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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Examining the article recently published about Men preferring Debt free virgins without tattoos –

To summarize:  in an article that makes the claims she makes, I see no research and no scripture that defends the actual claims.!  This is purely an opinion piece.  It doesn’t represent anyone at all except herself (and the original writer perhaps).

I can honestly respect her opinion and as a student, I can filter out the good to keep and toss out the bad.

To wrap up, there are actually two “bads” that I want to comment on here.  These are serious.  We must be very careful to never misattribute God’s values.

Firstly,

this article may bring to attention some moral and wisdom decision making issues that are worth referencing (see links above about tattoos, premarital sex and debt)

but I believe this was the wrong way to handle these topics.

It may represent this woman’s opinion and may match the opinion of the handful of people that she cites in her response… but

It doesn’t tell the story of God and value.

Nothing in this article can mean that a woman (or man) who isn’t a virgin is less precious or even less pure.  Purity comes from God.  Purity doesn’t proceed from human effort.  We don’t start with purity and we don’t grunt out purity with our behavior or non-behavior.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  I John 1:8-10

He cleanses us.  Not us.  He purifies us.  Not us. As pure people, we have the freedom to live in that purity(Titus 2:7, I Peter 3:2, I Tim 5:1-2, etc.)but we also have the choice to live as slaves to sin still (Rom 6). 

If you follow Jesus and accept His payment for you on the Cross, you are pure.  His blood makes us pure.  As the old Hymn would say “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  Nothing.

And, in that freedom, we get to live as free people. What do we do with that freedom?

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”  I Peter 2:16

 

Secondly.

this article, if you aren’t careful in your reading of it, will communicate that women who are not virgins, in debt or have tattoos cannot get the best men – godly men – high quality men.

Not true.

You are not “damaged goods” (or at least not any more damaged that the rest of us) or something less lovely or less pure (see above).

Good men, godly men, understand God’s value of treasure.   And we make decisions based on His measurements rather than our own.

There are men who submit their “preferences” to God’s perspective.

Any woman who follows Christ is part of a royal family – a royal priesthood!   She is a princess of The King.  He has purchased her a treasure with a great price – and with great joy!  (Matt 13:44).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  I Peter 2:9

Of course, men and women should be wise about making big decisions like college and marriage, but our wisdom is not always trustworthy… so we first submit our understandings to God.

Here is an understanding that I think Jesus Himself would be very passionate about.   Men, women, as you consider the person who are thinking about being married to, focus on their character.

Jesus takes the devaluing of His own very seriously.  Generally, devaluing a daughter is not something that a Father takes lightly.

As you consider the past decisions of a person you are considering marrying – even considering their mistakes, please meditate on the passionate words of Jesus Christ in a vision to The Apostle Peter:

“Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”  (NLT Acts 10:15)

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But instead a stance taken against girls going to college.

Here is the “logic” of the article.

  1. Men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos.
  2. College is where debt, sex and tattoos happen.
  3. Therefore girls shouldn’t go to college.

This logic is obviously filled with error.  Even if some men prefer these traits, and even if a woman wants to attract a man like that…

Don’t debt, tattoos and sex happen outside of college campuses?

Are less-well educated woman LESS likely to have sex or get a tattoo or to have a payday loan at 200% interest?  I happen to know, firsthand, that there are, and have been, debt free virgins who went to college (some for a LOOOONG time) and who didn’t even get a tattoo (and I am not just talking about myself – see photo)

I would love to see some research on this, or on what percentage of men (even “godly” men) prefer in regard to these traits, or on how many other traits (kindness, friendliness, able to maintain a deep conversation, beauty, leadership skill, adventurousness, and education level and GODLINESS) are MORE important to men (even godly men) than these other three traits.

Naturally, no such research is involved in this article. I am dubious it would support her claims, especially in relation to other traits.

So, I think the seeming purpose of the article can be negated, no matter what it really was.

But what about the scriptural side of things – does the Bible (or God and therefore men who follow God) prefer these traits based on the Bible?

