Harassed by all this Harassment

Sexual harassment.

What is it?  I imagine the answers to that question are too many to count.  It depends on whom you ask, right?

When I served as an Officer in the Marine Corps, we knew in no uncertain terms that any unwanted remark or contact with a female Marine was considered harassment.  The woman got to define it, so we had better keep things clean.  A very similar definition prevailed at GE when I worked there as a Materials Manager.

And yet I heard comments made by men about women, or specific female co-workers, that were not clean.  Not in the least.  But those comments were always made only in the company of other men.  Behind the backs of those women.  It was gossip, sometimes of a sexual nature.  Sometimes I confronted it.  Sometimes I ignored it.  Sometimes I just found a way to walk away and find something else to do.  But it was fairly normal and commonplace.

And no evangelical, Bible-affirming Christian is at all shocked by this behavior!  Honest women I know tell me that women often do the same thing!  They, too, talk inappropriately about men behind their backs.  And in high school locker rooms all across this land, crude talk and jesting is rampant.  This is how sinners live and move and have their being.  Sinners sin.  Our thoughts are not pure.  Our lips are unclean.  And sometimes we use our bodies to sinfully violate the body of another person, whether that’s a punch in the nose or touching when that touch is not wanted.

So I have been, like all of you, watching, with massively mixed up emotions, the latest rampage of firings amid allegations of sexual harassment.  At this rate, there literally will be no male news anchors left on TV in a year!  And we might not have any men left standing in public office either.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I do not endorse any inappropriate talk about anyone.  I denounce any sexual activity outside of marriage.  Period.  I decry any unwanted sexual advances or contact.  Sin is sin.  It is ugly.  Never justifiable.  And followers of Jesus, of all people, must affirm and embrace these truths!

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which is out of place; but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

My concern here is not to defend any sinful or inappropriate talk or behavior.  Rather, my purpose in writing is to say, “Every man in any position of influence or authority in this Nation right now is walking on pins and needles.”

Why?

Because we ALL have sinned in these ways.  At some point in our lives, every single one of us has sinned in ways that our society now defines as “harassment.”  Some of these allegations reach back 25-40 years.  Does any one of us really want all our stupid, hormone-afflicted behavior as teens or college students thrown back up in our faces?

If the allegations are true, whether they are 30 years in our past or just a few months ago, we should confess them as sin before God and seek His forgiveness as well as the forgiveness of those we hurt or offended.  I have personally promised God that each time I encounter someone from my past that I know I sinned against I will do this very thing.  I want people to know I am genuinely sorry and thanks to Jesus I am not the man I once was.  And, praise God, He has blessed me to maintain pure relationships for decades now.  I give Him all the glory, for apart from Christ I am nothing and can do nothing of spiritual beauty (John 15).

And if a crime has been alleged, such as sexual assault, we need to withhold judgment until a fair trial is conducted.  I am deeply disturbed by the direction of our culture and media.  We are as Americans no longer innocent until proven guilty.  No!  Especially not if the allegations come from a woman against a man.  We expect that man to quit his job immediately, even if he is denying all the allegations.  Long before a trial.  We have already crucified him.  And even if the man admits to inappropriate talk or advances (but no legal crimes were committed), we still know he will get fired from his job and disgraced.  And so I say again, no man then is safe!  Because we have all sinned in these ways and if we’re not allowed to genuinely repent and apologize and seek forgiveness without losing our livelihood, well, I have no idea how our society and economy will sustain this insanity.

And frankly, I wonder why we assume only men harass women.  If you think the stigma on a woman making public allegations against a powerful or influential man is strong, consider the stigma when the gender roles are reversed!  When is the last time you heard a man make public allegations of harassment against his female boss?  And it happens.  Our military now has to deal with male-on-male and female-on-female harassment and it is devastating.    Surely we are not naive enough to think only men are guilty of these sins?  Surely we do not think it impossible for a woman to advance in a career through sinful means?  Surely we do not think only women tell the truth and all men are liars?

Or do we?  And if all women tell the truth, what about those labeled trans-gendered?

