Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Word to all the Christians

Rejoice in Hope in 2015, and always. That's the task and the privilege of the Christian.

We live in a society that is rapidly anti-Christian and anti-Bible. The main impetus for the hate? It's grown over time, but mainly, in this era, it's our stance on marriage equality. While the mainstream in the Church do not participate in hate speech (some fringe religious groups are reprehensible in their anti-gay demonstrations), we nevertheless refuse to reject Christ and the teachings of the Bible. Refusing to pick and choose what we like in scripture, we don't dump some precepts for our own convenience, or for political correctness. (Or do we?...see below) Our firm resolve has resulted in something unsettling, to say the least, as we're branded thus: haters, bigots, hypocrites.

As Christians we have to think deeply, rather than just regurgitate learned rhetoric. There are serious issues facing our culture and the world. We have to search scripture and our hearts to come up with a discerning stance on all sorts of issues. We are called to have a reason for our hope--all through the ages this has been true. Whatever faced Christians through the centuries, scripture called on them to have a reason for their hope.

History hints that in light of present circumstances, persecution is coming for the Christian, and not just in extremist areas like the Middle East. It's coming on the home front for all who dare open their mouths about the existence of absolute Truth.

Let's go over some serious issues of our time. We must know where we stand on these issues. They aren't someone else's problems, but issues for all humanity to grapple with.

Same-sex attraction does exist. Pedophilia, an attraction to children, does exist. Both are part of the sin curse--a part God has chosen not to eradicate or alleviate. A pedophile sometimes becomes a molester, but not always, just as a person battling same-sex attraction sometimes lives a homosexual lifestyle, but not always. The latter is a crime (and a sin), and the former is considered just sin in some camps, although most states at one time or another had laws on the books labeling sodomy a crime. In either case, the person battling the deviance is dealt a very tragic hand. As Christians standing up for the Bible, that's important for us to acknowledge.

Let me address some facts about molestation and pedophilia--which are two different things. We know that a small percentage of molestation cases are due to teenage experimentation (teenagers who are not pedophiles), and another small percentage are due to sociopaths displaying anti-social behavior (sociopaths who are not also pedophiles). An even smaller percentage are carried out by the severely mentally handicapped (who are not pedophiles). The remaining vast percentage of molestation incidents are carried out by pedophiles who choose to act on their disorder (pedophilia is a disorder listed in the diagnostic manual) in devious, manipulative, sick ways. They become highly manipulative in order to carry out their desires in ways that won't land them in prison. These people are predators, and their predatory behavior can start as soon as their sexuality kicks in at puberty.

Some argue that pedophiles are groomed by other pedophiles and wouldn't be this way if not for the crimes committed against them. Maybe, but probably only in some cases. Not everyone is corrupted by the sins committed against them. A friend from high school was molested by her father, who is a pedophile (and an alcoholic). Her life was ruined, in many respects, by the crime committed against her, but she was not corrupted, despite the number of years the perpetrator continued in his crimes against her. Now fifty, she has never married, has a number of physical and emotional problems, and despite being salutatorian in high school, has never met with any success in life (that can be measured outwardly). We have email contact only as she lives far away, but her circumstances never cease to tear me up inside, and they're part of the reason I don't trust anyone with my children.

As Christians trying to stand up for truth and mercy, it's important for us to come to terms with the ugliness of the sin curse, especially when we comment on the sins of others. This is emotionally- and mentally-wrenching work, this coming to terms. We are not all dealt an equal hand, when it comes to the sin curse. We all have a choice in how we live our lives, but not in the extent to which the sin curse affects us. God's grace has fallen on humanity unequally, in terms of the sin curse.

He chooses us; we don't choose him. Nevertheless, he probably chooses us by knowing ahead of time who will choose him. I don't pretend to understand this, but like you, I have to accept his sovereignty and be grateful for his grace in my life...and be merciful to others.

Some have the grace of coming from intact, healthy Christian families and becoming Christians early, while others have the grace of coming from unhealthy families, but later being a part of the small percentage of people who come to Christ after age 18. The extent of grace in our lives as a whole varies, but we are called to be grateful for every ounce of grace, not comparing with a bitter heart, wondering why others have it better.

And now, having come to terms a little with the different hands humanity is dealt, I've another angle to present in the whole case against Christians as bigots and hypocrites. In some ways, we are hypocritical.

For example, the marriage and remarriage "laws" in the Bible are strict, and yet we all know Christians who live in circumstances outside the scriptural model. Despite the fact that most pastors will not marry a couple who present with unscriptural circumstances, these couples, though Christian, marry anyway, often in civil ceremonies.

