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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Non-fiction Review: As Soon As I Fell: A Memoir

As Soon As I Fell: A Memoir, by Kay Bruner is not what I was expecting when I got it. It’s the true story of a missionary couple and their children who go to the Solomon Islands as Bible translators. They live among the native people in quite primitive conditions.

Kay tells how she struggles with adapting. She shares how hard she had always tried to do the right thing and be the right person. She describes interesting details about village life, travel, and customs and she comes across as real, with a sincere love for the people.

The author continues to provide a narrative of her experiences on the mission field. Her emotions begin to spiral downward due to extreme exhaustion and stress. Then, she discovers her husband has a porn addiction. At first, he only confesses to using porn those times she catches him, but she’s devastated when she finds out he’s had a six-year habit.

Their mission agency sent them home, promising to help them with counseling. “Counseling” ended up being a more-than-a-year long “evaluation.” Kay was in a very dark place, and she desperately needed help, not just evaluation. In the meantime, her husband did everything around the home and cared for her. She wasn’t able to function and was extremely depressed. Her husband stuck by her side, proving his love for her. All this time, they weren’t getting any counseling. They were only being analyzed. Finally, Kay reaches her lowest point. She describes it: “Once I fell, all the pain of all the years swept over me. There was no ability to reason, to consider, to perceive. I had no sense of purpose, no trust that something positive was coming down the road. Every good thing was behind me, in the past.”

Her epiphany comes with the revealed words “fear,” which she literally tacks to a cross, and “hope.” She just heard them in her mind. They didn’t come from Scripture.

I really thought this book was going to be about how God meets serious needs through His Word and about the author’s victory in Him. It ends woefully short of that. Though Kay’s life is much better, her marriage stronger, and the book ends with the translation of the Arosi New Testament being completed, I have a feeling that she still hasn’t found peace through true faith in Christ Jesus. I think maybe she knows Him, but she’s far from walking with God. It left me feeling sad.

I would imagine that their mission agency, along with many others, has come a long way since this book was written, about ten years ago. Today, missions are conscious that traumatized people need compassionate biblical counsel and care. I am thankful for that!

This is a book that tells a sad story. My heart truly goes out to the author.

I frankly can’t recommend As Soon As I Fell. It doesn’t edify; it only shares the author’s experience, which could have been so different if she'd sought the Bible instead of philosophy and other books and she had gotten appropriate care for her emotional-mental state from the beginning of her depression. I was also very disappointed with the dark quotes (about 80% of them) at the beginnings of the chapters.

Note: This book is for adults only. The author frankly describes female physical functions and the marital relationship, and she’s brutally honest about her husband’s porn use. It’s also transparent about their disappointments with their mission agency.

Note #2: I am not sure what kind of theology the author and her husband represent. It seems to be a branch of Protestantism. Several of the author’s statements, such as pouring as the mode of baptism, participating in the Stations of the Cross, Lent, etc. made me wonder what group they’re affiliated with. They end up being Methodists, but I’m not sure what they were at the beginning.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

So Now, Christians Are Dangerous?

Bernie Sanders calls for a “religious test” for politicians, to weed out Christians. The news media slams the Democratic Unionist Party (United Kingdom) for being “socially backwards” because they oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. CNN uses words like dangerous and danger to describe the DUP. A young Christian soccer player decides not to play on a national team because the jerseys promote LGBT freedoms.

It’s interesting that people who are all for “tolerance” are non-tolerant when someone’s ideas are different from theirs. One only has to think back in history. How about World War II? All of a sudden, one man said only Aryans were okay, so he killed all the rest: Jews, gypsies, and anyone he didn’t think fit into his scheme. Hitler wasn’t Aryan himself, but . . . .

Today, the “enemy” is “dangerous” Christian ideology. Christianity doesn’t approve of the sins they enjoy, so it must be “dangerous.” What am I referring to? I’m talking about morality.