The spiritual ramifications of this ongoing saga are crucial.  Even in the church.  Will we hold our pasts against each other?  Or, as those who humbly confess our sins and plead the blood of Christ as our only hope of forgiveness and reconciliation with God and one another, will we embrace one another as the Redeemed Family of God?  Is the Cross of Jesus Christ the great leveler of all playing fields, or not?

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  

What is most disturbing in all of this is the complete lack of any gospel consciousness or biblical language to help us process and deal with it.  Not one dismissed news anchor has called his behavior “sin” to my knowledge.  God has not been mentioned.  The forgiveness of sins available only in the righteous life, substitutionary death and powerful resurrection of Jesus Christ is never invoked.

Instead, we just send offenders away in shame.  Much as we have shut away and silenced victims in our society for far too long.  We are losing our sense of hope!  Of forgiveness!  Of reconciliation! Of restoration!    

O dear friends, our nation needs the Gospel.     

 

 

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Dependence

By Lori Beard

Recently I have been studying Isaiah.  It has been revealing to say the least.  It has also been very convicting.  It appears to me that the overarching theme of Isaiah is our dependence on ourselves as opposed to God.

God tells us in so many places in the Bible to depend upon Him and not ourselves.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says to lean not on your own understanding but to trust in the Lord.  2 Cor 1:9 says to trust in the Lord God and not ourselves.  But as I read through Isaiah, I see that Israel did not trust God well.  And often I do not trust God.

Isaiah 29 speaks of the Potter and the clay.  Clearly God is the Potter.  I am the clay.  But I don’t always act like He’s the Potter.  And I certainly don’t live like I am the clay.  Often I live just the opposite.

In Isaiah, God uses practical examples to show how Israel is not trusting in Him.  When they were being attacked, they trusted in swift horses and fleeing.  In other words, they trusted strong horses and running instead of God.  Good grief!  This is so like me.  I often look for my strength in things besides God.  When a struggle comes, what I might do first is get a plan in my mind of how to fix it.  The problem with that plan is that often I have not consulted God first, by prayer or time in the Word.

Isaiah 29-30 talks about this very thing.  It says Israel’s hearts have been hardened and they don’t listen to God’s Word coming through His prophet anymore.  They don’t read or heed His Word.  This is what depending on your own strength and plans looks like.  It is the result of a hardened heart.

God forgive me.  I do not want to be a hard-hearted Christian.  I often am so proud of my own strength and my own ideas and my own ways that I refuse to look to Jesus first.  Somehow I think it makes me look weak.  But the Bible says God is made strong in my weakness!  So why do I fight dependence upon God so much?  Why?  I don’t really know why I fight it.  But I guess the answer is sin.  Specifically, the sin of pride.

I am so proud of myself and my strength.  I am arrogant.  Ugly sin.  But I do know how to battle sin, thank God.  1 Cor 10:13 says no temptation will come to us that God has not provided a way of escape.  So, I know that the answer to the sin of trusting in myself is just to trust in God.  It is to cry out to Him to help me and humble me.  So that’s what I intend to do.  I imagine I’m not the only Christian struggling with this matter.  I imagine there are people in our church family and in our circles of brothers and sisters who struggle with self-strength.  I hope that we love each another enough to pray for each other and to call out pride when we see it.  To speak to each other with love and gentleness – words of life and truth.

And those words would probably sounds something like:

You cannot do this by yourself.  Have you prayed about this sister or brother?  What does the Bible say?  Have you studied the Word in this matter?

Self-strength is ugly.  But it can be attractive even to the Christian.  It causes us to believe that we are sufficient in a way the Bible says we are not.  I love Isaiah.  Because Isaiah does not let you believe that lie.  It knocks down all those deceptions and defenses and speaks truth instead.  And the truth is that God is the only sufficient One.  He is the only One with all the answers.  He is the Truth.  He is the only Hope.  I am absolutely nothing and incapable of living rightly or wisely without His help.

This is God’s truth.  I am not strong.  You are not strong.  We are not strong unless and until we put our whole hope in God.

