I started classes yesterday. Wow! Do we really need to be told to show up and do the homework. Anyways, I’ve begin reading the 10 pound textbooks and although not ordinary a coffee drinker I find myself digging through my cabinets for the french press I purchased to make herbal home remedies. Here’s what I found on making a good cup of coffee.
For months now the question has been in front of me. It has been there in the document I open every day, the document that contains a list of articles to write, and questions to explore. “What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography?” What do we, as Christians, stand to lose if so many of our young men continue to spend their teens and twenties in the pursuit of pornographic pleasure?
The question has been on my mind all the more as I’ve begun to scope out a teaching series in Proverbs. Proverbs warns us at many times and in many ways of the “forbidden woman.” This is the woman whose lips drip honey, whose speech is smoother than oil. She is attractive and alluring; she knows just what to say and just what to offer to draw young men after her. And so they follow along behind her, oblivious to the fact that they are following her straight to foolishness, straight to harm, straight to hell.
In days gone by this woman may have been an adulteress or a prostitute. Today she takes the form of pornography. She is calling out to young men, she is offering herself to them, she is displaying all the pleasures she can offer, and they are following along. The Bible is honest and forthright about the cost (Proverbs 5:7-14):
Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.
I’m often asked why I don’t use the terms “gay” or “homosexual” to describe myself—or even “bisexual” now that I’ve begun to dip my toes in the “heterosexual” dating world. If throwing quotations around these terms doesn’t insinuate strongly enough my distaste for them, let me say it plainly: I am not a fan of the prevalent language used in our society to think and talk about human sexuality. I believe it is pregnant with faulty ideas that skew a person’s self-perspective and hinder Christian growth. I refuse to submit myself to it by identifying as homosexual or heterosexual or bisexual or asexual or any-other-kind-of-sexual.
Many of my Christian brothers and sisters don’t understand this. They see no harm in using self-descriptors like gay and homosexual to convey that one is attracted to the same gender or self-descriptors like straight and heterosexual to convey that one is attracted to the opposite gender. They don’t understand why I opt to use lengthier descriptions to narrate my experience when I could simply say, “I am gay.” Sure, it takes a lot less time to say, “I am gay,” than it does to say, “I am a fallen human being who is riddled with sin and who experiences all kinds of inclinations that seek to entice me away from God’s good design, including a sinful sexual attraction toward the same gender.” The latter is a mouthful! However, I find it to be a necessary mouthful—for a couple of significant reasons.
This scripture was read in church this morning and brought me great comfort and reflection to how I live out my Christian life. Even the Apostle Paul knew he hadn’t arrived to completion in his walk with God…
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…
The sermon was on vision and I appreciated that and want to work on my own personal vision for my future. Find today’s sermon here.
Have you, as a Christian, ever been accused of legalism? That word is often bandied about in the Christian subculture incorrectly. For example, some people might call John a legalist because they view him as narrow-minded. But the term legalism does not refer to narrow-mindedness. In reality, legalism manifests itself in many subtle ways.
Basically, legalism involves abstracting the law of God from its original context. Some people seem to be preoccupied in the Christian life with obeying rules and regulations, and they conceive of Christianity as being a series of do’s and don’ts, cold and deadly set of moral principles. That’s one form of legalism, where one is concerned merely with the keeping of God’s law as an end in itself.
Now, God certainly cares about our following His commandments. Yet there is more to the story that we dare not forget. God gave laws such as the Ten Commandments in the context of the covenant. First, God was gracious. He redeemed His people out of slavery in Egypt and entered into a loving, filial relationship with Israel. Only after that grace-based relationship was established did God begin to define the specific laws that are pleasing to Him. I had a professor in graduate school who said, “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” The legalist isolates the law from the God who gave the law. He is not so much seeking to obey God or honor Christ as he is to obey rules that are devoid of any personal relationship.