After the Manchester, England bombing at the entrance to a stadium, we heard statements like, “We don’t want them to change our way of life” and “We want to get on with our lives.” I totally agree. But, the other day, I read an excerpt from Ariana Grande’s song, “Side to Side.” Besides extremely sexual, it includes “making deals with the devil” and vulgar language. I looked up her song lyrics and read another titled “Dangerous Woman.” Basically, it was a detailed description of the sexual act. And, these young teens and their families happily went out to hear a cute little songstress sing that?! Is this our “innocent way of life”? (Please understand, I am deeply shocked and sorry people lost their lives. I grieve with those who are wounded, and I cried and prayed for the families who lost loved ones. There was absolutely no reason for carnage there, and there’s no justification for killing people anywhere. None whatsoever.)

What I’m saying is that our “way of life” has gone through a huge morality shift.

I personally love going out at night. I remember walking around the old part of Oviedo, Spain with a family of friends late one evening. It was beautiful, with the ancient stone walls and archways lit up with floodlights. People were sitting and chatting at outdoor cafés. It was a great atmosphere, and I drank it in. Recently, we were in Segovia at night, in the central plaza. It was packed with children and families, and again, I totally enjoyed myself. I believe people should be able to walk around without fear and sit down and sip a cup of tea. I would defend the right of people to attend concerts, too.

It hasn’t been all that long ago, that the Ten Commandments served as the moral compass for everyone. No one questioned them. They provide the standard for Judeo-Christian values.

In short, the Ten Commandments say:
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, . . . wife, . . . manservant, . . . maidservant, . . . ox, . . . ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's (from Exodus 20:3-17).

So, where has society gone off track? What happened? Why do we have issues with the simplest questions about morality?

Of course, there are several factors, the most important of which is the lack of Bible knowledge. I would guess that many of my readers can’t name all ten of the Ten Commandments—and most of you are Christians. Probably your children don’t know them either. Try an experiment: ask them!

The first thing we need to do is get back to the Bible. Teach ourselves—actually read and study the Bible and apply it in practical ways to our lives. We need to practice what we know, even if it’s only a little bit. What a different world we’d have if everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments! We must not neglect teaching the Bible to our children. I think there’s been a great generational disconnect between my parents’ generation and my adult children’s generation. I think it went wrong when the Baby Boomers (my age people) got so busy in living that we neglected to teach our children in the home. We forgot that values are taught and caught. So, a lot of kids didn’t get taught, and what they caught wasn’t a pretty picture. It didn’t please God. To get back to morality, we need to be good examples of biblical truths and also teach them to our kids.

Another problem is the concept of Relativity. It basically makes everything depend on the factors around it. The dictionary defines moral relativity as “the absence of standards of absolute and universal application.” As you can imagine, when you have no standard, you have no right or wrong. Everything is determined by the person himself and his circumstances.

Let’s pretend you decide that there’s no standard about murder. It’s the Sixth Commandment, but you no longer believe in standards, so you throw that one out (along with all the rest). It therefore becomes okay to murder under certain conditions. This began with abortion when the life of the mother was in danger—almost zero cases of that—but it rationalized abortion. Then, abortion was okay for children conceived in rape. Then, if the mother couldn’t take care of the baby, then for any reason, then at any time in the pregnancy, and then to partial birth abortions at full term. Do you see the progression? That’s not all! Without an absolute standard against murder, people like “Dr. Death,” Jack Kevorkian, made it possible for people to kill themselves by assisted suicide. In the Netherlands, it became okay for doctors to make decisions about older patients and “end their suffering” at will—euthanasia. There’s been a genocide of babies with Down’s Syndrome.

When I talk to people about being sinners, I often get the laughing response, “I haven’t killed anyone.” In most people’s minds, murder is still rated as the worst sin—yet it’s tolerated in many forms today. The moral standard has been thrown away.

It’s that same moral standard that kept societies across the world from living in anarchy. It’s the biblical standard that put the brakes on total hedonism.

Today’s society sincerely believes that a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry (from Ecclesiastes 8:15).

Are Christians the bad guys?

Of course not!

There are several warnings in the Bible about the mixing up of right and wrong. Here’s one of them: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20) It’s a sad state of affairs that there’s even a mix-up at all!

To the Christian, God says, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing (1 Peter 3:15-17).

God help us!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The "Mixed" Marriage Survey Results

Photo by Mr. Mike TZ

I asked my social media friends who are married to someone from a different ethnic group—not necessarily a different skin tone—to answer ten questions. Forty-four people answered this survey A huge THANK YOU to all of my participants!