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Texas Tragedy

Texas is bearing more than her fair share of heartache and suffering these days.

Just a month or so ago, we watched in horror as Houston was submerged in hurricane flood waters.  And now, we mourn with Texans who lost precious loved ones in a senseless act of murderous violence against worshipers gathered at First Baptist Church of Sutherland.

What are we, as Christians, to say to such things?  How are we to process and think about such loss of life?

Well, first, we must know what not to say and what not to think.  For instance, we must not think what an atheist would think.  And we must not say what an atheist would say.  Since there is no god, there really cannot be any objective definition of evil.  Humans are cosmic accidents.  A surprisingly well-organized coagulation of atoms, evolved from lower life forms over billions of years.  So, nothing we can do to stop those “lower animal genes” from sometimes expressing themselves.  And really no way to place blame.  Though Darwinians and atheists might not like to admit it, if they follow their worldview to its logical (or illogical) conclusions, they have nothing of substance to say to grieving Texans right now, except perhaps “better luck next time.”

And we must not say or think what some Eastern religions, or a New-Ager or a Christian Scientist might think and say.  All of life is really just an illusion.  Pain and suffering aren’t really real.  The best you can hope for is to be reabsorbed back into the universe someday where you will be blissfully “non-existent.”  This kind of religious non-sense is only more hurtful to the husband mourning the loss of his wife who was pregnant with their first child.

And we must not think or say what a follower of Islam or some warped versions of Christianity might think or say.  God is judging Texans for their sin and rebellion.  They are only getting what’s coming to them.  The Bible Book of Job serves as a massive trumpet blast warning against this very myopic  and shallow theological view of the world.

And we must not think or say what some liberal versions of Christianity or Judaism might think or say.  God is not sovereign.  He’s not actually in control of all things and has to react to these tragedies as best He can.  But, have no fear, He’s pretty good at bringing something good out of these messes.  Maybe there’s some lesson in it for you Texans?

And we must not think or say what some genuine, well-meaning Christians think or say when they ascribe everything to human free will.  God is just letting human freedom run its course.  God will not violate or override a person’s will for any reason.  Well, mass numbers of Christians believe this, but this theology is not biblical nor is it comforting.  If God is sovereign and has all power, why would He not just prevent this act of evil?  Does God really value human will / freedom so highly that He prefers to allow mass murders rather than overriding an evil person’s will?  Make no mistake, friends, what happened in Sutherland yesterday was not an act of “free” will.  Rather, it was an obvious display of the enslaved will of a fallen, lost person living apart from the rescuing grace of Christ.

He who commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jesus as recorded in John 8:34).

So, what should we Christians think or say?  Well the theology of suffering given to us by God in the Bible is actually a complex weaving together of God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s sinful will and man’s accountability before God.  Of Divine judgment against mankind’s sin and of mysterious Divine Providence working all things for the good of His chosen, beloved, redeemed people.  Of hell deserved by all people and of abundant mercy lavished on undeserving sinners who cry out to Jesus for forgiveness.  Of fallen humanity filled with evil and the all-eclipsing glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  We dare not approach these terrible events arrogantly, as if we have this all figured out.  This was the monumental mistake of Job’s friends!  We know so little of how God exercises His sovereign will in this world.  We don’t have all the answers we like to think we have.  But we know enough of who God has revealed Himself to be in the Person of His Son, Jesus, to sustain us through any crisis.

Jesus addressed such matters directly in Luke 13.  Some keen theology students approached Him inquiring about some recent tragedies.  Pilate had slaughtered some poor Galileans and spilled their blood on the temple altar.  And a tower had fallen on eighteen people in Siloam, killing them.  Jesus’ viewpoint is perfect and instructive:

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5).

Wow.  How humbling.  We must have compassion on those suffering, for we are no different than they.  No more or less deserving of any good thing from God’s hand than they.  All deserving of God’s wrath.  All in need of God’s mercy.  Truly, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22).

