Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Transgender Conversation You Need to Have With Your Family

A friend of mine told me about her recent experience in an airport security line. She was dutifully passing through the metal detector when she heard a beep and was told she would need the pat-down procedure. It is the right of the traveler to have that procedure performed by someone of the same gender and so, as per protocol, the call went out for a female officer to assist. But as the pat-down began, my friend realized that the officer was undeniably biologically male though identifying as female. She did not know what to do or say, so simply allowed the pat-down to proceed. As she walked away, she realized that she was more surprised than offended. It had just never occurred to her that she might unexpectedly find herself being frisked by a man whom she had been told was a woman.

As you know, new laws are allowing transgender people to craft their own identity and then to have society treat them accordingly. A biological male who identifies as a woman is allowed to use the bathroom or locker room associated with his new identity. He is also granted the right to be considered female. In this way sex and gender are being deliberately disconnected so that words like “man” and “woman” have no necessary correlation to “male” and “female” or “masculine” and “feminine.” And, for that reason, we find ourselves facing new scenarios like the one my friend described. However, such situations are rare because transgenderism is rare.

The same laws that allow transgender persons into their preferred bathroom or locker room allow everybody else in as well

But there is something that, to my mind, is of greater and wider concern. It is the fact that the same laws that allow transgender people to craft their own identity allow expansive rights to anyone else. The same laws that allow transgender persons into their preferred bathroom or locker room allow everybody else in as well—and to let them in without question or censure. Societal pressure and new legislation permits people to use the bathroom or locker room most closely associated with their gender identity, but do not allow anyone else to question that identity. This opens up the potential for some very difficult or even dangerous situations.

TIME covered one of them in an article titled Even in Liberal Communities, Transgender Bathroom Laws Worry Parents. The article tells of a pool in New York City where a man began to routinely change in the women’s locker room. This room was simultaneously used by young girls preparing for swim practice and they were made uncomfortable by his presence, his nudity, and his obvious masculinity—there was no hint about him that he identified as female. But there was nothing the pool employees could do because policy does not allow them to question him in any way. So the girls crowded together in the single-use family change room instead. Similarly, in Seattle a man recently deliberately disrobed in front of young girls. “Officials said he had made no attempt to present himself as a woman, nor to identify as transgender when he checked in. By all appearances, he was a man.” Yet a spokesman said, “We have guidelines that allow transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.” Those same guidelines do not allow them to ask for proof that the person does, indeed, identify in that way. Thus, he is allowed to undress in the room of his choice regardless of whether he actually considers himself transgender. Looking at such stories—and there are a growing number like them—, we come to realize that the transgender conversation has brought with it a host of others. This is the transgender conversation you need to have with your family—the conversation about what has come along with transgenderism.

Jennifer Oshman recently wrote about moving to a nation in Europe and being unprepared for some of what she and her family encountered there. They quickly learned that locker rooms in their new home were governed by very different norms. “While the locker rooms at the high school were indeed gender separate, we were surprised to find that locker rooms at local gyms were not. Rather one large locker room served both genders. You can imagine our surprise when my husband entered the door marked for men and my daughters and I entered the door marked for women and we ended up in the same room, surveying people of both genders and all ages changing in one place.” They could not run away from such situations so had to learn to navigate them well.

We found ourselves in multiple situations that we could not change or even complain about. We had to be creative in how we handled them—wanting at once to be wise stewards of our daughters’ hearts, while at the same time not wanting to drive a wedge between ourselves and the culture we had come to love and desired to serve. This dual goal is really at the heart of any Christian parent in any scenario.

She and her family were forced to learn to navigate a foreign culture. And they did. They learned to navigate it through both protection and education. As far as possible they protected their girls from danger by accompanying them into difficult situations and, for those times they could not offer direct protection, they taught them appropriate attitudes and actions.

