Christian Life Hack #4: Answering Challenges about Reality Stars

It is true that some reality stars have given Christianity a bad name. Many reality stars claiming to be Christians may in fact actually be Christians, but their lives on camera always show that they are far from perfect.

So how should we respond when someone tells us they don’t like Christianity because of how Christians act (especially those on Television)?

Simple: We tell them that Christians are not perfect and that we are all in the process of learning to be more like Christ. Each Christian is at a different stage in that process.

And while some people falsely claim to be Christians, real Christians though not perfect should be in the process of becoming less sinful in their day-to-day lives.

Where are you in that process? How does the way you live testify about the truthfulness of the God you believe in?

Christian Life Hack #3: How to focus on God when things get CRAZY!!!

Do you ever lose your focus, get stressed, and forget to turn to God for help?

Do you ever get so overwhelmed that you feel like you just can’t do anything?

Christian Life Hack: Think of a quick one sentence prayer that you can say whenever things start to get out of control.

Such a prayer will help you re-focus on the the situation, it will help you remember to trust in God, and it will help you to listen for his voice in your heart as he leads you through the situation.

Here are some example prayers. We call these breathe prayers because you can say them very quickly.

“God I need your help.”

“God you are in control.”

God give me strength.”

Take a few moments, come up with a prayer and then practice saying it a few times. Then the next time you get stressed, say the prayer and see how the situation changes.

Christian Life Hack #2: Is the Media Trying to Indoctrinate Me?

Sometimes we worry about the messages we receive on the radio, on TV, in movies, in books, on the news, etc. We ask ourselves, “Is the media trying to indoctrinate me?”

To answer this in brief: Yes it is.

But not in some over-arching sinister way.

See, every song has a message. Every show has a message. You get the idea.

Because everything in media has a message, it often seems like the media itself is conspiring to re-shape our minds so that everyone thinks the same way about everything.

However, because each thing in media has a different writer, director, actor, singer, etc. There is no real consistency in the media.

Media reflects culture and shapes it at the same time.

So how do we deal with the messages we see on TV or in other forms of media from a Christian perspective.

The Answer:  2 Peter 3:17-18

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We must guard our hearts and minds so that we recognize claims about how to think that are in contradiction with the clear teachings of Scripture.

The more Scripture we know, the better we can guard our hearts. The better we guard our hearts, the less likely we will be led astray by claims that are contrary to how God would have us think and act.

What are your thoughts on this?

Christian Life Hack #1: Song Lyrics

Your in the car listening to your favorite radio station and a song comes on that says something contrary to your beliefs as a Christian…what do you do?

You could change the station, turn off the radio, or keep listening. But what should you do? What if your favorite song is going to be played next?

If you believe the song will lead you into sin, then I suggest you change the station at least momentarily. But another option that I recommend is to listen to the words of the song, think about why the singer has that perspective, next think about why you disagree with whatever it is that the song is promoting, and finally think about what you believe about that topic.

By thinking about the lyrics, you will gain insight into the perspective of another person, you will be caused to think about why you hold your beliefs, and you might find a way to relate to someone you know who you have been trying to share Jesus with. Of course…doing this also requires you to use your mind as you listen.

What are your thoughts on this life hack? Can listening to something you disagree with draw you closer to God? Is it justification for sin? Is it being too much in the world? Is it a way of dialoging with those who have different perspectives on truth? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Navigating Culture

Do you find it difficult to navigate through the waters of culture without losing your way? Do you find yourself being pulled into the cares and concerns of this world that are outside the will of God for how Christians should live? Do you lose site of the prize? The finish line in the race?

In reality, we all tend to be molded by our culture. We tend to value the things we are conditioned to value, and we tend to be concerned with the kinds of things that are common around us. As Christians, we are to seek the God’s Kingdom and eternal treasure, but we find ourselves buried in the daily grind.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of what my wife has coined “Christian in Culture Hacks.” These posts will be designed to help you navigate the waters of consumerism, climb past the mountains of instant gratification, run through the deserts of temptation, and move through the valley of trials and tribulation. Ultimately the map we develop for how to live in the world but not of the world, will help you to make it to the treasure at the end (which is a life lived in the goodness and blessings of God’s Kingdom).

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As I prepare to write posts to help us navigate through culture, if there are any specific issues that you would like me to cover, comment about them below and I will cover those topics.

As a little preview for the next post, I will be talking about how we should view advertisements and how we can keep from being pulled into the hype of what we must have this holiday season.