Of course, there are many passages in which “obedience” is required by God. So, as in the case of premarital sex, God would certainly “prefer” that we all obey his teaching to wait until a covenant marriage to embrace sex!  Beyond that, check out those links above.

The article itself is very short on scripture, though.

Mrs. Alexander references (in parenthesis in the midst of the other person’s thoughts) only 2 verses:

Ephesians 6:4 in reference to girls “not having read the Bible with their fathers:”

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And I Cor 14:35 in reference to their not having a husband to explain the Bible to them:

“If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (I know there is a lot to digest in that one verse and I am not going to attempt to examine it here, perhaps at another time, but suffice it to say, for now, that this was about propriety, not about a wife not being smart enough to understand the Bible).

But in fact, the only verse from the Bible directly cited at all in the original articles is I Peter 3:4

“… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

This entire thought in this passage is an admonition to women to find their beauty in their character rather than their appearance.  The passage says:

“3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

The follow-up article sports quite a few more verses (mostly in other people’s posts she cites) that take a hard-line literal interpretation and application attitude about the passages, no matter what section or book of the Bible, and yet the lovely woman covering her post is wearing gold jewelry.  Something specifically mentioned in the only passage she references in her original article.   I am not intending to be “snarky.”  I am pointing out that everyone interprets the Bible when they apply it (which they should properly)

Regardless, that First Peter passage is not applicable to virginity, debt nor tattoos.

Part 3 (and most important)

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Many on the other side of this case make the argument that the amendment limits their freedom of speech.  They say that it means that they cannot “speak their piece” in support of or in condemnation of a political candidate or party.

I would respond that of course they can, and legally.   At any point in their private or even public life they can, just not as the representative of the nonprofit’s opinion.

Or, if being able to speak openly in support of a candidate as the leader of their church, is extremely important to them, then they should just rescind their own non-profit status and talk openly about it!  Being a non-profit is not a right, but a privilege that appropriately comes with some restrictions and some accountability.

I would go so far as to say that if they believe God is calling them to speak openly in support of a candidate, or in opposition to one, as a non-profit entity, they are obligated to follow God’s leadership and do so!   Fortunately, our laws provide for a completely appropriate and legal way to do that – don’t be a 501(c)(3).

Also, the way the law is written makes it clear that we, as pastors, are still completely free to speak and teach what we believe the Bible teaches.

I looked and in the most recent elections, I could find no mention of Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump in the Bible.  However, I believe that the topics of abortion, divorce, infidelity, homosexuality, greed, paying taxes, loving enemies, hospitality, war, and the rejection of racism (along with almost every other aspect of life in America) are dealt with in scripture.

I see nothing in the law that restricts in any way my engaging with those topics openly from the pulpit.  More importantly, it clears my table to stay focused on “Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

I also feel confident that I do not want other religious leaders or “religious leaders” allowed to back a specific candidate by name under tax protection as a non-profit.  I think every pseudo-church that gives out licenses now will be accepting money then.

The good news that God loves us and has paid the price to adopt us is too important a message; we must be careful to not create the atmosphere of “Christianity and…” that CS Lewis warned us against.

I grant a point to those who are concerned about this law that it will become the restriction of biblical, moral, spiritual and life-topics, because they also happen to be political issues.

That eventuality, I would stand against to the death.  However, none of these are restricted in the current law.

On the other hand, I can imagine a day when what I see as protection is repealed.  I am approached by a generous person wishing to donate money to a valuable mission or project of the church, but also wants to make sure that I mention a certain candidate in an upcoming sermon.

This may sound nefarious, but this donor would know perfectly well that I support the platform of this politician, so why wouldn’t I?

At South Spring,we do not accept donations with strings attached in any way, so this would fall apart with us, but the pressure could be impressive.  Especially when the election seems close and the issues are life and death – which they are.

I prefer not to have to be regularly disappointing goodhearted people’s pleas for me to engage with politicians by name.  Passionate, well-intentioned people can get pretty desperate when they are afraid of what is happening to their country.  Further, even in the church, some people are present for poor motives or personal agendas.

