Monday, December 21, 2009

A Forgotten Christmas Virtue

A well-known Christmas passage is found in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.


I just watched an outstanding movie called “The Blind Side.” In the movie a Christian family takes in and raises a gigantic African-American teenager who has no stable family life of his own. His life is transformed by the love of his new “family.” It turns out the boy, Michael Oher, is a tremendous football player. Eventually he gets wooed by many of the major college football programs in the South.

In one scene, the scout from one program talks with Michael’s adoptive mother about taking her son to visit the campus. As a conscientious mother she lays down the guidelines for her son’s visit. “Two other schools took him to visit “titty clubs,” … you’re not going to do that. That confused Michael. Take him to a movie. Have him in bed by 10 o’clock.” I kept waiting for the usual Hollywood portrayal of the Christian family as narrow, bigoted, and living in a blind and irrational faith. But it didn’t happen. Instead the mother viewed sexual purity as a quality that her son should aspire to. The portrayal of the Christian love was genuine and life-changing for Michael. I guess that’s because it’s based on a true story, that’s the way reality is.

Back to our Christmas theme, the original Greek word for virgin was “parthenos.” It means a “maiden” or by implication an unmarried daughter. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word as “someone who has never had sex.”[1] This is the understood meaning of the passage in Matthew. Mary was a young maiden who had never had sex. Not material for a Hollywood movie!

One important application of this fact is that Jesus, who is called “Immanuel,” (God with us) was born from a mother who had not had sex. Mary “was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” [2] and not by a human father. This truth confirms Jesus as the Son of God.

It is interesting that the synonyms of the word “virgin” given by the same Cambridge dictionary run in two veins. The modern application of virgin is to think of it as “frigid”, “asexual”, and “sex-starved.” The second is what many consider the more outdated Victorian idea of “chaste” or “pure.” The latter is the intended meaning regarding Mary.

Today, many in our culture define a virgin in the first sense. “Do you mean you’re still a virgin? What is wrong with you?” Virginity has now become cause for shame. The modern idea of a virgin is a geek or someone so unattractive that no one would want to have sex with him/her. Sex before marriage provides bragging rights. It is not shameful. Virginity no longer has value.

The Bible teaches chastity before marriage. It is this positive purity that our modern society has been robbed of. In Mary’s time virginity was seen as socially acceptable, normal, and indeed required. Her pregnancy out of wedlock could only have been cause for reproach. This explains why Joseph nearly bailed out of the relationship.

Yet most parents wish that their child would remain a virgin until the right person comes along. And that too in spite of the fact that we parents haven’t, in most cases, followed our own advice. It’s often out of this pain that our very wish for their virginity springs. If virginity has no value, then why do many still wish it for their children?

Marriage is a life-long partnership of mutual sexual enjoyment and giving between one man and one woman. This is the Christian ideal and it is a badge of honor! Today that idea is derided. It is as G.K. Chesterton put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”

If you have lost your virginity before marriage, don’t despair, although something precious has been missed. Christ loves you. He is the one who forgives, cleanses, and restores our lives. In a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can begin anew. We can experience God’s best plan for our sexuality. There is hope! For “THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."

[2] Matthew 1:18, New American Standard Bible

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Journalism of Fear

On Monday, December 7, the Hindu newspaper in India ran a front page editorial. It was an “unprecedented common editorial” that was run by 56 newspapers in 45 countries. The title was “Copenhagen: seize the chance.”1 It was of course, about the climate summit that is now happening in Denmark.

This common editorial included major western papers such as The Miami Herald, Le Monde and the Guardian (“the world’s leading liberal voice”)2 . There were also some lesser known fish in the kettle too, like the Zimbabwe Independent and the Vietnamese Tuoi Tre (originally a publication of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Organization). These papers warned of the “profound emergency” that faces humanity. The tenor of the editorial and the panicky agenda of the climate change proponents seek to get its way by mobilizing world opinion to reduce carbon emissions.

To begin with, the editorial makes no acknowledgement that any debate on the subject exists. “The science is complex but the facts are clear,” they smugly announce. Because science has supposedly settled the issue, no dissent or discussion is tolerated. It is labeled “obstructionism.” The only question is “how little time we have left to limit the damage.”

Secondly, this editorial is journalism of fear at its most irresponsible. If we follow the course of inaction, we are threatened that in 5 to 10 years continents will be parched “turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct … whole nations drowned by the sea.” Please remember this journalistic prophecy. They claim that in 2016-20 nations will be drowned by the sea. Which nations? Are they now building massive sea walls as they only have 5-10 years left? This sensationalism is creating widespread anxiety and fear on data that is still debatable at its core.

Most unbelievably and blatantly the editorial brandishes the humanist credo. They set the goal of limiting global carbon emissions as “a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.” Man has declared the planet is doomed in 5-10 years and man is going to save it.

This kind of fear-based, political journalism reminds me of the 10 Israelite spies in the Old Testament. They said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us… the land … is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people … are men of great size… we became like grasshoppers … in their sight.”3 Fear and exaggeration does not mobilize. It immobilizes. It’s interesting to note that the ten spies presented ‘scientific’ facts in verses 27-29. Resource evaluations and demographic studies based on observations of the land were part of their report. The science of the day was on their side. The picture was bleak.

Their problem, like ours today, is that they did not factor in a sovereign God. “We shall surely overcome it,”4 said Caleb and Joshua. Theirs were two voices of assurance and hope versus ten of doom. There is a demonic motivation behind this current fear, working through human-inspired pessimism that does not acknowledge even the existence of God. Didn’t God promise that man would never be destroyed by water again?5

Is the climate crisis a lot of hog-wash? No. There are concerns and we all collectively must work to preserve our beautiful planet. We hope that the summit will make progress in cooperation and action.

But like Caleb and Joshua, we must not succumb to the fear and anxiety that is gripping so many today. It was Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones who said, "Faith is the refusal to panic."

God has spoken. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”6

1- The Hindu, Monday, December 7, 2009 (Vol.132 No. 289)
3- Numbers 13:31-33, New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4- Numbers 13:30, NASB
5- Genesis 9:11, NASB
6- Genesis 8:22, NASB

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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