 

When to stop engaging culture…

I often talk about how Christians should engage culture…how they should be involved in the world, just not in its sinful practices. This of course is how we are in the world not of it…we are not defined by the things that go against the will of God, but we are to remain active in what goes on in our culture.

Today I would just like to briefly share about how someone can know when it is time to stop engaging.

I always encourage believers to ask three questions with regards to how we engage:

  1. How will engaging in this activity effect me?
  2. How will my participation in this effect others?
  3. How will it effect the cause of Christ?

If you can answer these questions positively, and the Holy Spirit is not convicting you to avoid the thing you are wanting to do, then it is an acceptable thing to engage in.

When I look at when to stop engaging I also ask myself several questions:

  1. Is this thing promoting something that is sinful and passing it off a virtuous?
  2. Is this thing calling me to embrace a message that is at odds with the will of God for my life?
  3. Does this thing portray sin or draw me into sin as a participant?

When something promotes sinful practices as virtuous and draws me in to sin as a participant, it is time to cease engaging with that thing.

Because of this there are certain books I will not read, certain shows I will not watch, and certain things I will not do. But this does not mean I write off an entire kind of thing as a whole, for example, I will not stop engaging with movies altogether, even if I choose not to watch certain ones.

It would be easy to get legalistic with all of this, but I would advise that each situation must be dealt with in its own unique way.

What comments or questions do you have for me about when to stop engaging in something that is part of our culture?

Christianity and Gender Issues Part 3

How Should the Church deal with Transgender issues?

Many churches are quick to shame and condemn those who struggle publicly with any sin, especially sins that are sexual in nature. This is not a good approach nor has it ever been noticeably effective. The church is to be a place where people who struggle with sin can come to find spiritual encouragement and a community in which they belong. The belonging is not centered around our own fallen state of being, but rather it is centered on the work of Christ on the Cross. Christ died to save sinners. Thus we find in him mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, and calling.

Below are several ways I believe that churches should deal with transgender issues:

  1. Congregations should be rightly informed on what transgender actually means. It is important for people in the pews to understand this because when a transgender person visits a church, the gender identity struggle will likely be visible. The congregation needs to know how to appropriately welcome these individuals without calling attention to their identity.
  2. The church needs to make transgender people feel welcome. Many transgender people are suffering as a result of their identity crisis. They are looking for a place to belong, and the church should be such a place.
  3. The church needs to show empathy and compassion for those with gender identity issues. For many of these individuals, the struggle to identify as a male or female is not a moral choice intended to unravel the traditional values of our society. For many, this issue is not a “choice” at all. It is a state of being as I mentioned in the last post that I believe is a result of living in a fallen world.
  4. When transgender people visit your church, they need to be able to connect with people and begin a relationship with someone. This relationship does not need to be a project where the church member sets out to fix the transgender person, it just needs to be a relationship that points towards Christ, love, and belonging. It needs to be genuine.
  5. For anyone in the church, leadership positions need to be given to Christians who are mature in the faith. Positions of leadership should be reserved for individuals who have a contrite heart regarding their sins. Leadership should not be given to someone who is proud of or public about any sin. But all leaders are sinners and as such need humility to recognize their faults, admit to them, and keep going.
  6. Churches need to affirm that God created male and female and that he intends for their to be clear roles for each gender, but that those roles are distorted and broken because of sin. Even masculine men tend to inappropriately understand what it means to be a man. Even feminine women tend to act in ways that are not appropriate for their roles. All of us in some way have issues regarding our own understanding of what it means to be a man or woman, and more so to be one who walks according to the precepts of the Bible.

For more on transgender issues, I have found the following article in Christianity Today to be very helpful.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-august/understanding-transgender-gender-dysphoria.html?start=1

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After the last post, one reader asked: “How would Christ have approached a person with gender identity issues or now ethnic identity issues? And then, how would He go about helping them through some of these issues?”