You and I, too, are now navigating an increasingly foreign culture, a culture that has suddenly swept into being around us. If we are going to live well in this culture, we need to think through certain scenarios and consider how we will respond to them. As parents, we need to consider scenarios our children may face and teach them how to respond as well. These are not just conversations about transgenderism and scenarios that may unfold as we encounter and interact with transgender people, but conversations about the scenarios that may accompany it. Such scenarios will be different for each family in each context, but here are a few examples, none of which is entirely unlikely.
What will you do if you walk into a locker room at your pool or gym and come face to face with a naked person of the opposite sex? You may not know in that moment if that person is transgender, if that person is confused, or if that person is a predator. What will you want your spouse to do if he or she encounters this situation? Will you shrug it off? Will you walk out? Will you bring it to the attention of the management? What will you expect management to do?

What will you expect your son to do if a transgender student or team member insists on showering with him and with the other boys (or your daughter if a boy insists on showering with her)? What will you expect your daughter to do if she goes into the locker room at the pool and sees a man lounging naked by his locker (a scenario that unfolded not long ago for parents in Olympia)? Or what if she is out with friends, ducks out of the movie theatre to use the bathroom, and finds herself walking in side by side with a bearded man?

What will you do when you are told you need that TSA pat-down and they dispatch an officer who is the opposite gender to you but claiming to be the same? What if it’s your body-conscious teenaged daughter who is about to be patted down by a person claiming to be female but who is sporting a beard?

I know as I write these questions that some will accuse me of fear-mongering and, inevitably, of bigotry. But hear me: My concern is that we are hurtling full-speed into untested territory and we and our children are the ones who will need to figure out how to navigate it well. As we do that we may find ourselves in situations that are trying or even dangerous. We just don’t know what our world will look like when we begin to break down the barriers between sex and gender. Again, the very same laws that allow transgender rights extend those rights to anyone who wishes to take advantage of them. We simply don’t know who will take advantage of them to take advantage of others. We just don’t know. To carry out our mandate as parents, we need to offer our children both protection and education. We owe it to them and we owe it to the One who created them. We need to have this conversation.

by Tim Challies, who is founding blogger of Challies.com, a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, and author of The Next Story.

Monday, May 23, 2016

One of the Church's Greatest Pastors to Men

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man's preacher, and his ministry reflected that.

He influenced men—and he is still influencing men from the grave. And even though he was criticized and despised and belittled in his own time for being too aggressive in his defense of the truth, notice that we still read Spurgeon, and his words are still absolutely relevant to our times. But everyone has utterly forgotten all the effeminate preachers of that era who at the time were absolutely certain that they were more "relevant" because they were more in tune with their own times than Spurgeon was.

You know what? They were wrong. And they were wrong for the same reason people are wrong today to follow whatever is deemed stylish. We ought to let Scripture, not the trends of secular culture, define for us what the church should be like.

The Bible says the church ought to be led by men, and every man in the church ought to aspire to be like the perfect man, Jesus Christ. And that involves, among other things, the manly proclamation and defense of the truth of Scripture; as well as aiming to be living reflections of the kind of character He embodied—including, of course, the fruit of the Spirit, courage, conviction, compassion, zeal for the truth, and the kind of gentleness that keeps those characteristics in proper balance, as opposed to nullifying them.

by Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, John MacArthur's ministry

37 Things You Need to Know About Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Monday, May 16, 2016

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood

In public, my dad was one of the great pastors of his generation. He served most notably for twenty fruitful years at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, where John and Noel Piper worshiped during their Fuller Seminary days. Dad and John were dear friends.

In private, my dad was the same man. There was only one Ray Ortlund, Sr. — an authentic Christian man. The distance between what I saw in the New Testament and what I saw in my dad was slight. He was the most Christlike man I’ve ever known, the kind of man, the kind of father, I long to be.

In no particular order, here are ten lessons on fatherhood I learned from watching him, each lesson living on in my life from memories of his care for me.