There are many Christian couples who divorce for reasons not cited in scripture. Some live alone and celibate for the rest of their lives, and others, not. Called to live in circumstances we don't like, we choose our own way, rationalizing it.

And yet, we tell same-sex attraction people that they mustn't act on their desires, even though we are guilty of acting on our own non-biblical desires. And similarly, their desire, like ours, is to be happy.

The stark reality? God doesn't call human beings to happiness. This is something we don't like to preach. He calls us to obedience. He calls us to a life of faith. He calls us to self-denial, for the sake of our fellow man. He calls us to walk the path he walked, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you talk about modesty in this era, people accuse you of victim-blaming, as though you're saying if someone dresses immodestly, they deserve what they got ( in terms of a sexual crime committed against them). No, modesty is about submitting to one another in love. A crime is a crime, regardless of how someone dressed.

Modesty is about denying the insecure desire to look as attractive as possible. As women, our real attractiveness comes from our heart for God. Skin-deep attractiveness is a grace given to some--but not one to be flaunted.

The Bible calls us to give, and yet many of us don't give even close to 10%, much less giving offerings on top of that.

We are called to forgive, but not all of us do.

We are called to all sorts of things in the Bible, but we fall short.


Three reasons. First, we have a sin nature. Secondly, we don't have enough faith to make the right decisions at the right times. And thirdly, we don't have the teachable heart necessary to take advantage of biblical wisdom. In all three cases, full surrender to God is lacking.

The few of us who follow biblical precepts pretty well, have another glaring problem. Pride.

We all fall short. Because we don't like, and don't choose to walk in, the path scripture lays out for us. Instead, we want to pursue happiness when it appears available.

Later, as God works in our lives and as we submit to a greater extent, we repent of past decisions and paths. Our sanctification is a process; some have a longer way to go. Some are stagnant for a time because of a unteachable heart, but even these people will be pulled along by their faithful Father, albeit at a slower pace, and with more consequences to deal with.

Some people find themselves in strange circumstances, biblically speaking. They may have divorced and remarried as young Christians still needing milk, but later, they find themselves capable of following scripture with more surrender. No longer baby Christians, they have more power in their lives--power in the form of greater faith, better self-control, better obedience, greater gratitude and generosity.

They repent of past mistakes, but they find themselves in a marriage they weren't supposed to have chosen, biblically speaking. Should they divorce now? Of course not. But they can certainly work to counsel others through their testimony. There were certainly consequences to their wrong decision, and they can speak to those for the sake of others facing the same cross roads: God was merciful to me, but you don't want to walk my path. Walk a better one. A more obedient one. A more legacy-producing one.

As to the matter of tithing: Generosity comes from gratitude, and tithes and offerings come from faith mixed with gratitude and obedience. Not all are in place at the same time. Sanctification is a process.

Despite the reality of this process, we still have to preach Truth. Sanctification being a process doesn't negate the importance of absolute truth, proclaimed. We still have to uphold the Bible as our standard. In our churches, we have to exhort obedience and surrender every Sunday, and everyday as parents with children. In the privacy of our own hearts, we must exhort ourselves to be teachable, to be obedient. To surrender all.

And as to the accusation that we are hypocrites, we best own up to it. We are. Our lives reflect that. We want everyone else to do as the Bible says, even though we don't thoroughly do it ourselves. We are all at his mercy.

The sin curse is horrible. Just horrible. For some people, it's more horrible than it is for us. When we proclaim Absolute Truth, we must also acknowledge that the sin curse is not equally distributed across humanity. We must deliver absolute Truth with authority, and with mercy. Always with mercy.

And we must preach this: The Cross is the answer to every dilemma, to every circumstance, to every horrible manifestation of the sin curse.

The Cross is the reason for our hope. The Cross is the promise of something perfect--in stark contrast to this tear-soaked, wrenching, sin-cursed world. The promise is that this is not our home. It is just a place we're rapidly passing through. Our place is secure for us in our real home...Heaven.

We must urge ourselves, and every Christian, to live, and to make decisions based not on this place, but on Heaven. There are all sorts of discomforts we can handle now, for the sake of Heaven.

We must bathe ourselves in the Word, as a reminder of our Hope, which gives us strength. We must commune with the Holy Spirit, who is our comfort and our teacher.

Whatever happens in the coming years in terms of our persecution, remember the reason for your hope. Remember the rewards waiting in eternity for those who surrender fully now...even unto death. Be willing to proclaim Christ, through all, for the glory of God--the glory of God being our joy and our job.

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