An Unlikely Missionary

Carmen LaCosta didn’t feel qualified to join God’s mission, but He used her anyway.

Carmen LaCosta took an online spiritual gifts test and was stunned by the result: Missionary. She was a new believer and thought her past would disqualify her. Two years earlier, her daughter had passed away, leaving LaCosta to drown in a sea of grief as she relied on drugs and alcohol to get through the day. In the end, it would take the concrete floor of a jail cell and a suicide attempt to bring her to her knees before God. That’s when she discovered a new purpose for her life: to share the gospel with everyone she knew.

LaCosta first felt called home to the Caribbean to witness to her family and friends. When she asked her small group at First Baptist Atlanta to pray for her trip, one woman told her about the In Touch Messenger. LaCosta had never been on a mission trip and felt uneasy about walking up to total strangers. But with her friend’s encouragement, LaCosta took 150 of the audio Bibles to distribute along the way.

As she walked off the plane, LaCosta was burdened by each Messenger she carried. She stood in baggage claim and prayed for God’s guidance. Opening her eyes, she spotted a group of people who were all wearing the same color shirts—and felt the Lord leading her to approach them and explain her situation. Much to her surprise, it was a church missions team, and they graciously invited her to join them.

That week, LaCosta handed out Messengers to the elderly, drug addicts, and families left homeless by Hurricane Maria. As each device left her hand, LaCosta felt more alive—and she recognized this truly was the Lord’s call on her life. At the end of the trip, the team visited a hospital where a local pastor stood at the bedside of his dying daughter. In that moment, with 100 Messengers left and one day to go, LaCosta knew God was nudging her to entrust the remaining devices into the man’s hands.

Two weeks after LaCosta returned to Atlanta, the pastor’s daughter passed away. But in the following weeks, the new missionary continued to receive his text messages—pictures of those he was sharing the gospel with on the streets of the city, in halfway houses, rehab centers, and homeless shelters. Each of these smiling men and women with Messengers in hand represented a transformed life like her own. It reminded LaCosta that you don’t need a perfect past to be used by God—only a future surrendered to Him.

Photograph by Audra Melton

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/in-focus/an-unlikely-missionary

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Government officials sued for ‘hostility’ to Christian

Tell church-run grade school kids can choose gender

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The Maryland superintendent of education and members of the board for the state’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today school voucher program are being sued for alleged “hostility” toward the Christian faith.

It’s because they decided barred a church-run school from the program because of its biblical beliefs about sex and marriage.

The case, brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom against Supt. Karen Salmon and BOOST board participants Matthew Gallagher, Marva Jo Camp, Linda Eberhart, Nancy Grasmick, Elizabeth Green, Beth Sandbower Harbinson and A. Skipp Sanders, is on behalf of Bethel Ministries and its Bethel Christian Academy.

ADF explained the circumstances.

“Bethel Christian Academy offers a faith-based education to more than 280 students in the Baltimore metro area, including students from over 40 different nations, children who recently immigrated to the United States, and families with different or no religious affiliations. While over 20 percent of the students receive some financial aid, many families were able to afford sending their children to Bethel because the school participated in Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today school voucher program. In August 2018, just weeks before the school year started, Maryland officials abruptly notified families that they could no longer use their BOOST vouchers to educate their children at Bethel.”

It was because of the school’s beliefs.

“Bethel expects students to align their conduct with Bethel’s belief that biological sex as either male or female is an immutable gift from God, and therefore identify with, dress in accordance with, conduct themselves consistently with, and use the facilities provided for their biological sex,” the complaint explains.

At the same time, the school has affirmed repeatedly that it has not “and will not, discriminate against a student in admissions based on an applicant’s sexual orientation.”

In fact, the complaint explains, the state program rules specifically state “nothing shall require any school to adopt a rule, regulation, or policy that conflicts with its religious teachings.”

“Bethel Christian Academy offers an academically rigorous and caring Christian education in a diverse environment,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christen Price. “Unfortunately, Maryland bureaucrats are telling low-income students that this high-quality education can’t be an option for them due solely to the school’s religious beliefs. Worse still, the state is now demanding Bethel pay back over $100,000 from the two years it participated in the program, which would be a serious financial hardship for the school.”

ADF explained state law forbids schools in the program from discriminating in admissions on the basis of sexual orientation, among other factors.

“When Bethel applied to participate in the program, school officials truthfully stated that the school does not exclude students because of their sexual orientation,” ADF said.

Yet state officials ordered the school to send in a student handbook. And based on its biblically based views of sex and marriage, the state cut the school off from the program.

Holcomb explained the school “asks grade-school students to refrain from engaging in any sexual conduct.”

