Who left that Trojan Horse parked at the nation’s capitol?

Our church is looking for a man to replace me as preaching pastor when I step down at the end of 2021. The elders expect to recommend a candidate to the congregation in six weeks. But something has come up: a transgendered man has applied. Although this applicant is unqualified in many ways, we are especially troubled that this person believes transitioning from one gender to another is fine since “transgendered” is never frowned on–let alone mentioned in Scripture. But God has made all people either male OR female (see the chromosome collection) with no hint that we get veto power over His choice. Nevertheless, because of our convictions we are being charged with discrimination. The lawyer told us, “We’ll see you in court”.

OK relax, I made that all up. But we easily could face something like this.

Like inquisitors, legislators are poised to “protect” the LGBTQ + family with the organizational equivalent of stakes, ropes and firewood. While this legislation threatens schools, privacy, and businesses, I have no doubt it will also cost people of faith dearly (including evangelical Christians, Muslims, and some Jewish people). Last month HR 5 passed the US House, and if the Equality Act gets a green light in the US Senate the table will be set for authorities to either torpedo churches and other Christian ministries such as mission agencies and universities who refuse to hire gay staff, or force compliance. Since the bill contains NO religious exemption, this is a very big deal–and a very bad one for Christians who are much more convinced of their Bible’s unchanging message than the short-lived ones favored on the street that are repeatedly replaced by the next “truth”.

This bill is a trojan horse.

Here’s congress’s own summary of the Equality Act: This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.

The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

Even after hormones or sex-change surgery, transgendered women will still have a bigger, harder, and faster frame than biological women. Yet they’ll be legally invited to play lacrosse with biological women. In most cases, the former will defeat the latter. If anyone objects an attorney will be provided for…, your opponent. If he cannot afford one, one will be provided him by the Justice Department so that every objection is met with a legal anvil. Meanwhile, elementary schools must open their girls’ rest rooms to biological boys so they’ll be well-prepared for their high school years where their restrooms will welcome biological men. What a fantastic way to ensure that massive number of additional families decide to homeschool or do cyberschool.

Once HR 5 is woven into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, churches and Christian organizations whose biblical convictions on homosexuality and gender shifting differ from others in society, will be viewed as evil and as outdated as those of the KKK–and treated not only with the same shame, but with the same “justice”. In other words, a church convinced from Scripture that God does not put His stamp of approval on homosexual conduct and thus refuses to hire a gay man as a pastor, will be branded discriminatory and the courts will go to work. Buckle up.

For 2000 years Christians and their churches have believed, lived, preached and proclaimed what the Bible teaches. Admittedly, that’s often put us at odds with our fellow citizens–as in the case of objecting to same-sex practices and the imposition of transgendered demands in schools, sports, and businesses. But when this republic was established–in part by the efforts of those whose ancestors came to the new world fleeing religious persecution, framers explicitly guarded rights to believe, live, preach and proclaim religious convictions. The First Amendment guarantees that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

But the framers of America’s new moral code not only insist that religious protections be ruled null and void, but tell those still clinging to ancient faiths to sit down and shut up. “You’re on the wrong side of history.”

Just days ago USA Today writer Hemal Jhaveri [oops, looks like USA Today just fired her a few hours ago] lashed out at Oral Roberts University after the Christian school’s basketball team somehow waded through competition that included much larger schools like Ohio State to become one of the final sixteen teams in the NCAA’s Big Dance. Hemal is livid that anybody could pretend this is an enchanting Cinderella story since the school is …a hotbed of institutional transphobia, homophobia with regressive, sexist policies. There is no way to separate their men’s basketball team from the dangers of their religious dogma, no matter how many top seeds they defeat.

Wow, I guess the era of “tolerance” has run its course. Or maybe it’s just supposed to go one direction.

