church nonsense, Light

Hated, Hounded & Human

“The Jewish leaders hated Paul.  They followed him from town to town and made trouble for him wherever he went.  He would spend weeks, months, or even years in a place teaching about Jesus and then his enemies would show up, get him run out of town, and then stay and attempt to undo what he had taught.

The Christians in the “circumcision group” continued to actively oppose him, too, insisting on adherence to their traditions.  Paul warned Titus about them when he wrote, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.”  (Titus 1:10-11, 13-14)  I like the way the KJV words verse 14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

Paul would go into a city and teach, the unbelieving Jewish leaders would soon follow to discredit him and the believing “circumcision group” would further confuse things by insisting on putting new wine into old wineskins.  (Matthew 9:17)

He was opposed from within and without.

Have you ever been opposed from within and without?

When I first started speaking about abstinence I expected to face some opposition from without, but I wasn’t prepared for the vicious opposition I would soon face from within.  I was asked to speak to a certain youth group one evening.  God had given me a message for them that was different from any I had given before or since.  As I was taking it down I asked, “Are you sure, Lord?”  Even though the message was intense, I had never had such a clear sense that I was taking His dictation.  As I gave the message one of the youth leaders (an adult male) began raising objections.  It would have been appropriate for him to pull me aside afterward to share his views but instead he repeatedly interrupted the presentation.  In spite of the interruptions a few of the students seemed to be taking the message to heart.  A few quickly aligned themselves with their leader.    The rest just looked confused.  I handled the objections cordially and then stayed for punch and cookies before hauling my equipment from the basement of the church.

As I wrestled to get my load through the heavy outer doors, none of the youth standing nearby offered to help.  They just stood in a huddle glaring at me.  I drove home grieved that those youth would exude such hate toward a guest in their church – a guest who had come to minister to them.  What grieved me the most was the realization that their attitudes reflected their leadership.  It had been a long day of presentations and I was exhausted when I arrived home but, since I had been away from my computer all day, I decided to quickly check my e-mail before going to bed.  Waiting in my inbox, just itching to pounce, was the worst vitriol – actually the only vitriol – that had ever been leveled against me.  In the time it had taken me to drive home that youth leader’s objections turned from rude to punch-me-in-the-gut ugly.  It sent me reeling for days.  A Christian is capable of writing that?  Or was he one of those guys about whom Jude warned?

For the first and only time I was tempted to quit.  I wondered whether I had been mistaken about my calling.  A few days later I received a beautiful note in the mail.  It was from a seasoned saint who encouraged me with Jesus’ words:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”  (Matthew 10:14-15 )

Her timely note reminded me what God had told me the moment of my call to this ministry, “It is not going to be easy.”  Instead of quitting, I resolved to speak all the more.  Shamefully, the man launched a whisper campaign against me, the ripples of which I still occasionally feel today.  The campaign against Paul was on a much larger scale.   The aversion some women have toward him even today are ages old ripples.  You’ll see what I mean.  For now, just keep in mind that those who hated and hounded him were not going to let his words go untwisted.

We’ll start some untwisting tomorrow.”

The above is an excerpt from a Bible study I wrote five years ago.  I am currently converting it to a book for publication.  Thought I’d share a bit of it with you, see if you have anything to say…

Update:  Years later I heard disturbing news about that youth leader, and about the pastor who backed his ugly words.  No wonder the hounds of hell were barking and snarling so viciously.  No wonder God gave me that particular message.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

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pornography, restoration

I Still Break Her Heart

This Friday afternoon I will spend close to two hours speaking to an assembly of 7th graders.  I will be showing them why it is important to guard their hearts and I will be giving them practical suggestions on how to keep them sticky – for a marriage bond that will last.

After a short break the youngsters will learn to discern media messages.  And in the process I will warn them to steer clear of pornography. I’ll tell them that pornography is especially dangerous for kids their age and I’ll tell them why:

When you are young – a toddler, a pre-schooler, an elementary school kid – your brain is like a sponge.  It continually soaks up all kinds of information.  Every piece of new information that comes at you gets attached to existing information and synapses (connections) are formed.

Then, when you become around 11 for girls and 12 for boys, your brain starts to prune itself.   It’s like little scissors start to snip some of the connections.  Random info that you don’t really need gets snipped away.  But the connections that are reinforced – like by practicing the piano; adding, subtracting, multiplying every day; listening to the same song over and over until you have the lyrics memorized – those connections become really strong and tough.  They are too thick for the scissors to snip.