She said: “The state has refused to play by its own rules. While Bethel fully complied with the program’s requirements, Maryland let its hostility toward Bethel’s religious views, not the law, decide the school’s eligibility.”

The complaint explains that because of the state’s decision, several families were forced to remove their children from the school.

The complaint assigns the blame to the state.

“State officials revoked Bethel’s eligibility for BOOST, despite clear Supreme Court precedent that government hostility toward the religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman has no place in our society.”

It explains students and parents are not required to be professing Christians or agree with Bethel’s statement of faith. But students are required “to comply with the school’s faith-based conduct policies, including its codes of conduct.”

The complaint explains it was Gallagher who pushed hostility to the Christian faith. Gallagher said the school was “problematic” because faculty, staff and students “are required to identify with, dress in accordance with, and use the facilities associated with their biological gender.”

That, he complained, creates discrimination.

But the complaint contends the state practice is violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the free speech clause and due process.

Among other issues, the complaint points out the odd position the state is taking: requiring the school to allow students to choose their “sexual conduct,” even though as grade school students that is an activity to which they cannot legally consent.

“The defendants’ enforcement of the BOOST nondiscrimination requirement targets, shows hostility toward, and discriminates against Bethel because of its religious beliefs and practices.”

Further, the complaint says, the action has state officials entangling themselves in religion in violation of the Constitution.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/06/government-officials-sued-for-hostility-to-christian-beliefs/

What Is Truth?

June 28, 2019 by Discerning Dad

In John’s gospel, chapter 18 verse 38, an educated and affluent man asks Jesus Christ: What is Truth? Every day, as Christians, we are faced with people at work or in the store or in our own families who have different values that seem to be at odds with the shared beliefs in Christianity. I’m not talking denominational differences within Christianity. We can explore those in another blog. I’m talking about the significant differences between Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Agnosticism, Atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism or New Age. Christianity through Biblical revelation makes a claim to the truth, one that is logical and reasonable: Jesus Christ is the Son of God and came to save us from our sin.

Whether “religious” or not, every human being has a philosophical way they interpret truth in world; sometimes developed at a young age through church attendance or from the lack of anything spiritual. Sometimes that worldview is developed through the pains and trials of life or sometimes worldviews are developed through perceptions and feelings regarding the world around us. When used to interpret the world around us, post-modern thinkers don’t base their conclusions on logic or reason, but rather on emotion and relative truth. (1) This presents a significant challenge for us as Christians who should approach our worldview with logic, reason, and faith. More often than not, Christians get wrapped up in the idea that nothing outside of Scripture can be true. This is a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. (2)

As a strong example, Romans 1:20 says: “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (NIV) The Apostle Paul is telling us that we should be using experience, logic, reason, faith, and science to evaluate our worldview. Frankly, I cannot comprehend how Christians can be so quick to ignore or discount the reality of science and truthfully, when we do, we hurt the validity of Scripture because science points to God, not away from Him.

Apologetics is a fancy word for the practice of defending someone’s belief or worldview usually in a religious or faith-based context. For Christians, this idea is derived from 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV) There are men and women who devote their lives to the practice of Apologetics like Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Frank Turek, and Dr. Douglas Groothius (grew-ties). Apologetics focuses mainly on answering the questions surrounding our faith. Sometimes these answers are clearly found in the Biblical texts, not always. Sadly, apologists spend as much time defending Christianity to professed Christians as they do non-believer. All of these men have written many books including one of my favorites I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist by Dr. Turek. Dr. Zacharias and Dr. Turek both have significant presences on YouTube, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to take a look at their pages! (3)

When discussing worldviews, many people in the world around us will say things like “you live your truth” or “the Bible is your truth” or “don’t force your truth on me” but these statements cannot be true because truth is not relative to the individual claiming the truth. It is not surprising that the idea of truth has been intellectually addressed and is agreed to by secularists and Christians! Christ himself makes a truth claim in John 14:6-7 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (NIV) Simply because someone doesn’t accept this as truth doesn’t mean it’s false. There are plenty of valid but relative claims! I can make the relative but valid claim that BMW makes a better automobile than Honda, but it is not valid to claim BMW and Honda do not make automobiles.

We’ve seen how Jesus addresses the issue in one verse and in the world of philosophy, we have great thinkers such as Aristotle who codified the Laws of Logic. In the world of science, we have laws of physics and other laws that dictate how the world works. Science and philosophy and their associated laws aren’t in contradiction to God’s law. They work in concert with God’s law because HE is in control!

Ravi Zacharias has a 3-4-5 approach to evaluating the truth worldview and Douglas Groothuis outlines a nine-step approach. Groothuis’ process is a bit heady and hard to comprehend in less 500 words, but Ravi puts forward a fantastic and simple system. Truth is by its nature a claim to exclusivity and Zacharias’ method is a great to way evaluate a claim’s possible validity as a truth.

