Is anti-bullying a trojan horse in our public schools?

This Sunday I am preparing to preach a sermon on transgenderism. Then on Jan 22 our Care Ministry is going to be hosting a movie about sexuality and transgenderism. You can learn more about the event HERE.

So, I have been doing a lot of reading and studying as of late. One book that is utterly fascinating is “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” by Abigail Shrier. Shrier has done an excellent job when it comes to research on this topic and it shows in her writing.

On page 71 she begins to talk about the connection between transgenderism and anti-bullying policies and laws. I wanted to learn more about this because the city in which I live has been having these types of discussions.

How did a radical view of gender become so common place?

How did educators and activists manage to mainstream a radical view of gender through the schools? Like so many successful sales, this one was facilitated by irresistible packaging: anti-bullying. Appealing to both a moral imperative and Gen X parents’ extreme preoccupation with the children’s physical safety, the pitch was hard to resist. All of this sexual orientation and gender identity was necessary-educators claimed-to prevent the battery, harassment, and acute psychological distress of LGBTQ children. p. 71

Shrier’s point is that the radical view of gender is taking place in our schools, at least partially, by anti-bullying initiatives.

Anti-bullying is great, but what else is happening here?

I have no doubt that legislators who pass anti-bullying laws and educators and school boards who implement gender identity and sexual orientation are sincerely concerned about the welfare of LGBTQ-identified students-as all decent human beings ought to be. But where a measure taken to fix a problem goes so far in excess of remedy, it becomes clear that simple remedy was not primarily what the fixer had in mind.

This is the sense in which so much under gender identity and sexual orientation, delivered with the tireless passion of priests, pretext for an ulterior motive. There is simply no good reasoning for insisting that students be made to imagine themselves as gay or transgender of pansexual. There is no very good reason to imagine they might be a boy in a girl’s body or a girl in a boy’s. There is no reason to teach students, in the words of one of the most highly regarded manuals, that the “expression of transgender identity , or any other form of gender expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development.

Let’s pause for a moment. The above paragraph should concern you quite a bit. Is there a better way to promote anti-bullying in our schools? Yes.

All that’s required is the insistence that the students display decency, civility, and kindness to their classmates. Follow the Golden Rule. Stand up to bullies. And singling out of others for their differences-physical, religious, sexual, or otherwise-should be met with neither indulgence nor toleration. Bad behavior should be met with swift punishment. p. 72-73

The point that is being made is that any reasonable person hates the idea of bullying. And furthermore, that in the schools (and society in general) we should work to stop bullying. But, we don’t have to go so far as to “indoctrinate” young children in “gender ideology.” As parents, and concerned citizens, it is imperative that we stay alert to what is being taught and promoted in the schools where we are sending our children.

“Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier is a must read.

Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Christian nationalism is a growing concern of mine

I have been troubled lately by the blatant Christian nationalism that I have seen displayed on social media (and in everyday life). Pastor and teacher Jeremie Beller defines Christian nationalism like this, “Christian nationalism is the intertwining of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men. In the American context, it is often displayed by describing America through language reserved for the Kingdom of God. For instance, to speak of America as a “city on a hill” borrows from Jesus’ image for God’s kingdom. The marriage between patriotism and righteousness further blurs the line between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world.” I am a patriotic man, but Christian nationalism goes way too far and it makes Christians sound more like a bunch angry conservatives than true followers of Jesus Christ.

You could say that I have been keeping my eyes open for resources and books that discuss the danger of Christian nationalism. I recently started reading “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” by John Fea. I also purchased “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States” by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

During this time I began noticing a number of people that I follow on Twitter discussing a book called “Jesus And John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith And Fractured A Nation” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Kristin Kobes Du Mez is a professor of history at Calvin University.

In the book here are some of the names of people/ministries/groups who are targeted:

Pat Robertson, John Piper, Joyce Meyer, Gospel Coalition, Lifeway, R.C. Sproul, Theodore Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, fundamentalism, evangelicalism, Bill Graham, Christianity Today, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert Jeffress, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell Jr, Jack Hyles, Marabel Morgan, Bill Gothard, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Oliver North, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Wayne Grudem, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Charles Colson, Promise Keepers, CBMW, Josh Harris, John Eldredge, Douglas Wilson, Christian homeschooling, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney, Eric Metaxes, Duck Dynasty, and of course, Donald Trump.

What do all these people and ministries have in common according to Du Mez? They are white evangelicals who have contributed to an unhealthy patriarchy in the church and they have championed a vision of a godly man as someone who is domineering, militant, and just an all-around jerk.