First, we’ll share the questions and responses, and then, we’ll analyze the results. Are you ready?

Q Is your spouse from: (Check all that are true for you.)

A A different ethnic group  73%
    Another home country  89%
    A different language or cultural tradition  82%
    The same country  5%

Q Does your spouse have a different skin tone from you?

A Yes.  80%
    No.  20%

Q Before you married, did you experience any opposition from your families?

A Yes.  39%
    No.  61%

Q Does your family support your marriage now?

A Yes.  91%
    No.  9%

Q Do people who don’t know you look at you funny or think you’re an odd couple?

A Yes.  16%
    No.  55%
    Only sometimes.  29%

Q What was your most difficult adjustment in marriage? (Check all that apply.)

A Cultural  72%
    Language difference—communication  33%
    Values  31%
    Opposition from family and others  18%

Q Honestly, do you think you as a couple had more to deal with in marriage than other couples? (If so, you may explain in the “Comments.")

A Yes.  11%
    No, not more than anyone else.  27%

“We have had to overcome different ways of thinking and cultural values. We were raised very differently.”

 “A differing imprint during childhood makes it harder to understand and appreciate some of the differences and hard or nearly impossible to overcome.”

“Expectations from both sides. He thought that I should adjust quicker to his country. I thought he should be more understanding. He had studied in college in my home country. I had never even visited his country, and we moved there two weeks after marriage. After a couple of years, he came to appreciate the sacrifices that I had made to move to his country: climate, languages, food, family, etc. He came to realize that it is easier to go from less to more than to go from more to less, and he began to appreciate how much I adjusted to his culture. Now, more than thirty years later, we are rarely out of sync.”

“We were dating long distance for several years. After marriage, many of the traits you learn about someone you date in person, we found out in the first few months of marriage. I had to pray hard during the first few months. Oh, and his parents were asking every single day if we are pregnant!”

“Yes, because we have to deal with different cultural expectations, and I am not living in my home country. The main difficulties are from the cultural expectations of the community, though.”

“Language and cultural barriers are a huge deal. We are still overcoming them after several years of marriage. Your native culture shapes who you are and how you think, and if it's a different culture than how your spouse grew up, you need to be able to talk about the differences and similarities. If it's difficult for you to express those things due to a language barrier, it can cause problems and create an environment of frustration because of misunderstandings. Also, when it comes to parenting, two cultures can clash quickly if you don't talk about what you'll do in a certain situation before the situation arises. There are just certain things the West handles differently than the East and I feel like it's important for us as a cross-cultural couple to create a ‘third culture’ in our home—one that works for our unique family.”

“Only to some extent. Culture does play a role, but we are very different personalities, so that can be an issue even with a spouse from your own culture.”

“Yes, we were brought up so differently. We had to find our own way in terms of parenting and finding our role as a husband and wife.”

“Yes, starting from speaking to each other in our second language to dealing with so many cultural differences, which we don't realize until they actually happen.”

“Even though we are both fluent in English as our first language, our cultural ways of communicating and resolving conflict are very different.”

“Yes! Having his family in a different country and having to travel many hours by plane to get there is a lot. Not having them with us is the most difficult. Culture for his father, who is now in our country, is very difficult, and this makes it difficult for us as well. Taking care of his needs has been a struggle. He thinks differently, and therefore, it is challenging. These types of things can be very hard, but we trust fully on the Lord to guide us.”

“I feel we faced a lot of things before we were married, so that has made our marriage stronger than many between those of the same race/ethnic background.”

“I think it's more of the culture rather than the skin color. Many people of the same skin color have different upbringings. My husband and I may have different skin colors, but we were both raised in good, solid Christian homes, so we had many similarities. Our parents and pastor looked at the character and work ethic of the potential spouse rather than the color of his/her skin. Why should a brown-skinned Mexican marrying a white-skinned American looked at as "not okay" but a white-skinned Norwegian and white-skinned American looked at as "okay." Don't both examples have a mix of cultures?”

“I was raised in the same culture and language as my husband because I was a MK (missionary kid) here, so our adjustment was not as difficult.”

