Christianity

So, I Married A Lion

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Beaver_LionWhat do you know about your personality? Are you introverted? Do you enjoy being around people more than being alone? Adventurous? Perfectionistic? What are you like? Are you a thinker or a feeler?

There have been numerous personality tests developed to give us insight into what our overall personality is like, such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Jung Typology Test, and a score of tests based on what is known as the Five Factor Model. Before my wife and I got married, we made each other take the MMPI-II, which is the mother of all personality tests. It consists of 567 true false questions and takes quite a while to complete. When scored, it indicates whether one struggles with any psychological or emotional difficulties. It even indicates if a person is lying, trying to appear more normal, or trying to look crazy. We both passed enough to know that the other person wasn’t a serial killer.

This weekend, my wife taught a class and administered spiritual inventories and a personality test. The personality test she offered was one developed by Gary Smalley that bases personalities around animal characteristics. The categories are: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. It had been a while since we took the test and we laughed as we looked at the results. My wife is a Lion, and I am a Beaver. Our secondary result was Golden Retriever.

As you may suspect, Lions and Beavers are not very similar creatures. Lions, like my wife, tend to be goal oriented, direct, decisive, competitive, and enjoy a good challenge, but they are often too blunt and must temper their aggressive, goal-oriented behavior. Beavers, like myself, are orderly, respectful, have high standards, are problem solvers, steady, creative, and take their own sweet time. On the downside, Beavers often have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, try to be to perfect, and are often inflexible.

In our household, whenever I am in true Beaver mode and my wife is being a Lioness, it looks like an episode on the Discovery Channel. Sometimes I chew on her and she growls! I say that in jest, but our differences are often what cause our conflicts.

I think there are a couple of things to remember about personality differences in marriage. Until recently, it was believed that personalities are fairly locked across one’s lifetime. That has recently come into question. I agree, I think some facets of our personalities do change, but I feel they are unlikely to dramatically change.

When it comes to marriage we often hear clichés such as “opposites attract”, but this is also contradicted by sayings like “birds of a feather flock together.” So which is it? From my experience doing a great deal of marital therapy, when couples differ greatly on important core issues this turns out to be a detriment to their marriage. Now, I am not saying if your core beliefs differ greatly from your spouses that your marriage is doomed to fail. I am simply saying it takes a great deal more work.

So marrying someone very like you when it comes to your values, worldview, and what you view as most important in life is very important. Yet, having differences in how you relate to and view the world can have its benefits. The fact that this beaver married a lion brings a set of advantages to our relationship. We temper each other. I bring some order and calm into her world and she brings adventure into mine.

You see, God uses marriage to help change us in certain areas. Marriage is like a mirror that reflects where your strengths and weaknesses are. It shows you areas of your personality that are strong, but also reveals your weaknesses.  I firmly believe that God uses marriage to make us more like Him.

I also think we should remember that we didn’t marry someone exactly like us, and this is a good thing. While sometimes our differences might be frustrating, this is how we grow and change. We must remember that we can’t change our spouse’s personality. We have to learn to accept and love their strengths and weaknesses. We must also learn to accept influence from one another. At times I need my wife to tell me that I am being too rigid and she needs me to temper her at times.

Don’t spend your marriage trying to turn a beaver into a lion or a golden retriever into an otter. Instead, appreciate what your spouse brings to the table and remember that marriage is a lifelong process where our different personalities sand the rough edges off of one another allowing us to become better people.

So what are you, a lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver? Take the test here for yourself and share your results!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

The Duck, the Whole Duck, and Nothing But the Duck

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duck dynastyIt has nearly been a month since the daddy of the Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, stirred things up with his comments in the interview with GQ magazine. I know this horse has been beat to death. The blogosphere was lit up with post after post about the backwoods Patriarch. They still continue to roll out. Some of them thought provoking, some angry, some appealing to emotions, and others that are poorly thought through.

The reason for all of the excitement about Phil Robertson has very little to do with Phil. He simply struck a match too close to a tinderbox. He opened up a door that allowed some needed dialogue to ensue, though much of the dialogue has been disappointing, hurtful, and doesn’t deal squarely with some of the issues.

Due to the firestorm that Phil’s words created, I have read much about the following topics across the web on Christian, non-Christian, conservative, and liberal sites alike, including: homosexuality, the suicide rate of homosexual teens, Christianity as it relates to homosexuality, Phil himself, gay marriage, equal rights, whether homosexuality is a sin, the sexuality of other mammals, etc.

My goal here is not to add to the noise, but instead take what I have read and discuss it from my perspective as a heterosexual, Christian, counselor, and my experience as related to these topics. My goal is not to appeal to emotion, though this is an emotional topic. It my intention to be loving, but to also represent the Christian worldview, present research, and share some of my professional experience. I will repeat some of Phil’s “crass” language and due to the subject matter, there may be other “crass” terms. I just felt I should give you that disclaimer now in case you would like to abandon ship.

First, if I might simply begin with Phil’s words. This seems like a logical place to start because this is what tipped the domino, and got us here to begin with. The first utterance that Mr. Robertson made that many found offensive was, “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Many found his language “crude”, which honestly, I find remarkable. He calls body parts by their actual anatomical names. People hear the slang and far more offensive terms for these parts and never bat an eye, but here, he is accused of being offensive. That simply does not make any sense at all.

