Both articles are well worth your time to read and really think about… especially if you’re a Christian and are wrestling with questions about how to respond to the homosexual question.

Here’s my response, and I’ll try to keep this brief in hopes that some of you will actually read it.

  1. It’s not honest to say you’re “Born This Way.”  Even secular scientists would confess that they have not discovered a “gay gene.”  We all know people who seem to identify with the opposite gender easier from a very young age, but that doesn’t mean they’re born gay.
  2. Sexuality is not the same as Ethnicity.  It isn’t a valid argument to equate Gay Rights with the Civil Rights Movement.  My dad is Irish and my mom is English and Lebanese… therefore I’m a mix of those ethnicities.  But those who profess to have been “born this way” rarely have parents who were gay (although the likelihood of a gay/lesbian “couple” having a son/daughter who is also homosexual exponentially increases… but I believe this is true for social/sociological reasons).  Drawing a parallel between homosexual rights and the Civil Rights Movement is simply disrespectful to those who endured generations of racial abuse because of their skin color.
  3. Natural desires aren’t all good.  I like to eat but don’t love exercise.  Does that mean I should eat whatever I want whenever I want it?  Does that mean I shouldn’t take a walk or go on a run or lift weights?  This is pretty obvious (reminder: Go on a diet and get more exercise!).  My natural desires are very often the opposite of what I should do.  If you are naturally more sexually attracted towards people of the same gender as you, I don’t think that’s necessarily justification to do what feels most natural.  I don’t say that tritely or like it’s something that’s easy or simple, but just because something’s natural and innate that doesn’t mean it’s right.
  4. Sexual organs are complementary and are intended to “fit.”  Even if you take a Creator away and ascribe to evolutionary theory, the sex organs simply do not work together in a homosexual union.
  5. Finally, and this is the obvious “Pastor-answer”: Scripture does teach clearly that homosexuality is wrong.  Those who open the Bible and claim that Scripture doesn’t teach homosexuality is a sin are simply twisting the Bible to say what they want it to say.  Either we believe the Bible is true and believe what is says (regardless of how uncomfortable it may make you) or the Bible isn’t true (and in that case you don’t care that is says homosexuality is a sin).

This is not something I write about with hatred in my heart towards those who are homosexual or transgendered.  I know that if someone reading this blog post is LGBT then he/she will probably think that I’m a wrath-filled or judgment-spewing Christian, and I sincerely apologize if that’s how this post has come across.  My desire in this post is to use “Born This Way” as a catalyst for encouraging the parents and teenagers in my church to give thoughtful consideration about how our Christian faith should inform our beliefs about homosexuality rather than basing our beliefs on such issues on what is culturally acceptable.

Raising Sexually Healthy Children

I just read one of the best articles on CNN I’ve ever read.  “Sex ed in the age of Snooki” is a great reality check for parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors and anyone else who cares about children and teenagers.

The author, Ian Kerner, hits the nail on the head:

“On the surface, I’ve got it easy as a parent—my wife and I have two sons. ‘Boys will be boys’ goes the conventional wisdom. We’ve come to expect—and often excuse—their bad behavior. That means it falls on a girl’s shoulders to have the self-confidence and self-esteem to create and protect boundaries in respect to her sexuality. While I think it’s important to teach girls how to be empowered gatekeepers of their own sexuality, I also believe that we have to focus on the boys, not let them off the hook. If girls operate in the male gaze (both actual and internalized), then we need to change that gaze. Boys need to learn how to see girls differently.”

Dr. Kerner provides some really helpful and practical (but not easy) advice for parents who want to raise sexually healthy children.  I strongly encourage anyone reading this post to read the article linked to above (it’s fairly short too, so it’s not a tall order).

And the Bride Wore… whatever color she felt like?

An article entitled “Brides buck tradition and ditch the white dress” on CNN.com caught my attention this morning.  The article praises women who choose to wear greens or blues or whatever color that isn’t white on their wedding day.  Check out a few quotes:

“People are starting to open up their minds a bit,” Rogers said. “It takes a certain bride — usually a second wedding. They’ve already done the white, traditional gown. They don’t want to feel like a first-time bride.”

“[White] is universally hard to wear for so many body and skin types,” she said. “And the average American bride is older now. … The whole ‘I’m a virgin and I’m wearing white’ [thing] is kind of silly now.”

Did you catch that… “The whole ‘I’m a virgin and I’m wearing white’ [thing] is kind of silly now.” Really?!  Unfortunately, that’s a statement shared by many today.

