Christian Worldview: Gender Identity and Bathrooms

For a few weeks now the topic of bathrooms have been an ongoing and heated conversation. The state North Carolina, led by Governor Pat McCrory, passed HB 2 (otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill”) in response to a 7-4 approving vote by the Charlotte City Council’s for persons to use the restroom of the gender they identify with. HB 2 protects private businesses from government overreach, and maintains that persons must use their assigned gender in public restrooms.

Supporters of HB 2 have been put to public shame. Being called ignorant, bigots, discriminators, and I was even called racist (not sure how that applies). Filmmaker Michael Moore, artists like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr, and Cirque du Soleil have all cancelled events in North Carolina. It is a bit ironic that they are refusing to do business with people they disagree with, but chastise Christians for doing the same thing.

So how should we look at this, and respond from a Christian worldview?

Accommodation Only Hurts

First, we must understand that accommodating to those who identify as a different gender than the actual biological make-up they possess are need of help. Currently about .3% of the population identifies as transgender. What is being fed to the American people is that if we are not willing to accommodate for transgender people then we are against them. However, I believe the exact opposite is true. Transgender people do need help because they are dealing with a skewed identity of who they are. Accommodating only hurts because we are telling them they are right, when we should be striving to get them the real medical attention then need. Many doctors agree that those who identify as another gender opposite of the reality of who they are struggling with mental illness. When it comes to any other mental illness we seek to get people help except for on this issue. Instead we want people to be forced to accommodate and only enable.

The American  College of Pediatrics recently wrote about children and gender identity. In the write up you can see many of the issues, and they liken enabling gender confusion to child abuse. Much of this can be applied to adults struggling with gender identity as well.  This is an a mental health issue we are turning a blind eye to while  41% of transgender people attempting suicide.  That is not normal and it is tragic and I believe we need to stop enabling, and them the help they need. Sex change is not the answer, nor does it biologically change gender, and suicide certainly is not the answer.

Most important, this is an attack on the imago Dei as well. The imago Dei translates into the image of God. The Bible teaches than man and woman are both made in His image. He created each of us as man and as a woman. In the womb God began a work in creating each person, and God makes no mistakes. To accept that one’s gender is not the reality of their identity is an attack on the imago  Dei and an attack on God.

It is Not LGBT Discrimination nor Equal to Racisim

Supporters of gender neutral bathrooms often claim this is LGBT discrimination. Many will compare the issue to slavery which is not only asinine, but incredibly offensive as well. The comparison of slavery against African-Americans in America, and LGBT rights are so far apart that any comparison should never be taken seriously. Those who make that comparison are playing of emotions. The two are no way comparable. African-Americans had basic rights taken away and were enslaved. The only perceived discrimination, in this regard, is that transgender people are having to use the restroom of their biological sex.

Still, this is not an LGBT issue but a “T” issue. These bills in no way discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, nor heterosexuals for that matter.The only people facing perceived discrimination are those who identify as transgender. The question is then is it discrimination for someone to have to use the bathroom of their gender? Do individuals have the right to use whatever restroom or locker room they feel like?

Open Door for Predators 

Many proponents for gender neutral bathrooms will try to belittle the arguments of their opponents. Saying transgender people just want to go do their business and don’t care about you. They will make it appear that all who are against gender neutral bathrooms believe all transgender people are pedophiles and are out to hurt everyone. That is not what supporters of bills like HB 2 are saying.

The stance that I, and most people against gender neutral bathrooms, take is that this is an open door for predators. Opponents will say that we are operating out of unfounded fear. To make that claim is either naivety or ignorance. We are already seeing multiple cases of this popping up here, here, here, and here. We already have four cases were predators have either taken care of gender neutral bathroom/locker room laws, or easily could if these laws were passed.

Any man could go expose himself in a locker room in front of children, and watch them change, if gender neutral bathroom laws are passed. There is no way to stop that. Cameras will be installed and the privacy of our spouses, children, and families may very well be attacked. You have to answer if you are okay with children and women being potentially harmed, like in the four cases above, so .3% of the population can use any bathroom they want? I will choose to side with Lt. Governor of North Carolina Dan Forest who said, “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it.”

What About Women?