Then there is his comment about a vagina having more to offer than a man’s anus. Physiologically and medically speaking, is he wrong? A vagina is made to accommodate a penis and an anus is not. Can you insert a penis into a man’s anus? Yes. Is it healthy? The medical community would tell us no. When I was a kid, I had a friend that stuck a pencil eraser up his nose. Sure, he could get it in there, but he caused some serious damage to his sinus cavity. Just because one can does not mean one should. I think this is all Phil was trying to point out. Stay with me. I know it would be easy to check out here. Regardless of where you land on this issue, please read on and let’s dialogue openly without being emotional, because this is how we all grow to understand one another.

The second statement he made that was ill received was his response to the question, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” To which he responded, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” As you know, much of what he says here is not even his own words. He gives us the words of the Apostle Paul.

Many found offense that he placed the word bestiality, adultery, and homosexuality in the same sentence. Was he comparing these? I honestly don’t know. We would have to ask Phil. I do find that he was honest. He use to sleep with other women outside of his marriage, which he identifies as sin. He isn’t trying to point fingers. He is simply stating what he believes to be wrong and this is fully consistent within the traditional Christian worldview. One thing I found interesting was a representative from GLAAD was incredibly irate that homosexuality might even be compared to bestiality. He stated that it was wrong for someone heterosexual to place a moral judgment on someone for being homosexual, and then he turns around and places a moral judgment on someone for engaging in bestiality. I understand that many will say there is a drastic difference between being committed in a homosexual relationship and having sex with an animal. Yet, for many homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, sex is nothing more than an animalistic act. When sex is divorced from monogamy it simply becomes about arousal and physical release, which is what sex with an animal is all about.

To continue on, let’s address the serious issue of the increased rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in the GLB community raised in another article which you can read here. While I greatly understand the author’s intent, I feel it was somewhat misguided. The author brings to the surface the issue of teen suicide in the GLB community and hangs the issue on the shoulders of rejection and dehumanization of homosexual individuals, especially within the church. What is not considered is whether other factors besides the aforementioned may be at work in the higher rates of suicide amongst homosexual teens. Please listen to me carefully. If a gay person walks into my church what I honestly believe will happen is that they will be loved. Granted, there are jerks and hatemongers in every walk of life, including congregations, but I can speak for the majority of people that I worship with and say that any person who walks into my church will be met with love. It has to be this way, and especially with homosexual people that are struggling. Yet, I think we should look at other factors that may lead homosexual teens to consider suicide, and one such factor is the homosexual behavior itself. Should we love and help homosexual teens work through their problems? An emphatic yes! My question is, what if the problem is the homosexual behavior? Should we affirm and validate a sexual lifestyle that could be damaging? I don’t think so. At least, I can’t tell someone to keep doing what I believe is hurting them. Why do I think the homosexual behavior is damaging? Aside from my belief that when God says “don’t” he means “don’t hurt yourself” is that fact that the homosexual lifestyle causes emotional problems that teens (and adults, but especially teens) are not equipped to handle. Mainly, that homosexual individuals have a much higher percentage of sexual partners and are extremely promiscuous. Well, so are many heterosexual teens, right? While it is true that heterosexual teens are often promiscuous, they are less so than homosexual teens. But the bottom line is both of these behaviors are problematic and cause emotional distress.I can affirm neither of them.

Well, if we encourage monogamy this will be less of a problem, right? The difficulty is, the homosexual lifestyle is not one that often embraces monogamy. A survey published by the University of Chicago found a glaring difference between heterosexual and homosexual people. The study reported monogamy to be at 83% for heterosexuals and at 2% for homosexuals. This is echoed in my experience as a counselor. Are some homosexual’s monogamous? Sure, but they are the exception. Maybe you say, “Well, if homosexual couples could get married, this would reduce some of these problems.” Again, research does not support this. In countries where same sex marriage is legal, the vast majority do not marry.

Another statement made in this article was, “When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time.” Statements like this make me cringe. It is possible to be both theologically correct and morally responsible. The author promotes a false dichotomy here. In fact, when we get sloppy with theology that is when we become morally irresponsible. Again, could it be that the homosexual lifestyle causes some problems for individuals? If it does, it would be morally irresponsible and unloving to promote that lifestyle.

This week, an article appeared in the Huffington post titled “Why I Can’t Say ‘Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin’ Anymore.” The author goes on to write “We don’t use that phrase for everybody else. Only them. Only ‘the gays.’” He then discusses how this idea of loving the sinner and hating sin divides us from homosexual people. This may be the author’s experience, but it certainly is not mine, or many other Christians I know for that matter. I hate my own sin. I hate it violently. My own lust that I struggle with from time to time is just as sinful as the lust of a homosexual. I hate all sin. My sin is just as damaging to me as your sin is to you. As far as what separates us from others, it is only sin. Christianity teaches that sin leads to death. The biblical understanding of death is separation. Thus, sin separates. All of our sin, everyone’s, places distance between God and us. Everyone is created in the image of God, and ever last one of us is dying from a sin disease. So I say we keep on loving sinners, which is everyone, and we keep on hating sin, which causes separation, problems and death.

So what am I trying to say? Christians, Non-Christians,  gays, straights, sinners, parents, teachers, pastors, should all be able to talk about sexuality in an honest way. Love should be the highest goal. I think the problem is, people view love differently. Love, for me, is not about affirming what I believe to be destructive to individuals and society at large. Love says, “Hey, I think what you are doing is hurting you. I will love you, care for you, be here for you regardless of what you do, but I won’t promote destructive behavior.” For many Christians, this is why they can’t endorse homosexual behavior. They believe God labels it as sin because it is destructive, and feel the effects can be seen in the lives of individuals and society. This does not mean they hate or promote hate. It means they are trying to love.

