Posts tagged God

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.

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

Apologetic Wednesday: Choose to Sin, Choose to Suffer

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Choose to Sin_Choose to SufferWhen it comes to apologetics, one form that is often not employed is experiential apologetics. No doubt, those of us that know Christ have experienced God’s hand at work in our lives. He communicates to us through His word. He speaks into our conscience and at times impresses upon us a desire to act on His wishes. We also feel the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yet, at times, to those outside the faith or those skeptical of the claims of Theism, our experiences might appear subjective. Though our own experiences with God may seem highly vibrant and illuminated in our own personal lives, trying to use that as persuasive evidence to those that have serious doubts about God’s existence might not seem very satisfying. Yet, this is not to say that sharing our personal story of salvation, and how God has worked in our lives should not be employed. On the contrary, I think we should often share how God brought us to salvation. The point is, that by doing so we need not expect the vast majority of those outside the faith to suddenly drop all of their barriers to faith and give their life to Christ.

Recently, however, it occurred to me that there is a more objective form of experiential apologetics that applies to everyone, though not all will concede to it. When it comes to living life outside of God’s principles problems arise, consequences ensue, and suffering inevitably results. A universal experiential apologetic is simply this, choose to sin and choose to suffer. As a professor of mine was once fond of saying, “It is the furniture of the universe.” One can’t help but bump into this principle over and over; much like one does when stumbling to get to the restroom in the middle of the night. When people live their lives in a manner that goes contrary to the God’s design problems will inevitably arise.

Years ago, I use to enjoy building computers from scratch. Being the creator of my own machine, I knew the ins and outs of that machine. I knew what it was capable of. I knew what would cause problems for it. I knew all of the components inside, and I knew exactly what software was installed. If God created mankind, would it also not make sense that He knows us even more intimately than I knew the computers I built? He knows what we are capable of and what will result in problems. He knows what we can handle and what we can’t. He is certain that if we live in a certain way it will lead to sorrow.

In my professional life as a counselor, I see it daily. Majority of the people that come sit across from me in my office and poor out their sorrows do so because they have not been living by God’s design. Now don’t get me wrong, I have done the same myself and dealt with my own sorrow. Yet, I am continually broken by the problems we face because we choose to live our lives based on our own wisdom.

When God tells us to forgive it is because bitterness destroys our own happiness. When God says to handle sexuality in a certain way it is because He knows that a failure to do so leaves gaping wounds and destroys relationships. When He says to serve and give, He knows that happiness is not found in focusing exclusively on ourselves. When He says not to lie it is because it leads to relational instability. When He says that marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and woman it is because He knows that divorce damages kids and fragments the lives of adults. When He tells us not to get drunk it is because He is aware of the problems that often arise when we aren’t in our right minds. We could go on and on.

I think the fact that when we live God’s way we fulfill our function and find long-term happiness devoid of many avoidable problems is evidence of God’s existence. If He created people, then it follows that He knows what is best for them and what will harm them.  We see this played out in the lives of people daily. Choose to sin, choose to suffer. It is unavoidable.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Abusive Christian Parents

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Abusive Christian ParentsDid you know that there are thousands of Christian parents abusing their poor kids? Odds are, you probably didn’t. It is truly horrific. What are they doing? Beating them? Making them kneel on rice? Forcing them into hard labor? No, it is something much more sinister. They are homeschooling their kids and perhaps even teaching them to believe in creationism. Startling, isn’t it?

On August 1-3, 2013, the Texas Homeschool Coalition will be hosting its annual conference. Thousands of Christian families will attend the conference and be indoctrinated in this twisted propaganda. Yet, this year, there will be a hitch. A group of vocal atheists that hail from Dallas, known as “The Nones”, will be protesting at the conference in order to show the immoral nature of indoctrinating your kids will your values. I am sure that is something that no one else on the planet does. Who wants to instill in their children what they believe to be the truth?