1. He was never too busy.

My dad was a busy pastor, but he was never too busy for me. When he felt he hadn’t had enough time with me, he’d say, “Hey Bud, want to skip school tomorrow and go down to the beach?” It didn’t take me long to agree to that! So off we went. We surfed and talked and had fun together. The next day he’d write a note to the school to explain my absence, and when I took it to the principal’s office they always marked my absence “Unexcused.” I guess the reason didn’t count with them — a father wanting to catch up with his son. But dad didn’t care. I mattered to him. And I knew it.

2. He was a Bible man.

My dad was wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus. On my seventeenth birthday, he and my mom gave me a new Bible. In the front he wrote the following:


Nothing could be greater than to have a son — a son who loves the Lord and walks with Him. Your mother and I have found this Book our dearest treasure. We give it to you and doing so can give nothing greater. Be a student of the Bible and your life will be full of blessing. We love you.

Philippians 1:6

When I read that, I knew my dad meant every word of it. He was a Bible man, and the blessing he wrote about was obvious in his own life.

3. He praised God.

As a kid growing up, I didn’t need an alarm clock most mornings. I woke up to the sound of my dad singing in the shower down the hallway. Every morning he sang heartily and cheerfully this hymn:

When morning gilds the skies
My heart awaking cries
May Jesus Christ be praised
Alike at work or prayer
To Jesus I repair
May Jesus Christ be praised

Many men are hard to read. I have no idea what they stand for. But I never wondered about my dad — what he cared most about, what he was living for. Never once. At all. Not even a little. He did not take a keep-a-low-profile approach to life. Jesus was too wonderful to him. He praised the Lord throughout his life, in public, in private, in a clear and winsome way that could not be ignored.

4. He cheered me on.

My dad set me free to pursue God’s call on my life. He guided me in appropriate ways, of course, but he did not fearfully cling to me or hope I would always live nearby. Just the opposite. He urged me to follow Christ anywhere. Now and then he’d make this speech: “Listen, son. Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough about God to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy. Be all-out for him! I don’t care if you’re a ditch-digger, as long as you love the Lord with all your heart.”

He was not impressed with worldly success and going to the right schools and all that pretense and bluff. He wanted something better for me, something I had to find on my own. But I never doubted how urgently he desired for me a clear call from God on my life. And I did receive it, partly because my dad didn’t intrude himself into it but cheered me on as I followed the Lord myself.

5. He had a real walk with God.

I remember going downstairs early one morning and walking in on my dad in the living room. There he was, on his knees, his face buried in his hands, absorbed in silent prayer. He didn’t know anyone else was up. It wasn’t for show. It was real. My dad had a real walk with God. It never occurred to me to wonder if Jesus was the Lord of his heart and of our home. Dad loved the gospel. He served the church. He witnessed to our neighbors. He even tithed when he couldn’t afford it. He set the tone of our home, and our home was a place of joy, honesty, and comfort. Jesus was there.

6. He taught me theology in the backyard.

One day when I was 11 or 12, while we were doing yard work outside — I can’t remember the context — my dad stopped, looked me in the eyes, and said, “You know, Bud, before time began, God chose you.” I was floored. Almighty God thought of tiny me? Way back then? I felt so loved by God. Years later, when I became aware of the doctrine of election as such, I had no problem with it. I loved it. My dad had begun my theological education in my boyhood in the course of everyday conversation.

7. He loved us when it wasn’t easy.

My mom told me once that dad had a practice as he came home at the end of each day. He worked hard throughout the day and he came home tired. So as he walked up the back steps, before he reached out to open the back door, he would lift a simple prayer to God, “Lord, I need some extra energy right now.” And God answered that prayer. I never saw my dad walk in with no positive emotion to give. Instead, he’d walk over to my mom, kiss her with a huge kiss, and then turn to me and say, “Come on, Skip, let’s wrestle!” And we’d go out to the front room and wrestle on the floor and tickle and laugh and have a blast. The moment-by-moment reality of God in my dad’s heart gave him energy to love his family when it wasn’t easy.