Let me close with what I believe to be the most damaging aspect of the homosexual lifestyle on society. Homosexuality, largely due to the lack of monogamy and the “hook-up” culture prevalent in the homosexual community leads to fatherlessness in the lives of children. Why is this a big deal? As Frank Turek points out, children from fatherless homes are seven times more likely to live in poverty. Six times more likely to commit suicide. More than twice as likely to commit crime. More than twice as likely become pregnant out of wedlock. Worse off academically and socially. Worse off physically and emotionally when they reach adulthood. Sure, we can’t afford to ignore the dehumanization of gay teens and the poor treatment some homosexual individuals receive, but neither can we afford to ignore the aforementioned statistics either.

What I hope for people in the homosexual community to understand is that while some people facilitate hate, not every Christian who refuses to affirm the homosexual lifestyle is being a bigot. Many are just refusing to endorse something they strongly believe to be destructive. The Christian worldview does not condemn someone for being a homosexual. We often cannot help preferences or what we find attractive. Yet, we are in control of our behavior. We do choose what urges we act on. So, for many Christians, they are trying to practice compassion for those in the homosexual community. Jay Budziszewski states, “compassion out to make us visit the prisoner, dry out the alcoholic, help the pregnant girl prepare for the baby, and encourage the young homosexual to live chastely. But how much easier it is to forget the prisoner; give the drunk a drink, send the girl to the abortionist, and tell the kid to just give in. False compassion is a great deal less work than true.” For many Christians, their stance on homosexuality is motivated out of compassion.

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Lazy Light Shining

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LazyLightWhen it comes to Christian evangelism, it seems that most people’s default strategy is “living out my faith before others.” I have heard It countless times, okay, I have even said it myself. “Well, I will just do my best to live for Christ and hopefully they will take notice. Maybe they will even ask questions.” Yet, is this a scriptural approach? Does it yield high returns? Is this what God expects?

Let me begin by saying that it is expected that we will live a life of righteousness before others. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV). Notice, I did not say a life of piousness. Christians are not to walk around looking down their nose at others. We are not “heavenly sandpaper” called to rub the rough edges off of people. If we are in a relationship with Christ, it is assumed that it will be apparent in our lives before others.

There is surely an evangelistic quality in the way we serve God through the way we think, behave, and relate to others. There certainly may be times where the interaction others have with us may be their greatest, or only, interaction with Christianity and the gospel. Our lives should reflect Christ intensely, exhibiting a magnetic quality that brings people to desire God through our love, care, and willingness to help. With that being said, however, the “I am just going to let my light shine” is often spiritual laziness or insecurity.

Now don’t get me wrong. Evangelism, I feel, is deeply connected to relationship building. I am not for Gatling gunning people with scripture. I also think that simply handing out tracks at the local Wal-Mart is largely ineffective as well. Many people are more willing to hear us out if it is done within the context of relationships. Yet, we do not always get the luxury of developing meaningful relationships with everyone we come in contact with, and we are incredibly more likely to build relationships with people that are more like us. Even when we build relationships with people, how long do we wait before we start to discuss our faith? Sometimes we wait years! Surely, this is not effective evangelism!

So why is “I am just going to live out my faith before others” the preferred strategy by the predominance of Christians? Because it is safe. There is less risk and we still feel, or we tell ourselves anyway, that we are witnessing to others!

When we look at the apostles, certainly we see them living out their faith. Yet, if that were all they did, how far and how fast would Christianity have spread? We see Paul being very aggressive in sharing what he knew to be true. He engaged people. He looked for inroads to the Christian message in conversations. He wasn’t stuffy, condescending, or weird about sharing his faith. He was open, honest, and bold about his relationship with the risen savior.

As Christians, we have to talk about our faith! Why? Because of what hangs in the balance. If I had the cure for cancer, would my strategy be to throw on a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I have the cure” and wait for people to approach me about it? No, I would want to make sure that I was proactive, vocal, and hope that I could bring that cure to as many people as possible!

If, we as Christians really believe that the hope for a broken world is Christ, why are we not vocal about it? I think there are a multitude of factors that lead many Christians to take the “Let my light shine before others” approach.

For some, as I said before, it is simply sloppy and lazy Christianity. It is the path of least resistance. We don’t have to do anything extra. If people want to know, they will ask. Other times, it is fear that we will offend others, and at times, we probably will. Sometimes the offense will be our own fault, other times it will be the fact that some people find the truth offensive. We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes. All we can do with mistakes is apologize for being insensitive and learn from our mistakes. Our conversation should always be seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6) and we should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Many Christians also fear that they will be asked a question for which they do not have an answer. My response is, so? It happens. There is nothing wrong with saying, “That is a great question. I am not sure how to respond to that. Let me think some about it, read further, and I will get back to you.” This is far preferred over making up a response or giving a sloppy answer. It is okay to say “I don’t know”. We cannot know everything! This is not an excuse, however, to be intellectually lazy! Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (I Pet 3:15) This is the call to apologetics. We should spend time preparing for questions, but this in no way implies that we can answer every question hurled at us on the spot.