One of the atheists affiliated with the group states that there must be some way of regulating homeschooling. Well, homeschooling is regulated. To legally homeschool, at least in Texas, you must follow state law. Now, granted, some homeschoolers take a really poor approach to education. Yet, there are some public and private schools that are also less than ideal. There are many homeschoolers, however, that get a remarkable education. I am willing to bet that what is most bothersome to the atheistic group is that the curriculum is geared at promoting a Christian worldview, yet this will happen in the home regardless of the education. The beliefs of parents are passed on to children. This goes for atheists, theists, pantheists, agnostics, etc.

“But wait. If home schooled kids are taught creationism or intelligent design they won’t get a competing secular perspective.” Well, I can’t speak for all home schoolers, but I can speak for myself. I was home schooled as a child. The curriculum I used was very theologically conservative. Yet, over the years I was exposed to a great diversity of worldviews. I was taught to think critically, for myself. I challenged and questioned much of what I was taught as a child. Some of my beliefs about God and the formation of the universe are different than what I was taught as a kid. I am willing to bet this is the case for many that are home schooled.

If the concern is a fair and balanced approach to origins, then why is evolution the only possible option for public schools? Why are kids not presented with other ideas? Can it not include evolution, theistic evolution, and intelligent design? Why don’t we teach all children that according to a naturalistic worldview, the universe pulled itself up by it’s own bootstraps and arose from nothing?  I don’t want my kids to be sheltered and graduate to feel that I held something back from them. I want them to understand the many competing ideas. I can assure my atheists friends that my children will be well versed in the many competing ideas about origins, but they will also get a healthy dose of what I believe. That is just how it works.

Parents who want to spend their own money, give their own time, and instill their own worldview into the education of their own children have every right to do so. Christians have that right and I support the atheist to do the same thing. It’s called freedom.

One of the members from the atheistic group goes on to make the statement, “It’s immoral to me to teach your child that the earth is 6,000 years old.” How is this immoral? Might it be incorrect? Certainly! I think it is very reasonable to believe the earth is older, but immoral? The theist might say that it is immoral to teach your child that there is no God or that morality is relative. Again, it might be wrong, but immoral is certainly a stretch.

She then goes on to say, “You’re an ape and you’re an animal. And to deny that is ridiculous. You’re still one anyways!” Let’s think about this. You’re an animal (according to naturalism), and it is immoral to teach your kids to believe in something like creationism. This is a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Animals are not moral creatures. Sure, they exhibit altruistic behavior. Dolphins have been known to save people drowning, but this is simply a case of man benefiting from behavior that is advantageous in the animal kingdom. Animals often exhibit “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” type of behaviors. We also see other problematic behaviors in the animal kingdom like: rape, brutality, killing over territory, and plundering. Are these behaviors immoral? Do we have prisons for monkeys, lions, and bison? Of course not, that would be absurd. Animals will act like animals. So if we are animals, and to deny that is ridiculous, then why should anything be considered immoral? You can’t have it both ways. Under naturalism, morality is a social construct that is relative. So what is the big deal? I’ll teach my kids what I want and you teach yours what you want. When we are all dead and the universe dies of heat death who will really care what we taught our kids (according to naturalism)?

To the atheists that will be protesting at the Texas Home School Coalition conference I wholly endorse your right to practice your freedom of speech. I also endorse the Christians families present to educate their kids in the way they see fit. To all of the home schooling families at the convention let’s teach our children to think critically, inform them, and help them stand on truth.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Sex and Meat Loaf

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Sex and Meat LoadWhat would you do to be loved? Back in the 90’s, the singer Meat Loaf belted, “I would do anything for love.” Doesn’t everyone want to be loved? It is a basic need that is innate. Everyone wants to receive and express love. The problem is, we are entirely willing to do too much for love and the consequences we face are devastating, both culturally and individually. Currently, about 1 out of 30 Americans successfully waits until after marriage to have sex. If that statistic is disheartening to you, remember that this represents over 10 million Americans that choose to remain abstinent until marriage, and they should be saluted.