1. Origin: how does the worldview address (or ignore) the questions of origin? Is it purely based on mysticism or mystery or is there empirical evidence? Has the answer stood the test of time? Has it been scrutinized or heavily examined?

2. Meaning: how does the worldview or truth claim address meaning? Can the worldview answer the question: why are humans here? Why were we made? How and when did we begin to think for ourselves and about ourselves? WHEN and HOW did we begin to question our meaning?

3. Morality: how does the worldview address right and wrong? Can the worldview make a claim on what is right or wrong?

4. Destiny: how does the worldview address life outside of or after the current life? Is there any claim to truth about the afterlife?

Zacharias goes on to affirm that no matter the answers to these questions, they must be logically consistent, empirically adequate, and relevant to shared experience.

“When submitted to these tests, the Christian message is utterly unique and meets the demand for truth. God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together in that plausible blend.” Dr. Ravi Zacharias. (4)

Chad Roche
Guest Discerning Dad

References:

1- I wholeheartedly hate using this word because it’s a concept that cannot even exist; either truth is true or its not; the law of non-contradiction.
2- This is one of the pillars of salvation from the protestant reformation collectively known as the Five Solas: Sola Gratia (through Grace alone), Sola Fidae (by faith alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Scriptura (by Scipture alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to God the Glory).
3- RZIM Ministries and CrossExamined.org
4- https://www.rzim.org/read/just-thinking-magazine/think-again-deep-questions

Original here

 

Cultivating an appetite for the things of God

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in one home among millions, a family with small children is arriving together after everything their weekday routine has taken them through: work, school, daycare, errands, play dates, traffic jams. The pots and pans simmer on the stove, giving off the aromas of belonging. But after a long day apart, this family reunion isn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell painting. One parent walks through the door straight into a barrage of tears and arguing, while the other, battle-worn and glad to no longer be the only adult, offers a weary greeting of “Hello, will you sort this out?” before retreating to the kitchen. The warning of Lego and TV sanctions brings momentary calm. The table is laid, and as the family gathers around it, the calm dissolves into a chorus of lament. “Look at this green stuff. Is that an onion?!” To the kids, the various—and as yet untasted—ingredients cannot possibly add up to the delicious aroma. Because, clearly, they are not macaroni with a side of cupcakes.

How often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead?

Double, double toil and trouble. Burner lit and stove pot bubble. This is the witching hour in America.

For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, the “witching hour” was repurposed by parenting bloggers who took its original meaning—the hour round about midnight, when people figured witches went out and did their witchery—and applied it to the hour before dinner when increasing fatigue meets growing hunger and everyone in the house turns half feral. That the trouble spills into dinner is an especially cruel twist. So much good can happen at the table, and it’s a real loss to sit down grumpy. It’s a time to talk, to log the face-to-face hours that knit people together. It’s also a time to eat. Our bodies get hungry, and food is a delightful act of grace that meets this need in an especially miraculous way. But try explaining to a hangry toddler the heavenly foretaste offered even in a dish that contains onions.

Of course, the devilish mixture of fatigue and hunger isn’t just a suppertime thing. I can speak from experience of a “witching hour” of the soul. A time when spiritual fatigue and a kind of hunger lead us to feel angry with our heavenly Father. The prophet Amos reminds us of this: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11 NIV). I’ve felt that famine, and yet how often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead? Like a kid recoiling at his supper and pining for junk food.

Funny enough, being a father and wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven. I’ve often caught myself crying out to God about some deferred desire or another, and in a flash I catch a glimpse of myself, exactly like my own sons crying out to me when they want exactly not what I’m offering them. Oh boy, are those glimpses ever humbling. But then I think about the times when my family has sat down and, with little interruption or disturbance, enjoyed our time seated together over a wholesome, delicious meal. Over the years, I’ve had moments like that with the Bible, too.

Wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven.

Not long ago, my church worked through the Gospel of John for a few weeks. The pastor was preaching on the passage where the Lord washes the disciples’ feet. In those words describing Jesus—God with us—stooped over filthy, stinking feet, with a towel around His waist and a basin of water, I felt anew that He has been here. Both in the literal sense that Jesus walked the earth, but also in the spiritual sense that He has been present in my own struggles, no less real than the man scrubbing Peter’s feet. Even scrubbing Judas’s. I drove to church that morning feeling the pang of the famine Amos prophesied. I returned home full because, by some supernatural means I may never fully understand, it’s possible to literally encounter Jesus in the Scriptures.

It’s here, in my wanting to want the Word, that the food wars with my kids actually give me a generous serving of hope.