So, while we are still given breath by God, let us renounce our sin and cast ourselves upon the mercy of Jesus the Messiah.  And let us pray that suffering Texans will find God true to His promise to be “near the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18).  And let us trust that Holy Spirit God will, as He comforts those grieving, exalt the Lord Jesus who is a “Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  And may more and more Texans come to know and rejoice in the hope that in Christ Jesus, death loses its sting and grief is never hopeless (1 Cor 15:55; 1 Thess 4:13).

This is what we think and say as followers of the Lord.  And as we wrap our arms around the suffering, and walk alongside our mourning neighbors, we exclaim through tear-stained eyes with the Apostle John, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20)

 

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One Long Day

At 11:27 p.m. on September 13th, I laid my forehead against my Dad’s, said a prayer, then kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

At 11:30 p.m. I laid my head on the pillow in the bedroom just adjacent to where my Dad was lying.  I said, “Jesus, please let it be tonight.”  I must have been so exhausted I went into a deep sleep almost immediately, because at 11:40 p.m. my youngest brother Kenan shook me awake (and I am a notoriously light sleeper) and said:

“Keith, get up.  He’s gone.  He just stopped breathing.”

I threw on a t-shirt and walked back into the room where my Dad had been laying on his deathbed for three weeks, battling cancer.  As I entered the room, I knew instantly that indeed Dad was “gone.”  My sister was already weeping deeply.  My cousin who was the world’s best caretaker to my Dad over these last nine months was crying softly at the foot of his bed.  My wife was crying at the head of the bed.  I walked toward Dad’s body, my wife shuffled to let me get to him.  I took a moment to console my sister and tell her “It’s alright.  Everything is alright now.”  I laid my right hand on his forehead and my left hand on his neck.  I had the honor and privilege of feeling Dad’s final “pulse,” those final few beats, as they weakened, then stopped.

“I praise You O God!  I praise You O God!  I thank You for the gift of my Dad.  What a gift.  What a gift!”

I am sure I said more through tears, but I distinctly remember saying these words, as my youngest brother said “amens” and “hallelujahs.”  Jesus had answered my prayer that night swiftly!

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

My sister, one of my brothers, my wife and cousin and I then gathered around my Dad’s body and sang two stanza’s of the hymn “There’s a Land That is Fairer Than Day.”  We were so sad, but so full of joy.  Fighting in the power of the Holy Spirit to see things with God’s eyes.

That was two weeks ago.  It has seemed like one long day.  My wife and girls and I have had moments of deep sadness and moments of laughter at good memories.  My church family has been nothing short of amazing.  And we are finding God really is “near to the brokenhearted.”

I am not sure why I am compelled to write this today.  It’s cathartic for me, I suppose.  I have nothing profound to offer my few readers in this post.  Only to say that Dad was my hero.  Of all humans on this planet, he was at the top of my respect and admiration hierarchy.  My love for him was as pure as love can be in this fallen world.  I was and am so blessed to be chosen by God to be the son of Don W. McWhorter.

But greater still the sheer joy that fills my heart at knowing Dad, and I, are chosen of God to be His adopted sons in Christ Jesus our Lord!  For the last few months of his life, I started a little ritual with Dad.  When I left him, whether for a few days or a few hours, I would say, “Dad, I will see you again.”  His eyes would light up with that fire only those closest to him knew, as he looked at me and said, “That’s right!  That’s right!”

It bolstered both our spirits.  No goodbyes.  No sir!  Jesus made that a thing of the past for His redeemed!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ (Rev 21:1-4).

O, what a Savior!  What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see!  And, I will see Dad again too!  And though I am so sad I cannot pick up the phone and hear his voice right now, I know there is coming a day when Dad and I will visit in immortal bodies.  Our minds no longer cluttered by sin.  Our hearts pure in love for God and one another.  Our vocal chords tuned perfectly to sing to our Lord Christ.

And we shall sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!”  Together.  With all the saints from all the ages.

O death, where is your sting?