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So if you are a 10, 11, 12 year old kid looking at pornography on your computer, smart phone, whatever, your brain will make a connection between inappropriate images and sexual arousal.  And if you reinforce that connection by looking at it again and again, the connection will become strong.  Very strong.  Too strong to be snipped.

Years from now, when you marry the beautiful, godly woman of your dreams, you’ll have a difficult time being aroused by her – especially after the newness of your marriage wears off – because you have trained your brain to be aroused by lust, exploitation and flesh rather than by love and intimacy with a beautiful soul.

There was an article in Time magazine several years ago that said pornography is as addictive as heroin when it comes to the effect it has on the brain.  When I was a social worker, I often saw moms choose heroin over their children.  Not because they didn’t love their children, but because heroin is so powerfully addictive.  So is pornography.

Five years ago I took a group of young people on a retreat to pilot a Bible study I was writing.  On the morning of the final day I asked them to share their stories.   Here’s RJ’s story:

I first met RJ and Beth when they came to lead worship at the retreat.  I hired RJ over the phone, sight unseen. It was clearly a divine appointment.  I still keep somewhat in touch with them through Facebook.  They now have a band, a precious little boy and another baby on the way.  They are a darling couple and their lives are good, and hard.  Sometimes REALLY hard for Beth.  Every time her husband chooses to indulge his addiction he is choosing to break her heart. When his lifeless eyes reveal that he has fallen off the wagon, when their browser history reveals that he has been googling “how to get around Covenant Eyes” at 2 am, he breaks her heart again.  REALLY breaks it.

And though she forgives him, that forgiveness costs her a lot.  And he keeps letting her pay.

Which breaks MY heart.

I asked my retreat guests to work through portions of the Bible study and give me feedback.  I collected them at the end.

In the chapter entitled “Know Your Enemy” I asked:

Is the enemy trying to rob you of the glory of your future marriage by appealing to your physical need?  Is he trying to get you to prove your desirability?  Is he offering you immediate gratification with a cheap imitation of the “naked and unashamed” marriage God has planned for you?  Couples who are living together and sleeping together are being tricked out of it and it’s a darn shame.

Beth highlighted those questions and wrote:

This kind of trickery does not stop once you get married.  It just begins to happen in new ways.  Also, Satan does what he can to get people to have sex outside of marriage & he does what he can to keep you from having sex when you are married, unless it is w/ someone other than your spouse.  We need to fight this tactic!

I wonder how many young wives, whose husbands are addicted to pornography – whether through actively partaking or through revisiting the images that they cannot snip from their brains – are tempted to prove their desirability elsewhere.  To somebody.  To anybody.

Mamas, watch your babies.  Talk to them, explain things to them.  And when you have a minute, read this:

Jamie is 13 and hasn’t even kissed a girl.  But he’s now on the Sex Offender Register after online pornography warped his mind.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

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life

S-E-X

I was signing in at the office of a Christian school today on my way to talk to an assembly of eighth graders.  Security at that school is tight so while I waited for my bar-coded, time-sensitive nametag to print, I chatted with one of the administrators.  She said her daughter had heard my sixth grade presentation last year.

The woman shared that her daughter came home from school that day and enthusiastically told her all about what I had said.  Then her daughter covered her mouth and whispered, “But she said the s word.”  The mom asked, “What?”  The girl, mouth still covered, whispered “the s word”.  “What?”  “The s word.”  It took awhile but the woman finally figured out what her daughter was saying.

I told the woman that I used to refrain from using the s word with sixth graders.  Instead I would let them pick a word – like vegetables.  As in “Vegetables are only for marriage.”  Because, according to them, sex was too powerful a word for their little ears to hear.

But I stopped using substitute words because sex is not a bad word, and I don’t want the youngsters to get the idea that sex is bad.

Sex is good.  It was God’s idea.

As I walked into the adjoining office to hang up my coat, I overheard the administrator say to her colleague, “Sex is good, it was God’s idea!  I like that!  I’ve never heard anyone say that before.”

Sex is not “the nasty”.  It’s one of God’s greatest inventions.

In its proper time and place.

Just thought I’d mention it here in case you’ve never heard that before either.

Oh and the eighth graders were great.  We had a lot of fun, God had a lot to say and they were all very attentive.

Next Friday I talk to the seventh graders.  Say a prayer.

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