Last, we as Christians often fear the way that other people will perceive us. None of us want to be the bible thumping nut-job that people feel the need to escape from. We worry that people might reject us if we are vocal about our faith. There is much to say about this. Regardless of whether people reject us or not, we are still called to vocally share our faith with others. Fear is not a legitimate excuse to avoid doing what God commands, nor is it worth withholding the cure the world needs. Still, I honestly think that we would be surprised by the people who would love to chat about God, meaning, and the other big questions that we often have. Last, even if some people think we are “weird” what does it matter? Are we trying to win the favor of people or God? (Gal 1:10)

When it comes to sharing our faith, simply living Godly lives before people is good, but it does not cut the mustard. Nothing can come from conversations that never happen. As the late Ziz Ziglar said, “Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time.” Maybe it is time to aim higher than “I will let my light shine” and actually engage people in conversation.

You are a Christian because somebody cared. Now it’s your turn. – Warren Wiersbe

 

 

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

 

The Hunger Games, Theology, and Western Culture

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hunge games_theologyCatching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games is a film I have been excited to see all year. My level of anticipation to see the film was high, though not quite as elevated as my excitement to continue my journey within Middle Earth and see the continuation of the film adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. While I still have a few weeks of waiting to see if my own imagining of The Hobbit even faintly resembles that of director, Peter Jackson, I did have the enjoyment of seeing Catching Fire this past weekend.

I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy in early 2012. Like most people who read the books, I could not put them down. I then saw the first film after having freshly read the books. The first installment was good, but I nitpicked many of the missing details and story changes, mostly because the books were so fresh on my mind.

With Catching Fire, things were different. The film appeared to follow the novels more closely, and some of the details were a bit hazier to me because it has been over a year since I read the books. Thus, I was able to concentrate more on the film, take in the story, and process what I was watching with greater clarity. I had always known the books were special due to the unique plot set within a dystopian society, but as I watched this second film I realized that it is, whether Suzanne Collins intended for it to be or not, a documentary on where we are in western civilization, especially within the United States.

It is interesting as we stare at the people that occupy the capital in the Hunger Games, with their strange dress, lack of emotional intelligence, and opulent lifestyles. The scene that takes place at a lavish banquet particularly struck me. The guests are enjoying the many varieties of delicacies available at the party. There is such an abundance of various foods to try that one simply cannot try them all. So the solution is to swallow some frothy pink liquid in a champagne glass that will make you vomit what you have eaten so you can be free to keep shoveling food down for the mere taste. Sure, it is a slight over-exaggeration, but this screamed America to me. We seem to know no limits. We consume. We waste. We indulge. We discard. We don’t want any restrictions placed on our lives. We don’t want any external moral restraints to govern our lives. The way of western society is to live a cavalier life of pleasure, sensuality, and indulgence.

What if we could step outside our culture and take an objective look at ourselves. What would we see? Would we take pride in our ways, or would we look just as ridiculous as the painted people in the capital of Suzanne Collins imaginary world?

I believe in an objective moral standard that is external of us as individuals. I believe that God’s very nature defines what is acceptable behavior for us as people. When we step past those bounds and live a life of pleasure, sensuality, and indulgence we will eventually pay for it. Because these divine moral prescriptions are for our own benefit.

In the film, we would also do well to notice how effective “big government” is. In America, so many seem to welcome the government’s long and intrusive arm into their lives, and big government is happy to oblige and thus becomes bigger government. We see how well that worked out in the Hunger games. We cannot place our individual responsibilities into the hands of a debauched government. Human nature, mine included, is too corrupt to give away that much power. It is why the founding of America had checks and balances to keep the government from becoming an all powerful machine, but we have gradually allowed government to remove these limitations. Could we be gradually sliding into dystopia?  Could we be? We are! As British historian, Lord Acton, put it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Government is not our messiah. Could the Hunger Games be a subtle reminder that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and also help those around us? If we are living as good Samaritans and giving to those in need when we have extra we would not need special government funding for every little thing.

Last, and perhaps the most glaring disturbance as we peek into the world created by Collins, is the copious amount of violence and the lack of concern by those living in the capital. Now, don’t get me wrong. Do I think we could stoop so low as a culture to be entertained by watching children kill one another? No, I do not. Yet, we have as a culture a flagrant disregard for life.

We are entertained by death. I know you may be thinking that this is the pot calling the kettle black. I watched the Hunger Games and was entertained by violence, so who am I to condemn violence in entertainment. Yet, we should consider the fact that some violence has a redeeming quality. Some stories, movies, video games, etc. portray violence that paints evil with a black brush in order for us to see its depravity. Then there are some art forms that celebrate and glamorize death and destruction. The video game Grand Theft Auto comes to mind.

Our disregard for the sanctity of life is also visible in our public policy. We have murdered fifty-six million babies since 1973. Why? Because we want to pursue our pleasure, sensuality, and indulgence devoid of any restrictions. Sounds an awful lot like the inhabitants of the capital in the Hunger Games, doesn’t it? We can all see the hand writing on the wall as well. Eventually, the geriatric population will lose its privileged status as life. Why? Because old people will die anyway. Why should we use our precious resources saving a life that will not exist for much longer? That is where we are headed. Will it be the same with young people that have terminal diseases? Chances are good. Life is no longer sacred.

So how have we gotten to the point as a society where life is no longer sacred? Naturalism. Now, don’t get me wrong. If a person accepts the tenets of naturalism that does imply that they no longer view life as innately valuable. I know many atheists and/or naturalists that live incredibly moral lifestyles and care about many of the same issues I care about. The problem with naturalism and becoming a society that no longer places itself under external, objective morality is that we have nothing to anchor morality to other than opinion. So, under the framework of naturalism right and wrong are matters of preference and opinion. Some will see violence and killing as a great evil and others, though hopefully a minority, will see it through a positive lens. If nature is red in tooth and claw and there is no God to tell us how to live, how can we fault a person for living out the logical implications? We can’t, and that is why life is no longer scared in western culture.