You should call or email your US senator right now and urge them to vote “No” on the Equality Act which is anything but equal. And pray. But not only about the nation’s direction, pray that those of us who are faithful would remain faithful no matter what comes. And meet the phony charges of hate so often hurled at us with Jesus’ directives. “Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. …If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! Luke 6:27, 32

Several weeks ago Illinois pastor Sandy Willson gave some wise and wonderful words to his Grace Presbyterian congregation about this legislation. It’s worth the 10 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfSxwJIraus

The Take-no-Prisoners War on Gender

And it’s increasingly uncertain you or anyone else will be permitted personal views which fail to correctly align with what the viewshapers often call “the right side of history”.

It began when some men who were convinced they should be women and some women who were convinced they should be men–or believed they actually were, went public. In an emotional interview with Diane Sawyer in 2015, Bruce Jenner popularized the idea that some people were meant to be someone else when he came out as Caitlyn. Vanity Fair did a cover story complete with provocative photos of “Cait” in makeup, jewelry and a woman’s breasts, and suddenly it was chic. Like a dam breaking, seemingly overnight a society in which everyone was either male or female was flooded by an almost limitless collection of new genders. As Samantha McLaren writes on LinkedIn, “Gender is a spectrum, not a binary”.

“Transgender” was quickly joined by labels such as agender, pangender, two-spirit, third gender–and in the early days of transmania, Facebook users could chose their gender identity from over fifty options. Christians reading God’s Word usually have a problem with this because of “…from the beginning, God made them male and female” (Jesus, Matthew 19:4). While admittedly there are those in the body of Christ who do feel like they would be more comfortable in the skin of the opposite gender, it’s suggestive that those who embrace that trajectory, often despise religious views.

And it’s increasingly uncertain you or anyone else will be permitted personal views which fail to correctly align with what the viewshapers often call “the right side of history”.

Keith Rohrer

So maybe, we should be quiet, don’t disagree in public, be tolerant. And by tolerance, I’m not talking about being agreeable–something the word once meant. It now usually means approval–even celebration. Even if you keep a low profile, it’s increasingly uncertain you or anyone else will be permitted personal views which fail to correctly align with what the viewshapers often call “the right side of history”. The “right” side is usually where society’s trendsetters are dragging us, not necessarily the side that is correct or moral.

If you shrug, “Hey, how some people think about gender doesn’t affect me”, look at what’s happening in the US House of Representatives and think again. In the House, the current leadership now prohibits the use of any gender-specific terms such as father or mother. In the following article, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s (CBMW) Colin Smothers unpacks this and its implications. CBMW mans a lonely post in today’s church due to its unflinching worship of God’s wisdom and beauty in so uniquely shaping and distinguishing femininity and masculinity.

Young parents: abandon the Bible’s “rod” at your peril, and at your children’s expense

It’s time to level with some parents: you’re believing the lie that you’ll be a better parent and have happier children if you don’t use what the book of Proverbs calls “the rod” on your children. Maybe it’s because you’ve read too many authors or heard too many speakers deliberately substitute the word “hit” when referring to spanking or paddling. It sounds like child abuse and “hitting” is; spanking and paddling is not. It’s one more example of what clinical and social psychologist Dr. Nick Haslam has labeled “concept creep”: …negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before

The truth is that parents of children who are rude and defiant, are often paralyzed into inaction by their out-of-control children. Everyone’s miserable in the house because parents discover that the only tools they are left with are ignoring, pleading, yelling, bribing, or hiding, none of which brings God glory, peace in the home, or helps these precious little blessings learn who God is.

I am a huge fan of the current gospel-centered parenting movement. I wish I had had the kinds of resources now available when our children were young. But even among this movement there is sometimes the idea that grace-filled parenting is a new and improved method of parenting that replaces the rod–rather than informs its use. If the rod is ruled out for use with our children, does that mean that God’s ruled it out for His own discipline of us (Hebrews 12:5-11)? Does it mean that His methods have changed to exclude the element of pain so frequently used in His wonderful training? As author and millennial mom to three Tilly Dillehay suggests in the following article about the cost of such neglect, “We’re teaching our kids that just as we don’t mean what we say, God doesn’t mean what he says.” This article is THE BEST I’ve ever read on the subject and I highly recommend it to young parents interested in pleasing God, helping their children, and restoring their own sanity. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/rod-point-children-god/

Should I take a vaccine if it was developed using fetal tissue cell lines from aborted children?