8. He helped me love the church.

The fact that dad was a pastor made me “the preacher’s kid,” obviously. Every now and then well-meaning church people said foolish things to me, as if I had to be perfect or superior or something they expected. So dad said to me once, “Son, when people say things like that, they don’t mean any harm. But it isn’t fair. They don’t realize that. I want you to know, you can ignore it.”

Dad had high standards for Christian living. But he was wise enough to know that a ten-year-old follows Christ in a way different from a forty-year-old. He was realistic and compassionate. He made allowances for me to be a Christian kid. And he is the primary earthly reason why I love the church today. He wisely showed me how church life does not need to be oppressive.

9. He lived his faith simply and practically.

Dad showed me how to walk with the Lord in practical ways. For example, here is a statement he settled on as his own daily path:

My Morning Statement of Faith
I believe that today:

1.      God is sovereignly directing my life as I yield myself to him, and that he loves me unconditionally, and I love him and put him first in my life.

2.      Christ is my Lord and Master, and I seek to abide in him and do his will immediately and exactly.

3.      The Holy Spirit is my friend, teacher, and guide, who will open and close doors today and fill me with himself to make me an effective servant.

4.      I now commit my wife and family to the Lord, who loves them as well as others I love. They too are in his sovereign care.

5.      I step out in bold faith and relax in the Lord, and enjoy this day given to me by him. I trust him to use me today.

It’s simple, but valid. Dad exemplified how to make daily Christianity accessible and practical.

10. He told me ministry isn’t everything.

Being a “preacher’s kid” was sometimes difficult, as I mentioned. But more than offsetting this difficulty was my dad’s love for me and my admiration for him. I adored him. I still do. Even as I write this, I choke up. I miss him so. Being the son of a godly pastor was a sacred privilege given to me as a gift from God himself. My respect for my dad and his personal attractiveness — the real Christianity I saw in him, the beauty with which he served as a pastor even when he suffered — the personal impact of it all was that I grew to revere the pastoral ministry. And today I am rejoicing to be a pastor myself. Which brings me to my final scenario.

Early on Sunday, July 22, 2007, my dad woke up in his hospital room in Newport Beach. He knew it was finally his day of release from this life. He had the nurse call the family in. My wife Jani and I were far away in Ireland for ministry that day. We didn’t know what was happening back home. But the family gathered at dad’s bedside. They read Scripture. They sang hymns. Dad spoke a word of patriarchal blessing and admonition to each one, a message suited to encourage and guide. He pronounced over them all the blessing of Aaron: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).

And then, quietly, he fell asleep.

Later I asked my sister about dad’s message to me. It was this: “Tell Bud, ministry isn’t everything. Jesus is.”

My dad’s dying words summed up his parenting and his whole life. 

by Ray Ortlund (@rayortlund) is lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee and blogs at The Gospel Coalition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Must-Read About God's Design for Male and Female

Following is an excerpt from a blog by our friend  Gavin Peacock, co-author of the highly recommended book The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them. Gavin writes about the reasons why he and Owen Strachan wrote this book. Their reasons make it a must-read.

On January 5, 2015 I was working late preparing a message on marriage for the annual winter Some of the national papers in the UK had reacted adversely.
conference at the church where I pastor. Just before I went to bed I tweeted out a few thoughts that I was going to include in the message. I thought nothing more of it. However, the next morning I awoke to a torrent of Twitter abuse.

The notifications came in waves and did not stop for 24 hours. I was called “a sexist pig”, “a moron”, “a misogynist” and many other unprintable things. And although this was mainly from a secular public there were many abusive comments from those who professed to be Christian. My Twitter feed was hit over 1 million times that week.

Why the big deal? Well here are the tweets:

“God’s design for marriage in male and female headship and submission is complementary not competitive.”

‘Wives: one of the primary ways you are to respect your husband is by gladly submitting to and encouraging his leadership.”