“We had a good premarital counsel and we were prepared for differences, so we were ready and able to work through them.”

“All marriages have issues that need to be worked through, but coming at marriage from two different cultures definitely added to the mix!”

“I am from one ethnic group, and my husband is from another ethnicity. Even though his family has lived in the U. S. for a couple of generations and his parents were saved during his childhood, they retained much of their culture and mindset. The expectations on us, from extended family involvement to food tastes to the definition of honoring your parents came from drastically different mindsets. I do think it posed extra hurdles, and it surprised us, since we hadn't realized how diverse our cultures had really been. We grew up in the same town and church. But, those differences and the skills we learning navigating them have served us well in the life calling God has given us.”

“Different traditions and upbringings mean different ways to view and analyze every situation in life. It is difficult to understand why one of us reacts a certain way to specific situations without understanding the cultural background behind the reaction and how culture influences our lives in drastically different ways.”

“I think the language barrier between my spouse and parents has been an added difficulty in our marriage. While both parties appreciate each other, they have not been able to bond and grow a relationship. I still have to interpret and the conversation feels impersonal and lacks flow. There are lots of awkward silence moments or the opposite. Sometimes I can barely finish translating because they have thought of the next thing to say, which is stressful for me as the interpreter.”

“It's a mixed bag really. We're were both saved and serving in the same denomination of churches before we met, so we had a lot in common where it was most important. We do have to deal with extended family being spread around the world. Language at family gatherings can be an issue.”

“Yes, as I went to live in his country and had to learn the language and customs of his country. Through the years we have learned to give and take, so that both of our languages, cultures, and customs can be entertained.”

Q Do you think the Bible indicates that people from different ethnic groups and skin tones may marry each other? If so, can you give any examples?

A Yes.  39%
    No.  9%
    Examples from the Bible:
Ruth and Boaz: 9 participants mentioned them.
Moses and his Ethiopian wife: 9 mentions
Rahab and her husband: 2 mentions
Esther and Xerxes: 1 mention
Joseph and Asenath: 1 mention

“I believe that as long as both parties are believers and aren't unequally yoked, then marrying into a different ethnic group is not wrong. The main thing is that both man and woman need to be believers.”

 “We are all the same ‘kind.’ God created Adam and Eve, and they were to multiply in the earth. Then, at the tower of Babel, He separated the people and that's when we got different languages. The skin tones/features are a result of the DNA and world climates, etc.”

“God defended Moses and his wife. We are all of ‘one blood.’”

“In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul exhorts believers to only marry believers. The line for God is a religious line, not a racial line. In Galatians 3 and Colossians 3, Paul establishes the equality of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or social background, since we are all under Christ. The Old Testament prohibitions for the Israelites (like Deuteronomy 7:1-6) are prohibitions against intermarrying between religions/faith, so skin tone is not the issue. Moses’ wife was another race than he, and Aaron and Miriam were punished by God for criticizing it (Numbers 12). The whole story of Ruth exemplifies a foreigner marrying into a Jewish family. (In fact, she is a part of Christ's lineage.) James 2:1-10 indicates that there is no place for favoritism or judgment based on race in the life of a Christian.”

“God said to people to go and multiply, and we are all coming from the same federal head, Adam. And then God said cover the earth, which has lead to all the differences.”

“In Scripture, it's never about different ethnicity in and of itself being a problem, but about the other beliefs, idols, and religions from foreign nations competing with God and turning hearts away from Him.”

“I believe that as saved we are one in Christ, regardless of skin color or cultural difference.”

“An intercultural marriage may have more need for flexibility and communication over ‘little things,’ but if both are children of God, there's a precedent for it being acceptable to God.”

“The human race is one race. Ruth married Boaz who was not from her country. Rahab married into the lineage of king David, but she was from Jericho. Who knows what the descendants of Noah looked like, but they married each other and had children.”

Q How has your marriage enriched your life? (Check all that apply.)

A I have learned about my partner’s way of thinking.  80%
    I have learned to accept everyone as equals.  43%
    I love my partner’s culture and feel that the blend of cultures is positive.  73%
    I love my spouse, and my spouse loves me. It’s wonderful!  82%
    Food! I’ve learned to prepare/enjoy my spouse’s favorites.  68%
    Travel. We’ve visited both countries together.  64%
    Our children appreciate their roots.  48%

Q If you have children, have you found it necessary to explain your multi-ethnic marriage to them?