For my wife and me, food is an especially valuable bit of culture that we really want to pass along to our boys. We love the range of cuisine available around our neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. We gravitate towards the international—and the spicier the better. Korean bibimbap loaded with vegetables and beef, sticky rice crisping against the sides of the hot stone bowl, all topped with the perfect sunny-side-up egg. A rich Indian chili dish, fiery enough to make you sweat, served over buttery basmati rice with a perfectly charred naan. In addition to the Asian influence, a meat place down the road is largely supplied with hogs the owner raises himself (he’s also married to the woman who runs the bakery on the next block). And that place serves a charcuterie of cured meats and cheeses that will steal your heart. Even the head cheese.

Food brings my wife and me together over and over in a kind of communion, and we imagine a shared love of adventurous food knitting us to our boys. But each time they reject what we offer, it feels like a little knife in the heart. Out of desperation, I’ve found myself haranguing my kids with some very familiar parental logic from my own childhood: “Look here, mister. There are starving children in the world who would be thankful to have anything, much less a meal this good.”

Kids are an amazing, confounding mixture—of tooth-grinding defiance, yes, but also of keen-eyed mimicry that just melts your heart. Try to make them do something, and it’s a war. But let them catch you doing something and enjoying it, and they’ll be tucked right up next to you like a shadow. No different from anybody else, they simply want to be happy. Joy and enjoyment are contagious: If you look happy, chances are they’ll give whatever you’re doing a try.

In fact, I realize that’s what I need, too: people who have a genuine love for the feast of the Word. It gives me hope just to know they exist—believers who have steeped themselves in the Scriptures and who talk about the Gospels, the Epistles, the Psalms the way I talk about restaurants. Even those thorny patches in the Old Testament, like Job or the story of Tamar. I want to be infected by others’ infectious joy over the banquet the Father spreads before us. At this stage in my life—raising young kids, DIY renovating a house, working and going to school—this hasn’t been easy. It takes effort just to find these blessed kinds of people, much less spend time with them. Yet the busier and more stressful life gets, the more I am convinced how necessary it is to chase after relationships with those who love Jesus and seek Him where He can be readily found. And so I pray for such friendships.

Aside from godly friends, I have found one other helpful practice to grow my appetite. Ironically, it has involved consuming less of the Word. There’s a lot in there, and it’s easy to get scattered and overwhelmed, so sometimes it helps to start small enough to stay consistent. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last year or so meditating on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Having this regular meal has helped Scripture seem familiar again. It has whetted my appetite to go further, which I count as no small blessing.

As for the food wars in my house, glimmers of hope have begun to shine through. After years of watching my wife and me dig into the spiciest meals we can manage (sort of a competitive suffering), one son has taken to putting milder hot sauces on his own food. He has even, once or twice, tried some of the stronger stuff with a full glass of water close at hand. I think he’ll come around. And just the other morning he asked me to cook him an egg like mine (over easy)—and actually ate it. He hasn’t asked for another yet, but what a blessed breakfast that was.

Photograph by Yasu + Junko

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/hungry-to-the-feast

VIDEO CA Legislators Blame Religious People For High LGBT Suicide Rates – no such thing as transgender

There is no reputable, serious research showing people commit suicide because a particular religion refuses to embrace homosexuality. None.

By Glenn T. Stanton  JUNE 27, 2019

Legislators in California have discovered yet another way to make it clear that mainstream religions holding to the sexual teachings of their sacred texts have no business doing so in the Golden State. Why? Because these faiths, which billions of good people worldwide happily hold, do not embrace homosexuality. This includes the three largest: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

In a resolution that recently passed the state assembly, “the Legislature calls upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance” of LGBT people. It singles out especially faith-motivated individuals and organizations.

These legislators make a very ugly accusation against such people. California lawmakers are planning to spread the idea, with the power and moral authority of the state, that such religious beliefs actually kill people, including children. The text of this bill boldly states:

WHEREAS, The stigma associated with being LGBT often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBT and questioning individuals…

Note the absoluteness of their conclusions, particularly two words: create and cause. Stigma, created by religious groups, causes high rates of suicide.

Do Religious People Make Others Commit Suicide?

Let it sink in. Christians, Muslims, and Jews, your beliefs make gay people kill themselves. If this is indeed true, we are among the worst of the worst kinds of people. These legislators believe this is true and are doing something about it. California is trying to insist that churches, synagogues and mosques, their leaders, congregants, grade schools, universities, and families fully and uncritically support homosexual, bisexual, and transgender identities in every way.

Thus, any teaching, preaching, writings or practices that are faithful to the clear sexual instructions of these faiths will be beyond the pale of official California values. They will not be tolerated. This charge makes this legislation overwhelmingly serious and consequential because of the seriousness of this charge. Either one party is directly culpable for deaths or the other of making such a dreadful allegation.