The claim is made that a transgender male or female will feel uncomfortable using the bathroom of their identity. Therefore, we must make accommodations so that they can be comfortable in public restrooms. What we have neglected to ask is, will females be comfortable knowing that men may be in the bathroom or locker room with them? Potentially showering and exposing themselves to these people. What about the comfort of children? Are we potentially going to sacrifice the comfort and security of 99.7% of the population for .3% and pave the way for predators to have easier access to harm individuals? I pray not.

In Ephesians 5 Paul tells the early Christian husbands to love their wife as Christ loved the Church. How did Christ exactly love the Church? He died for Her and protected Her. Christian men, we must be the leading voices in fighting for our spouse and our children. I

God’s Answer 

God’s answer is to run to Him. Transgenders, predators, and everyone in between can go to Him. In their going it will require the step of repentance and crucifying self. Finding their identity in the one who gave use our biological sex to begin with. Our identity will always be skewed when we find it on other things. What we own, what we do, what want others to thing, or what we perceive our gender to be. We need to find out identity in who Christ is. The perfect image of the invisible God. The spotless lamb, the sacrificed son, the giant slayer, the acceptable sacrifice, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and God in the flesh.

 

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Q&A: What Is The Meaning To Life?

Last night the students I have the opportunity to lead engaged in a “Theology Q&A Night.” I took questions submitted anonymously from the students and spent the service attempting to answer their questions. There were many good questions but this one, what is the meaning to life, really struck me. All the time I hear of people looking for “God’s will for my life” or something of the sort. I am going to share with you what I shared with the students, this is the meaning of life.

Ecclesiastes  1:2 says this, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Another way of saying this would sound this way, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” King Solomon wrote this verse and was a man of great wealth, many wives, beautiful palaces, and anything he wanted. He once wrote anything his heart desired, he pursued. Yet, this is how he summed like up: meaningless. A man who had all he wanted and gained so much described it all as meaningless. Why? Because created us for something more. Something more than we can experience in our finite lives in the here and now. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

Go back to Genesis 1:26, man was initially created in the image of God. Created to reflect the image of the invisible God, sometimes that Christ did perfectly according to Colossians 1. In the first three chapters with that in mind we see four things that God set aside for humanity to provide fulfillment in life.

1) He created humanity to have dominion of the earth (Genesis 1:26)

2) He created humanity to work (Genesis 2:15)

3) He created humanity as social beings (Genesis 2:18-25)

4) He created humanity to fellowship with Him (Genesis 3:8)

These things gave life meaning to humanity, fulfillment in life, and responsibility in life. However, the fall that happens in Genesis 3 with the ushering in of sin deeply distorted all of this. The good news is when we read Revelation it will all come full-circle and will be restored once more as God intended, but we are not there yet. So we ask, I am here today so what is the meaning until that is resorted? Real meaning in life, right now and for eternity, is found in the restoration of our relationship wit God that was lost with Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. That relationship can only be restored through Jesus Christ.

Real meaning in life does not stop though at crying out to Christ to save you. Rather, real meaning in life is one surrenders, submits, and beings to follow Christ as a disciple. Learning of who He is, spending time with Him in His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and walking on obedience in light of His commands.

To the unbeliever that may sound unappealing, or even to a Christian. To submit your life and give God a blank check and say I will do whatever you call me to. Look to these verses though to prove doing that will give you the meaning you are searching for:

              “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.          Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,   and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”

Matthew 11:28-30

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”

John 10:10b

“Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”

Matthew 16:24-25

What these verses are saying is you have to make your mind up. We can continue to seek and lead our own lives, which will result in emptiness, or we can fully submit to follow God and pursue after Him, as He pursues us, and let Him have control of our lives. This will lead to a life of joy, fulfillment, purpose, satisfaction, and contentment. This is what God wants for us. It may not result in the easiest life, but it will result in one that makes a difference for the Kingdom and one the glorifies God. The meaning of life is to glorify God in everything that we do.

Summed up: The meaning of life is to know God and enjoy Him forever.

Are We Giving God Our Best, or What’s Left?