According to Wikipedia: “Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.”

What is the main point of Jesus and John Wayne?

I believe what Du Mez is attempting to do in her book is to explain how evangelicals got to the point where they voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Evangelicals used to be the ones who would talk about the importance of character. So, what changed? Du Mez goes to great lengths to highlight that over the past 50 years evangelicalism has done such a bad job of teaching what biblical manhood is all about that by the time we got to Donald Trump they were ready to cast their ballot for God’s man.

“Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity. He was the reincarnation of John Wayne, sitting tall in the saddle, a man who wasn’t afraid to resort to violence to bring order, who protected those deemed worthy of protection, who wouldn’t let political correctness get in the way of saying what had to be said or the norms of democratic society keep him from doing what needed to be done. P. 271

Things I think Jesus and John Wayne got right

First of all, I believe with all of my heart that far too many evangelicals have allowed politics to become an idol in their lives. There are so many indicators that this is the case. Have you noticed on social media how so many Christians are clearly more interested in talking about politics than they are the gospel or making disciples? I would also want to point out that the anxiety, anger, and despair that evangelicals express regarding politics shows that their hope is not in a God is who in control and has already won the day.

Second, evangelicals have done a poor job when it comes to teaching what biblical manhood is all about. Du Mez explains in detail how evangelicals have gone to great lengths to describe the role of a man as a militant warrior.

“As Robert Jeffress so eloquently expressed in the months before the 2016 election, “I want the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-you-know-what I can find in that role, and I think that’s where many evangelicals are.” P. 14

Quite honestly, it does seem like many Christians, not just evangelicals, are cherry picking the verses they want to use when it comes to describing manhood and leadership. If there is not place for a man to be kind, gentle, compassionate, and sacrificial than really what we are saying is that there is no room for Jesus. Yes, Jesus did turn over the tables. I hear that mentioned all the time in an attempt to justify being mean-spirited to others who disagree with our view point. We need to remember that there is much more to Jesus than his righteous anger and flipping over tables. For example…

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” -Matthew 9:26

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11:29

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 18:28

Was Jesus a strong leader? Of course he was (and is). Yet the strength of Jesus turned the world’s standards upside down. Jesus put the needs of others first and revealed his strength by dying for them on the cross.

Things I think Jesus and John Wayne got wrong

First, Kristin Kobes Du Mez seems to be making an argument that complementarianism, in any form, is always patriarchy. Patriarchy is one of the most important themes running throughout her book. Here is my thought, if you are going to make an argument that complementarianism is always patriarchy it would be wise to explain biblically why this is true. There are many people who hold to a complementarian view of Scripture yet they believe that a husband should be eager to put the needs of their wife, family, and others before themselves.

Second, I think it is completely unfair to throw all the names, organizations, and ministries under the bus without mentioning at least a few of the good things they have done and accomplished. Let’s take Billy Graham for example. Du Mez highlights Billy Graham on many occasions. If you are going to write a book that is 356 pages long and talk about Graham time and time again would it not be fair to mention the good stuff? Regardless if you are egalitarian or complementarian, we should all be willing to admit and celebrate the fact that God used Billy Graham to help lead millions of people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Final thoughts

I think Jesus and John Wayne does have some legitimate concerns that should cause evangelicals to consider their obsession with politics and militant manhood. All Christians need to seriously evaluate if their life is more marked by politics or the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, reading this book will lead some people to the conclusion that people and ministries like Billy Graham, James Dobson, and the Gospel Coalition (and many others) have only contributed to the demise of our society by promoting a patriarchal theology. This one-sided writing is completely unfair and just further polarizes Christians against each other.

Above picture taken from Bostonglobedotcom

Transgenderism

On Sunday, Jan 10th, I will be preaching about transgenderism.

Our Care Ministry is going to be hosting an event about the topic of transgenderism on Thursday, Jan 22, 6:30 pm.

Why are we doing this? We want to address this issue because we love people and we want them to know God’s Word and to experience it’s life transforming power.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 2021

6:30-9:00PM

NEW LIFE CHURCH


In His Image is a critical and urgent message designed to equip the church to answer culturally controversial questions about gender and sexuality from a biblical perspective. Every church in America is filled with hurting people asking these tough questions: Can you be gay and be a Christian? What if someone genuinely feels trapped in the wrong body? Did God make me this way? Is change even possible?

This feature-length documentary presents much-needed truth with compassion and clarity through powerful personal testimonies, careful Bible teaching, and scientific evidence.

Please join us as we watch the movie together.