To briefly answer I will say that I think Jesus would have approached them in love. He would have listened to their story. He would have compassion on them. He would love them. He would also call them to his standard of righteousness as he always did to others in the Gospels. He ate lunch with Zacchaeus the Tax Collector. After Jesus had dined with him, he proclaimed that he would return all the money he stole from the people. When Jesus meets people where they are at, he always calls them to a higher standard from that point on. The real question here is not how he would approach them, but what standard he would call them to? I think he would affirm their plight, he would mourn that things are not as they should be in an unfallen world, and he would probably heal them. Since we regularly do not have the power to heal people, I would suggest that we strongly recommend people with gender and ethnic identity issues to seek professional counseling. The article I mentioned above talks about how different people need different help depending upon the nature of their gender identity struggle. I think we can leave it in the hands of wise counselors after hearing the nature of the struggles to recommend the best course of help. But I believe that those struggling should seek the help of Christian counselors who have a strong belief in God’s Word and who also use modern medical knowledge to best help their clients.

What implications does this issue have on issues regarding ethnic identity, same sex marriage, and polygamy?

Whether we accept it or not, people have issues regarding personal identity. Whether we agree or not, people live in plural marriages and in same sex unions. So how should churches approach these issues?

The church should welcome anyone into a worship service whether they walk in with a same sex partner, multiple wives, or as a man wearing a dress. We should foster relationships with the visitors, make them feel welcome, and point them to Christ. We should recognize that we are all sinners and that in worship we too need to be continually re-pointed towards Christ. We should love people where they are at, and we should allow the Holy Spirit to work on the rest. To join a church, one needs to profess faith in Christ. After such a profession, the person must be willing to make Christ Lord. This involves turning from our sinful ways, and following the calling God has on our lives. No one who makes Christ Lord ceases to sin altogether. We all make bad choices because we are all easily drawn back into sin. For those with issues concerning identity and sexual attraction, these may be life-long struggles. But that no less makes the person a child of God.

As stated before, I believe those who are attracted to members of the same sex should remain celibate. Those who have gender issues should seek help from a counselor in order to understand their identity, to draw clear lines, and to move towards them. Those who struggle with identity issues concerning ethnicity, should also seek counseling, draw clear lines of identity, and move towards them. Those who have multiple wives must determine how God wants them to move forward. I have written previously about how polygamy is always a negative issue in Scripture, but I would be hard pressed to say that someone in a polygamous relationship should divorce a wife or wives after becoming a Christian, especially if there are children involved. I would however state that I do not believe that Christians should enter into polygamous relationships, nor should ministers perform such marriage ceremonies. Finally, I do not believe that Christian ministers should perform same sex weddings.

What other questions or comments do you have about these issues? Has this been helpful? I want to hear from You!!!

Christianity and Gender Issues Part 2

In the last post, several questions were raised regarding Christianity and gender issues. In this post, I will answer some of those questions.

What does the Bible say about transgender issues?

The Bible does not deal specifically with transgender issues. It does deal with birth and the human soul. Psalm 139:13 states, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” This verse has been used to discuss the value of human life from before birth. I think that is exactly what the verse does. But it also suggests that God is the one who creates us as we are intended to be. With that being said, the question arises about whether God would allow someone to be born in the wrong body. Can a person who is meant to be a female be born as a male? Can a person who is meant to be a male be born as a female? If so, does that suggest that God made a mistake in the womb?

As Christians, we believe that God does not make mistakes, but we also believe that we live into a fallen world tainted by sin. Going one step further, the Bible teaches that humans are born in sin. As such we are born separated from God. The image of God in a person is broken from the moment a person is born. Because things are not as they should be, we must ask if God potentially allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a consequence of living in a fallen, broken, world. If so, this does not suggest that God has made a mistake, but rather it suggests that in the developmental process, sin corrupted what was meant to be for someone. If not, it suggests that everyone is born according to the proper gender, and that the inclination towards another gender happens after birth.

I personally believe that for some people, there are life experiences that cause them to desire to identify as a different gender. For others, it seems to be from the onset in life. I think the same can be said for homosexual tendencies. For some, life experience draws them to same sex attraction. For others, it seems to be there from the onset. My hesitation with saying that no one is born in the wrong gender stems from the fact that some people are born with some male and female organs. There are documented cased of males being born with ovaries in their bodies despite having other male organs. This suggests that the issue is not as cut and dry as some would like it to be. For those who make these decisions based on life experiences, perhaps it is at least in part the result of some kind of mental disorder. That is not necessarily the case in all circumstances.

