Self-Control: Yes, Even In 2022!

Rioting seems commonplace these days. Whenever a group of people doesn’t get its way, you can count on mass protests that usually involve violence. On social media, rage is a dominant theme, and for decades psychologists have encouraged us to vent our emotions.

Meanwhile, the thought of saving sex for marriage (and then being faithful to one’s spouse) is met with incredulous stares and outright ridicule. In Western culture, people now expect to indulge in whatever pleasure they choose without repercussions. As we exit Pride Month and watch the meltdown over Roe v Wade being overturned, we can’t avoid seeing how desperately people want to enjoy sexual pleasure without any restraint. I still remember my ex-boyfriend begging me, “Let’s lose our self-control.”

To which, incidentally, I answered, “Let’s not.” But I digress.

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We’re All Against Abortion, So We Shouldn’t Fight Each Other

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. ~~Galatians 5:13-15 (NASB95)

Maybe my memory deceives me. If any of you were involved in the pro-life movement prior to 1987, I’d welcome your correction if I remember things wrongly. I’m about to make an assertion based on my personal recollections of being in pro-life ministry, and I know full well that people who usually agree with me will adamantly oppose my convictions on this matter. I’m therefore open to hearing correction from people of my generation who fought to save unborn lives.

As I remember those early years when Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop galvanized evangelicals to oppose abortion, infanticide and euthanasia with their film series, What Ever Happened To The Human Race?, I recall our unwillingness for any compromise. We understood the urgency of overturning Roe v. Wade. Precious babies were being slaughtered, and we needed to stand against laws that permitted such evil. We had no time to waste, and we wouldn’t settle for anything less than complete abolition of this horrible practice!

After several years of seeing absolutely nothing happen, we began to consider incremental steps to stopping abortion. Make no mistake — we continued praying for the total eradication of abortion, but we believed our all or nothing approach actually retarded our efforts. We decided that victory is best won by winning small battles first.

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Don’t Tell Women How To Dress, They Say

Over a year ago, I tried to encourage a young Christian woman to dress modestly. You would have thought I’d counseled her to murder little children! All her friends wore their clothes that way, she reasoned, so who was I to tell her what to do? She was only following the fashion trends!

Fast-forward to Christian Twitter this past week, where a pastor bravely offered a man’s perspective on Christian women who dress provocatively. I’ve seen a lot of Christians vilified for standing on Biblical principles over the years, but never to this extent. According to his critics, he’s objectifying women while ignoring the responsibility men have to control their lustful thoughts. His critics ask what gives men the right to say when a hemline is too high, a neckline is too low or an outfit is too tight. They claim that, once again, men are oppressing women.

I have no problem agreeing that the Lord holds men responsible to control their thoughts. Jesus Christ certainly made that point abundantly clear:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (NASB95)

That statement doesn’t sound to me like He winks at the sin of men who look too long and savor their fantasies. He has no trouble saying that such secret sin deserves damnation. So please don’t read this piece and decide that I’m beating up on women while saying “boys will be boys.”

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An Eternal Fulfillment Of My Childish Question

Little girl with Matthew 5:8 quote

Some of my childhood memories come back as complete narratives. Every detail remains vivid, as does the progression of events. As a storyteller, I particularly enjoy recounting these memories, though John has heard all those stories so many times that I’m sure he’s sick of them.

Other childhood memories come in fragments, with both moments of sharp detail and many more moments so blurred that I can’t distinguish actual events from my guesses of what might or might not have happened. It’s one of those partial memories that I want to share with you today.

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My Brothers In Christ And Intimate Friendship

Having never had a flesh and blood brother, I’m not completely sure how such relationships work. Do opposite sex siblings confide in each other at the depth that same sex siblings do?

Personally, I doubt it.

But even if natural brothers and sisters do share such intimacies, does it necessarily follow that God intends for brothers and sisters in Christ to have such closeness? Up front, I want you to know that I think that’s a very dangerous attitude to hold. And I want to explain from both Scripture and personal experience exactly why I object to equating spiritual sibling relationships with natural ones.

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When Innocence Is Taken From Children

Little Girl Welcoming Advanced Mask

Do you remember the days when children thought God looked down from heaven, saw who the married ladies were, and put babies in their tummies? Except for Mary, of course — Jesus was special because His real Daddy was God, not Joseph.

Until I was 12, I quite contentedly believed that scenario. When my dad died, I understood that God wouldn’t  give Mom any more babies because she was a widow. And, despite having two gay relatives, I knew nothing about homosexuality until I was 18.

Looking back, I’m thankful to have been a child in such an innocent era. It breaks my heart that children today can’t have the innocence that guarded my childhood.

As early as the mid-1970s, things changed. I remember sitting in the neighborhood park during my college years, waiting for my sister to retrieve me. A boy no older than nine approached me, obviously curious about my Read More »

Throwback Thursday: Opened Too Soon

Originally posted December 15, 2015.