A Yes.  22%
    No.  78%

This is very interesting, isn’t it! Let’s sum up what we’ve learned from our participants. Remember, they’re all married to someone who’s not from the same ethnicity.
  • No one thinks it’s wrong to marry someone out of his ethnic group.
  • Four participants think it’s against the Bible to marry someone with a different skin tone.
  • The Bible says all men are equals, and it’s important to marry within the same faith—that believers should only marry believers.
  • Everyone seems to agree that marriage takes giving, taking, and an effort to communicate clearly.
  • It seems that cultural and language differences are the biggest hurdles couples had to overcome.
  • It’s interesting that those who’ve been married many years indicate they’ve overcome the barriers, and they actually embrace their differences.

So, what does the Bible say on this subject? Are my guests right, or are they a little bit softer on this subject, since they’re inter-ethnically married themselves?

As my participants said, God blesses the institution of marriage. He defended Moses’ marriage to a black woman from Ethiopia (Numbers 12:1-9) and all other marriages between believers. There are many inter-ethnic marriages in the Bible, including those mentioned by my guests. Some additional ones are: Solomon and the Shulamite (Song of Solomon 1:5-6 describes her as black.); Timothy, whose father was Greek and mother was a Jewish believer; and I’m probably missing someone. (If so, please feel free to comment and enlighten me!) God never seems to take into account any difference in skin color. As the participants said, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. By Noah’s time, his three sons might have had different skin tones—Ham means “dark” and Japheth means “fair”—and there are more variations today. The Bible says:
  • But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). 
  • For there is no respect of persons with God (Romans 2:11). 
  • But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors (James 2:9).

God’s Word says that marriage should only be for couples of the same faith. 
  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39).

Any good marriage requires teamwork. Spouses must make sure they’re communicating. When they don’t understand each other, they need to talk it out and ensure they’re on the same page. Then, they make decisions based on working together and compromise. This goes for any marriage, especially where spouses are from different cultures and backgrounds.
  • Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection (literally: “yielding”) to your own husbands . . . Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1, 3-5).
  • Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

There are also complications for children, when they are “mixed race.” (I personally believe in one race, the human race, though there are obvious differences in skin tone.) The challenges are real, and sadly, society doesn’t always judge people the way God does. I believe the key is for parents to be aware, explain when appropriate, and protect if needed. Unfortunately, many people only see skin color and prejudge others by color only. I asked a mother of a “mixed race” child what they had experienced with their child, and they have witnessed a difference in treatment and expectations. Another mom with darker-skinned children withdrew her children from school and decided to homeschool them, because the black kids were literally left behind scholastically. It’s important to have the necessary conversations with our children, school personnel, and sports coaches. Make sure you look out for your children!

Even back in the old days when I was a student, I never filled in the “race” boxes on standardized tests. I felt strongly that it was no one’s business what color my skin was. (It’s freckled, by the way, and my ancestors came from several diverse ethnic groups.) I was always tempted to check “other” and say something like green or purple . . . or Martian!

My husband is from a Northern, German family, and I’m from the South. Both of our children married spouses from a different country. Our kids grew up in Spain, and our daughter married a baseball playing American. Our son’s wife is a wonderful Mexican girl. I understand cross-cultural adjustments and the process of figuring out what we’re really saying to each other. It takes an open mind and a willing heart. It helps that we love our spouse!

Jesus explained marriage this way:

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:4-5).


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Staying Out of the "Garbage Can"

Many years ago, someone wisely said,

“You don’t send your children to the garbage can
hoping they might find a few good scraps of food to eat.”

I’d like to address the problem of the “garbage can” and maybe help you draw some conclusions for your family’s mental and spiritual health.

Years ago, there were studies about children who watched violence on television and afterwards acted out in violent ways. I don’t know if people even do those kinds of studies anymore, but what used to be “violent” back in the day was mild in comparison with today’s realistic and fantastic scenes.

Violence is only the beginning of the disturbing trends. The moral tone—maybe we should say amoral tone—in most movies is wrong. Most music videos are immoral and obscene. Most lyrics contain violence and crass, vulgar language.

