Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Three Marriages of a Man

I’ll be preaching at a men’s retreat this coming weekend in St.Augustine on The Three Marriages of a Man. No, it won’t be a series on the joys of polygamy. I am going to look at the three basic unions, commitments, or marriages of a Christian man. The idea of these commitments of biblical masculinity is drawn from three passages:

A Man is ‘Married’ to Christ: 1 Corinthians 6:17 “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” – His being ‘joined’ to Christ is translated by King Jimmy in verse 16 as ‘cleave’. There Paul uses this word to describe the ‘one flesh’ union of a man and woman through sexual intercourse as the act of intimate bonding meant for marriage. The relationship of God to his people as His ‘bride’ is a theme throughout Scripture. Interestingly, the key to true biblical masculinity starts with men being ‘brides’. The real man must surrender and order his life in submission to the Lord and pursue an intimate and loving bond with Jesus above all things. Think about it.

A Man is ‘Married’ to the Church: 1 Timothy 3:14-15 “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.” – We’ll continue to look at the fundamental familial language of God describing His relationship to His people. The Church is God’s oikos, his house. This is rightly translated in most Bibles as ‘household’ and not simply ‘house’, capturing the idea of an oikos not referring to the physical structure or dwelling, but the the community of loving, committed, and rightly ordered lives within it. People are to see the church not as a structure, a professional organization, or a religious affiliation, but as their family. We are to be married to the church.

A Man is ‘Married’ to a Wife: Ephesians 5:22-33 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” And, finally, of course a man (unless he is providentially called to a life of singleness) is to be married to a wife. I will focus here on the theological truths and realities that God has designed marriage (the fundamental and crucial relationship upon which human society is ordered and thrives) to display. Much more is at stake in our marital and familial commitments than meets the eye. What we believe, know, and teach about our Triune God is manifested in our love and care for our wives (and in their submission to us). If we believe the gospel- that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ – then we will hold up a reflection of this glorious gospel truth (marriage is mystery displayed, in a sense) to our wives, our children, and the lost in our commitment to marriage.

These three relationships are the fundamental, life giving, and God glorifying spheres of biblical manhood. Please pray for me, that I would expound God’s Word faithfully and prophetically.

Hopefully I’ll get the messages in a digital format so we can post them on the Four Oaks site.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Do You Get the Joke?

Doug Wilson has a great post on the use of humor in the culture war and more importantly in the spiritual war. Check it out: http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=1870

I'll pull a few of his comments at length here, with a few comments of my own thrown in for good measure:

But we live in a day when Christian men have too readily (and in a wholesale fashion) accepted what the world says about discussion, debate, discourse, and the clash of faiths. And as a result, many Christians would rather be "nice" than right. But by "right," I do not mean correct opinions coupled with a nasty attitude. I mean holding to the truth in a truthful way, advancing the claims of beauty in a lovely way, and holding up the good in a way that is genuinely good.

Femininity is creational glory. But effeminacy in men is a grotesque parody of this. Equally troubling is the attempt on the part of women to be masculine. A few days ago I put up a post that revealed my view that Scripture prohibits training women for combat (for those interested, I have a detailed discussion on this in Federal Husband). Apparently, from what I have heard, a local listserve went nuts for a time over this Calloused Insensitivity on my part and, once again, I was a Bad Person. This is because I am a Christian who believes that Scripture teaches that women were not created by God to be warriors. If I were a Muslim who believed something comparable and I made my wife wear a burka out to the mall, then I would be praised by these same people for contributing to the rich diversity of our small little town. And if I were a Christian again who pointed out this discrepancy, then I would once again be a Bad Person. Since I can't win for losing, then I will content myself with a chuckle.

...One of the most marked features of compromised Christian men in our age is an effeminate failure of masculinity, seen notably in a failure to engage in spiritual warfare like Christian men. There are many symptoms of this, but one marked feature of it is humorlessness. But it is not humorlessness arising from a lack of native wit; rather it is humorlessness coming from fear of having to go out and actually fight with the giants or dragons. A close corollary is the fear of having somebody on your side behave in such a manner as to provoke the giant. But David did not just fight with Goliath, he spoke to him first and his manner of speech was not in keeping with contemporary academic standards.

John Frame, in his recent review of McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, insightfully hits this failure of McLaren to recognize the reality of the spiritual warfare we are in, and the responsibility of Christians to be actively engaged in that warfare.

So my contention is this. Our sense of cultural maturity and masculinity is so far gone that there is no way to recover it without controversy. In other words, any person doing exactly the right thing, the one thing needful, will be thought by many to be troubler of Israel.

I have discovered this sort of humorlessness in the pew over and over again. And it comes, for the most part, from a misplaced evangelical 'sensitivity'. And, dare I say, it comes from women (with cowering husbands in tow). Churches are filled with Christians that are very concerned for the feelings of the 'hurting'. They are very concerned with those who would take offense, misunderstand, or be thrust further into the hurting abyss. Yet, ironically, and this has been my experience, it is primarily the fearful and 'seeker' sensitive Christians who are filled with offense by their active imaginations of the concerns of the hurting or the 'offended'.