The retirement home called several weeks ago and said they’d have COVID-19 vaccines in a week. Was my mother planning to take it? She was at our house at the time and I said I would ask her.

The oxygen spent debating the wisdom and merits of a vaccine that was rushed into production far more quickly than in any in pre-COVID-19 times, could probably run a city’s worth of ventilators for the next month. The volume of digital ink spilled has been impressive too. But the pressing question for many Christian believers is the ethical one, “Was this vaccine made at the expense of aborted children–and if so, should I take it?” The quick answer is that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently available were not. But more on the way, were. What’s an ethical decision for a prolife Christian?

Randy Alcorn is a prolife Christian with a long history of anti-abortion activism. The blog entry he posted today is long but well worth reading. https://www.epm.org/blog/2021/Jan/13/covid-vaccines-fetal-cells.

6 Reasons children should pay for part or all of their college education

During my last sermon I made this offhand comment that raised a few eyebrows: “I think it’s unwise for parents to pay for all or most of their kids’ college education.” Say what? How does a Messiah College student come up with $192,000 for their four years–or even a Millersville University student with the $112,000 they need ?

We didn’t put our three kids through college–not because we had this philosophy at the time, but because we couldn’t. When my oldest child started college, I was only five years out of graduate school myself. Although able to get through school debtfree, the day I graduated we had just $500 in the bank. Our children understood that college would be their responsibility. In the end, each acquired a four-year degree without borrowing thanks to savings, scholarships, jobs, and military service.

I’ve wondered what decision we’d have made if we had the resources. Probably paid between half and all of it. Which I now think would have been a disservice to my children. A few years ago when I asked each of them if they valued having had to find their own way to pay for college, each gave an unequivocal “Yes”. I realize you may come to a different conclusion but here are the six top reasons I think parents should think twice before paying for their kids’ college.

  1. It is not your obligation: At 18, your kids are considered adult enough to vote, and get a fulltime job. So why do parents fund their meals, lodging, schooling and good times for the next 4 years? If there was ever a way to cement in a young adult’s mind that mom and dad are always obligated to sponsor me, this is it. No wonder 52% of 18-29 year-old Americans now live with their parents (did you see Failure to Launch?). There’s nothing biblical about the widely held belief that parents owe their kids college. Too many parents buy the oft-repeated lie told by schools and politicians that the only way to succeed in life is with a 4-year degree. Yet I know many, many very successful business owners who didn’t go to college. I know many successful tradesmen who never went to college. With both an undergraduate and a graduate degree, I’m hardly anti-academic. But to say there’s no success outside of a college degree–and therefore good parents should do ANYTHING necessary to fund it, is little more than propaganda. Because 40% of college graduates take a job that doesn’t require a degree. Ten years after graduation, 20% of them are still not working in the field they trained for (Strada Institute for the future of Work, May 2018). There’s also a bit of vocational snobbery in play because some parents are embarrassed to admit that their son is a plumber, their daughter a waitress. They’d prefer to brag he’s an attorney, she’s a nurse. (We’ll have this discussion again sometime in the future when you can’t find someone to repair your toilet.)
  2. Paying students make smarter school choices: When it’s you buying the car–and you only have so much money, you pick the Ford even though you’d really like the Ferrari. If someone else is buying the car for you, why not get the Ferrari? Unless she realizes she can save a boatload of money, why would any 18 year-old pick HACC for her freshman and sophomore years to get general courses out of the way before going to Penn State for junior and senior years? “But all my friends are going to Penn State all four years!” Knowing it’s going to cost THEM an extra $80,000 will likely tilt their decision in a better direction.
  3. Paying Students apply themselves better: If it’s up to you to land what you want (new girlfriend, new kitchen, lose weight, new car), you apply yourself. But many young people go to college oblivious to the sacrifices momma and daddy are making to send them. After all, how many 18 year-olds know how much money mom and dad have, or understand the impact on the family finances of everyday things like a mortgage, taxes, cars, insurances, utilities, repairs–or college? Happily oblivious to the sacrifices others are making for their education, some end up partying the first couple of years before buckling down, while others never really apply themselves because they have no skin in the game.
  4. Paying Students get a great financial education: This may be one of the most valuable lessons college provides–something he/she won’t get in the classroom. College students who pay their own way by juggling savings, employment, grants, and loans, get a real world education about the consequences of working, saving, spending or borrowing large sums of money.
  5. Paying Students feel enabled, not entitled: When asked what word describes the millennial generation, 71% say “entitled”. But how did they get like that? If mom and dad give, give, give–then neglect to ask mid-late teens to contribute something (gas money for the car, or partial insurance, or do chores around the house), it’s no wonder young adults feel entitled when given a $100,000-$200,000 education with few or no strings attached. And don’t be surprised if this attitude endures into jobhunting: “I want to start at the upper middle if not at the top; I expect regular promotions, wage increases, and flexible hours–regardless of how well I perform.” Compare that with a student who works summers, is also employed on campus during the school year, and takes out limited loans to get the education he realizes not everyone has access to. He has already pulled up any entitlement roots that were growing in his soul.
  6. Paying students leave funds needed for parents’ golden years: Some people can continue to work well into retirement but health problems or employment challenges (we’re letting you go because we’re, ah, we’re…, ah… downsizing”) means there’s no guarantee. A friend who was 79 told me he was still working fulltime, and his wife was almost fulltime. Seeing my flabbergasted look he explained, “We refinanced our house to pay for our children’s college. We’re still paying that off.” I’m pretty sure that his now middle-aged children would not have wanted to put mom and dad in that kind of situation had they understood the implications at the time.