When the Beatles sang such innocent lyrics as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Love Me Do,” women screamed and swooned.

Today, Katy Perry (a young woman) sings, “I kissed a girl and I liked it,” and the hearers think it’s cute.

A new movie being made, Between Hell and High Water, “blurs the lines between good and evil.” The producer proclaims he’s “very proud of that.”

It used to be that the black-and-white screen King Kong—an obviously fake gorilla—held screaming damsels over his head. Today, realistic gore, explosions, and dismembered body parts fill huge movie screens. Gone are the days of avoiding gratuitous death and murder. Today's viewers expect it.

Male movie heroes aren’t noble any more. (They’re not very manly either, if you ask me.) Women beat up on other characters. The protagonists are killers, homosexuals, thieves, immoral, and filthy-mouthed. Most movies today contain nude or partially nude scenes. Risqué has gone mainstream, and people from all walks of life actually watch this stuff.

I don’t even want to start on video games. Most include prostitutes, war, shooting, and violence. Some gamers have a difficult time distinguishing between “fun” video game violence and reality.

In the old days, the good guys always won, and the bad guys were found out and locked up. That is positive moral tone. That’s the way it should be. Justice isn’t always served in real life. I realize that, but I believe that young people should be taught an ideal of justice.

What’s wrong with today’s generation—and maybe their parents’ generation as well? They’ve been fed a diet of iffy moral tone. They don’t understand the absolutes of right and wrong, and they don’t expect the authorities in their lives to be fair. They don’t respect laws or enforcement. They’re swift to play the victim and slow to look for good.

Why do kids get into viewing nasty stuff? It’s because their parents do—or because they’re free to choose for themselves. Or, they may be with peers with questionable taste.

Where do a lot of people learn to disrespect each other, life itself, and the authorities? On a screen, in their own homes.

Where do criminals get the ideas for their crimes? On TV, in movies, and on video games. It’s been proven! When an awful crime takes place, police examine the suspect’s computer. They find images of violence and hate, a fascination with gore and death, and different kinds of perversion.

So, what can Christian parents do? Even back in the days of the early church, the Apostle John admonished, Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the spirits of antichrist): because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). We can’t completely shield our children (or ourselves) from the world without living in caves, but there are measures we can take in order to keep our children out of the “garbage can.”

What’s some biblical advice for helping children focus on the good in the midst of so much evil?

1. Be an example. Dad controls his eyes, entertainment, and reading choices. He is a man who demonstrates to his children what a godly man looks like. He does fun things with them, too, and teaches them. Mom is sweet spoken, even-tempered, and is careful about her own reading and entertainment choices. She explains to her teens why she chooses her path—what’s right and wrong. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck (Proverbs 1:8-9).

2. Give your kids a biblical reason for your decisions. Randomness begets randomness. On the other hand, if children realize that you base your choices on Bible principles, they’ll understand exactly where you’re coming from. They’ll comprehend that your house rules come from biblical convictions. Here are a few examples:
  • “We don’t watch movies that contain profanity. Why? The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them (Proverbs 8:8). We want to hear clean, pure words that please God.”
  • “We do not want you exposed to movies that Daddy and Mommy think are too violent. Why? Do violence to no man (from Luke 3:14). These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief (Proverbs 6:16-18). God hates violence, and we want you to hate it, too.”
  • “We don’t want you to watch anything with naked people and immorality. Why? Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Your father and I want you to grow up with pure minds and hearts and not be tempted to lust. Viewing fornication will not help you have a pure mind.”

3. Shelter. You don’t send your children out into the world to fight those battles when they’re young and not fully prepared. I believe this means two kinds of sheltering:  
      1. providing them with a Christian education and worldview 
      2. being careful with their friends and all peer influence and activities
Your home needs to be a shelter for your children, protecting them from physical, spiritual, and emotional harm.

4. Provide them with good. One of the great faults of Christian parents has been to say no to everything. Make sure your child is socialized, has lots of clean fun, enjoys life, and has a close family. This will mean making the effort to take them to the zoo and give them great books to read—and taking the time to read to your children. As they get older, they will be guided toward clean movies and healthy video games. They will also learn to do fun things without screens and gadgets—actually participating in life. Make sure your kids are in a vibrant, Bible preaching church. Make sure they have opportunities for Christian service with other teens.