Romans 1 also teaches that humans have corrupt minds and that they are inclined to trade the natural order of things for an unnatural one. This is stated in reference to sexuality. The text says that God gave the people over to their sinful desires. This passage seems to indicate that people may have very real desires to have relationships with those of the same gender, and while it is not as God intended, the feelings are no less real. I have argued before that I believe that those who deal with same sex attraction and who also profess to be Christians should remain celibate. Concerning transgender issues, I would argue the same. Even if being born in the wrong body is a result of living in a broken world where things do not always happen as they should. I would advise against gender re-assignment surgery, and suggest that those who believe they are born with the wrong organs remains celibate. I am not sure how many of those who believe they are in the wrong body have felt that way since birth as compared to those who begin to believe they are in the wrong body based on life experience (even if they are not consciously aware of such experience). More study and research needs to be done to give us a better understanding of this. The Genomics project finally concluded that there is no “Gay Gene.” In other words, nothing in our DNA suggests that one can know whether a person will be gay or not based on the genetic code. It seems likely that the same would be true regarding gender identity. In other words, this is not something that comes down to science alone.

I believe that all people are inclined towards things that are “unnatural.” For example, someone who is a pathological liar (who is inclined towards the sin of lying) will likely continue to struggle with lying even after becoming a Christian. It is a soul issue. Something intrinsic in that person compels him to lie. I think the same can be said regarding homosexuality. A person who is inclined towards same sex attraction will likely continue feeling those feelings after becoming a Christian. With that being the case, if someone who identifies with the opposite gender becomes a Christian, it is likely that these identity issues will not go away.

Is it sinful for someone to identify as the opposite gender?

If God allows people to be born in the wrong bodies as a result of the fall, then it is hard to claim that it is sinful to identify as the opposite gender. If one wishes to identify as the opposite gender as a rebellious act towards the creator, that is a different story. Any time we act in rebellion against God, it is sin. This is true for any moral, civil, or personal issue.

But for many, I wonder how much they really wish to identify as the opposite gender. I wonder if they are consciously or even unconsciously attempting to rebel against God. It seems that many are not attempting to be rebellious. This leads to the next question.

Can transgendered people love God?

I think in short, the answer is “Yes!!” Why, because all of us are sinners, and all who love God are sinners. Homosexuals can love God. Liars can love God. Murderers can love God too!!! But once a sinner finds redemption, God no longer expects the person to live in ways that are contrary to his Word. Thus, Christians submit to the authority of Christ and to the principles found in the Bible. The reason a cheater no longer cheats people when he becomes a Christian is because he is now called to live according to a new way. If a person inclined towards homosexuality becomes a Christian, he is no longer to act on those feelings. If a person who identifies as another gender becomes a Christian, he or she is to live according to a new standard.

But what is that standard? Transgender issues are not apples to apples with other moral issues in Scripture…because these issues are not openly discussed in the Bible.

Thus, I would argue that those who identify as a different gender should live according to their physical make-up. If they cannot do that in relationships, then they should practice celibacy. Again, I am speaking about people who identify as Christians. If a person who identifies as a transgender individual has already had gender reassignment surgery, then I do not think the person should have the surgery reversed. I think that person should live as he or she now is, and again, practice celibacy.

When someone comes to love God, no matter what sin the person deals with, the person is called to put away that sin. We all continue to sin (and regularly), but when we do, we should at least recognize that our actions were out of line with God’s will, and we should not be indifferent to the situation. In other words, when I lose my temper or get jealous of someone else, I should not be indifferent to my actions. I should recognize that I was wrong, confess my wrong to God, and to anyone I wronged by my action. Then I should strive to not make the same choice again.

If someone identifies as another gender, the person should search his heart to see if he or she is acting in rebellion against God or if the situation is a result of being born in a world where things are not as they should be. Then the person needs to seek what God would have him or her do as a result of what God impresses upon the person’s heart.

One reader asked, how I thought society should deal with issues such as public bathrooms and transgender individuals. I think I would answer that public bathrooms need to begin making greater efforts to preserve privacy. I think people should go to the restrooms that match their anatomy, but think it would be easier to do so for everyone (especially in men’s bathrooms) if there was more privacy.

In the next post, I will continue discussing this issue with regards to how churches should deal with transgender issues and with what implications the answers to these questions have on issues regarding ethnic identity, and polygamy (both issues that I think will become bigger in our culture in the next several years).

What are your thoughts so far? What challenged do you have for my line of thinking? What additional questions do you have now?

Christianity and Gender Issues Part 1

In the news recently Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner has received much support for undergoing the process of gender transition, while Rachel Dolezal has received much criticism for stating that she identifies as black even though both of her parents are white. So these stories among others have got me thinking about our society and identity issues.