Don't get me wrong- I know there are people with 'hurts' out there (it would serve us well to ask exactly what we mean by this- ah, another day, another post). I understand fully that there are many that take offense. But Jesus told us this would be so. And Paul. And Isaiah and all the prophets, for that matter (Jeremiah was such an insensitive oaf as he shouted at the worshippers in the temple courts, all spiffed up in their sabbath go to meetin best). And we should care for the bruised reeds, we should bind up the broken hearted. Amen. But never at the expense of a prophetic voice. I heard a preacher say, "Hard words make soft hearts. Soft words make hard hearts."

Folks, the world is crumbling around us and people are bound for hell while Joel Osteen smiles unctiously and gives us all a psuedo-spiritual pep talk. Preachers everywhere take note and follow suit. Hey, it gets the butts in the seats and the coins in the coffers. We all know what Jeremiah's, Jesus', and Paul's preaching got them.

I'll wrap this up, for the two of you still reading, with an example of this humorless evangelical concern for peace and unity at all costs. This past Sunday I preached on Acts 4:32-37. As I briefly mentioned some of the evangelical arguments against tithing (which are for the most part silly dispensational myths- like angels folding our clothes at the rapture- and if the image of an angel folding my undies whilst I am caught up to meet Him doesn't tickle your funny bone...well, then I don't know what to do for you). I made the joke that whenever someone asks me whether or not they need to tithe from their net or their gross, I no longer respond like the average gracious Ned Flanders-esque shepherd I know I should be ('Lest ye offer thy gifts with a cheerful disposition, tis best to not give at all'- or something like that). Rather, I look them straight in the eye and say with a straight face and prophetic tone, "Gross plus 2%".

Praise God, most people in my flock laughed. Yet, after the service a visitor, a long time Christian, came up to me and offered his concern over my flippancy. Some people might misunderstand. Some people might take offense. And then he began to offer an argument in favor of tithing only on one's net.

I reminded him of God's promise to His people who insist on robbing Him that he would rub poop on their faces and then throw them out with the trash (Mal.2:3).

Now, that's offensive!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Michael J. Fox or Babies...Who Should Live?

Let's all remember what is at stake here.

I just watched a recap of the many network appearances of Mr. Fox throughout this week in support of his campaign ad for Claire McCaskill in her bid to defeat Jim Talent for a Senate seat.
If you've been in a hole somewhere then let me fill you in. Michael J. made an appeal to voters in the ad to support McCaskill and therefore support stem cell research funding. While making this appeal, M.J.F. was visibly suffering the effects of Parkinson's disease (shaking and swaying back and forth). The inimitable Rush Limbaugh then accused Fox of manipulation and political spin of the worst sort by using his disease to push a candidate- and that push primarily coming through going off his meds in order to intensify the physical manifestations of the devastating Parkinson's disease.

Whether or not Fox did this is not the issue, fundamentally.

The issue rests in the truth of the claims made in the ad. The issue is this: who is more important to the American people- unborn conceived humans at the earliest stage of development or people with Parkinson's?

Mr. Fox says this in his ad on behalf of Mrs. McCaskill:

"They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans _ Americans like me."

I agree with half of this statement. What we do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. But this is where my agreement ends. What happens in Missouri (and throughout our nation) is not important just to Americans like Fox. Also Americans like my little 5 year old Tessie. Americans like my little 4 year old Bo. Americans like my little 1 year old Emma. All these little ones were once much littler ones, made in God's image, conceived in the body of their mother, and deserving of dignity and honor- not because of their size, or their appearance, or their lamentable physical condition- but because they are humans. Humans.

Just like you, Mr. Fox. Only much smaller.

So, Mr. Fox, stop your arbitrary distinctions of the value of one American over the other. I believe with you that your condition is tragic. Your disease is awful and destructive. Death is an urgent reality knocking upon your door. But the solution to your immanent fate is not the denigration of other's value for the sake of your gain. The solution is found in coming to grips with your mortality as one made by God for God.
And you will meet God.
Whether it comes through a life cut short by a devastating illness or through 'natural' means after a full and long life. God will then ask you plainly, 'In whom did you trust?" He will inquire, "And how did you love the least of these?" He will demand of you your life, your very soul, and you will discover that God's Word is true: "What profiteth it man to gain the whole world and forfeit his very soul?"

What profiteth it a man, or a nation, to gain freedom from disease if, in this process, he surrender his own soul and the lives of countless innocents for such gain?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Vision for Marriage and the Home

The college retreat this past weekend was pretty wonderful. It is always one of the highlights of my fall as pastor here at Four Oaks. We focused on purity and relationships in the body of Christ through an exposition of 1 Corinthians 6-7.