Have you seen Catching Fire yet? Did you enjoy it? Did you see any parallels with our society? I would be curious to hear your thoughts!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

C.S. Lewis: A Life Remembered

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CS LewisThere are some events if your life that you are able to remember so vividly due to the pleasant emotions that surround the memories. When I was around the age of twenty-two, I received the box set of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I had never been exposed to any of Lewis’ work. As I opened the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, the Narnia magic grabbed my by the collar and pulled me deep into the book. I spent several days reading the entire series. As I remember that week of my life, I am flooded with pleasant memories. I had never read fiction that made me love Christ more. I was reminded of how majestic, holy, good, and terrifying God is. Many people view fiction as something people read to be merely entertained, but good fiction is so much more. We learn through the art of story. After all, didn’t Jesus often use story to give theology a face? Lewis was a master in carving out fiction that brings us focus. We are reminded that the majestic lion, Aslan, who is the Christ figure in Narnia isn’t safe. “But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

It wasn’t long after my journey through the wardrobe, that I met some demons, Screwtape and Wormwood. In his book, The Screwtape Letters, I was reminded how strident Satan is in the destruction of man. How we are often manipulated through suggestion by unseen forces bent on our demise, or at least to bring us pain, misery, and unhappiness. We are reminded of the subtlety of the enemy. “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

A few years later I hailed a bus through heaven and hell in The Great Divorce. Everyone can take “the bus” to the destination of his or her choice. Some choose heaven, others hell, but all choose. As Lewis reminds us, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

Next, it was in the widely read Mere Christianity that I consumed from Lewis. A masterpiece in apologetics that should be required reading for every believer.  Here he gives us a powerful and rational defense for Christian belief, which at one point he rejected. Here we see the logical mind of a former atheist who assents to the truth, and then defends that truth passionately. He reminds us in Mere Christianity that he continued to have questions and struggles at times, which is a part if being intellectually honest and pursuing truth. He writes, “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”

We should remember that Lewis was happy in his atheism, as I would later find out when I read Surprised by Joy. Here is his account of when he bent his knee and will before God and accepted Christ. “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Lewis reached the point where he could not deny what was becoming increasingly apparent to both his intellect and his emotion, that God was real, came and dwelt among us, died for the sins of mankind, and had power over the grave.

Then it was earlier this year that I read Till We Have Faces. It is here that Lewis contrasts sacred and profane love. We are reminded that real love, correct love, does not consume, it gives.

I have now on my shelf, Lewis’ Space Trilogy. I have yet to read it. I am hesitant to take it off the shelf, but at the same time, I am incredibly ready to delve into more fiction conjured up by the mind of this tweedy, old Oxford don. I wait to read it only because I dread the day when I have no new books to read from this beloved author.

So why am I recounting with you the pleasant memories I have had with the works of Lewis? Simply because he passed from this world fifty years ago today. He is where he belongs. In his real country. He has journeyed “further up” and “further in.” We are blessed by his works. A life devoted to Christ is one to be celebrated.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

So, what is your favorite Lewis book? How has he impacted you?

What Does It Matter What I Believe?

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What Does It Matter What I BelieveEveryone has beliefs. Everyone thinks (some more than others) about where they came from, what their purpose is, how they should handle morality, and whether or not there is a God. We all have a worldview, that is, we all wear a set of lenses that color the way we view the world.

We live in a pluralistic society where many ideas, thoughts, and beliefs collide. There is a tremendous amount of white noise to wade through in order to articulate and solidify one’s belief system. The fact that there are millions of “experts” on the Internet willing to delve out free advice, of which they have no credentials to do so, does not help. Faulty, poor, and incorrect information is as available as oxygen. Yet, despite the quagmire of internet quacks, truth is readily available for those who seek it.

Today, many ask the question, “Well, what does it matter what I believe anyway?” There are different reasons people pose this question. Probably the most common reason is relativism. You believe what you want, and let me believe what I want. What does it matter to you anyway? Others, are just intellectually lazy. They might assert, “There are so many ideas out there. How can I possibly wade through it all? Who am I to say that one view is right and others are wrong?” This still smacks of relativism slightly, but the person does not want to take the time to seek, ask questions, and better understand what reality looks like. It could also be that they fear finding out a truth that might challenge their lifestyle or a belief they have just settled on. Another reason a person might ask “What does it matter what I believe” is pragmatism. Many view the significance of a worldview or pattern of thinking by its practical benefit. Does it make me feel good? Is it helpful? Does it promote the welfare of those around me? Beliefs then tend to change as needs change. Thus, it doesn’t matter what I believe, as long as it is helpful to me.

So, what does it really matters what we believe? Well, quite a lot actually. People tend to treat their beliefs as though they create fact or construct reality. When it should be the other way around. We should build our beliefs on what best corresponds to truth. I might believe that I will one day play in the NFL, but the facts certainly do not correspond to reality. Reality lets me know that I have no chance of ever playing pro football. Thus, that which we believe that does not correspond with what is real will one day come knocking. If don’t believe in policemen that will not be a viable excuse when I see red and blue lights in my rearview mirror (As a fun exercise why don’t you try that excuse the next time you are pulled over? “I don’t believe in the police so I don’t have to answer to you!”). No, whether we like it or not, reality will eventually make certain demands on us regardless of what we believe. God is no exception. If we do not believe in God, and He is real, which I think He is based off my own examination of the facts, then one day we will have to give an account for our lack of belief.