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Today in psychology it is argued that there is a difference between sexuality and gender identity. Male and female individuals can identify with either masculine or feminine character traits. However, it is also taught that people can identify as the opposite gender, meaning that a person with male physical traits can identify as female, and a person with female physical traits can identify as male. Logically speaking, if one can identify with traits not inherent to a person’s physical make-up regarding gender, then one should also be able to identify with traits not inherent to a person’s physical make-up regarding skin color.

So why is it applauded when a person chooses to identify as the opposite gender, but not when someone choose to identify as a different ethnicity?

I think it is because as a society, we are not yet comfortable with that. But then, why would someone want to identify as a person of another ethnicity in the first place? Some noted that it takes more than braiding your hair and tanning your skin to become an African American. Others have noted that having gender reassignment surgery does not allow one to really experience life as another gender. One person on Facebook argued that being a woman was carrying a child for 9 months, having hot flashes, and hoping that the men who stopped to help you on the side of the road were not planning to rape you. Even with surgery, it is not likely that Bruce Jenner will ever experience such things.

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I was born a white male in west Texas. I grew up in an oil field town, went to college, got a job, and learned to love philosophy. No matter how much I wish I could see what it would be like to grow up as a poor African American in an urban community, I cannot ever experience that. As such, I cannot ever really identify with someone who was raised in that condition. So how can someone born as a male that grew up as a male say that he can actually “identify” as a woman? How can a white girl who grew up in a middle class home say that she can actually “identify” as a black woman? In short, neither really can. It is just not possible. What I think I see happening is that Rachel Dolzal, based on some experiences she has had in life, has developed such a heart for African American culture that she wishes she could be part of it. Bruce Jenner, based on his own particular experiences in life has developed such an interest in all that makes up being a woman that he wishes he could be a woman. So this leads to a number of questions, regarding gender identity, and the Christian faith.

  1. What does the Bible say about transgender issues?
  2. Are transgender issues part of a mental disorder, or is it something else?
  3. Does God allow people to be born in the wrong bodies?
  4. Is it sinful for someone to identify as the opposite gender?
  5. Can transgendered people love God?
  6. How should churches deal with transgender issues?
  7. If someone who has had sexual reassignment surgery joins a church, should the person reverse the surgery?
  8. Should a transgender person who accepts Christ live in celibacy?
  9. What implications do the answers to these questions have on issues regarding homosexuality, ethic identity, and polygamy?

Over the next several posts, I intend to answer each of these questions from a Biblical standpoint. In the meantime, if you have more questions surrounding this topic, share them in the comments section and I will include my answers to them in the coming posts.

What does the Bible REALLY say about divorce?

We know that Moses allowed for divorce in the Old Testament, but we also know that Jesus said that people are not to divorce except for when it is related to issues of sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32). Jesus elaborates on this in Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

So we see that God never intended for marriage to be a temporary commitment. God intends for couples to work out their problems, but divorce was originally allowed in the Hebrew culture because people had hard hearts and were not willing to work out their problems. We can argue that the same is true in our culture. Some people only want to commit while it is convenient or easy. Others are too selfish to make the necessary compromises that allow two people to grow together. Some just don’t want to give up the single life (those people are living in extended adolescence which is a topic for another post). But many people do live together, grow together, and work through conflicts. So what is Jesus really getting at?

Is it only appropriate to divorce when someone is sexually unfaithful? And what all does that entail? Does sexual unfaithfulness only mean literally having an affair? Does it mean kissing another person? Does it mean flirting with another person? Does it have to do with physical aggression? Is abusing a spouses body by means of domestic abuse an act of sexual unfaithfulness?

I think what Jesus is saying is that “any cause” is not an appropriate means for divorce. Unfaithfulness is the only legitimate reason for divorce. Unfaithfulness does not mean coming home 15 minutes late or disagreeing with a spouse on what movie to go see. Unfaithfulness is an act that breaks the trust of the other person and breaks the sacred bonds of the marriage. If a couple finds themselves in a situation where one or both members have been unfaithful, but they are willing to work it out, they should. If they are unable to resolve the issue (even with help from a counselor or others), then divorce is acceptable. Concerning issues of abuse, I believe that is the kind of behavior that also qualifies as the type of unfaithfulness Jesus is getting at. I would never recommend anyone to remain in an abusive relationship, unless the abuser is trying to change. Even then, I think a time of physical separation while the abuser seeks clinical help is appropriate.

What are your thoughts?

Being Christian in Today’s Culture