I believe that some parents are “tired,” and they almost let their children rear themselves. (As many parents work full-time, they actually are tired!) Parents need to make the extra effort to guide their children and diligently help them understand boundaries—including why they've decided on specific boundaries.

Don’t send your children to the “garbage can” to see if they can find some good scraps. Instead, provide them with a wealth of good things, so they won’t ever think about sorting through garbage.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ten Red Flags in Relationships: How to Recognize Them

I recently posted an interview with a victim of domestic abuse. (You can read it here.) My guest, “Lisa,” referred to the “cycle of abuse”1 and the “red flags” that she noticed when she was dating her husband. Several of my readers asked if there was a resource for recognizing red flags in order to warn young people before marriage.

So, I’m taking it upon myself to write a list of red flags that should be huge signals that a relationship is not for you. (I’m using “he” in the generic sense—to represent both male and female. These warning signs are for both men and women.)

1. Professing faith but not truly practicing—Your friend says he’s a Christian. He goes to church. He might even sing in the choir. But, he only acts like a Christian at church. You may notice his core values are materialistic. He isn’t really concerned about others, and he isn’t soul conscious. He doesn’t seem to have a personal connection to Jesus Christ. You think he’s probably a Christian—after all he says so—but you’re not 100% sure. I recommend that each man or woman who is interested in someone talk to that person’s pastor before pursuing a relationship. His pastor will (usually) know his reputation and if he acts like a true Christian. Why is faith so important? Consider these verses:
  • These were instructions for Israel about not mixing in marriage with people from pagan religions: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).
  • Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)
  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). 

2. Lack of respect—This red flag shows itself in all kinds of forms. It might be:
  • Disrespecting parents, teachers, police, government, rules, bosses, and other authorities. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee (Exodus 20:12). Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation (Romans 13:1-2).
  • Being unkind to others. Watch how he treats his mother, sister, aunts, grandma, and other women in his family. That’s how he treats women. If you see disrespect or unkindness and unloving dealings with his own family, you can be sure you will suffer the same unkindness, if you were to marry him. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Terrible manners. Manners mean you are looking out for others’ sensibilities, that you are in lowliness of mind letting each esteem other better than themselves (from Philippians 2:3). When a person refuses to greet another properly, when he eats like a pig, when he grabs everything for himself and doesn’t prefer others—including you—he is a boor and will never treat you and others as the Bible commands. Biblical love doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own (1 Corinthians 13:5a).
  • Narcissistic behavior. Selfishness. Everything's about him, his needs, his wants, his desires. A Pharisee lawyer asked Jesus, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:36-40). When a person loves himself more than God and others, there’s a serious problem.

3. Pornography use—If your friend regularly looks at porn, he will actually have two problems: a rewired brain—truly warped thinking2—and an addiction. People become addicted to porn very quickly. Like a drug, it is extremely difficult to give up. If your boyfriend looks at porn, he has a huge problem—and so will you, if you pursue this relationship. Porn use should be a game changer—a relationship killer. Can you imagine if your husband consistently looked at bizarre photos of naked people? You would feel violated and you wouldn’t feel confident in giving yourself to him in normal marital relations. The other problem is that his thought processes are literally altered. He can’t think like a normal person thinks. He fantasizes about scenes he’s witnessed in pornography. He has weird expectations. If your friend promises to do better after you’re married, he won’t be able to. The only way a person gives up porn is if he’s made accountable to someone, installs filters on his computer—and uses any computer in public—and he doesn’t have a smart phone at all. He must meditate on Scripture in order to over time rewire his mind in a new way. Only if your friend goes through this process and proves he’s given it up for good—over a period of years—can you trust that he’s over this horrible habit. The temptation will always be out there, but you can begin to trust him—with filters and a “dumb phone”—to have begun a new life. Jesus said, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28). God equates lustful gazing with adultery.

4. Substance abuse and other addictions—It should be self-evident that anyone with an addiction isn’t a good candidate for matrimony, but you’d be surprised how many people fall in love with partners who smoke, drink, do drugs, gamble, and view porn. Any one of these is a recipe for problems in marriage and much grief. Run!