It has been my experience as a mental health professional that women will often “do anything for love”, which often includes giving the most personal thing they possess, their virginity. Yet, if we wrote the male version of the song, it might be “I would do anything for sex”. Men will often artificially meet a need to be loved in order to enjoy a romp between the sheets. Now of course, sometimes it works the opposite way, but again, most female sexual addicts engage in sexual acts in order to meet an emotional need.

The fact of the matter is, America has become a nation of sex. It has become the driving currency. Sex has been hijacked, exploited, and manipulated to the point that it has become routine and commonplace. If one is single, having sex is the norm. Recently I was talking to a group of Christians and several made the statement, “If you are in your 20’s or 30’s then you are going to have sex. That is just the way it is.” But the truth of the matter is, we have made it that way. The remarkable thing about human beings is they have the capacity to override their sexual desires; though only 1 in 30 seem to be willing to do so.

I understand though, waiting to have sex is no longer in vogue. We are expected to enjoy sex whenever we feel like it and with whomever we like, as long as they are of age and consensual. Yet, what has this cost us? I would argue, a great deal. Scripture describes marriage, including having sexual relations, as “two becoming one flesh.” Sex is glue for the soul. Sex unites people in such a way that they become inseparable. When a couple has sex and then moves on to other partners, they carry pieces of the other person with them. This inevitably leads to problems.

A study published at Brigham Young University states, “Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships” and rank marital satisfaction 20% higher. According to a study at the University of Iowa, women who had sex as teens where at increased risk for divorce. Research at Western Washington University found that “having at least one other intimate relationship prior to marriage is linked to an increased risk of divorce.”

One does not need to pour over research, however, to see the adverse effects that the “sexual revolution” has had on America. To anyone that is cavalier in his or her sexual life I pose this question: Has having sex outside of marriage made your life better or more complicated? Has having sex outside of marriage brought you a sense of being loved or lead to more loneliness, emotional turmoil, and guilt? When you finally married after all of your sexual exploits, was your spouse excited to hear about the previous people you slept with or did you struggle with those memories by yourself? If your spouse had multiple previous partners do you fear being compared to those partners or feel that something that was meant for you was exploited by someone else?

Whenever I talk with youth I always like to ask them, “Do you want to have an amazing sex life after you are married?” I have never had one tell me “No, I hope my sex life after marriage is rotten.” They always look at me quizzically and respond with an enthusiastic “yes”! So I tell them the best thing they can do for their sex life later is not to have sex now. Because when two become one, they can’t become two again. You can’t unscramble eggs. Sure, God forgives us and offers us His wonderful grace, but we still face the consequences of our actions.

Meat Loaf would do anything for love, but he wouldn’t “do that”, whatever “that” was. We all want to be loved. We all want to give love. I think many of us have a fear not finding someone, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for a cheapened form of love and do “that”.

Let’s keep sex and love as two distinct entities, and allow sex to flow out of a committed, loving, marital relationship, the way it was intended to be.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Love Then Logic

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Love Then LogicIt is roughly one o’clock in the morning. It is a pretty familiar scene for me. I sit working in front of my computer in a dimly lit living room while the rest of my family sleeps. I watch my son over a monitor that streams live to my cell phone. As is often the case, he wakes up crying. I walk into his room to console him. He wants in my bed. I pick him, hug him, and place him gently beside my wife. He snuggles into her and is back to sleep in an envious matter of seconds, safe and secure.

I enjoy this time of life. My children are dependent upon me. I can allay their fears, bring comfort to their hearts, kiss away their pains, and shelter them from an often toxic and harsh world. Yet, I know one day they will make their own way. Their decisions will be their own. It will no longer be I that guides their every step.