I interviewed Rosaria Butterfield 3½ years ago as her first book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was coming out and heading toward wide readership. Since then she’s spoken widely throughout the United States and sometimes faced LGBTQ demonstrators displeased with her movement from lesbianism (and a tenured Syracuse professorship in women’s studies) to Christian believer and pastor’s wife. Here are edited excerpts of a new interview before Patrick Henry College students.
You’ve previously spoken of your fascinating conversion, so I won’t ask about it today: Folks can read excerpts of our interview in WORLD (March 23, 2013) or watch it on YouTube, as more than 120,000 people have. Let’s talk about what’s happened since: What were you thinking when you first saw demonstrators? Wow: This is the world I helped create through my earlier teaching, and I don’t get a free pass. I know the Lord has forgiven and delivered me, and given me joy in a life that I never could have imagined living before—but I did this. I taught thousands of students to despise the Bible. The blood is on my hands.
When I was younger, I prayed a lot. I would set aside a chunk of time in my day, usually in the evening, and I would get out my list or my notebook, and I would speak long and sincere prayers for my friends and family, for missionaries, ministers, strangers, and world leaders. I would sometimes kneel beside my bed and cry out to God for hurting people. I would always make good on my promise to pray for others when they asked me to. And, at times I would keep detailed notes of what I prayed about and, later, how God had answered my prayers.
A friend recently thanked me for the hospitality I had extended to him and his family over the years. Feeling uncomfortable with the compliment, I responded, “Actually, it’s my husband you need to thank. I learned it from him.” I think my comment surprised him. Perhaps because it seemed as though I’ve always had a heart for hospitality.
The truth is, for a long time hospitality was hard for me. I often thought that hospitality was something you only did when you were prepared and had all your ducks in a row. I thought that my home needed to be a certain size and my cooking skills up to a certain level. And just like Martha in Luke 10, I often stressed over the details of hospitality. I focused on whether there were enough chairs for everyone to sit on, each person’s unique dietary needs were met, and that the living room was spotless and the pillows lined up neatly on couch.
What I’ve learned from watching my husband seek out the lonely and invite them into our home is that biblical hospitality has nothing to do with those things. Rather, the heart of hospitality is about sharing our lives for the sake of others, just as Christ did for us.
There’s a difference between hospitality we see on the cover of magazines or on interior design shows on television and the hospitality described in Scripture. Biblical hospitality isn’t about details but about the gospel. It isn’t just for those who can bake, but for all of us. It’s not about receiving compliments but about giving to others. It’s about much more than a meal or a comfortable place to lay one’s head. The heart of hospitality is about sharing the greatest treasure we have, Jesus Christ.
A friend of mine, who lives too far away, contacted me to say he was struggling to understand how the cost of singleness as a Christian could possibly be worth it. As far as he could see, an illicit relationship would be “the only possible way for me to enjoy the relational intimacy I’ve dreamt of my entire life.” He concluded, “I cannot imagine the shell of a life I would live without somebody standing by my side.” In the light of this deficit of intimacy, could singleness ever be worth it?
My friend isn’t alone. In my own church family, one of the biggest causes of people drifting away from Christ has been entering into illicit relationships, especially single Christian women with unbelieving men. For many of them, the assumption was that life as a single just wasn’t viable. They needed intimacy.
It has become an unquestioned assumption today: Singleness (at least godly singleness) and intimacy are alternatives. A choice to be celibate is a choice to be alone. No wonder for so many this seems too much to bear. Can we really expect someone to live without romantic hope? It sounds so unfair.
Marriage and Celibacy
The Bible is clear that we choose between marriage and celibacy. In Matthew 19, Jesus upholds and expounds God’s blueprint for marriage found in Genesis 1 and 2: Marriage is between a man and a woman, and is designed to be for life. The disciples balk a little at this: “If such is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). But Jesus responds by talking to them about the life of the eunuch. The implication is plain: The only godly alternative to marriage is celibacy.