I’m not out to save white wedding dresses, so don’t misunderstand me: what I’m upset about is the disregard for purity in our culture.  Even the word “Purity” is sneered at today (or so it seems).  The white dress is about more than tradition, it’s about valuing your future spouse enough to live in a way that you can give yourself to him/her without any guilt or shame.

In the midst of a culture where second-marriages are no big deal and living together before getting married is kind of expected, the call of God in Romans 12:1-2 shouts out even more powerfully.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Two recommended resources:  “And the Bride Wore White” is a great book for young women to read about the value and importance of sexual purity.  A few of the girls in my youth group have read this and they all loved it!  “When Young Men are Tempted” is a really good, biblical, and practical book to help teenage guys work through sexual temptations and seek freedom in Christ.

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – David’s (Lack of) Moral Boundaries

Once upon a time there was a King named David.  He was chosen by God directly to be the king because “was a man after the God’s own heart.”  He trusted and obeyed God in all things… for the most part.  Here’s the rest of the story:

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.  One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.””  (2 Samuel 11:1–5)

I notice a few things right away:

  1. David’s Laziness – He shouldn’t have even been in Jerusalem!  He should’ve been awaywith his army instead of playing “hookey” from battle!  We fall into the same trap – laziness breeds temptation.  As the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” meaning temptations overtake us most frequently when we’re not busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
  2. David’s Lust – He thought to himself, “I know what I want and I want it now, and I’m the King… so go get her for me!”  He didn’t think about the consequences or what might happen because of his desires for Bathsheeba, he just wanted her and he wanted her NOW.

We later read about David’s attempt to coverup what he had done by having Bathsheeba’s husband (Uriah) killed in battle.  Clearly he hadn’t thought about what might happen after acting out on his lustful desires.  Eventually, David is confronted by the prophet Nathan, and he repents of his sin and writes Psalm 51 as his prayer of repentance.  As judgment against his sin, the LORD tells David that the baby Bathsheeba will give birth to will not live (note: God specifically explains this as judgment on David for his sin, but we should not make the connection that every baby who dies or is sick is suffering from Divine judgment).

When David is old he has 14 kids whose names are listed in Scripture (4 of them are from Bathsheeba, the rest from his other 6 wives – which is another issue entirely that I don’t have time to address here!).  His family is so dysfunctional that his son Absolom even tries to kill David!  One of the other four potential heirs is killed by a half-brother, and then the oldest remaining son of David-Bathsheeba tries to secretly crown himself king without David’s knowledge.  Solomon, David’s youngest son with Bathsheeba, is chosen and annointed to be the next king by David.

Has anyone else noticed that David shouldn’t have dealt with all this drama because he should’ve never been married to Bathsheeba… she already had a husband! There are a few principles here to keep in mind:

  1. God gives grace when we cross Moral Boundaries, but we often still must live with the consequences of our sin. As my youth pastor used to say when I was a teen, “You can’t put a condom on guilt.”  And guilt may be the “least” consequence we need to face; it may be an STD or a pregnancy or a ‘reputation’ that gets spread about you inschool.
  2. When we break our Moral Boundaries, we must seek repentance. It seems that David learned his lesson:“David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’S commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite”(1 Kings 15:5).  David messed up bad with what he did to Bathsheeba and Uriah, but he repented and obeyed the LORD from then on.
  3. God works through our failures, but He doesn’t dismiss sin and say “Don’t worry about it!” We have a tendency of telling ourselves that God will forgive us anyway, and then we go on and do whatever we want because we know God gives grace.  But when we do this we are treating sin lightly (which God never does) and devaluing the grace of God (which we should never do).

Big Idea: Purity paves the way to Intimacy
Tough Question: Am I establishing and maintaining godly Moral Boundaries
Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Having “The Talk”

Yeah… that one.

Parents, have you talked to your son or daughter about sex?  Who do you want to be the one to teach him/her, because if you aren’t then I can guarantee you someone is.  By the time your son or daughter is in Junior High there’s a lot of talk about sex in those hallways and locker rooms.  Even if your kid is pretty sheltered and doesn’t figure it out from someone else, he’s going to be really confused (but too embarrassed to talk to you about it).

Here is a series entitled “Talking About Sex,” which is filled with good, short, biblical, practical articles on Focus on the Family’s website.  I strongly recommend them to help you navigate the challenging waters of “The Talk.”  Of course, if there are other resources you think would be helpful, please feel free to share the link or name of the resource as a comment below.