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Eyes to the Sky

Much of the nation had their eyes to the sky yesterday during the solar eclipse.  Hundreds of thousands converged in various “totality zones” from Oregon to South Carolina to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Schools let out.  And frankly I do not understand why any school within sight of the eclipse would not have let students freely enjoy the sight with their family and friends.  At bare minimum it should have been an excused absence!  We wonder why interest in science is failing, and then we have schools that will not even embrace one of the most magnificent astrological events most students will ever have an opportunity to witness.

Personally, I set out on an hour drive from my home yesterday morning to the town of Scottsburg, IN.  Discovered the Ace Hardware there had glasses.  That place was packed out!  The business manager there was thinking ahead, because as far as anyone of us in line could tell, he had the only available glasses in all of Southeastern Indiana! It was a unique social event – waiting in line at the hardware store.  I chatted with a gentlemen behind me.  We joked with a woman further back in the line.  And two Mennonite women made their purchase just in front of me.  It was eclectic fun!

And my wife, daughters and I enjoyed popping in and out of the house as we watched the total eclipse live on TV while also enjoying the 95% eclipse in our front yard.  We noticed our neighbors in their yard with no glasses, and several times during the event, we walked over to share the glasses with them.  And we commented to them on the creation glorifying the Creator!  And they agreed.  It was nice sharing that moment with them.

So, just a few observations:

  • The way so many TV scientists referred to this amazing creative act of God was infuriating.  Perhaps even demonic.  I heard noted scientists call this a “cosmic coincidence.”  Yep.  Makes perfect sense that the moon just “happens” to be 400 times closer and 400 times smaller than the sun.  And that’s why we even know of such a thing as a total solar eclipse.  And makes perfect sense that we can predict the exact dates of these events years in advance.  Give me a break!  This thing was no accident or coincidence.  Our cosmos is ordered to reflect the Perfect Orderliness of our Creator.  No wonder kids hate science when we have stripped God’s glory from it and made everything magnificent a mere coincidence of “mother nature.”  But I guess if our kids think they too are just cosmic accidents, then why bother getting excited about just another accident?
  • To gaze at the eclipse yesterday and somehow be able to shut out the radiance of the Creator is a sure sign of spiritual deadness.  And if scientists and teachers and parents and children do not repent of it and cry out to the Creator God in Christ for forgiveness and mercy, there will be hell to pay (Romans 1:18-32).  Christian parents, please tell me you did not miss this opportunity to speak of God and the glory of His salvation in His Son and our Savior?!  So many spiritual analogies could have and should have been made as we stared upward yesterday.
  • Our word “eclipse” derives from a Greek / Latin word meaning “abandoned.”  The ancient Greeks thought the sun was abandoning the earth during such an event.  Now think about this in relation to what God did while His Son, Jesus, hung on the cross for the sins of the world.

“Now from the sixth hour to the ninth hour (noon to 3) darkness fell upon the land.  About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'”  Matthew 27:45-46

  • Wow!  Another cosmic coincidence?  No way!  God dimmed the light of the sun for 3 hours as He poured out His wrath against the sins of His people on the body of Christ.  It was my darkness that enveloped my Savior that day.  It was the darkness in our hearts that eclipsed the Light of the World that day.  He was shrouded in our evil, and eclipsed, abandoned.  So that all who trust in Christ alone for salvation might bask in His light and life forever and ever.  Hallelujah!
  • Where I live, we had only about 95% eclipse.  I was actually shocked that it didn’t get any darker than it did.  I expected more wow factor regarding the dimness.  But goodness is that fire ball in the sky powerful.  It was lighting up my world with just a sliver of its rays.  And if you think the sun is powerful, just wait until you turn your eyes to the sky one day to be blinded by the brilliance of the King of Kings who is the Light of Heaven.

“Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.  So it is to be.  Amen.”  Revelation 1:7

  • Darkness always loses.  Light always wins.  The moon lost the epic battle yesterday.  It looked victorious for a few short minutes or hours.  But nothing can stop the Son!

“He is not here.  He has risen, just as He said.”  Matthew 28:6

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”  Revelation 19:11

“And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5

Keep your eyes to the sky brothers and sisters!  

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