I am convinced this is a small minority (and I am in this world every day), but that minority can be loud when they are on the warpath.  I prefer the world in which they have one less agenda issue to bring to me.

I do not think that pastors or churches should seek to be a-political, but I think the boundary of ALL non-profits being held to the standard of not supporting a specific candidate is reasonable.

Sadly, not all churches are as above board as mine about accepting donations.  Since churches do not file the complete paperwork for 501(c)(3) to the IRS that other non-profits do, some churches could support candidates financially as well, and it would be very hard to track.  I would hope that no “church” would do this, but I have to wonder if the temptation will be too strong for some to avoid.

I understand the complaint. There are times when being careful about this guideline seems restrictive – and is restrictive, but I see these restrictions and every bit as much a protection to speak freely as a limitation from doing so.

Perhaps some see this as an infringement on their rights, but as I understand it, so long as the enforcement isn’t ever abused (e.g., a pastor gets sued by the state for either voicing what they believe the Bible teaches about a topic that happens to also be a political one, or that they get sued by the state for voicing their opinion of a candidate in the church parking lot or foyer in a private conversation), then I see the amendment as allowing me to focus on the moral and eternal issues that it is my calling to focus on, without the distractions of people’s political agendas.

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Political issues

In general, I am a big fan of Christians being motivated by our faith to be involved in protecting the liberty via the political system.

I think it is vital that we understand how and why things work – even if they are not directly connected to scriptural issues – like raising or lowering taxes or gun control.

This conversation about the Johnson Amendment is an example of that, not a departure from it.  I think there are many excellent reasons for us to have an overt discussion on issues of freedom of speech from the pulpit and how that is matched with the protections offered by being a “non-profit.”

Non-profits and donations

Religious non-profits and churches in particular have a few advantages offered them over regular businesses.   The main one is that when people donate to a nonprofit (of almost any kind), the donor does not pay taxes on the money that they give away to a non-profit.

However, that also means that the person CANNOT delegate a specific person or political cause that the church should use that money for, nor can the donor receive any product or service directly for that money.

A person can donate to church and not pay taxes on that money they donated.  However, if a person pays for their kids going to youth camp, they do still have to pay taxes on that money (as income), since they are receiving a service directly for that money.

Sometimes it is a fine line, and the responsibility to manage these funds legally and morally are a big deal in churches.  A lot of energy goes to getting it right, so that those who give are able to avoid paying taxes on the money they earn that they then donate.

As most of you know, I am the Lead Pastor of a Baptist Church in the city that must be the little diamond on the rodeo cowboy on the buckle of the Bible belt.  It may seem odd that I would choose to write an article expressing my concerns, alongside many secular groups about repealing the Johnson Amendment.

As a Christian Pastor and someone who passionately holds to reasonable faith in Christ, I obviously disagree with nearly every aspect of the agenda of the secular organizations.   It isn’t my intent to strengthen those agendas on the whole.

In general, I am encouraged by that influence of Christianity in the USA, not concerned. I am a little concerned the direction that some Christian leaders are taking this issue.

The Johnson Amendment

When LBJ was a Senator, the amendment was passed on the US tax code prohibiting all non-profit (501(c)(3)) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  Specifically, it adds to the definition of such groups the phrases:  “…and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

I am under the impression that it didn’t draw much controversy at the time of its creation, and that does not surprise me.  The value of that addition to pastors is evident to me.

I am more surprised at the attention it has gotten recently.

Last year at about this time, Trump signed an executive order calling for the Treasury to be lenient in enforcing this amendment.  It is a law and the president cannot overturn a law by himself, but like Obama did with many laws, he has ordered the executive branch not to enforce a law – or at least to be lenient – or at least not to prioritize this amendment.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on legal matters, and I am not an expert on the Johnson Amendment, but I have never been troubled by it.

I have always assumed this rule was pushed into place by pastors and leaders of non-profits, so imagine my surprise when I see other pastors fighting to have it overturned.

We wrap up with Part 2 next week.

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Here in Tyler, Texas, we have a school named “Robert E. Lee Highschool”.