In the session titled, "Single for Christ, Married for Christ" we looked at some of the reasons for 'biblical singleness' and sought to understand Paul's warnings and exhortations regarding marriage. Hopefully, these messages will be on the Four Oaks website soon.

I made the point that one of the reasons for biblical singleness is to be 'free from worldly care'. Paul says the following throughout the chapter:
“because of the present crisis, I think it is good for you to remain as you are” v.26
“the time is short” v.29
“this world in its present form is passing away…” v.31
“the unmarried man/woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs” vv.32-34
“I am saying this…that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” v.35

Due to some 'present crisis' - most likely famine and intense persecution - Paul encourages the new believers in Corinth to be free from the concerns of family. This exhortation should be understood in light of our current context and cultural climate. I don't believe that Paul would set forth this exhortation with the same emphasis to us American's today. He is simply asking the believer's to make wise judgments about their current situation, weighing the great struggles they would face with the demands of marriage, and the superior calling to Christian ministry. We are to do the same.

Notice, though, my point that Paul is encouraging a 'singleness' or 'unmarried' state that is 'free from worldly care'. I challenged these students to take heed to this call in 1 Cor. 7, and note that much of 'singleness' in our culture is an 'unmarried' state for the sake of worldliness. People shun marriage in order to pursue worldly self interests. People shun the demands of marriage in order to subject themselves to the demands of a career. Rarely, is this career a distinct ministry pursued for the sake of God's people and the call of the gospel. Often it is the pursuit of some vocation for self validation, worldly reputation, or riches (I don't mean to make such a distinct dichotomy, much of the time singles find themselves somewhere in between 'ministry' and 'vocation'). Let's face it, 'sex and the city' has seeped into our evangelical sub-culture more than we'd like to admit.

My challenge to the students was to recognize this season of singleness in two ways:

1. As an extraordinary time to serve Christ without the restraints and demands of married and family life. They can, and many of them are, great gifts to the body in their singular devotion to the Lord. This season is a time of focused service to Christ and not for the slavish pursuit or worldliness.

2. Most of them will be married one day, and sooner rather than later, most likely. This being the case, and the desire of their hearts, I challenged them to build a vision for the future that allows for this. This challenge was put mainly to the young women. Many of them are constantly urged by the world, their parents, even their pastors (not this one, mind you) to pursue degrees and vocations that leave no room for the reality of husbands and children. The Bible calls motherhood a 'career' (and the obvious demands of children and a home clearly display this), and this career is to be a priority, not an afterthought. I urged these young women not to set themselves on a 'worldly' trajectory that does not include, in fact, does not prioritize marriage and the family.

This brings up a host of questions, and we discussed much of them at length over the weekend. Just wanted to give ya'll a taste of the feast we had.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Elephant

Another post here from the patriarch, Rev. Mike Braun, on the continuing saga of the shamed Republican homosexual alchoholic sexual predator Mark Foley and his shocked and outraged democratic counterparts, who are of course paragons of virtue in their own right-or left.

And don't forget, tonight Mel Gibson will be contrite before his adoring public. Let's hope the right reverend has some choice words for that debacle! I, for one, hope Gibson's PR gamble pays off. We were going to ramp up a church-wide evangelistic outreach using Gibson's Apocalypto -just in time for Hannukah.

Let me say, though, that I was shocked and outraged at Gibson's racist remarks! I have chosen to exhibit my righteous indignation by refusing to ever see a Gibson movie again.

Oops...gotta run. Gonna catch the 7:20 showing of Jackass 2

Ok, here's Dad's post:

The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Elephant

Something must be said about Florida Congressman Mark Foley. But what? What can be said that hasn't already been heralded about the country from every talk venue, news show or traffic report? How about this remarkable spin?

Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) ... at the center of a scandal involving
explicit messages he sent to young aides in Congress, is an alcoholic gay
man who was molested by a clergyman when he was a teenager, but has
never had sexual contact with a minor, his lawyer said on October 3, 2006.

After playing the victim cards of disease and trauma, Mr. Foley's legal team is banking on the fact if President Clinton satisfied the American Public with the "I never had sex with that woman" gambit, it should work for Mr. Foley to righteously insist "I never sodomized a minor." Malcolm Muggeridge was right, Americans apparently believe in coitus non interruptus. And, it seems, we can now preface this clever phrase with the adjective androgynous. Everybody's "having sex" all the time with everybody, aren't they? So what's the big deal here? It no longer matters with whom, married or single, male or female, man or beast. Let's ignore the more particular questions regarding partners and practices. They only make everyone uncomfortable anyway.

On October 6th George Will wrote in his syndicated column of an elephant in the room outed, pardon the expression, by the Foley incident. This elephant, he insists, happily evoking Republican images, is the growing rift among conservative Republicans, between secular libertarians in the west and members of the southern religious right.

To a Republican Party increasingly defined by the ascendancy of the religious
right, the Foley episode is doubly deadly. His behavior was disgusting, and some Republican reactions to it seem more calculating than indignant.