Another reason our beliefs matter is that they have consequences. Our worldview always translates into life. What we think becomes how we act. This is the reason many people live dramatically different lifestyles. It all begins in our thinking. Yet, correct beliefs lead to positive living. When we watch people crash and burn it is usually due to the fact that they had an incorrect view of the nature of reality, other times it is due to the fact that they chose to disregard the consequences they knew reality would bring.

How do our beliefs affect our lives? A couple of examples are in order. If I subscribe to the belief of Karma, then I will be less likely to help others because they must be paying off some negative Karmic debt. If I believe in the teachings of Christ and apply them, I will have sympathy on those suffering or in need. If I believe there is no God or ultimate purpose in life, I might be more likely to ignore the plights of others and focus only on my needs. A difference in believe leads to a difference in behavior.

What we believe always has consequences! This is no exception for the church. I sometimes am astounded by the current climate of Christian culture that places theology on the back burner and focuses on immediate practical living or “self help Christianity”. Certainly, there are practical teachings in the Bible. As believers, we need to focus on the practical verses and how they are applied to daily life, but we cannot do so at the expense of the theological. What we believe about God impacts everything about our Christian lives. When we have incorrect beliefs about God these ideas too have consequences. An incorrect handling of theology and doctrine can be deadly and impacts the lives of others. How we view God, hell, salvation, predestination, etc. drives the way we live, pray, evangelize, and serve.

Our beliefs shape our values, and our values shape our actions. – Karl Graustein

Walk good. Love Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Zombies, Porn, and Your Kids

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Zombies_Porn_StatsThis past weekend my son so generously shared his stomach virus with me. This was no run of the mill stomach virus. It was brutal. So, I did what I usually do when I am sick. I rented a sizable stack of movies, did some reading, and ate crackers to assuage the nausea. One of the movie highlights was World War Z. I am not typically one to jump on the Zombie bandwagon, but the realism of the movie had some appeal to me.

It certainly was not your typical Zombie film. There were not copious amounts of blood, and it had an engaging plot. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen the film, but the plot in a nutshell is that some source causes an isolated group of people to become “undead” and this rapidly spreads though being bitten. The turn from being a thriving person to the upright dead takes about ten seconds. Needless to say, majority of the world turns into zombies in a short amount of time. Things unravel quickly.

While the movie certainly seems far-fetched, there is another pandemic that has spread around the world with devastating consequences. In fact, it leaves a wake of “un-dead” in its path. I am speaking of porn.

Recently, Martin Daubney, ex-editor of the smut magazine Loaded, wrote an article about his upcoming documentary called Porn On the Brain. In the documentary he discusses how readily accessible pornography is to children and the effects of porn on kids.

In the article he writes about asking a group of teenagers, “On a scale of one to ten, how likely would you say it is that boys and girls your age are watching porn online? The reply was a chorus of tens, nines and one eight.” His small-scale survey coincides with current statistics. We know that 90% of kids are exposed to porn online between the ages of 8-16. Research shows that 80% of 15-17 year olds are exposed to hardcore pornography multiple times. The average age of first exposure to pornography is around the age of 10 or 11, and this will continue to creep downward as the pandemic spreads.

Wait a minute; you are just being an alarmist. Kids that view porn come from broken homes or have been abused. That doesn’t happen in good, little Christian homes. Wake up parents. It is happening in every kind of home around the glove. It doesn’t discriminate. Daubney writes, “When I asked the children if there were parental controls on the internet at home, they all said no, their parents trusted them. They all admitted their parents had no idea what they were watching, and would be shocked if they did know.”

Parents, the time for naiveté is well past. Pornography may have been more difficult to attain when you were young, now it is difficult to avoid. We have the tendency to minimize the statistics. The fact of the matter is there is a 90% chance your child will come into exposure with porn. Would you send your kid out somewhere if you knew there was a 90% chance they would be harmed? Of course not. That would be insane. Yet, I see so many parents are taking a gamble when it comes to porn. Do we want to trust our kids? Certainly! Does that mean we give them unbridled access to outlets where porn is readily available? The obvious answer is a resounding no. You must talk to your kids about porn and go to incredible lengths to put some barriers between them and the world of pornography.

Again, maybe you think, lighten up. Boys will be boys. What is the big deal? Why get so worked up? Because the consequences are devastating. Porn is to emotional, psychological, and relational health as a zombie apocalypse is to world health. I cannot count the number of grown men that have sat in my office and wept uncontrollably over the effects of porn in their lives.

Daubney states, “I feel as if an entire generation’s sexuality has been hijacked by grotesque online porn. To find out what porn is doing to young men, and the girls they have relationships with, we spoke to them via online forums and discovered that there were many young lives seriously blighted by an excessive, unhealthy relationship with pornography that can begin when they are as young as 12.” It is a known fact that pornography functions as an addictive substance. Does everyone that views porn become an addict? Certainly no. Yet many do. Again, the gamble is not worth it. Daubney captures this point well when he states, “If porn does have the insidious power to be addictive, then letting our children consume it freely via the internet is like leaving heroin lying around the house, or handing out vodka at the school gates.”