“Husbands: one of your primary duties in loving your wife is to feed her with the Word of God daily”

You see I hit on the current hot topic: biblical sexuality and particularly the complementarity truth about men and women in marriage. It was straight out of Ephesians 5 and the beauty of headship and submission. I didn’t set out to create a storm. I simply stood (and still stand) on the Word of God as authoritative, inerrant and sufficient for all things especially such fundamental, creation realities like manhood and womanhood. Yet we live in an age where these foundational truths are being ignored and rewritten according to what fits with our fallen desires. And so we even call good evil and evil good as our culture morally crumbles around us.

In every age Satan wants to attack the authority of God’s Word because he hates God’s glory. It was that way from the beginning (Gen. 3). In our day this one verse in particular is where the Word confronts the culture and what Satan wants to undermine.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

The sheer beauty of binary sexes created in the image of God with complementary physical and functional differences is thrilling. Yet this verse has been trampled in society and downplayed in the church.

This is why I am so thankful for the humble, bold and visionary leadership of Owen Strachan, the President of CBMW, and who invited me on as Director of international Outreach. Owen is also an extremely gifted teacher and writer and when he asked me to co-author The Grand Design with him, I jumped at the opportunity.

Let me give three reasons why we wrote the book:

ONE: We want to lay out the truth about manhood and womanhood and to proclaim that this is what the Lord says. And that should be enough. The Creator’s Word is always enough. But we also want to proclaim that his Word is good and beautiful. We simply want to show that his design for men and women is indeed grand. It is about his glory in creation (Gen.1: 27), redemption (Eph. 5: 31-32) and consummation (Rev. 19:7-9). It also reveals something about his triune nature (1 Cor. 11:3). So complementarity is not a tertiary issue. We want people to be thrilled with God and his divine design.

TWO: We also want to be a clear, encouraging and helpful voice to the church. This book is theological, practical and pastoral. It is not abstract it is accessible. We need to be clear on these issues in the days ahead and help Christians work it out in their lives as single or married in the home, church or workplace. These are the issues that will test churches and prove their faithfulness (or not). And, in an increasingly gender-neutral society, these are the issues that the church must live out. We have to be able to defend and display the truth about complementarity.

THREE: We want to show that complementarity is a mission moment for the church. It is the point at which the battle for God’s authority rages most in a secular world. The UK Twitter storm was indicative of the heat this topic receives. But to avoid engaging with the culture here is to relinquish a gospel opportunity. We want souls won for Christ and human beings to flourish. We want men and women to find their identity in Jesus and his Word. We want marriages to display the gospel. We want to vividly draw the lines and contours of masculinity and femininity. And gospel redeemed biblical manhood and womanhood in the home and church and workplace sets forth this attractive counter culture. So we desire to affirm the equality of the sexes, delineate the difference and celebrate both. That is the tone of this book.

Make no mistake it will cost a person to be Christian in our day. It always has. Jesus tells to expect it (Matt. 5:11-12). The Apostle Paul echoes the sentiment (Acts 14:22). The history of the suffering church bears witness to this truth. It cost me as a Christian footballer in different ways throughout my 18-year career. It will cost all of us in various ways: reputation, family, friends, career, and money. It might also mean public vilification in big and small ways. In some countries Christians fear a raised fist. In our day it is a raised eyebrow or trial by Twitter.

In all of this, there is one thing I have learned more deeply over the past year. The Word of God is rock. And the Word of God works. Complementarity is both true and good. I took a few hits in the press as a footballer but nothing quite like that of January 2015. However, the Word of God is worth it! It always is. Honor it and he will honor you.