While there is truth in this observation, there is far more deception, albeit clever deception. Traditional morality and religion continue to be marginalized by the equivocating language of the media.

Religion is popularly qualified these days by the term right as opposed to left, or better, centrist or moderate. There was a time when the phrase religious right would have been regarded as a tautology, a leftist leaning faith thought unimaginable, and a moderately held religion deemed hypocrisy. As with so many modern circumlocutions, the term religious right is inherently redundant and nonsensical. The basic idea of religion demands communal responsibility and obedience to a higher authority. Any departure from that is not evolution but degeneration. The common parlance has now publicly sanctified degenerate religion. Religious modernists embrace this neat trick eagerly. What they really desire is a faith that does not interfere with a comfortable secularism.

Moving on from this unchallenged bit of newspeak we are now adding, it seems, the term southern, an intellectual kiss of death as far as the provincial minds on the east and west coasts are concerned. And so the balkanizing of our union continues. The land of the red, white and blue, has become the land of the red and blue states. And now our more introspective media note serious shifts in the red. But with apologies to the astute Mr. Will, this schism in a flawed spectrum is not the real elephant in the room or the braying donkey either.

The elephant in the room is morality pure and simple. Morality or the lack of it is the unmentionable bone in our collective national throat. A full fledged moral insanity now exists in the public forum and this lies at the heart of the Foley scandal. The real story is the appalling inability of the majority of our political pundits to speak with any moral force in print or on the air waves. To do so would irk someone somewhere in the great morass we call our modern culture of diversity. No news is better than bad news and the best party line is the one with the least resistance. Mr. Foley's obvious pedophilia must be carefully discussed without implying the obvious, namely his behavior was simply a further perversion of an already perverse homosexual life style. But, as the editor of a large New Jersey newspaper once told me while my copy was being politically corrected, "we can't call homosexuals perverts." And so, much like the old Seinfeld routine, we are told repeatedly, contrary to our common sense and sound judgment, "Mr. Foley was gay, not that there is anything wrong with that."

Righteous indignation over Mr. Foley's behavior is appropriate certainly. It was particularly heinous that he was soliciting young boys. But it is swimmingly confusing when he is roundly condemned by many who support the homosexual agenda, an agenda which warmly embraces the objectives of the "North American Man/Boy Love society." NAMBLA wants to do away with all legal restrictions prohibiting sexual encounters between adults and minors. The elephant is in everyone's parlor. The earnest Republican Rudolph Giuliani and the eternal Democrat Nancy Pelosi lock arms across Congressional aisles with others of both parties. They march with homosexuals in gay pride parades standing, literally at times, right next to NAMBLA advocates. Right wingers and left wingers alike hasten to show their mutual tolerance. Yet they are outraged at Mr. Foley's conduct. Mr. Foley's love interests were same sex partners they admit... not that there is anything wrong with that. Mr. Foley is, they note in passing, a homosexual ... not that there is anything wrong with that. The only thing wrong is that the objects of Mr. Foley's affections were minors. Mr. Foley's unpardonable sin, it seems, is chronological not sexual.

Mr. Foley's conduct in this matter was vile, hideous and sexually immoral. But by ignoring the inherent wrong of homosexuality we are placing Mr. Foley's disgusting act on a par with the errant convenient store clerk who sells cigarettes or beer to underage teens. Now that gender is ruled irrelevant to sexual behavior, what logic can insist a three year divide between a Congressional page of 17 and a 20 year old intern is anything more than an arbitrary legal line? Today many public voices are saying, in so many words, it was not wrong for Mr. Foley to "have sex" with other males, nor was it wrong of Mr. Clinton to "have sex" with "that woman." Monica, after all, had reached the age of consent. Mr. Foley's sin, they apparently conclude, consists only in being too impatient to wait for his sought after male partners to reach the age of 18. Should a parent have been more outraged if Mr. Foley had seduced his 17 year old son or if Mr. Clinton sodomized his 20 year old daughter? The latter has been dismissed as a domestic issue and a matter of private life. Shouldn't the same be said of the former? Hence Mr. Foley's lawyers are quick to insist "he never had sex with that ... boy." On the left former DJ turned social critic Don Imus' says in Mr. Clinton's defense "everyone lies to his wife to cover infidelity." Nevertheless Mr. Imus rages against Mr. Foley. Why, because the boys in question were 17 and not 18? From the right Bill O'Reilly repeatedly points out that it wasn't Mr. Foley's homosexuality that was wrong. Mr. O'Reilly is consistent. A married man, he also thought it appropriate in the wake of his own sexual indiscretions, to pay large sums of hush money to a woman he attempted to seduce with recorded phone messages.