Don’t wait until your son or daughter’s a high school junior to inform them they’re going to be responsible for paying for most or all of their college. Tell them in middle school; yep, you heard me. Because schools are already talking to them about college. Teach them young to save. At ten, my daughter was already saving babysitting money for college. Help them apply for grants, or strategize how much they can earn during summers. Most likely your teen has never borrowed money before so if that’s part of their plan, give them good counsel. Parents are rightfully concerned that if they don’t foot the college bill, their children will take out ill-advised loans and end up deeply in debt. But if you financially parent your children (teach them what stuff costs, teach them to work, teach them to become increasingly self-sufficient), they’ll be willing to dedicate savings, choose a less expensive college, shoulder summer jobs as well as work while in school, penny-pinch on expenses, and work hard for scholarships if college is their goal. Teaching them such things IS a parent’s responsibility; paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to “educate” our adult children, is not. For it isn’t a liberal arts education that is the foundation of true knowledge, but the “fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:7).

Dads, lead Family Worship, even if you Stumble

Although a pastor, I never led family worship well. In fact, I frequently gave up in frustration. Months later I’d be convicted again and muster up the resolve to try again. There were many obstacles–such as the busy lives of both parents and children. And what kind of family worship can you do that’s helpful for a 12 year-old, a 10 year-old, AND a 5 year-old? And how can you keep their attention when the competition is YouTube videos, video games, and…, pretty much anything else?

I’m sure I’ve spoken with dads who’ve felt they succeeded at this, but I can’t remember them. Most of us stumble at it–and perhaps like me at times, you feel that stumbling means you might as well give up. But what if instead of making a touchdown the goal, we are satisfied with just moving the ball forward for our children? Just nudging their hearts repeatedly towards Jesus–whether done well or still with room to improve?

Here’s a great piece that may give you some encouragement. And if it does and you’d like some concrete suggestions of what to do, ask a Christian brother who’s already doing it. Or, email me and I’ll see if I can help. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-can-lead-family-worship?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=96005595&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_prfx5XzO7bx3-CKZktadY_WqcTU3BIkM2bLw23oRhF7g0ZKPfJD_GRLY0EdFslf9H2rdLGxVIpbnTBM_IIy6td1imdlVd-fWUBC_ul4UmRiFAk_E&utm_content=96005595&utm_source=hs_email

Don’t be Surprised

Just months away from their wedding, the young couple looked stunned. They couldn’t believe what I’d just said. I say the same thing to every couple going through premarital counseling, but their surprise was not surprising.