To be clear, what they’re proposing is a resolution and would not have the razor-sharp edge of law. But it would have the real and devastating blunt force of state-sanctioned shaming of religious convictions. They couldn’t criminalize you, but they could obliterate your reputation and your life. There are too many vivid examples of this already. Of course, this resolution will grease the skids for it becoming enforceable law.

I want to demonstrate, through some objective and undeniable facts, coupled with simple reasoning, why this long-used accusation has no foundation. The case consists of three basic points:

  • There is simply no dependable research support for the accusation. None.
  • Gay and lesbian individuals themselves report being significantly more likely to choose to attend the very churches that teach a more traditional sexual ethic than they do so-called “welcoming and affirming” churches.
  • The most dramatically gay-friendly places in the world still have incredibly and disproportionately high rates of suicides among their gay and lesbian individuals.

1. No Real Evidence

There is no reputable, serious research showing people commit suicide because a particular religion refuses to embrace homosexuality. None. It is largely created as an ideological assumption and political cudgel. But to even question the assertion will cast you immediately as a heartless stone. Remember, any science that does not permit it to be questioned has become fundamentalist dogmatism.
There is a very small amount of literature on the general harms of family rejection (which we at Focus on the Family strongly advise against), but none showing it causessuicide. There is certainly none establishing religious causation. That is an objective fact. Quite simply, anyone making the claim family responses and religious teaching cause suicide do so absent any bit of scientific proof.

2. LGBT People Choose More Traditional Churches

Let’s look at data that raise serious questions about the “religion kills” assertion. Research done by two gay-friendly scholars from Columbia and the University of California at Los Angeles found that, to their absolute disbelief, church-attending, same-sex-attracted individuals are 2.5 times more likely to attend congregations that hold and teach a more traditional, biblical view of sexuality than they are to attend so-called welcoming and affirming churches.
Let’s consider the implications of this interesting finding. Suppose for a moment that the “religion kills” accusation is correct. Either these individuals are too dull to realize they are doing grave harm to themselves by regularly attending such churches, or they find such churches are quite lovely and helpful. Why else would they choose to wake up early on a Sunday morning and go to the trouble of getting themselves there?
This study’s abstract states, “Guided by minority stress theory, the authors hypothesized that exposure to non-affirming religious settings would lead to higher internalized homophobia, more depressive symptoms, and less psychological well-being.” They were honest in admitting they found “There was no main effect of non-affirming religion on mental health, an unexpected finding discussed in this article.” No main effect on mental health itself, much less suicide.

3. Gay-Affirming Societies Also Have High Suicide Rates

Leading gay activists and their faithful allies in the media and academia operate on a simple and seemingly reasonable premise: non-acceptance of homosexuality leads to greater levels of suicide. To reduce these tragic rates, replace non-acceptance with full affirmation and all will be well. Doing so would not only dramatically reduce suicide, but also the disproportionately higher levels of mental illness among this population, which are strongly and consistently documented. (See herehere and here for just three strong examples.)
This thesis is easy to test: Determine the most gay-affirming places in the world. Are the suicide rates of gay and lesbian individuals in these places significantly lower than in non-affirming countries?
The most gay-affirming places on the planet are the Netherlands and Scandinavia. In Amsterdam, the gay movement has received every major law, policy, or cultural accommodation they’ve requested, with nearly no opposition, and often with great celebration. They televise their annual gay pride parade, and Amsterdam spends more than a million euros a year to promote itself as “The Gay Capital of the World.” The land of windmills and tulips is gay Valhalla.
Their gay and lesbian suicide rates should be extremely low, if non-existent, right?  That is not what scholars, government officials, and clinicians find. Rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among gay youth and adults are remarkably, tragically high in the Netherlands. Scholars even have a name for this. They call it the “Dutch Paradox.”
Despite the Netherlands’ reputation as a world leader with respect to gay rights, homosexual Dutch men have much higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts than heterosexual Dutch men. Epidemiologists report similar disparitieselsewhere in Western Europe and North America. [Emphasis mine.]
Let’s look at just a few examples of evidence. A 2006 Dutch study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that despite living “in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality” gay and lesbian-identified people were at dramatically higher risk for suicidality than the general Dutch population.
More recently, a 2016 Swedish study shows that the rate of gay males suffering from lifetime suicidal ideation there is 140 percent greater. The same measure for women there is 110 percent higher than the general population. Bisexuals are curiously even higher, with females 250 percent more likely and bisexual men 160 percent.
In France, fourth on the world’s gay-friendly list, gays and lesbians are on average 80 percent more likely to suffer suicidal ideation than their straight peers. All countries that keep such data show similar findings, regardless of changes in attitudes and policies concerning LGB-identified individuals.