The moral outrage of most politicians and public personalities is merely manipulative bombast. The vast American public, still "burdened" by Christian moral sensitivity, is constantly being shot at with its own gun by people who actually despise biblical Christianity altogether. These people seek a society at last free of biblical sexual restraint, the hall mark of all Protestant nations in the west. Many of these social architects and shapers of public opinion are mere Howard Stern wannabes. They want to say anything and do anything they please in public or private with impunity. They call it free speech. They call it libertarianism. They even call it, at times, conservatism though it is as radical as Bolshevism itself. Thus they prefer sodomy to censorship. They have been amazingly successful over the past 30 years or so in unraveling any and all impediments to their morally anarchical assault on the American moral conscience.

American sexual morality has gone insane. That is the big untold story behind Congressman Foley and all the other immoral public icons on the right and the left. Our nation is in serious trouble. It has become a very unsafe place to raise a family. Our insanity stems from rejecting the protection of God's ordination of a monogamous, faithful, loving and life-long heterosexual union between a man and a woman called marriage. Marriage is the primary line of defense against much of the disease and violence in our society. When properly honored and practiced, marriage is the best preventative for child abuse, the best cure for sexual disease, and the best way to stop abortion. Marriage is our best safeguard against promiscuity and perversion. It is, perhaps, the only thing that can stop the avalanche of crude speech and base ideas eroding sexual conduct in America today. The loving union of a husband and wife is the only truly safe environment for rearing children, practicing safe sex, and exploring true sexual identity. Open marriage, the intentionally childless marriage, and the rejection of marriage altogether in favor of other economic, personal or social advantages is at the heart of most of the ills that surface in the wake of scandals like Congressman Foley's. The perversion and ultimate abandonment of married life threatens our nation on innumerable levels. Those who attempt to argue that such evils have always been going on, that today we are just less hypocritical than our forebears, would do well to heed the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton who said: "When we lose the pretense of morality, we lose everything."

There is an even greater danger for cultures who abandon and defy God's sexual order in life. The five cities of the plain were consumed because of sexual immorality according to the Book of Genesis. Canaanite civilization fell to a bedouin invader from the desert though the Canaanites were a vastly superior culture in technology and economics. The reason for their collapse was clear in the Bible and fully evidenced by modern archaeology. Theirs was an immoral and promiscuous society. They were bestial and sodomizers. They murdered their own children to sustain their high levels of affluence. Peter warned of a similar fate for all who "indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority." (2 Peter 2:10) What is in store for America? Nothing, it would seem, short of the awful prospect of God's judgment. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

-- Mike Braun

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

STDs and the Gospel

At our student breakaway this weekend I am working on a series of messages from 1 Corinthians 6-7 on relationships. In preparation for our discussion of purity and the body, I went online to do some research regarding the judgment of God upon sexual immorality found in his Word,

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

Flee from sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

First, consider some statistics on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in our country:

· 19 million new infections occur each year
· An estimated 8.9-9.1 million occur among young people ages 15-24
· The economic toll of STDs in the U.S. is estimated at $13 billion annually
· An estimated 20 million people in the U.S. have Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections that can be transmitted to others
· There are 30 distinct types of HPV that affect the genital area (HPV accounts for 80 percent of cervical cancers)
· The Center for Disease Control boldly states that STDs taken their largest toll on women (one study concludes that fully 14% of female college students became infected with HPV each year)
· 30-40% of pre-term births (pre-term birth is the leading cause of infant death in the U.S. apart from abortion, which is the leading cause of death overall in America) are due to STDs
· 45 million – more than 1 in 5 – Americans are infected with genital herpes

Second, consider these statements from the CDC on homosexuality and STDs in America:

Researchers estimate that men who have sex with men (MSM) still account for 42 percent of new HIV infections annually in the United States and for 60 percent of all new HIV infections among men. Several recent studies have pointed to high and increasing levels of other STDs among MSM.

One 26-city study, the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project, reported that from 1994 to 1999, the proportion of gonorrhea cases among MSM more than doubled from six to 13 percent. An STD clinic in Washington, D.C., serving a large number of gay and bisexual men reported that gonorrhea cases increased 93 percent from 1993 to 1996, with 82 percent of these cases among MSM.

In King County, Washington – which includes the city of Seattle – researchers reported marked increases in both gonorrhea and syphilis cases among MSM. Most notably, while the county had no cases of early syphilis in 1996, 88 cases were reported between 1998 and the first half of 1999, 85 percent of which were in gay and bisexual men. These men reported having multiple partners and frequently engaging in unprotected anal intercourse.