Early yesterday morning, I read an article before I began my day. It was written by Rachael Slick, which is the daughter of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry founder, Matt Slick. In her article she tells about her childhood, which she seems to paint as restrictive, sheltered, and legalistic, and her journey into atheism. She recounts all the time that her father spent pouring into her good reasons to embrace Christianity. Then one day, she thinks of a question that she cannot answer, and walks away from her faith. Though her article does not make it clear, she seems to walk away quickly without really wrestling with the question that sent her spiraling away from the center of her Christian universe. It is also interesting to note that the question she felt posed a great problem for the Christian is really not problematic for belief in God.

As I read her story, I felt deeply saddened, but I also felt the crushing weight of responsibility. As a father of two, I hope I can instill into my children the love of God and why faith in Jesus Christ is reasonable. Why? Because I know that what they believe about God is the most important thing about them. Yet, as I read her article, it caused me to think about my own children and their journey through life as they formulate their own worldview. What if my children also decided to depart from the faith? What would I do? I would love them. Plain and simple, I would love them. There is nothing that can ever separate them from my love. No decision they could ever make can change the fact that I love them, and always will.

I have seen so many Christians who allow a host of different things to form a chasm between them and the people they love. Yet, we would do well to remember that there is nothing that can kill love, it is we that choose to withhold our love and affection.

As I read Ms. Slick’s article, it seemed (and I am psychologizing here) that though her father poured philosophy into her young mind early on and taught her to employ sound logic; she might have missed out on something she needed much, an understanding of God’s deep love and experiencing that love. We must remember that love isn’t something to be earned. It can only be given. It is the same with God. We can’t earn it. It is something He gives freely.

As Christians and Apologists (if you are a Christian you are called, though some to a higher degree than others, to be an apologist and have a reason for the hope you have) we need to remember that it is our love that must precede our logic. Do I want my children to develop solid answers for what they believe? Absolutely! Do I want my kids to remember their dad as being a defender of truth, who sought truth regardless of where it leads, and studied hard to make a case for Christianity? You bet! But long before they remember my arguments I want them to remember my love, because without a heavy dose of love from their dad my arguments won’t seem to carry much weight. In fact, without my love all of my words will just sound empty, like a “clanging symbol” that is beat annoyingly.

Let’s continue to redefine the way the world views Christianity. We are not a group of people scared by current scientific research. We do not cower down to the philosophies of the secular mind. We are not sheltered and fearful of “being bullied.” We have reasons for what we believe. But can we, as believers, please employ love before logic? Can we make sure that the world knows God’s love and be ambassadors of that love? Can we make sure that Christianity isn’t just a cognitive exercise, but also is a love story between God and His creation?

Ms. Slick, though you may not believe in God, He still loves you. To my own children, I will always love you regardless of the decisions you make. To the rest of us, may we remember the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38-39

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

The Most Important Thing About You

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Most ImportantA.W. Tozer once stated, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” As of late his words have become embedded in my mind. Several times daily this sentence is conjured up within my conscious thought. I have not been able to escape his words.

How right Tozer is. The single most important thing about us as human beings is what we think about God. Yet, how often do we think about God? In Luke 10:27, Jesus reminds us to Love the Lord your God with all your mind. To do this, we must spend time thinking about God, reading about God, learning about God, and obviously employing logic to defend and articulate what we think about God to others; so they might come to know the hope we have.

So the question is not only what do we think about God, but also how often do we think about it and how well. Much of Christianity focuses only on the practical aspects of the Bible. What can I find in scripture that is immediately applicable? I have heard countless Christians say, “I just need something from scripture to help me deal with my daily problems.” That is definitely a part of Christianity. The Bible is full of practical teaching that is directly applicable, but we must not limit our intellectual diet to what is immediately practical.

Theology is also of great import. What is Theology? It is the study of God. It asks, “What is God Like?” “What is God’s nature like and what are His desires?” “How is God involved with mankind and what does he expect of us?” You see, Theology, though many do not see it’s immediate importance, is the foundation for what we think about God. Poor Theology leads to an incorrect or damaging picture of God, and the most important thing about us is marred.

