Feb 10 2013
Parental Warning: This Blog Contains Actual Bible Stuff

 

So is the Bible "family-friendly"?

I asked the guy from "Focus on the Family" that question. A great guy. Totally appreciate what they do at "Plugged In Online", where they review the content of movies and such, since I've always been strict with what my kids see and hear. But his answer was wrong.

"Yes."

You guys rate things on a family-friendly level according to "stars".  Given the content of the Bible, how many "stars" would you give it?

A pause. "Five."

Really? So, if there was a movie, realistically showing the actual stories in the Bible, you'd say it was appropriate for all viewers?

"Yes."

Man, I wouldn't take little kids to see Lot fathering his daughter's children. Maybe I'm more media-conservative than Focus on the Family...?

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I know he gave the political answer, and the one he had to give. (Imagine Focus on the Family getting complaints, "The Bible's not 'Family-Friendly'???") But with due respect:  You gotta be kidding me.

"Well," you might say, "it's family-friendly, because I read the Bible with my little ones every night…"

Well, you read SOME of the Bible.  Parts of it.  Why?   Because you're a smart parent, and don't really want to be explaining what "like the emissions of horses" is all about, right before lights-out.  That's Ezekiel 23, and that's for starters.  Nevermind Lot getting his own daughters pregnant, or Samson taking advantage of prostitutes or Noah getting naked and trashed, or Song of Solomon's well-known lusty stuff. Kids have a sense of modesty, and wise parents protect that.

Here's another reason it's obvious: The Bible isn't family-friendly, because there's plenty of content that I couldn't share on the air without a disclaimer. Or at all. I can read direct quotes from Jesus, on a Christian station, and send people to their computers for emails of complaint. "My kids were in the car, so I don't appreciate you talking about how prostitutes will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven before the religious leaders."

Other people notice the decidedly unclean, non-family-friendliness of the Bible. Many Muslim leaders criticize it for being full of "abhorrent tales of sexual escapades as done by the Bible's 'holiest' men."  And, indeed, these stories ARE abhorrent, they ARE horrible, they ARE scandalous in the worst way if...

IF...God's ultimate, highest call on our lives is for us to be "family-friendly."  

But it's not. Not even close.  

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"Well, okay, but but the Bible IS family-friendly, because it shows us the best way to put our families first, and..."

Actually it doesn't do that, either. The Bible doesn't buttress the primacy of the family. It threatens it.

For those who want to idolize the importance of the nuclear family, Jesus, himself, is a threat.  He turned the entire idea of family on its head.

He says his kingdom matters more than your family, and my family, in Matthew 19. He does it again, in explicit terms, in Luke 14.

He says the poor, the imprisoned, the sick are his brothers and sisters in Matthew 25.

Shockingly, in Matthew 12, he compares his - what we would call - "real" mother and brothers with the people who were following him.  And he said the LATTER group, anyone who "does the will of my Father" is his real brother, and sister, and mother. He redefines family, itself.

"Yes, but that was a different time, and family is much more important now, in these troubled times."

I've thought that before, too, but... it's exactly wrong.  Family was your very IDENTITY at that time. Your past, present, and future, all in one. It was ALL about family. And Jesus, God among us, redefined it.  And no, it didn't go over well then, either.

For the believer, the Jesus-follower, "family" is redefined, and the centrality of our nuclear, physical family, is threatened. Like the old western, Jesus walks into town, confronts our worship of other things, even good things, like our families, and says, "There ain't room in town for the two of us."

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I thought about ending the blog, here. But then I anticipated the responses, attempts to take the shocking reality of Jesus, and simply make it fit what we're already doing. "Well, thanks, Brant! This is all true, of course, etc., but it doesn't mean we shouldn't care about our families, and…"

Yes, yes, of course. But don't use that as a means of escaping what Jesus is saying, here: If you are a believer, you are part of the body of Christ, and that means integrating your life, with others, in a way that recognizes this new conception of family.

It does not mean retrofitting the radical teachings of Jesus to keep doing the same thing. And that's good news, because the way of Jesus is BETTER, even if it doesn't fit our idea of what a "good Christian" looks like.

Imagine: Your money. Your time. Your home. Your everything, woven with the lives of others. Less isolation, less stressful relationships in the home, more healthy marriages, and true families for the lonely, the orphan, the widow, the divorcee, the single, or the misfit.  Jesus has a plan, and it's a good one. Don't short-circuit it by defending your status quo. (Frankly, as America becomes more post-Christian, we may find ourselves, by necessity, rediscovering just how great this family, his Real Family, is!)