A few observations:

1. The media and Hollywood are directly culpable for this epidemic that is chiefly destroying the bodies, sexual purity, minds, and hearts of our children. Sex is constantly paraded before and marketed to teens at every turn. Our little ones are sexualized and robbed or their innocence at the earliest of ages. We are a media saturated culture, and our media is an unashamedly sex saturated enterprise.
2. Parents are directly culpable for this epidemic in our own negligence and woeful absence from our children’s lives. Parents are directly culpable for this epidemic in our children in our abandonment of marriage and the bond of commitment that gives children an arena for healthy growth, discovery of human sexuality, and the testing of the boundaries of sexual expression.
3. Our churches are culpable in this epidemic due to their anemic approach to dealing with these issues of sexual purity and almost entirely unprophetic voice of the pulpit in a dying culture. The increasing invasion of secularism and its presuppositions and commitments into our individual lives, our church life, and our morality as a community is doing irreparable harm, and is evidenced in the statistics.
4. As a culture, in our abandonment of all moral absolutes and our unrestrained pursuit of total human autonomy, especially in this area of sexuality and relationships, we are eroding marriages, healthy sexuality, family health, and human interaction.
5. In the curse of the Fall, women are warned of multiplied pain in childbirth (Gen.3:16). Sex is for procreation and marital intimacy. We find that in our sinful pursuit of sex as an expression of power, independence, and for pleasure alone- women, as those who bear children, bear the great toll of these transgressions. In our culture where men are so culpable in pursuing their lust and their own selfish designs, women suffer. Women suffer the most in marriage filled with sexual perversion. Women suffer the most in divorce. Women suffer in a culture of pornography, which is, among other things, an industry that capitalizes on the degridation of women. Where are the feminists on this issue? They are silent, because it is their reckless cry for autonomy that is partially, perhaps greatly, part of this current suffering.
6. Our affirmation of homosexuality as a legitimate and healthy form of sexual expression, even as a lifestyle, is destructive, unbiblical, and unnatural. The abandonment of the lessons of ‘nature’ and the revealed will of God on these issues bring destruction upon our own bodies, our marriages, our families, our communities, and our nation. And justly so.

What is the solution? Well, quite simply, it is the gospel. What is the solution offered by Paul in Romans 3-4 after the display of God’s glory and justice and the reality of man’s sin and depravity? It is the good news that we are ‘justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:24). It it the good news presented in Romans 5:1, ‘since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The good news of Romans 6:1, ‘how can we who died to sin still live in it’ and that through the work of Christ and the power of God, ‘we too might walk in newness of life’. The good news of 1 Corinthians 6:11, ‘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.’ The good news that, ‘the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body,’ and, ‘he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him’, and, ‘your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God.’ We uphold the consequence of sin, the destruction of our depravity, displayed in every corner of our culture, and offer the mercy of God in Christ as a deliverance from sin, and the power of God by His Spirit to be freed from sin’s captivity.

Are you living this good news? Are you proclaiming this good news? Are you filled with hope and joy in the good news even in the face of the darkest sins and their ensuing consequences and judgments?

“Repent and believe the good news!” - Jesus

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Praying For Your Pastors

So far, over 150 in our family have committed to setting aside a Sunday (or any other day) to fast and pray for our pastors. May God strengthen this fellowship and the hearts of these servants through our faithful intercession.

If you will be praying and fasting for the pastors, here are some general areas for you to have before you as you go to God:

- Give thanks and praise to God for these servants he has given to us as a gift!

- Pray for the personal holiness and sanctification of these men. Pray that they are deeply rooted in the Word of God, the grace of Christ, and the power of the Spirit.

- Pray for their unity as a team of leaders. Beg that God give them a spirit of unity and love together. Pray that God might increase their love for one another as they labor daily together.

- Pray that there be unity in the hearts of the church as they follow the leadership of their shepherds. Ask that God would severe any root of bitterness, heal any wound, silence any haughtiness or unruliness, and grant peace and grace as we live and work together.

- Pray that God would make them effective and fruitful in their specific area of ministry.

- Pray that they might be encouraged and sustained in their work by God and the love of the body.

- Pray that their marriages would be strong, that they would be faithful, and resist temptation.

- Pray for the personal holiness and sanctification of their wives. Pray for these godly women who faithfully support their husbands and continue in their love for the bride of Christ despite the struggles, conflict, pain, and sin they sin in her on a daily basis.

- Pray for the spiritual health of their families. Pray that our church might be a body that allows our shepherds to care for and lead their families. Pray for their children, that God would graciously save each one and protect these little ones from the strategies of Satan.

- Pray that, in His providence and grace, God would grant each of these men long seasons of ministry in our midst.

There are some ideas to guide you in your times before the Father. More forthcoming!

Labels: ,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Moral Outrage...Ain't It Great? Part 2

[Hey! Read part 1 first!]

Hollywood's grip on our hearts and minds is stronger than ever. Our present obsession with opinion polls is best understood in terms of the lasting influence of Hollywood's values and iconic patterns of behavior. From such polls the President's "numbers" are determined and become the lead on the evening news. They become the final indicator of whether our leaders are doing well or ill. Our once proud Republic has become an immediate democracy of the lowest common denominator. The morality of the war in Iraq is determined by the most recent survey of the voters. Is the war popular? And though the notion of a "popular war" is in itself a tad unnerving we are asked this nightly. If you ask a question enough times it will soon cease to be a question.