Pornography is shaping the way a new generation of males view women, sex, and intimacy. It creates a sexuality in men that divorces sex from emotion. Healthy sexuality is meant to be deeply emotional. It was designed to be one of the most emotionally charged connections a man and woman can have, yet pornography creates “undead” sexual machines. Why? Because one is behaviorally conditioned repeatedly to have a sexual encounter with an image. The brain continually ingests sexual imagery, pleasure, and sexual release. Neurons (these are the cells in your brain) that fire together wire together. When sex is practiced correctly, sexual stimuli and positive emotions become melded together in the brain. We don’t see that with kids brought up on a steady diet of pornography. Does this affect their marriages? Does it ever! They often lack the ability to be emotionally intimate with their spouse and this leads to a host of difficulties.

Repeated exposure to porn in the lives of young men (and just because I am primarily writing about boys don’t forget that 1 out of 3 viewers of porn are females) gives them an extremely distorted picture of what real sexuality is. They often expect sex to be what they see acted out in porn and women to look like what they view in porn. They create an appetite for what is not real, for what will never be real. This often leads to desire difficulties because they cannot find their wife sexually desirable. Porn also leads boys to depersonalize women. The female sex is not seen as a person. They become objects designed solely to titillate the rampant sexual desires of men.

There is so much more to say about this topic. As parents, we need to educate ourselves. We need to talk to our kids about things that might not be so comfortable to us. We need to shed the naive notion that our kids would never look at porn or be tempted to keep looking. We need to add as many checks and balances in the lives of our children as possible. We need to promote a healthy understanding of sexuality.

We may never face a zombie apocalypse, but we can stave the porn pandemic from creating more emotionally undead men.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

18 Things I Want My Son to Know About Life

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18 thingsRecently, Douglas Groothuis shared some advice that he gave a young man about to begin college. I thought it was tremendous, practical, simple, and yet profound wisdom. I hope my son, who is currently almost three, will heed this wisdom as he grows into a young man. So Hayden, when you read this twelve or fifteen years in the future, my heart’s desire is for you to act on this wisdom.

I will post Dr. Groothuis’s advice in bold and add some of my thoughts.

 

 

1. Study the Bible for the rest of your life.
Son, what is found within the pages of scripture is life. Choose it. Study it. Swallow it. Digest it. It will return a yield like you cannot imagine. Don’t read it simply to acquire knowledge. Do what it says (James 1:22).

2. Attend a Bible believing, teaching church.
Churches are like people. None of them are perfect. Find one that teaches truth and is living out what scripture teaches. Get involved in what God is doing. You need the support, encouragement, and accountability that you will find in church. You also need to be faithful to sing praises unto God and hear His word spoken. Find a church that doesn’t dumb down the gospel. Look for a church that thinks and engages culture.

3. Read Christian classics.
Don’t be deceived in thinking that “old books” offer no wisdom. On the contrary, they are pearls of wisdom. We stand on the shoulders of those before us. Be sure to check out Chesterton, Pascal, and Augustine to name a few.

4. Learn basic worldviews and why Christianity is rationally superior and true in all its affirmations.
This is a call to live an apologetic lifestyle. Know what you believe. Know what others believe. Why is Christianity more compelling than alternative worldviews? I have studied it for myself and continue to ask the hard questions. I have wrestled with doubt. You must do the same.

5. Beware of worldliness.
To avoid worldliness you have to be diligent, focused, and not chase everything that glitters.

6. Always be thinking of how to advance the mission and kingdom of God.
Regardless of your vocation, there is work to be done in God’s kingdom. Regardless, God’s will is going to be accomplished and someone will do His work. You get to decide whether you want the privilege of being involved.

7. Don’t waste your time and life. See Psalm 90
Life goes by in a blink. Make your time matter. How do you do that? See number 6.

8. Listen to other people, culture, God, yourself.
Many people have good things to say. You have good ideas. God always has good things to say and His ideas are never wrong.

9. Pick your friends carefully and be a true friend. See I Corinthians 13.
Good friends are hard to find. I can count on one hand the life-long friends that I have that have been closer than a brother. Distance and time does not diminish friendship. True friends forgive and are honest with one another. They have each other’s best interest at heart.

10. Remain sexually celibate until marriage and chaste within marriage.
Want a great sex life son? Then don’t have sex until you get married. I know this may not seem true, but trust me. This is where my wisdom knows better than your naiveté. Don’t ruin an amazing gift.

11. Marry someone not terribly unlike you.
This will diminish the potential conflicts in your marriage.

12. Marry only a Christian.
This is the most important quality in your potential wife. There will be times where your mutual faith is the only thing that can get you through difficult times.

13. Give as much as you can, make as much as you can, invest as much as you can.
There is nothing wrong with money. Make as much as you can without sacrificing your family. Know your priorities. Life is about relationships and not having things. Yet, I want you to work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Help others. Finance God’s kingdom. Invest your money and live wisely. Live like no one else early on so you can live like no one else later in life.

14. Read Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14 often: on youth and age before God.
Don’t put God off. Live for Him now. This is how you build a life devoid of regret.

15. Don’t lose the best things in life by oversaturation in electronic media.
Electronic media is great. It has its place. Enjoy it. Yet, make sure you do more of what you love (spend time with family, grow your natural talents, expand your interests, etc) and less of what you like (electronic media).

16. Read as much as possible on many topics.
You will be smarter, better at conversing, and find that knowledge is very empowering. Leaders are readers.

17. If you want higher education, do not put it off.
Love knowledge. Get as much school as you can. I hope I have set an example for you in this. I hope by the time you read this list and take it seriously that I will have attained three masters degrees and a Ph.D. You will never regret education.

18. Try to stay out of major debit.
Debt enslaves you. It can keep you from serving God. When your life is consumed with debt you will find you serve money more than God, even if that is not your heart’s desire. Deny your wants. Live within your means. Save for what you want.