No, by our definition of "family friendly", the Bible doesn't cut it.  Once again, Jesus takes our little categories and leaves them in tatters.

And once again, he threatens us, because he loves us too much to let us stay the same.

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Jan 25 2013
Email: Why Do I Feel Far Away from God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Brant,

So I have been feeling really far away from God reasently. I've tried praying and reading my Bible but nothing is changing. Do you have any advise? 

Thanks,

Maddie

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Hey Maddie!

A couple thoughts about this:

I have felt like this before.  MANY times, and sometimes... for years.  

I've thought, "Maybe I'm sinning so much, and maybe that's the problem." And I had people even questioning whether I was really a Christian at all.  But I don’t think that was it.  I was honestly calling out to God for forgiveness, honestly calling out to him for some kind of sign, or reassurance that he was the there – all that.  

And you know what?  I'm a stronger believer now. 

Turns out, the "feelings" element of our relationship is a wonderful thing, but FAITH is not founded on that. If we're dependent on it, we begin to mistake feelings for reality.  We are called to actually TRUST God. 

You can hear the words "trust God" or "trust Jesus", and they start to lose their meaning after awhile.  But now, now that you have no warm, God-is-here feelings, you really DO have to trust him, and what he has promised you.  "I am with you, always," Jesus said.

Always.  He's with you, whether you feel it or not.

I even think, now, that the loss of that God-is-close feeling helped me understand him more, and my faith is more mature.  

Some of my "heroes", the people I admire for their faith, have gone through the same thing, sometimes for decades.

This is not a reason to despair.  It IS a reason to re-think what a relationship with God might look like.  Remember, God blesses us in many ways, not just feelings.  And – this is REALLY important – God wants us to want him for HIMSELF, not for the stuff he gives us.  

As a father, I "get" this.  I want my kids to love ME, their loving dad, and not just for the fact that I give them stuff like, say, food, a phone, college, or even warm, protected feelings.  I want them to love me not for what they get, but because they freely can love someone besides themselves.

And THAT, of course, is real love.  If they love ME, I'm thrilled. In our relationship with God, valuing his GIFTS higher than God, himself, is actually idolatry.  He's a jealous lover. And he's good. He knows the "stuff", even feelings, aren't, ultimately, what we need.  What we need is him.

So be honest with him, call out to him, even be open about your anger or frustration. But TRUST him, and know that he may be taking you to a place you haven't been before.

One last thing. Someone gave me a brief example on this:  If I'm in a large room with you, and I'm yelling our conversation, you can hear me just fine.  But if I whisper, just barely whisper, you can only hear me…

...if you come closer.

I think there's something to that.  And I think there's something maturing about just KNOWING God is good, being reminded by other believers that he is good, and serving people, even without the feelings. 

Okay, one REALLY last thing.  I mean it this time, since I have a meeting to go to:  Our feelings are just plain untrustworthy, anyway.  

They're dependent on so many things that have NOTHING to do with the subject of our feelings.  Like, am I sleeping enough?  Have I eaten well today? Am I hydrated? Have I had too much (or not enough!) coffee?  Am I exercising? What's happening to me, physically, right now? Am I tired? Have other things happened that have been really stressful, like a break-up, or a move, or a death in the family, or even something good, but big and stress-inducing, like a recent trip?  Many reasons to be suspicious of our feelings.

So many factors. Everything changes.  

He does not.

God bless you, Maddie!

Best,

Brant

Jan 23 2013
Marriage is Body and Soul

I've edited this email. Changed the name, some of the circumstances, etc. I showed my response to Sherri, our producer, and she thought a lot of people might want to read it, because so many deal with this sort of thing.

I don't claim to have "all the answers", ever.  I do know that God loves "Vanessa", and her boyfriend, more than I can put into words.

 

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Hi Brant,

Four years ago, I met a man who was a Christian, and we started dating. Eventually we became intimate, and I've felt horrible about this, and my relationship with God has almost come to a total standstill.

I am feeling extremely convicted and even fearful of what God will do because of our disobedience. When I bring it up he gets angry and says that why do I choose to obey this and why not everything else the Lord says?

He gets my mind going and makes me think that maybe I'm wrong to think that shouldn't be a part of our relationship especially since we have already had that be a part of our relationship. He says we're going to get married anyway, so there's nothing wrong with it.  I'm confused what the Bible says about this, based on what he's telling me.