Maybe you ask, what does it matter? Why is what I think about God the most important thing about me? Our view of God drives every other facet of our lives. What we think about God is the foundation of our beliefs about life, morality, family, identity, ethics, purpose, and our future. Then our beliefs, in turn, set the course for how we live our lives. Our Theology, affects every decision we make and every action we take (sorry, that sounded like a cheap rip off of the police).

What you think about God is the most important thing about you. How often do you think about God? What are you learning? How are you growing? Are you expanding your Theological understanding?

So what do you think about God?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Ounces of Eden: Why Adults Should Be More Like Kids

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Ounces of EdenMy son loves bugs. I think there is something innate in every male around the age of two that compels them to enjoy all things creepy-crawly. Now, he doesn’t like touching bugs mind you. He has a fascination of them from afar. Tonight, when I was taking our dog out for the 18th time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in a while. A little light twinkled on and off at various points across our yard. A Firefly, the most romantic little guy in the insect world. Think of it, he can create his own ambiance every time he takes Mrs. Firefly out.

I managed to catch the little luminaire with wings, placed it in a jar, and brought it inside for my son to ogle at. When I came inside I told him that I caught him a very special bug. I turned out the light, and we watched as this marvelous creation did what it was designed to do. It glowed. Hayden was beside himself. “That bug has a flashlight”, he exclaimed. Well-spoken Hayden, I thought, a bug with his own flashlight. Imagine that.

We watched our small friend flicker around a few more minutes, and then we set it free to be a tiny beacon in sea of black. That was it. One boy. His dad. A tiny bug. Two full hearts. A gentle reminder.

This week started out kind of crummy for me. I had been sick with an odd virus (that makes your skin feel like it is being burned off). I was cranky, tired, stressed out, anxious, and feeling as though I didn’t have what it takes. Do you ever feel that way? That your dreams, hopes, and aspirations would just as soon smash you flat, scrape you up, and then crinkle you between their fingernails as the wind disperses the bits and pieces at random? It was a perfect storm for me to be a complete curmudgeon. Yet, bad weeks make gentle reminders burn brighter than they normally would. Tonight, as we gazed at a tiny, resplendent creature in the pitch-black of our living room, I was reminded of how good life is.

As I watched my son, it occurred to me that adults should be more like children for a number of reasons. In fact, at times I watch my son with jealous eyes. It seems when we are young we lack the perspective to enjoy childhood for what it is. Yet, it has long been my conviction that children never grow up. They just get bigger bodies, more responsibilities, become more driven by fear, distracted, and lose much of the wonder for the world around them.

I know that as “bigger children” we can’t ditch our responsibilities, but maybe we would do well to be more like children at times. Consider the many wonderful ways that children approach life. Early on, children aren’t insecure. They don’t worry about what other people think about them. They aren’t scared to ask questions. They aren’t anxious over the future. Very little, if any, shame mars their tiny hearts. They have no problem enjoying themselves. They take risks. They love freely and deeply. They trust others and aren’t cynical. They view the world with fresh, vibrant eyes, and they find wonder in everything they lay their eyes on.

When you begin to analyze the lives of children, one cannot help but be taken back to Eden. The infancy of mankind. What must that have been like? I think we can know, though with extremely limited capacity, by looking at the lives of children. We know that in Eden, mankind was corrupted and sin entered the world. The freshness and wonder of Eden was crushed under the weight of sin. So also is it with children. Eventually the world tries to squeeze every ounce of Eden out of the hearts and minds of all. Yet, regardless of how hard the world tries, one thing cannot be erased. The Imago Dei. The image of God.

At the fall, the imaged of God was effaced, but not erased. We all bear God’s image. It is the last ounce of Eden that remains with us all. At times, we get greater glimpses of Eden. When we become more like our children, I believe we are closer to what life was like at the beginning, and what life will be back when He returns. In the meantime, we get to struggle in a post-Eden world. Yet, we should strive to take Eden back by learning from our children.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:3

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What quality do you most admire about children?

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