Following the movie, Denise Shick will join us via Zoom for a Q & A session.

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Denise Shick is the Founder and Director of Help 4 Families, a Christian ministry that compassionately reaches out to family members who are grappling with the emotional and spiritual issues encountered when a loved one identifies as transgender. She is the author of My Daddy’s Secret, When Hope Seems Lost, Understanding Gender Confusion—A Faith Based Perspective, and has published articles in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Daily Signal, and BarbWire.

The Vanity Of Running Programs

What God Has Been Doing In Me Lately

Over the past year or so I have had an increasing desire to see the Holy Spirit at work in a new and powerful way. I have been asking God to start with me. Little did I know that telling God that I want to know and experience him as much as I possibly can that it would mean…pain. Why did I fail to recognize this? Your guess is as good as mine. The pain came from confession and repentance of sin in my own life. I think back to Isaiah right before God sends him out on mission. First things first. Isaiah must see God in all of his holiness and glory and simultaneously be undone by his own sin. Then Isaiah is ready to do ministry. As I have been reflecting on spiritual renewal it seems the pattern over and over again in Scripture is that repentance is the starting point for God to be at work in a new way.

The beautiful thing about confession and repentance is that there is a renewed sense of intimacy and joy in Christ. The worship songs you hear are sweeter. You begin crying when you hear stories of how God is at work. There is a energy and determination that grows within you to see the sleepy awakened and the lost saved. There is no better place to be then just one step closer to Christ.

The Vanity Of Running Programs

As I have been praying for the Spirit to be at work in a new way in my life, family, church, and the community all around me I have become aware of the futility of simply running programs in the church. First you must understand that as a church we have talked about our mission (the Great Commission), we have brought in a consultant to help us work on our Vision (Deeply Rooted In Six Counties). We just wrapped up working with another consultant to help us develop a leadership pipeline. I definitely believe we need to plan and strategize, but it is not enough. Not nearly enough.

I am preaching through the Psalms of Ascent and this coming Sunday I am preaching on Psalm 127. Here is are the first two verses:

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

the watchman stays awake in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early

and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives to his beloved asleep.

Perhaps another way of putting is that unless the LORD (YAHWEH) builds the house you are just wasting your time. Three times in this passage Solomon tells us that doing things in our own power and strength is nothing more than spinning our ministry wheels. Lots of smoke but no fire.

Maybe we are all asking the wrong questions. We ask things like, how did it go on Sunday? Who was there? How many were there? I’m thinking the better question is, how was the Spirit of God at work? What took place that only can be explained by the Holy Spirit being present and active?

These questions, kinda like repentance, lead to pain. Perhaps some of you in ministry know what I mean. It’s much easier to count numbers than it is to honestly evaluate if the Holy Spirit is really at work or not.

What Would Spiritual Renewal Look Like?

The elders and I are reading a wonderful book by Ray Ortlund Jr called “When God Comes To Church: A Biblical Model For Revival Today.” You can get the book for free HERE. It is excellent. It is biblical. It is dangerous. Why do I say dangerous? Because it is wrecking me for the status quo and giving me a stronger desire to see God at work in our church and community. Ortlund describes renewal like this:

When God rends the heavens and comes down on his people, a divine power achieves what human effort at its best fails to do. God’s people thirst for the ministry of the Word and receive it with tender meltings of the soul. The grip of the enslaving sin is broken. Reconciliation between believers is sought and granted. Spiritual beings, rather than material things, capture people’s hearts. A defensive, timid church is transformed into a confident army. Believers joyfully suffer for their lord. They treasure usefulness to God over career advancement. Communion with God is avidly enjoyed. Churches and Christian organizations reform their policies and procedures. People who had always been indifferent to the gospel now inquire anxiously. And this type of spiritual movement draws in not just the isolated straggler here and there but large numbers of people. A wave of divine grace washed over the church and spills out on the world. This is what happens when God comes down. And that is how we can pray for the church today.

My response to this? Holy Spirit come.

All Of This Leads To Prayer

I do have a longing to see spiritual renewal happen. But I am more convinced then ever that the only way it will happen is when God’s people pray. Fervent prayer. Church wide prayer. Persistent prayer. A kind of praying that heats up our heart first and then spreads to others. I must make prayer more of a priority in my life and it must become more of a priority in the life of my church.

Finding Joy As We Are Waiting And Praying For Renewal

There is a spiritual danger in all of this talk about spiritual renewal in our lives and in the church. How do we respond when we pray and we don’t see it happening? I have learned the hard way that if I am not careful all of this longing for God to work can lead to frustration and disappointment. “Why isn’t it working?” “God, what is wrong with everyone?”