Please help me. I'm tormented because I feel like I'm putting my boyfriend before God and I don't want to go to Hell for this.  But if I don't give in I feel like maybe I'm being foolish to try and change things now. 

Thank you for reading this!

Vanessa

 

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Hey Vanessa,

THANK YOU for your honesty.  I'm not sure if I'll provide the best guidance, but I will be as honest as I can be, while I'm typing hurriedly!

There are no sins worse than others.  They're all tragic, and represent rebellion against the only true, lasting love we'll ever have.

I've been married nearly 23 years, and have a dynamite marriage, and it's still true: He's it.  Marriage is a wonderful analogy, or shadow, of the love He has for us, but it's not the full picture of the love God has for us. 

Rebelling against that love is painful for awhile, and then ultimately numbing, because we become less human, less the way we were supposed to be.  We stop feeling, and things lose their joyfulness, and their color.

Will you go to Hell for your sexual sin?  Jesus told the "righteous" people, whose hearts were proud, that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before them!  The real question isn't, "Will this sin send me to Hell?" It's "Do I want the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do I even WANT God in charge?" - because, guess what, that's who's in charge when everything is restored. If you do want Him in charge, and you have made Him king NOW, demonstrate it.  As I type that to you, I type it to myself. There will be plenty of proud, upstanding, moral people in Hell. Too proud to want God as King, really.  We all sin, and Jesus has already paid the price for that. It's a question of the heart, now.

This said, some sins are WAY more impacting than others.  Marriage is saying, "I commit body and spirit to you."  And sex is a commitment of body, but outside of marriage, it's not backing it up with the lifetime commitment of the soul.

It's been proven, particularly for women, that sexual contact forges an intimate bond that goes WAY beyond mere physical exercise.  You are sharing your soul with someone who is not returning that exchange.

I suspect we all know this deep down. His body is writing a check that his soul is not willing to honor, not now.

This is very, very UNLOVING.  Very selfish of him, and, frankly, if he doesn't understand how a woman works, how a woman's heart works, or the link between sex and your very identity… Why would he be a good husband?

Marriage is ALL about putting AWAY your selfishness.  And he's demonstrating he wants to have his fun regardless of cost to you, so far as I can tell.  I don't get it.

All sin is equal rebellion against God, but sex is ridiculously powerful, and the consequences are identity-changing.  You become less YOU.  

If he's not willing to serve you in this area, to honor your desire to please God, to guard your own heart - and you should, you're NOT married - I'd dump him.  Perhaps after explaining it, lovingly, he'll "get it", and respect this, and you can make a new start, with pre-marital counseling involved.

I'm always amazed, too, at the "Well, we're GOING to get married," defense. Sometimes people do wind up getting married, sure, but if it were a sure thing, why aren't you already married?  Finances are used as an excuse, often, but it's usually CHEAPER for two people to live together than apart.  So…?  

Maybe there's a lingering sense that a commitment like marriage isn't the best thing right now…?  Fair enough. No sex until your soul will cash that check your body's writing.

That's my take.  And yes, the Bible is quite clear that sex outside of marriage is sin, just as lust is, according to Jesus.  (The commandment against adultery is often given a crafty "Well, this doesn't apply to us" spin, but there it remains. In our modern culture, we just can't STAND the idea that God wants us to live with sexual limits, because we worship sexual autonomy above all other things, no matter the cost. But yes, God cares about our sexuality. It'd be odd if He didn't, as powerful as it is!)

We're all sinners, but we can't use that as a justification to just keep doing what we want to do.  If he's a "believer", great.  "Even the demons believe," it says in James.  Does he have a heart for God, a desire to grow in love? He's demonstrating he values his own urges more than you, and that's not a good prescription for a long-lasting marriage, that's for sure.

Even if he doesn't agree, Biblically, a good future husband would protect the heart of a woman he loves, control himself, and quit taking advantage of her weakness. He'd help her get where she wants to be.  

And that's what marriage is, as it turns out.  Clearly, much as he wants the sex part of marriage, he doesn't want the part where he has to be a man and take responsibility for the wonderful gift he could have in you. You can bring that man out of him, perhaps, by saying, "This is the way it's going to be, or we're done.  Now, what do you want?"

God bless you, and I'm praying he grows up.  

Either way, you're playing with a strong hand.  Your longest-lasting, best, most passionate lover, body and soul, is with you, and will never leave you.

Best,

Brant