Gavin Peacock is a Canadian pastor and former soccer star, and Director of International Outreach with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Modern Man and His Fantasy World

Every age brings its challenges for Christianity. Among them is the fact that living by faith means that we put the ultimate matters of life and existence into the hands of someone that we cannot see. In a world filled with sensory experiences faith in God is a challenge. This is nothing new of course. In the First Century, the Apostle Peter reminded his church that,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8–9)

It is not that a lack of sight that makes Christianity seem untenable it just makes it different than most experiences today. Instead of having joy based upon an empirical basis we have joy through our communion with the invisible God through the portal of faith.

In recent years I have noticed a trait, particularly among men, where faith is impeded. I am talking about the cultural fixation upon fantasy. Many man today are wrapped up in a world of fantasy and also find it increasingly difficult to live by faith upon the God who is invisible.

In each of the examples below men are giving themselves to something they can see but is not real. However, with Christianity we give ourselves to something that we cannot see but is actually real. (In the following examples, I want to make clear that I believe the first is sinful but the others are not inherently so.)

Over the last 2 dozen years pornography use has exploded. Some may call it an epidemic. Young men are being raised on it and the addiction continues through the college years and into their thirties and forties. As a pastor I don’t often go a week without hearing about somebody’s struggle in this area. Let’s think about what is happening here. Pornography attempts to enjoy the blessings of sex without the relationship of marriage. However, this is not the whole story. There is also the fact the medium for consuming it is not real, it is a bunch of images. Everything about it is a fantasy; the women, the experiences, and whatever the pleasures that come from it. It is all a fantasy. Many men are wrapped up in this sexual fantasy and it is therefore little wonder that they are distracted from a faith what is real yet unseen.

Fantasy Sports
Technological advances have made fantasy sports more accessible. For those who are unfamiliar fantasy sports are a type of online game where participants put together virtual teams of real players in a professional sport. Their teams compete against each other based upon the statistical performance of their respective players on their rosters. Each participant runs their team like an owner or general manager. In these leagues participants will track the stats over the year and award a winner at the end. 

Obviously playing fantasy sports is not a sin and I am not making this point. However, it is part of the overall cultural preoccupation with a fantasy world. And it is this that attends to my larger point that this fixation upon the visible but unreal tends toward making faith in the invisible but real more difficult.

Video Games
As with fantasy sports, video games are not inherently bad. However, they are a distraction from reality. Nearly 50% of Americans play at least 3 hours of games per week. It is interesting that the average age of a game player is a 35 year-old man. I understand that for many games are fun; they are something of a hobby. I also know for many the hobby can become a bit obsessive and dominating. Many people, particularly men, are caught up in playing video games for hours and hours a day. I have counseled far too many men who were spending their best hours of the day conquering worlds while their real families and real souls were being neglected.

Living in a Fantasy World
When you put these three together there is a common theme of living in a fantasy world. Pastors and church leaders attempt to encourage men to serve in the church, study God’s word, evangelize their neighbors, and step up and lead in the church. However, often times, upon pressing upon the heart, we find that men are reluctant and stagnant in their Christianity because they are thriving in a fantasy world.

Is there any wonder why there is such a decline in biblical masculinity in the church?
It is a shame that many men are far too busy conquering fake lands, looking at fake women, and winning fake championships to follow Christ’s path of self-denying, cross-bearing, service.
Pastors are attempting to preach and teach God’s Word to people who are living in this world with their minds and hearts in a fictional place must be diligent. They must labor to present Christ in his surpassing glory. The Bible that condemns also convicts and converts us. We go from belittling God’s glory to broadcasting it. Christ goes from a fictional hero to a living Savior!

Perhaps you are one who is consumed by a fantasy world. If these things are crowding out or impeding your faith it is time to evaluate and make some adjustments. Perhaps there are sinful indulgences (or in the case of pornography, sinful practices) that are preventing you from growing in Christ. As is always the case the first step is prayer, confession, and repentance. Then work toward accountability and service in the local church. I can assure you that seeing the real gospel work in real people’s lives will bring a lasting joy to your soul that is incomparable by any standard. Christ is far too precious to take a back seat to anything. If we believe this then we ought to live like it.

By Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.