64dd7-christmasgiftIt seemed, to my ten-year-old mind, very reasonable. As I gazed longingly at the cheerful array of packages, all wrapped in decorative red and green paper, I wondered what treasures awaited me. I wasn’t quite sure Mommy had been altogether justified in commanding me to wait. And, after all, it was Christmas Eve, so what difference would it really make if I opened my presents early? I mean, they really were addressed to me!

So, I scooted over to the Christmas tree, and found a present addressed to me from one of the high school girls that volunteered at the school for “orthopedically handicapped” children that I attended. It was a flat package, leading me to conclude that it as a more grown-up gift. The prospect of a grown-up gift reinforced the idea that I was old enough to determine when to open Christmas gifts!

I ripped the paper eagerly, unveiling Read More »

Throwback Thursday: We’re Just Like Hollywood

Originally published November 10. 2017:

Mirror Mirror

It’s easy, as Christians, to look down our self-righteous noses at Hollywood, sniffing sanctimoniously that their culture of sexual permissiveness is finally bringing judgment upon them. That assessment is, I believe, true enough, but I question whether or not we ought to gloat over their implosion. Shouldn’t the Weinstein and Spacey scandals cause us to examine our own hearts?

The apostle Paul, after writing that blistering portrayal of rebellious sinners in Romans 1, turns to the religious establishment with penetrating questions. Those of us who identity as Christians might do well to apply these questions to ourselves.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” ~~Romans 2:17-24 (ESV)

I know, most of us have been physically faithful to our husbands, but let’s be honest. Haven’t we felt twinges of envy when Darcy pursues Elizabeth Bennett in Pride And Prejudice? Do some of us harbor secret fantasies about male co-workers or men in church? Would we be embarrassed if people saw our online histories?

We must remember that Jesus said a disturbing thing about our secret thoughts:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~~Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)

And ladies, we know that principle applies to our thoughts about men other than our husbands! The uncomfortable fact is that every one of us has been guilty of sexual sin, even if we never carried our thoughts into physical actions. Let’s make sure, before we click our tongues at “those sinners” in Hollywood,  that we’ve confessed our own sexual sin to the Lord, and that we’ve genuinely repented.

We should respond to Hollywood’s sexual permissiveness with horror and revulsion. But we should also praise the Lord for His grace in pulling us out of those same sins. How kind He’s been to rescue us from ourselves.

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Throwback Thursday: How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

Originally posted November 1, 2017:

Pink Elephant

Funny how growing in the Lord and getting Biblical teaching changes the way one views things. A little over twenty years ago I left my position as correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, largely because of my personal circumstances. Sure, a few things about the ministry bothered me a bit, but for the most part I believed in what they did. I accepted no criticism of them from any quarter.

To be clear, I still believe homosexuality violates God’s intent for sexuality. Those who engage in it, even if their engagement never extends beyond fantasy, stand guilty of sin. Furthermore I still believe homosexuality can, like every other sin, be forgiven and forsaken through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

Over the passage of twenty years, however, I’ve come to question the wisdom of building an entire ministry around one specific sin rather than around the Lord. When people meet together, and especially when they live together in a residential program, should we really be surprised when they fall back into the very sin that they’re seeking to escape?

A friend once counseled me, when I was single and struggling with desires for marriage, that simply telling myself not to think about marriage would invariably backfire. “It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants,” she said. “The harder you try not to think about pink elephants, the more you think about them.” She was right. Try not to think about pink elephants, and see what happens.

The answer to controlling my fantasies wasn’t in thinking about how sinful my fantasies were. Nor was it in gathering with other single women and talking about the struggles to control our desires for marriage. We thought praying together and asking the Lord for psychological insight into the root causes for our desires would eventually free us from our bondage to romantic fantasies.

We ignored a simple principle from Scripture.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.~~Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

Walking by the Spirit means nothing other than filling our minds with God’s Word and ordering our lives in conformity with His teaching. It does require discipline, yes, and admittedly self-denial causes emotional pain. But the more we delight in the Lord, the less we want things that offend Him. Walking by the Spirit isn’t easy,  but it is certainly simple.

The Bible never advises us to surround ourselves with people who struggle with the same sin we do. Instead, it encourages us to look to Christ with a commitment to glorify Him.  In so doing, we really do experience victory over whatever pink elephants we battle.

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So She’s Almost Admitted It — What Do We Do Now?

Rainbow and CrossA week ago, Beth Moore made a comment during her TBN program, Staying Afloat on the Fellow Ship — Part 4, that subtly offers a clue that she leans toward the idea of homosexual attractions being morally neutral unless they result in sexual activity. I don’t choose to put the actual video in this article (lest it distract you from my main point), but you can watch it here, beginning at the 15.27 mark.

Elizabeth Prata wrote an excellent analysis of the clip in her essay yesterday, which I will also feature on this week’s Saturday Sampler.  Elizabeth decoded Moore’s handy Social Justice buzz words to help clarify that Moore indeed Read More »