5. Debt—Nothing can ruin a marriage faster than deep financial problems. If you or your boyfriend is in debt, do everything you can to get out of it as soon as you can, before you marry. If you have no idea how to do this, you can get practical help from Dave Ramsey.3

6. Physicality—“Mr. Hands and Mouth” really wants you. He doesn’t seem to be able to control himself, always sneaking in some kind of intimate touching, even in public places. He slips his hands down from your waist, or up, and he wants to kiss often. This guy lacks self-control, and he is not respecting your body. He is a taker. When a relationship is primarily physical and not on a head and heart level first, and if the guy can’t wait to touch and kiss you until your wedding day, that’s a huge red flag. The Bible says:
  • Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
  • Paul told the young pastor Timothy that he was to treat The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity (1 Timothy 5:2).
  • Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1). 

7. Isolation—When a partner limits your friendships, you are headed for trouble. Does this person want you only for himself? Does he keep you from healthy relationships? Does he close you off from your former circle of friends? Does he alienate you from your family? Does he take all of your time? These are red flags. If you marry this individual, you’ll be a prisoner in your own home.

8. Mistrust—This is something like “isolation,” but it isn’t the same thing. If you can’t talk to another man without your partner showing great jealousy, this is a red flag. If your partner makes you accountable to him for every email or social media post, he doesn’t trust you. If you have no freedom to do things on your own, for example: call a friend, go shopping, meet a friend, or attend a social occasion, this is a problem! You should be able to live a normal life in a happy, trusting relationship. (Note: A married woman should not meet one-on-one with a man other than her husband for anything even resembling a “date.” She can take another woman with her if she needs to meet with someone for business purposes.)
  • Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her (Proverbs 31:10-11a).
  • Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7). 

9. Manipulation—This is perhaps the hardest red flag to nail down because it’s a conglomerate of several behaviors. It’s also probably one of the biggest red flags for any relationship. This should be enough reason—all by itself—to run! A manipulative person is all about what he can make you do. I found a very good list of how to recognize the tactics of a manipulator. It is a process. If several of these tactics raise red flags, you’re in a relationship with a manipulator. These people are toxic!
  • Lying
  • Denial—“I didn’t do anything. You're just imagining things.”
  • Shaming--"You're a terrible person" or "you don't deserve good things."
  • Diversion
  • Seduction
  • Minimization—“You’re making this important.”
  • Making you feel guilty
  • Rationalization
  • Covert intimidation—threats
  • Vilifying the victim—“You’re the bad person.”
  • Selective inattention—Only what he thinks is important. He doesn’t pay any attention to what you would like.
  • Playing the victim role—“Because of you, I suffer.”
  • Playing the servant role—“After all I do for you . . . .”
  • Blaming others—“It’s all your fault.”

10. Any physical hitting, punching, or slapping—You would think that everyone would understand this, but let me make a crystal clear statement: if your boyfriend hits or slaps you—even one time in “fun”—run! This will get worse after marriage. Hitting is assault. Slapping is assault. Shaking is assault. This is a crime. Break off your relationship. An apology isn’t enough. Get out of the relationship now! You will save yourself—and any future children—from much grief.
  • So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church (Ephesians 5:28-29).
  • The following verses are qualifications for men in ministry, but I think they’re a valid standard for any Christian man. (Striker means someone who hits people.) Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous (1 Timothy 3:3). For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7).

Especially if your family history—or his—is less than ideal, you’ll need to work through what a biblical marriage looks like and make sure that goal is always before you.

This is what a good marriage is:

A godly husband acts in sacrificial love for his wife.
  • Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).
  • Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Colossians 3:19).

A godly wife realizes her multifaceted role with beauty, dignity, and grace.
  • Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:31).
  • Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord (Colossians 3:18).
  • The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).

Together, husband and wife exemplify love, respect, and selfless giving.
  • Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:33).
  • But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. . . . she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband (from 1 Corinthians 7:33-34).
  • Charity (Love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

1. A clear explanation of the “cycle of abuse”:
2. The use of pornography actually rewires one’s brain.
3. Financial freedom, Dave Ramsey: