Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The New Witch Hunt: Banning Christian Volunteers, Hurting Inner City Kids

By: Eric Metaxas.
If you hear the words “witch hunt,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Well, you might think of the Salem witch trials, when mass hysteria gripped colonial Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century and twenty people—most of them women—were executed on charges of being witches. Another five died in prison.
But the era of the witch hunt is far from over. According to Merriam-Webster, a witch hunt is “the act of unfairly looking for and punishing people who are accused of having opinions that are believed to be dangerous or evil.”
And of course, at the top of the dangerous and evil opinion list these days is believing what the Bible says about human sexuality and marriage.
While public shaming and fines against Christian business people and academics have become so commonplace as to be almost non-newsworthy, I do want to share with you a particularly egregious example of the most recent politically correct witch hunt.
Ironically, or, might I say, tragically, this new witch hunt is also in Massachusetts. For the last eleven years, Gordon College, a well-regarded evangelical institution, has sent volunteer student teachers into Lynn, Massachusetts, an old industrial town of 90,000 people about ten miles north of downtown Boston.daily_commentary_09_12_14
Around nineteen percent of Lynn’s racially mixed population lives below the poverty line. And what were these volunteers doing? According to Mary Moore of the Boston Business Journal, they provided “a range of volunteer services—including formal student-teaching help … and mentoring and tutoring programs.” What else did Gordon College do, free of charge, for the city? Well, each year Gordon has been inviting 80 to 100 fourth-graders on campus for a college day and had planned to expand the program this fall to help 500 youngsters from elementary schools in Lynn.
Of course, none of that’s going to happen now. “Why not?” you ask. I’ll tell you—because the witch hunt has come to Gordon College. It’s not that the academically and socially stellar institution has changed anything. It remains a place where all are welcome, as long as everyone abides by its well-established community standards.
Gordon’s “sin,” at least in the eyes of the Lynn city fathers, is that its president, my friend Michael Lindsay, signed a letter requesting that President Obama include a religious exemption in his expected executive order concerning the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA for short. ENDA would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or “gender identity” by employers with at least 15 employees.
Lindsay and Gordon College are simply requesting that the President provide the same religious exemption that was passed by a U.S. Senate bill last year with bipartisan support. By requesting that ENDA not discriminate against them, Gordon is now on the receiving end of a new witch hunt.
The leaders of Lynn, in their wisdom, have ended the volunteer program with the kids, saying in effect: We can’t let those bigots near our school children. As Rod Dreher, writing in The American Conservative says, one school official has said that “Gordon needs to say, ‘I’m sorry for the request in the letter.'” As in, sorry for being true to its Christian faith and heritage.
And just who’s hurt in this latest witch hunt? You got it—the kids of Lynn, Massachusetts.
Friends, if you have not been praying about the assault on religious freedom in this country, today is a great time to start.
And here’s another suggestion: Consider attending the Religious Freedom Summit at Cedarville University with my colleague John Stonestreet and a host of first-rate Christian leaders and thinkers. Learn what you can do to stand up for religious freedom in this country. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary, and we’ll have all the details for you.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Elijah: Intense Faith & Deep Depression

Let's set up the context of Elijah's ministry by looking at God’s people in 870 BC.

1 Kings 16:29-33   "In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him."

Things were not good in that relativism was the order of the day and everyone pursued their own set of values, regardless of how destructive they might be. Into this mix came Elijah, who was very well connected to God and had a reputation for speaking the truth -- which generally meant he was in opposition to the King. For this he was not welcome at the palace.

Several supernatural events happened in Elijah's life, and the climax centred around a showdown with 950 prophets who were, in reality, spiritual charlatans. The essence of the competition revolved around whose god would show up and respond with fire from heaven. Of course only Yahweh does respond, and the results are dramatic. You could even say all consuming, as the water-soaked altar and sacrifice are consumed to the last. Then, as he prophesies the return of the rain, he outruns a horse and chariot! A super-human feat to be sure.

Now comes the turn of events. Queen Jezebel puts a death warrant on Elijah. Following this amazing set of events, he crashes emotionally, spiritually, and physically -- and flees for his life. He is overwhelmed, discourage, suicidal, and convinced he is all alone. Into this time of dark despair, God speaks healing and restoration.

Elijah is supernaturally given food and water for his weakened state and impending journey. He is led out of hiding into a time of spiritual retreat to reconnect with God. He deals with his failings and God renews his sense of purpose. And finally, Elijah is set on a new course where he disciples a prophet (Elisha) for the next generation.

Elijah's dark time -- call it a break down, crash, depression, burn out -- is connected to his genetic make up, personality, and the nature of the activities in which he was engaged. He gets completely overwhelmed and needs time to get in balance. You and I can be in the same place as well. It's not unusual. Recognizing our condition and what needs to happen is part of our mental health.

When we are faced with that sense of hopelessness and despair, we need the following:
Proper Self-care -- eating right and exercise
Proper Activity -- getting out of hiding (connecting with God and others)
Proper Awareness -- knowing what is going on inside and taking responsibility for it
Proper Direction -- having a plan to engage with our goals and include others.

Elijah faced mental health challenges and so do we. For some helpful information go to http://baptist-atlantic.ca/our-convention/departments/public-witness-and-social/ and click on "The Rapha Network".

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What Ruth Teaches Us About Life

Right now we are in the midst of a series called "Patterns for Living With God." It centres around several Old Testament characters worth knowing. The first story was Gideon -- sorry, no blog post for that. This week is Ruth, and there are some great story lines.

Ruth is a fine example of love and commitment and makes a great movie. In our culture we value individualism, but Ruth demonstrates a desire to benefit and honour the family, at her own expense. We tend to promote self actualization, but she models self-sacrifice. While North America celebres diversity and freedom, Ruth lives under a commitment to follow Naomi's God and live accordingly -- limiting her own choices and self determination.

Ruth's love and commitment is noted in the community and she is regarded as a worthy woman. Not only so, but she attracts the attention of an older man, and has a child with the full knowledge that the baby really belongs to the line of Naomi. Quite a story of being a bridge builder, or redeemer, of a bitter life into one of joy. A story of hope in the midst of despair. And we honour her for it.

In order to fully understand why she does what she does, we must understand some aspects of the culture and their relationship with God. About 1,000 years earlier, Abraham was given a promise. The man had no child, no land, no purpose, and no legacy. God not only gives him all these things (Genesis 12-17) but also includes a promise that having land, an heir, and a legacy are signs of God's faithfulness.

Now Naomi has none of these things and believes God has let her down big time -- even kicked her out of the covenant. Life could not get worse, and she's frustrated. In to this dark time steps Ruth. Through her commitment Naomi has an heir, the land and family name are preserved, and the legacy becomes far bigger than anyone imagined. After all, King David is born of this line!

So much more could be said about the story, but my question for us is this: Will we love the people of the world so much that we self-sacrifce and build bridges so they can be redeemed? Will we consider the spiritual needs of those around us to be significant enough that their well-being overrides my own?

Read Romans 1:14-16 and Ephesians 1:1-14. It speaks of our inheritance in Christ and the need to include others.

What I Don't Understand About Fifty Shades of Grey

This is an abridged post shared from Craig Gross. Link to full post is at the bottom.

When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I heard about it but never opened the book. I never even skimmed it. I have friends who have and have filled me in. I thought it was a fantasy book about a guy with some crazy desires for some violent sex. I was blown away to learn it sold 100 million copies, and when the movie grossed $260 million worldwide this weekend, I became even more fascinated.

So I went to see the movie. I went with my wife, to the noon showing at the mall by our house. It was packed. I can’t believe how many people were seeing this movie on a Wednesday afternoon.

So what’d I think?
I didn’t hate the movie.
I did hate Christian Grey.

I didn’t walk out or picket, but I watched the whole movie because I wanted to better understand why this has resonated with so many. Why is Christian Grey someone that women are cheering on and fantasizing about?

As I write this, the movie finished two hours ago, and I’m still upset over what I just saw. Not some young woman being tied up, but Christian Grey himself. Let me explain.

- Marriage only works when both sides give and both sides take, and sex is the same way. Men and women have needs and desires, and marriage and the marriage bed is a place to have those fulfilled. If you are with someone and they don’t take into consideration your needs and only demand things from you, then get the heck out of that relationship if you’re dating. If you’re married, then head to a counselor.

- Most people who abuse others were abused as children. The best available research suggest that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. Christian Grey was abused as a child, a horrendous act that he never got over or dealt with or talked with anyone about. This has led him to some serious walls that have gone up in his life. And the only way he knows how to deal with it is to abuse someone else. He has done this to over 15 women and will continue. I heard this story was about sex, but this story at its core is about a broken man and his inability to love and be loved. How do people reading this book or watching this movie not see this? This is not a love story. This is not even an erotic story. This is a story of broken people continuing a cycle of dysfunction in their lives rather than dealing with their issues.

- The Bible says I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I am not against being playful or doing things to spice up things in your bedroom, but the question I always have is why? Why do you think you need that? If both people agree to try different things in the bedroom, I am all for that. Christian Grey, on the other hand, is dealing with his pain by inflicting pain onto someone else who is visibility uncomfortable with it. He has trouble at work one day, so he sends Anastasia to the “play room” to take out his frustrations on her. If your partner is asking you to do something or try something new in the bedroom, my advice to you would be to ask why. The reason behind the ask is the deeper issue than the act itself. In a lot of cases it might just be a fun thing – or it might be a case like Christian Grey where he wants to avoid dealing with his own pain.

Many people won’t understand this, but because I’ve seen the inner workings of the adult industry, this movie didn’t turn me on – it made me mad. The sex shown in the movie is violent and not love-making, and I don’t understand how 100 million people can read this book and think there is anything sexy about Mr. Christian Grey. If he was broke, ugly, and had a hard drive of porn instead of a “playroom” in his house, every women reading this would be freaked out enough to stay away from him forever. The books and movie have painted a sick disturbed man as a sex symbol that many, many women have gone crazy over.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, don’t. Instead of wasting that time examining this unhealthy dynamic, spend those hours talking with your spouse about sex. Talk about what you desire, what you think is missing. What your history with sex was. How you missed or messed up or abused sex prior to marriage. Talk about your expectations for sex and whether they’re being met or not. Don’t know how to start those conversations? We have a course called bestsexlifenow.com; watch the first video for free, and I assure you it will lead to so many productive conversations. Maybe even fifty of them.

God Bless,