“Someday in the future, one of you will find yourself attracted to someone else. Your marriage may be struggling–or it may be soaring. Don’t be surprised; be ready for it. Know ahead of time what you’ll do.”

I warn them so they won’t be ambushed. An ambush leads to delusional thinking. A starry-eyed husband might be deceived that he’s found his soulmate. A loyal wife may be horrified that she could even have such thoughts. Thinking the attraction itself is an evil–rather than an invitation to evil, some spouses pretend it’s not happening. Bad move.

Gary Thomas–Christian speaker and author of Cherish: the one Word that Changes Everything for your Marriage, gives advice on what to do and not do when it happens to you.

“Yes but…, Yes but…”

[Note, I first wrote this on my personal facebook page on May 31, 2020]

can't breathe

“Yes but…” 

“Yes but…”                                                                                                                                   

We can’t keep starting conversations on race this way. I’m speaking to me, and the majority of my family, friends, and congregation who are white. If we hold out any hope of convincing our African-American friends, neighbors, fellow believers–or even strangers, that we believe–or seriously care about their experiences of being avoided, excluded, suspected, arrested, and even executed when not guilty (see the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL), listening would be better than asserting.

“Yes but…, we don’t know what happened before the video.  Yes but…, most police officers are not racist and do a good job. Yes but…, looting isn’t the solution to racism. Yes but…, I’ve never personally mistreated anyone of color. Yes but…., slavery was outlawed 160 years ago; African-Americans need to stop acting like victims. Yes but…, since we live in a sinful world we can’t end racism anyway.”

The issue is not really whether our “Yes but…” is false, true, or a bit of both. It’s that starting there is a tipoff that we’re not REALLY interested in listening or learning. Maybe we’re too confident we have a clear eyed view when in fact it could be that we have one eye–or both, closed.

[Moment of truth: I was tempted to include in this post a number of my own “Yes buts…” because of people I know and love who will object that I failed to make any clarifications. But because of Christ’s love, rather than justify and defend we can be part of improving America. Let’s sit down, be quiet, and listen to African-Americans tell us what it’s like to be black in America. Afterwards, be humble enough to admit, “I didn’t know.”  Then link arms with them to be agents of change; or put another way, to be Christians.]

God forgive us

A 25 year-old unarmed black man goes out for a jog in the deep south and is accosted by 2 white men–one brandishing a shotgun, the other a handgun, who shout that they want to talk to him. If I had been Ahmaud Arbery and black I think the last thing I would have thought was, “Oh, here are two law-abiding citizens who simply want to sort out whether or not I committed a crime.” I’d have seen two white vigilantes whom I’d have suspected have a visibly low regard for their darker-skinned brethren, and that on this sparsely traveled street, my life may depend on me getting that man’s gun away from him.

I realize that authorities only this week got access to the video that many of us have watched and then vomited, but how can you have a dead man whom nobody says was armed, an admitted shooter, and no arrests for two months?

Yet again, it is hard to escape the bitter truth that in the US of A where a slave owner once wrote without a hint of irony that “all men are created equal”, 250 years later some are still more equal than others. It’s still hard to escape the conclusion that despite being given nearly 160 years to make a respectable attempt to right the wrongs of the capture, imprisonment, exploitation, killings and brutal treatment of Africans during our centuries of slavery, there’s less evidence than there should be that we Americans who are white believe that creed. God forgive us.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25

And God, bring us together: African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Caucasian, Asian, Indian, Eastern European, or Middle Eastern. You painted that picture in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10). Would you do it earlier? Amen.

I have a Suggestion

What if…, everyone who still has a job, gave part or all of his/her $1200 stimulus check to someone who doesn’t? What if, instead of banking that unexpected money or putting it in a retirement fund or keeping it for a future vacation, we gave it away to those in need? Or, gave it to a local ministry whose donations have plummeted? Or gave it to one of our missionaries whose support has taken a hit because some of their supporters can no longer help?

Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 2 Corinthians 8:12-14.