Our nation would understand its present paradigm of shared values better if only we acknowledged the reality of Hollywood's heavy hand. Public opinion was once the primary concern of studio publicists and was judged at premiers and sneak previews where audience reactions could be observed before a movie's final cut. Came the 40's and 50's and Mr. Nielsen's ratings ruled the media with an iron fist. With the 60's we had test groups and blatant manipulation of those subliminal forces that drive the mass subconscious. The end result? Life has come to imitate art, and public opinion polls are bigger news than the very events, issues and people about whom the public dare venture its opinions.

To understand the reactions of the media to current events track the reported trends of public opinion. Rating points are the highest concern of the network moguls and the denizens of the airwaves. Since their careers are made or broken on the rack of public opinion should it not follow that public opinion, or what they determine to be public opinion is the most important issue of any topic at any time for the entire nation? The media cares a great deal about what we think. What we say goes. So they say. And what they say we say is, to them, what we say, whether we say it or not. The media, like all quantum observers, is inevitably sucked into its own vortex. They truly believe what they say is what we say. This is the only truth in their morally vacant universe. It's all so immediate and visceral! It's no longer a matter of term limitations. Who needs terms at all? What are the overnights? What are the ratings? As in Hollywood so now in all the world, you are only as good as your last show. The dog is fully and finally wagged. The media portrait of the real world has become the real world. Reconstituted and regenerated nightly, the news begins to feed upon itself. There is no ultimate conspiracy. We have met the enemy and he is us. We neatly deceive ourselves coming and going.

Another prime example of iconic Hollywood patterns of behavior shaping our public opinion is found in the late phenomenon of burgeoning moral outrage on the small screen, in print, and over the radio airwaves. Such outrage is anchored in the age old penchant of Hollywood to overindulge itself in endless paroxysms of self congratulation. Consider the long red carpet parades of Emmys, Tonys, Oscars, Golden Globes, et. al. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Why haven't plumbers and electricians feasted and toasted themselves with similar awards? "Now for the best work in septic tank removals, may I have the envelope please?" Perhaps it is coming. How we love to watch the stars clutching their glittering prizes and confessing undying admiration for the hard work and sheer creative genius found in their industry. In Hollywood whenever the cameras are rolling, whenever the public is listening, whenever you take the stage you must self-promote. Every occasion is the right time to put your best foot forward. And when are the audiences most riveted to talk shows and news updates? In times of tragedy and moral outrage of course. Remember Ed Murrow's righteous stare-down of Joe McCarthy? Dan Rather's defiance of Nixon? How Arthur Godfrey wept at FDR's funeral? What theater! What ratings! What next?

The Hollywood Gospel of self promotion rules the air waves. It can be seen most overtly when yet another book is cranked out by the ghost writers of the talking heads and sold on the internet sites of the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken. But what is sauce for the media goose in not sauce for political ganders. Heaven forefend should the president of Pakistan hawk his book from the presidential podium at a White House Press conference. "How dare he write when Ben Laden is still at large?" The audiences evidently agree being pleased by the spectacle of moral indignation.

And there we have it. Moral outrage on TV is nothing more than implicit self promotion. It is as staged and deliberate as a WWF fist fight. When the talking heads show moral outrage it is, in reality, a clever display of an acceptable holier than thou attitude. "Certainly," they are saying at all times, "we are a caring and concerned lot." They slyly suggest this with the raising of an eye brow that invites their audience to register complete agreement. "Obviously I am full of compassion and am tender hearted toward all victims of every moral indignity." So says the demeanor of ever Anchor man from Tom Brokaw to Ron Burgundy. They imply it all by restrained looks of anguish and concern. "How dare Mr. Bush vacation when Katrina raged? Weren't all the network newsmen there in mufti like beginners on an Outward Bound trail? Didn't they look deeply and visibly moved by human suffering?" Of course they did. They are the news!

Who does Tom Cruise think he is anyway? First he attacks a depressed Brooke Shields and then jumps up and down on Oprah's couch. Wasn't the New York times fittingly offended? How dare a Virginia senatorial candidate call a young Asian American of Indian origin "McKaka," whatever that means? Don't you appreciate my sense of fair play in denouncing all this? For shame on the drunken anti-Semitic outbursts of Mel Gibson! Oh, the inhumanity of Nancy Grace's harsh questioning of a suicidal, in not homicidal mother. How disgusting that Anna Nichol Smith should sell the last photos of her son for $600,000.00! "Roll that clip of her in her bikini one more time! Atrocious! More film at 11." How can the California voters put up with the anti-woman rhetoric of Arnold? So the multiple-wived Larry King asks Jerry Springer. How disgusting that a young Floridian teacher should seduce a student. It was worth it for NBC to pay her a six figure inducement just to expose this great moral evil. Wasn't it?