It is really a pretty good public high school.  Like all public High Schools, it has its share of kids from all kinds of backgrounds, issues, ethnicities, social levels, etc.  Like most public High Schools, this is one of its great strengths.

For the Christian family who chooses public school, any school is a mission field.  Christians are first and foremost, ministers.  We minister in our marriages, with our kids, our friends, workplaces and schools.  This is true of any school – homeschool, Co-ops, Private schools and public.  Any of these can be the right choice for a family, so long as the ethic of ministry is kept forefront.

As Christians here in Tyler, we are now facing a question that we might should have seen coming years ago.   The question, on the whole isn’t new.

The school was named in the late 1950’s – during the early days of the de-segregation movement.

At one point, the Rebel was the school’s mascot and a claim to fame was the giant (second largest in the world) Confederate Battle Flag (incorrectly identified as the “Confederate Flag” on Wikipedia) that the football team ran onto the field under.

In the early 70’s, some African American students were unwilling to run in under the flag and it was retired.  At about the same time, the “Rebel” name and confederate paraphernalia was dropped.

The new mascot was the “Red Raider” (I cannot find adequate background on what a “Red Raider” actually is meant to be, but I still wonder as to the close connection to several confederate groups that were called “raiders” – usually attached to a leader’s name.  (some seem to think there is a Native American connection, but I can find even less evidence of that).

I think like most conversations about things that matter, this topic needs and deserves more than the 2 minutes generally authorized in the town hall meetings and certainly MUCH more than memes and short FB and twitter posts allow for.  Real people are and were complex.  Even political issues are and were more complex than a meme allows for.

Consider the distinction between remembering something (or someone)

The in-depth discussion this topic deserves, at least my side of it,  at the local and national level begins here.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-black-student-at-robert-e-lee-high-school

https://tylerpaper.com/news/local/robert-e-lee-high-school-s-history-reveals-complicated-past/article_5b539cf7-385f-534a-85cf-f75c7e9f2042.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee_High_School_(Tyler,_Texas)

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As a counselor and a pastor… and as man, rites of passages are very important to me.

Throughout history and across people groups, rites of passages have been culturally vital ways to communicate to members of the community that they are taking on a new role within that community – boy to man, worker to leader, girl to woman, servant to warrior, etc.

The medieval noble families moved their sons from children to page around age 7, from page to squire around age 14 and from squire to knight around 21. The Massai tribes “capture” the boys from the women’s side of the village and declare them men and then train them to kill a lion; when they kill the lion they move from “runner” to “warrior.”

Today in America, we have essentially nothing cultural that communicates when a boy is accepted generally as a man.   The consequence? We have hundreds of thousands of males who are not confident that they are a man. The boy looks around and sees those he thinks of as men, but none of those men are making it clear that they think of him as a man… and many of those “men” doubt it deeply about themselves as well. Where can we find them? One option is to look outdoors.

I remember helping my father pile firewood in the wheelbarrow. I was there with him. He dropped the tree, cut it up, split it, loaded and hauled it, and stacked it. Probably around age 4, I was helping him to some loading. Then one year he had me push the wheelbarrow full of firewood (and incidentally, nothing will teach someone temper control like a one-wheeled wheelbarrow, right?).

Then one year he handed me a splitting maul and had me start splitting. I knew my father saw me differently. Maybe not a man, but not a boy anymore either.

He saw me as responsible, wise and strong enough for the edge.

And then, around age 17, he handed me the eye and hearing protection and with no preamble, talked me through using the chainsaw. I spent that day with him training me on various cuts and techniques (my father was a forestry professor). I went to be knowing that night that my father thought of me as, to an important degree, a man.

… but the message was plenty clear. In fact, I remember my father referring to an adult male the he apparently thought of as “less than a man” with the phrase “I wouldn’t trust that guy with a chainsaw.”