Son, I hope you will take these thoughts into consideration. You have to be intentional about life. Enjoy it, but be aggressive. Nothing moves unless it is shoved. You won’t get a “do over.” Make your life count. God wants to use you. Live it to the fullest.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Loving the Idea of God

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idea of godWith 78% of Americans labeling themselves as Christians one quickly wonders, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” When you look across America, you don’t see nearly 8 out of 10 people acting like Christ. That is in fact what it means to be a Christian, to act like Christ. Now I am not saying that if you are not a perfect model, then you aren’t Christian. I am also not saying that Christians don’t backslide, rebel, or make God a low priority at times. I am saying that if 78% of Americans are Christians, then we have gotten drastically away from what Christianity is and should be.

I think what we see in our culture is more likely that there is a much smaller percentage of people that are Christians and a higher percentage of people that like the idea of God. That is to say, there is a vast difference between loving God and wanting to do what He wants you to do and loving the idea of God. The latter is self-serving and me focused while the former is self-denying and God focused.

Why would anyone love the idea of God? Well, because God provides a sense of purpose and instills hope. He is someone we can turn to when times become difficult. He is a genie that can be summoned by rubbing the magical lamp when we are down on our luck. God certainly offers a myriad certain emotional and psychological benefits.

But loving the idea of God does nothing to change who we are. That is, one can love the idea of God and remain totally the same. Live how you want, look out for you, and find comfort in the idea of God. Is that where much of America is? You tell me.

Do the following characteristics seem to apply to the populous as a whole? Would you say that many are lovers of themselves? That is, they take the place of priority in their lives? Is money the main focus in society? Are many boastful and proud? Is abuse prevalent? Do child respect parents? Is America ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God? These attributes are a paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3:2-4. Then, Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that people will have a form of godliness, but deny its power. “I will take just enough God to make me feel good, but not enough to change who I am.”

We should examine our lives and see if there are any areas where we just “like the idea of God” instead of living for God and loving Him with all of our “heart, soul, and mind.” In relation to Apologetics this means wanting to know more about God for the sake of knowing Him better, drawing closer to Him, and removing obstacles for others as opposed to simply acquiring knowledge. It is tempting to fall into the trap of wanting to have “the answers” for the sake of having them and not putting them to their proper use!

We should also, as believers, be willing to point out the difference between liking the idea of God and actually loving God to those around us. That means untwisting the gospel when it gets twisted. It means calling out those that preach a false Gospel (though always coupled with love) and exposing the prosperity gospel as a means to serve self.

Liking the idea of God may offer certain benefits while letting one live the way they want, but everything has its price. Living for ourselves will cost us high premiums, because life isn’t simply about us.

We are His servants, not He ours. He has called us to live lives of loving service and worship, not godlike supremacy. He blesses us, but not always materially. In no way can we “write our own ticket” and expect Him to follow our script – nor should any real believer even desire such a scenario. The life of the Christian is a life spent in pursuit of God’s will – not a strategy to get Him to go along with ours. –John MacArthur

 

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: No I’s In Us

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No Is in UsHow is it that two people that once desired to spend the rest of their lives together can come to a point where they can’t stand to be in the same room? What is it that leads to destruction in a marriage? Is it infidelity? Is it communication problems? Is it financial issues? Could it be bitterness or resentment? What is the root cause?

Most marriage problems can be traced to a single factor, yet it often goes unnoticed. It is an insidious enemy. It is something we all struggle with. No marriage is safe from it. It can crop up at anytime throughout life and is always destructive. The root cause of most marital problems is selfishness.

It is easy to be selfish, isn’t it? It comes natural. This is what makes it so difficult. While we have to take care of ourselves and meet many of our own needs, we often focus solely on ourselves. Our priority becomes our own happiness at the expense of our spouse. Often, we might not even realize that we have made ourselves the center of our own universe.

Many times, couples try to treat the symptoms. We try and improve communication, establish proper boundaries, look for unresolved conflict, deal with sexual frustrations, and curb spending habits. Yet, we have to ask, why are these problems in the first place? Is it possible that our infatuation with ourselves is what is fueling the problems in our marriage?

When we focus only on our needs we tend to manipulate others. We do what it takes to have our needs met. Selfish people communicate in a way that coerces others into seeing things their way. They use the other persons’ needs as a weapon. They withhold to punish the other and give in order to get. They use the resources of the other person on themselves when they can. They often appear to show concern for the other, but they do so when convenient or beneficial for themselves.

When we begin to see problems arise in our marriage, we tend to point the finger in our spouses direction. Instead of blaming, maybe we should take a look in the mirror. No one person is perfect within a marriage. Each side contributes to marital dissatisfaction and problems, yet often our love affair with ourselves is a substantial factor.

What needs does our spouse have that are we ignoring? Maybe it is time we stop focusing so much on ourselves. Maybe it is time we give without the expectation of getting? Maybe its time we be honest with ourselves and with the person we love.

No one wants to admit that they are selfish, yet most of us are. Selfishness is the arsenic of married life. It is a poison that we must seek to eliminate. It is time to die to ourselves for the sake of our marriages. We are to seek the good of the other, this is where we find happiness. When meet the needs of our spouse selflessly, and they do the same, we find that marriage becomes a joy and both parties feel cared for. There are no I’s in us. Let’s love our spouse more than we love ourselves.

Selfishness is the controlling force of sinful living. It is this motive which pulsates through the natural mind, emotions and will – self-pleasing, self-serving, living for self. – Walter J. Chantry

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

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