How powerful is this collective media moral outrage? For the first time in history it was the pope who was driven to Canossa, placed in Coventry by the media's concern that he dare criticize the Prophet's cry of "death to the infidel." In this day of political correctness the pope was faulted for failing to reckon with the more subtle nuances of Jihad. "Of precisely what kind of death was Mohammed speaking?," some deeply reflective Barbie Doll clones asked. "Who among us, after all, is really an infidel?" speculate well established pundits of the airwaves. "Don't we, all of us, worship a god of our own design in our own way? Be he called Jehovah, or Allah or ... Nielsen?" Our televised examples of probity and wit, the concerned media, called for greater papal restraint. The pope should tread the tired pathway of public opinion, the true and only via Dolorosa, with the same balance and correctness he sees on TV. He should look to the stars, pun intended, for divine guidance. This he did and the media that was the messenger became the embodiment of the message. Should someone shoot the messenger, all the better for future programming. Stay tuned.

Hooray for Hollywood! Back to you Chet. Good night and good luck.

- Mike Braun

Labels: ,

Moral Outrage...Ain't It Great? Part 1

[I will be posting two great pieces from the pen of Rev. Dad (Mike Braun). Enjoy the witty, inspired, and sometimes blessedly biting social commentary.]

Hollywood has left an indelible imprint on the great cultural dialogue that is western civilization. With the arrival of the global village the adjective western has gone the way of the masculine pronoun, as has perhaps civilization in any objective sense of the word. Our poets and artists, our politicians and masters of industry may no longer be amazed at the work of God or man in our world but they will insist on being amused by the seductive lure of entertainment endemic to the electronic media. The lust of the voyeur seems to be the only common bond between the disparate fragments of our dying culture. The pages of the New York Times prove this as does the nightly evening news. There is no business but show business. Like Chance the gardener in Kosinski's "Being There," the only thing that unites is that we all like to watch.

Hollywood Babylon may have passed away with the last of the great motion picture studios but its theatrical ghost lives on, a veritable deius ex machina of the modern news industry. What began with the flickering of the nickelodeon and the hissing of early crystal radio sets still haunts the present plasma screened, high-density, TV sound bitten news-show generated from the world's newsrooms from Tokyo to Bonn, Paris to London, L.A. to Hong Kong.

Hollywood has pimped the ride of our modern culture. To remain a well informed electorate we blink blankly at the dizzying graphics on Fox News, the chiseled good looks of the odd correspondent, the shapely calf of a mini-skirted anchorette, or the gentle, seductive smile of Katie Couric. (Dude, she probably would go to the prom with you if you asked her.) The frozen cadaverous head of Edward R. Murrow is gone for good, fading into the haze of his half-smoked cigarettes. Were the images of H.V. Kaltenburn or Gabriel Heater to flash on our screens now they would be met with a collective eeew!, as our thumbs instantly descended upon tightly held clickers. Beauty may only be skin deep but without it there's only radio. If Samuel Goldwyn didn't say that, he meant to.

Under the influence of Hollywood's pervasive spirit our very language is being reformed. Conservative and Liberal have become passé. Being over used they lack any discernable product recognition. Thoughts about God and moral conduct have been expunged from the airwaves as too divisive save perhaps for the marginal offerings of an occasional 700 club or a rant from the ever present, rarely coherent Bill Maher. Words like moderate or extremist abound in their place, far more marketable and subject to more malleable interpretations. Not as informative, they are certainly less disturbing. The only inherently qualitative term allowed today is the pejorative use of right or far right or extreme right wing. Everyone else is a moderate as God intended. One wonders as to the composition of a paradigm in which the murder of a nun was performed by extremists. Would it have been moderate to merely beat the hell out of the dear sister and place her in intensive care?

As our flat earth continues to be leveled, the only significant difference between Russ Limbaugh and Al Franken is the sizable number of rating points for the former vis-a-vís a growing negative index of the latter. At least Limbaugh has the wisdom to remain hidden behind his microphone. All other distinctions between our talking heads have nothing to do with informing the larger audience. The only question that remains: do they have audience appeal? (Dare we say 'sex appeal?')

These extant realities are gifts from the long dead studio heads of Hollywood's golden age. The star system lives though Clark Gable is long gone. We no longer envy Gary Grant but secretly covet Matt Lauer's new hairdo. Bette Davis has mercifully passed and Garbo left alone but there is always Starr Jones and Rosie O'Donnell. Are they failed entertainers who found refuge in talk formats? Hardly! News and social commentary are their form of entertainment, their shtick. Do you really think Jon Stewart would leave Comedy Central and go back to being Steve Martin's second, or third banana in movies like "Mixed Nuts?"

The stars that left the heavens of Paramount's logo and moved to the hills "out over the ocean," as Dave Loggins sang, are now co-hosts, anchors and guest commentators all over the cable and network channels. The names and faces may be ever changing, but not to protect the innocent, simply to move the merchandise. Movies are not half as much fun as the newsrooms any way. Why pretend to live in a make believe world when you can pretend to be part of the real one?

- Mike Braun

Labels: ,