Do Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Affect Rates?

With greater specificity, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology examined how legalizing gay-marriage affected suicidality. It should have reduced it, right? Yet Swedes in same-sex marriages, enjoying their anticipated greater social acceptance and security, retained suicide rates nearly three times that of their married opposite-sex peers. The authors caution these numbers are likely an underestimation. A similar study found that Danish men in legal same-sex unions had a dramatic eightfold increase in suicide deaths over opposite-sex married peers.
The fact of the matter is this: There is no research whatsoever demonstrating significantly reduced rates of suicidal deaths or attempts among gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people as the overall acceptance or affirmation of these groups in a country increases. Any honest person who knows this literature well will admit it.
Thus, this is the conclusion that must be admitted: If the “acceptance of homosexuality equals reduction of suicide” thesis has any validity to it, a society would need to far exceed the acceptance, affirmation, and even celebratory actions of the Netherlands and other countries to demonstrate it. Of course, this is reasonably impossible. What is there left to do that these countries are not already doing?
Reasonable people, even those in the gay rights movement, must call for a sharp end to the absolutely vile and false accusation that certain mainstream religious traditions are culpable for the deaths of gay and lesbian people. The Bible Belt does not run through Amsterdam, Stockholm, or Copenhagen.
We must admit that something else is driving the tragically high suicide rates of our gay and lesbian neighbors, and it’s not traditional faith convictions. True compassion demands we find out what that cause is; these lives are too valuable to play baseless politics with.

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/27/ca-legislators-blame-religious-people-high-lgbt-suicide-rates/


There is no such thing as transgender – John F MacArthur

Overcoming Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt

Have you ever struggled with mom guilt? The feeling of not feeling good enough as a mother, or trying your best but still losing your temper can be discouraging. Don’t worry momma, I have been there too. Maybe you are the mom that works a lot and have mom guilt from not being able to pick up your kids in the car pick up line. I felt prompted to write this to help other moms who have struggled with mom guilt and how to experience freedom.

Guilt, condemnation, and shame are not from God. All of our situations are different. We have to do the best we can, pray for the fruits of the spirit, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us parent them. It is healthy to feel convicted to strive to work towards progress, but it is not healthy to wallow in guilt and condemnation. If we make a mistake, we can come to God and ask for forgiveness. He is just to forgive and has already extended us grace.

Grace

God has given me grace, therefore I should extend myself grace. Sometimes, I am stressed out and I lose my patience. Other times, I may be tired and then I don’t cook, so I allow my son to eat something unhealthy. I try my best, but sometimes I fail. You may mess up some days, but what matters is you are trying. 

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten so upset at my son. My 9-year-old has such great leadership qualities wanting to do everything on his own and is not afraid to share his opinion and disagree. I love that he is strong-willed. The difficult part of having a strong-willed child is sometimes he will lose his temper and talk back. He might even slam his door and walk away from me.

A few years ago, I ran into an interesting image on the internet. Have you ever seen the image of a parent calling their child all kinds of names such as brat and stupid, etc? It showed the words coming from the yelling parent and the words floating around the child’s brain. I thought to myself how I never wanted to do that to my child and have been conscious about what I say since I saw that image. However, I became that mom by accident one day.

I Made a Mom Mistake

My son had a friend over and he was having a lot of fun. However, several times he talked back to me. I warned him and gave him several chances. A couple of times, I had him go to his room for a few minutes to think about what he said (the version of time out for 9-year-olds). I was sooo upset with him inside.

In as calm tone as possible for being angry, I said, “You are not a brat, but you are acting like one (conscious of that internet image in my head).” He was saddened and said, “Mommy don’t call me a brat.” I told him that I did not. I made sure to say what a good boy he always is, how I didn’t say he was a brat, but he was acting like one. To a 9-year-old, I called him a brat. I hurt his feelings, and let anger get the best of me. I became that mom on the picture that I always kept in my head to not become.

For the rest of the day, I had mom guilt. Sure, he was misbehaving and needed correction, but I was beating myself up all afternoon for not handling it the right way.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Progress

That night my husband and I tucked him into bed as usual and I stayed behind to talk to our son one on one. I apologized to him that I wasn’t trying to call him a brat. We talked about how he was not behaving. I edified him with all the good qualities about him.  Praying replacing lies with the truth is a great thing to do. I prayed for God to forgive me for saying he was acting like a brat, and replaced it with the truth of what a good kid he was and I listed them off. He then prayed for forgiveness for being disrespectful, and prayed for me to still love him. I made sure to tell him that I love him always even when he misbehaves and we all make mistakes.

It was a beautiful moment. I could’ve walked around feeling guilty all week, but instead I extended myself grace and made sure to use this moment as a teaching moment and spend time with him in prayer.

Maybe you are the mom that loses your patience more often than the other mom next to you. You might be the mom that works a lot and cannot take and pick your child up from school. That’s okay, Momma. We must change our perspective and focus trying to make progress, even if it small. One day we will look back and see how much we’ve grown as mothers. This can apply in all areas of our lives.

I recognize that I am a better mom than I was 3 years ago, and I celebrate that progress. Being the best example of what a godly woman is like is what I strive to do for my son, so when he one day seeks to find a wife, he finds a good one.

Seek the Holy Spirit

Friends, we may fail and make mistakes. We can seek the Holy Spirit for guidance, and be strong enough to admit when we were wrong and apologize. Teach your children that we are all imperfect, but we have a perfect God. No more beating yourself up, okay? God LOVES you! He sees you are trying your best. He is there to help us parent and give us patience and the wisdom to guide them.

 

Original here

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals

Christians need to understand that relying on screens and other technology is not leading to better worship, it’s ruining it.

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals

June 18, 2019 By Tom Raabe

A couple of decades ago, churches split in a grand debate over worship. Contentious arguments raged over every aspect of worship style, components, decorum, and practically everything else. Every church seemed to be choosing between opposites—organ or praise band, historic liturgy or rock liturgies, contemporary songs or historic hymns. The fallout was ugly. Assemblies erupted in dissonance and members on the losing side transferred out.

Years later, the voices have calmed and the dust has settled. Some pastors declared a sort of “separate peace” by establishing rival worship services—one traditional, one modern. Others went the “blended worship” route. While this included enough elements from both styles to at least keep the group together, everyone was left a little dissatisfied. Mixing pipe organs with electric guitars tends to do that.

Perhaps we no longer hear about the worship debate because everyone is simply tired of fighting. Positions have calcified. No matter how well-intentioned, few minds are being changed. Bringing up the subject only tears open wounds that haven’t quite healed.

More likely, the reason you don’t hear much about the worship wars is that one side has won. It may not be a total victory, but one side is clearly winning while the other is cowering in a back pew hoping a pack of millennials doesn’t make them wave their arms in the air and sing whatever Chris Tomlin or Bethel Music wrote that morning.

Informality at Church Is Increasing

Published in 2015, The National Congregations Study undertaken by researchers at Duke University surveyed nearly 4,000 congregations across the Christian spectrum. It found that traditional aspects of worship were in decline. Between 1998 and 2012, congregations that used choirs in worship decreased from 54 to 45 percent; those using organs dropped from 53 to 42 percent. Use of drums increased from 20 percent to 34 percent of congregations between 1998 and 2012.

While churches printing bulletins fell from 72 to 62 percent, the use of projected images rose by 23 percent. Informality in worship is way up (shouting “Amen,” wearing shorts to church) and formality is way down (calling the minister “Pastor So and So,” dressing up for services).

The survey didn’t come right out and say it, but informal worship with contemporary Christian music (CCM) seems to have won the worship war. All the megachurches are doing it. It’s hard to find many churches that haven’t bowed at least one knee to the modern, informal trend.

For those who attend their church’s traditional service, the demographic trends are not encouraging. Ushers for these services might as well require an AARP card for entry. At my church, the number of kiddos who trotted forward for the children’s sermon last Sunday was zero. It won’t be long until “old-timey” Protestants are searching out liturgical worship services like Catholics have to search out a Latin Mass.

While the larger worship war seems to be over, there might still be time to save at least one element of the traditional service: the hymnals.

Hymnals Are Disappearing

Hymnals are a wonderful legacy of Western Christianity. They’ve been housed in pew racks in church sanctuaries for centuries. Since they first appeared in the United States during the 1830s, hymnals have been indispensable for worship—objects of treasure both in the sanctuary and in households. In my denomination, many received engraved hymnals as confirmation presents.

Churchgoers used to proudly carry their own hymnals to church. Nobody’s doing that anymore. In fact, more and more worshipers aren’t even looking at hymnals in church. Instead, their gaze is fixed to the front wall and a screen attached to it.

On this screen, everything from lyrics, to announcements, to YouTube videos is displayed. Churches in all traditions, meeting in all manner of worship spaces, are fastening large white canvases to their chancel walls and leaving the hymn books to molder in the pew racks.

A report from 2004 indicated that almost 60 percent of churches used some form of projector technology at last once a year. Another study from 2011 estimated that two-thirds of Protestant churches employed a large-screen projection system. In a last-gasp effort, here’s the case for bringing back hymnals and ditching those awful screens.

Screens Don’t Belong In Church

To the first point: they’re horrifically ugly. In churches that don’t look like churches, the sort that instinctively prompt you to look for basketball nets and a scoreboard, they almost fit. Screens feel at home among the accouterments of contemporary worship that also dominate the space—guitars, mics, drum kits, keyboards, and amps—and behind that, typically giant luminescent slabs on the wall.