For me the key is to keep watching and finding joy in the small evidences of God’s grace. I must find my joy in Christ, not necessarily whether or not my prayers for revival happen on my time table. I must patiently, persistently continue to pray for God to work in a new way and still love God and others as I live in the in-between.

The Reality of Hell

Here is a sermon I recently preached about the reality of hell. It is a counter-intuitive thing, this sermon has been one of the most requested sermons that I have preached in quite some time. I’m thinking the reason for that is that this is a topic that is not preached about much these days. To fast forward to the sermon you can go to 24:45.

“Not called!’ did you say? ‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.” -William Booth

What is Progressive Christianity?

Perhaps you have had conversations with people and as you talked about Christianity their beliefs began to appear quite different from what you grew up believing. Topics such as sexuality, gender, authority of Scripture, reality of heaven and hell, etc.

But you had a hard time figuring out where their beliefs were coming from. You were wondering why their faith was so different from the orthodox faith you have held onto for years. In our culture this is going to happen more and more. And the book I am introducing here is a great place to begin to understand what is going on.

I want to strongly encourage you to buy and read the book, “Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity” by Alisa Childers.

In the book Alisa does a good job of communicating what progressive Christianity is and why we so urgently need to know about it.

What are the main beliefs of progressive Christianity?

  1. They don’t see the Bible as inspired or authoritative for our life. “Make no mistake, just like historic Christians, progressives find Scripture compelling. The difference is that, rather than viewing it as the authoritative Word from God to people, they see the Bible as an antiquated library of books that we can examine like ancient relics. In their view, the Bible is our spiritual ancestors’ best attempts to understand God in their own cultures, using whatever knowledge they had at the time. Because humans now have a higher and wiser view of God, progressives believe we can now read the Bible the way it is meant to be read-not as the authoritative Word of God, but as our predecessors’ spiritual journal.” p. 155
  2. They don’t believe in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. “However, with their denial of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, many progressive Christians take it one step further: Jesus is no longer our Savior but an example of how we can do good works in the world and forgive others. That has become the highest virtue, and all other truth claims are judged by it. Thus the progressive gospel is Jesus + social justice.” p. 105
  3. Hell and judgment have been rejected. “With it’s view of the Old Testament God as petty and spiteful, it’s denial of God’s wrath and hell, and its discomfort with the blood atonement of Jesus, progressive Christianity looks a bit like warmed over Marcionism.” p. 112
  4. They believe in universalism. “…it’s simply the belief that all human beings (and in some cases, even fallen angels) will be saved and spend eternity with God. Some in the progressive Christian paradigm deny the idea that sin separates us from God altogether, rendering any need for a meaningful “salvation” unnecessary.” p. 186

These are not all the progressive beliefs that are mentioned in Alisa’s excellent book. Instead, these are the beliefs that she mentioned that stand out to me. The book also does a wonderful job of carefully explaining how these progressive beliefs are wrong and what the Word of God actually teaches. Again, I would encourage you to buy and read the book.

“As I’ve learned, progressive Christianity is not simply a shift in the Christian view of social issues. It’s not simply permission to embrace the messiness and authenticity in Christian life. It’s not simply a response to doubt, legalism, abuse, or hypocrisy. It’s an entirely different religion-with another Jesus-and another gospel.” p. 76

Your pursuit of romance might be killing you (and your marriage)

“How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!” -Song of Solomon 7:6

I think all of us are wired to pursue romance.

Romance: “A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.”

In our culture we frequently hear about how a marriage is broken up when one person finds someone outside of their marriage that “makes them feel alive.” What they mean when they talk about feeling alive is the powerful buzz called romance. I believe that romance is a beautiful gift given to us by God. Of course, most anything good and beautiful can become corrupted because we live in a fallen world. One of the problems is that we turn romance into an idol and when we do that we make ourselves, and most of the people in our life, miserable. How does this happen? We are seeking happiness. We want the buzz. But there is no human on earth that can keep our hearts satisfied through romance.

This song is not new. But I think it helps to redirect our heart towards the One who can meet our deepest needs and desires.

The fullness of Your grace is here with me
The richness of Your beauty’s all I see
The brightness of Your glory has arrived
In Your presence God, I’m completely satisfied

For You I sing I dance
Rejoice in this divine romance
Lift my heart and my hands
To show my love, to show my love

A deep deep flood, an Ocean flows from You
Of deep deep love, yeah it’s filling up the room
Your innocent blood, has washed my guilty life
In Your presence God I’m completely satisfied