In the ancient Hebrew scriptures, in Deuteronomy chapter 6:7, the men of Israel are instructed to teach their children the truths of God not just a few hours one morning a week… but all the time…  “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” [1]

We cannot relegate these vital truths of life and death, God and Christ, sin and redemption, love and sacrifice, temptation and forgiveness to the voice any other man, even if he is our pastor. We, as fathers, must remember that responsibility still lies with us.

When, in today’s nonstop busy world with buzzing phones, are we centered and quiet enough to talk to our children about these things that really matter?

Over logs being tossed into a wheelbarrow, and after that wheelbarrow, despite the boy’s best effort, has tipped and dumped the whole load… or find the activity you can engage with, adding with intentionality to your child’s responsibilities, and talk.

These are when these conversations can happen without feeling awkward and forced. These are when the world’s problems are solved. These are when our sons might know that they are men. This is when our kids can hear that we are proud of them for no other reason than the truth that they are our children, even without words sometimes. This is when our children might know that they are, ultimately, not ours, but God’s.

In an effort to help us men out, I have created “The Gauntlet – A study that works even for busy dads and sons along the Deut 6 model.” To learn more or to find out how to purchase one, look at the resource page or email at chrismlegg@gmail.com.

How I handle these rites in my family might offer some ideas as well.

I also have done a rite of passage for an adult man that has some fun ideas in it.

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I am sorry that this two part article got broken up.  You might go back and refresh yourself with the first part again.

This level of “oddity” is so “common” that it inspired Tom Clancy to say that “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”

Mark Twain is given credit for “…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

Recent events of flooding in South-East Texas have led to dozens of “unbelievable” accounts of people being rescued.  Unlikely though they may be, people are alive because of them.

But would the historians of the future think them merely myths, legends, or miracles – an ignorant people trying to explain something they didn’t really understand?

At church we went through a sermon series for a few weeks of looking at some of the “extraordinary” lives in the Bible… the likes of Paul, Mary, Zacchaeus, David, and others… and at the same realizing that their lives are extraordinary… Just like ours.

I think many people imagine that the accounts of people’s lives in the Bible for example, or biographies of other great men and women, are radically different from their own… but exactly what makes their lives believable are the ways they seem “out of the ordinary.”

And yet, they happened.

Is it likely that a client told me that that God has woken her up in the night for her to pray for the baby we were pregnant with – having never met my wife – even though we weren’t pregnant?

Or rather, didn’t know that we were?

That seems like a miracle.

They meet astonishing people. They are caught up in events that define their times and history. Unlikely things happen all around them.   Sometimes when we look back on our own lives, these things seem unbelievable, but they happened.

Is it believable that some orphan, Esther, spends a night with Xerxes? That some kidnapped Hebrew kid, Daniel, meets Nebuchadnezzar and Darius? That David faces a Philistine warrior giant and kills him?

It doesn’t seem so, does it? And yet, everyday “normal” people interacted with Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Shaka Zulu, etc.

Normal people become everyday soldiers and periodically everyday soldiers become extraordinary heroes.

But all extraordinary heroes are also normal everyday people, too.

The fact that biblical characters have strangely, unlikely, even miraculous unexplainable events is part of what makes them believable!

What seems to unite our lives are the “unbelievable” things that happen.   The vast majority of people, when I have asked them, say that they have experienced “miracles”.

So, Ehrman says that since historians can only accept as accurate what was “most likely” to have happened and by (his) definition, miracles are “the least likely things to happen,” and therefore cannot be accepted as historically accurate.

But in this is a serious problem. So, all of the radically unlikely things that have happened to me, and you could not be part of history? Historians of the future cannot accept those as historically accurate?

In that case, they will miss the truth, because we were present for these events… for these extraordinary, unlikely events.

But they happened. I assume things like them happened to the people of the past,

too. So, it is exactly the accounts of them experiencing miracles that make their life accounts believable – not less believable.

The unwillingness to accept what is unlikely to have happened makes it impossible to accept what does & did happen. This understanding of history makes history a science utterly incapable of accurately describing the unlikely events that are universal to human experience and apparently always have been!

To dismiss the miraculous is to miss out on an accurate understanding of the human experience… and maybe what makes it the human experience.

 

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