In a traditional sanctuary, on the other hand, with subdued natural lighting, pews, and steps leading to a chancel, the screens jump out and slap your aesthetic sensibilities. Housed next to time-honored trappings of ecclesiastical tradition like an altar, a pulpit, and a lectern, screens just don’t fit.

So why are they there? Some reasons are practical. Screens elevate worshipers’ heads out of hymnals and up toward the front, which amplifies the volume during the songs. Screens also free worshipers’ hands. Parishioners with weak eyes can often see words on a big screen better than words in a hymnal. For visitors or the unchurched—“seekers,” as they’re often called—screens remove the learning curve required to read music.

Projector Screens Reflect Our Tech-Obsessed Culture

In our visual culture, screens possess another, less practical appeal. The control screens have over our daily life is staggering. We spend countless hours at the office staring at a computer screen then come home to watch another big, flat screen for our evening’s entertainment. Between tablets, laptops, smartphones, and e-readers, there’s no getting away from the bits and bytes, the ones and zeros. With all this, why not worship screens in church too?

In a culture that treasures the new, convenient, and informal, and plants a sloppy wet kiss on every new tech toy, the appeal of worship screens is easily explained. The downside is that as we eliminate hymnals from the worship life of the church, we lose everything they contain and represent.

It becomes difficult to teach new songs on a worship screen, primarily because there are no notes. Screens only work when worshipers already know the melodies. Worship “playlists” at contemporary services are often meager because the same songs tend to be sung over and over.

If you’re not already familiar with the tune, you cannot sing from a screen. There are no instructions on how many pitches you must devote to each syllable. In cases like these, most just end up keeping their mouths shut. This also limits the complexity of the songs’ music and words, because it’s easier to learn simpler songs when new ones are introduced without sheet music.

Hymnals Provide Deep, Theologically Rich Worship

As hymnals fade, theology also suffers. The rich repository of religious wisdom contained in hymns will be lost. The old-fashioned language of hymns may strike some as unusual, but their text teaches the Christian faith far better than most of the praise choruses that dominate contemporary services. Old hymns were carefully crafted with theology at the forefront. Traditional hymns present doctrine clearly and beautifully convey the gospel story of saving grace.

On a larger scale, how do worship screens affect worship? Are they like other technology—truly neutral, beneficial when used well and deleterious when ill applied? We still have the same worship, they say. We simply added the screens! Instead of people looking down at their books, now they’re looking up at the wall—everything else is exactly the same!

Maybe so. But probably not. We may not want screens to change how we worship, but they certainly will. They definitely change the sermon-receiving “experience.” Images on the screen constantly interrupt attention. They do change the view, and they do put the technology front and center, rendering it visible where it used to merely exist subtly in the background.

While singing in a modern service, it’s hard not to start thinking about things other than the music. Will the slide change at the right time? Will the correct slide come up next? “Oh, look, there’s a typo!” It’s hard not to see how technology distracts from the meaning of the words we sing.

Screens represent a move away from permanence to the transitory. The words contained in a hymnal were printed in a book that was published with care. Inked on the paper accompanied by notes and staffs, hymnals were real. The words on the screens may look like the words in the book, but they lack substance. They’ll disappear the moment the switch is flipped off.

To Save Worship, We Must Rediscover Hymnals

If circumstances don’t change, worship screens will eventually kill hymnals—although it may be a slow, painful death. Long after Gutenberg, books were still being hand-copied or printed from woodblocks. In his book “The Shallows” Nicholas Carr points out, “The old technologies lose their economic and cultural force. . . . It’s the new technologies that govern production and consumption, that guide people’s behavior and shape their perceptions.” We traditionalists may take the hymnal with us to the grave, while economic forces will push publishing companies away from producing new hymnals and revising old ones.

Does any of this matter? Will the warnings of traditionalists bring any worship screens down from the chancel walls or lead congregations to rethink installing them in the first place?

Maybe the whole thing is moot. How long before implanted hardware in our brains will allow us to download hymns and project them directly onto our retinas? Voila! No more screens.

Those who wish to see the Christian faith prosper, however, should consider the long-term effects that replacing hymnals with screens will have on worship and faith itself. What technology giveth, technology taketh away. The musical and theological repertoire of the church will be constricted. Even marginally unfamiliar hymns will slide out of the public consciousness, forgotten forever—and worship will be impoverished for it.

Tom Raabe a writer and editor living in Tempe, Arizona.

Photo Steven Bornholtz / Wikimedia

https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/18/churches-should-ditch-projector-screens-bring-back-hymnals/