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, and a book we probably do not hear from a lot. However Malachi teaches an important lesson in chapter one verses 6-14.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? ’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you? ’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” Malachi 1:6-14

Israel was giving blemished sacrifices to God. If you know anything about the Law of Moses, Israel was commanded to give an unblemished lamb, a holy God requires a perfect sacrifice (Leviticus 23:12). Israel had become guilty of giving injured lambs, stolen lambs, blemished lambs, and so on in their sacrifice. There sacrifice was not actually a sacrifice, it cost them nothing. A sacrifice requires giving up something we want or need to God, if what we give isn’t a sacrifice to us we are not giving God our best. A sacrifice cost something. Worst than that Israel didn’t see why it was such a big deal! Are we not guilty of the same? Do we not fill our lives up with non-meaningful things that do not matter when it comes to eternity.

At FUGE Camps on the third day we take-up a missions offering to go overseas to support missions around the world. Students walk up front and put their money in the basket. One year a girl did something different than the norm. She walked up front and instead of putting money in the basket she looked at it, and then stepped in it. Proclaiming God I do not have money to give, but I will give you my life. How profound. Are we giving God our lives? Are we proclaiming with out lives that nothing is more important that God, and what commands?

The value of what we give is determined by the value it is to us. If it is not of much value to us, then it will not be to God. Giving God one Sunday every few months, a quiet times every so often are not giving God much. Do we take what God says seriously? What Israel was giving displeased God. Are we not guilty of the same? Are we sacrificing things to God, or sacrificing God for things? I have continually ask myself this in my life.

Look to how God responds to Israel. He does not want their worship because they are not a priority. It is not different today. God doesn’t want our Sundays, he wants our lives! He wants nothing to be before him. My prayer is that we hunger so much and thirst so much to know God more that we can’t get enough of him. That we understand the need for community and not only look forward to it, but feel like we can’t miss it. My prayer is that the local church becomes the image of Christ, who is the image of God, on earth today.  A community of believers doing life together, exhorting and rebuking in love, on mission together, and serving God above all else.

We have filled out lives with things. Sports, hobbies, and so on that do not glorify God because they take priority over God. They take priority over meeting as a local church. If we spend our Sundays at the ball field, watching the NFL, or any other hobby more often than we are meting with a local believing covenant community we are in sin (Hebrews 10:25). Are we spending more time reading a recruiting website of our favorite college team, or in the Word of God? We have declared what is most important by what we spend our time doing and where we invest our money. People notice, our children notice, and most importantly God notices. Are we giving God our best, or are we giving him what is left?

How Do I Have a Quiet Time?

If you spend anytime around me you know I am advocate for christian men and women spending daily time with the Lord. The question I usually get after a statement like that is this, how do I have a quiet time? This is not the perfect plan or a must-do guide to having a perfect quiet time. I am going to lay out what I do and you can modify how you do it, the key is to just have one.

Set aside at least an hour each day.

This can seem quite daunting at first. Most christians have enough trouble figuring out what to say for a blessing, how am I supposed to spend an hour with the Lord everyday? Maybe start small. 15 minutes at first and let it grow. The more you do it the more natural it will become. Soon you may see it go beyond an hour.

I recommend the mornings because it just really starts my day off right. However, that is feasible for everyone. One man in the church I serve leaves his house at 4:30 AM everyday to head to work. Just be consistent. If you are going to do it at 7AM then do it that time everyday. Also, be consistent where you do it as well. I don’t like say getting in a routine because it’s not just something to check-off, but if you have a set play of when and where you are more likely to do it.

Spend 10 minutes in worship through music.

Whatever music you like spend 10 minutes in worship before you start. Right now I am on Rend Collective kick in my quiet time, but I often listen to a variety of music including guys like Shai Linne. Songs a lot of times express what we want to say when we don’t know what to say. When you sing think about the words you are singing.

Spend 10-15 minutes in intentional prayer for others.

I once had a seminary professor ask me this, “Jared, if God answered all your prayers the past year how many people would be saved due to God answering those prayers?” Wow! Shot to the heart. How true though that our prayers can become so selfish. So I set aside a different things to pray for each day.

Sunday: All the Bible-beliving churches around the world who will proclaim the gospel this day, and for those who will hear it. Also, a UPG or UUPG.

Monday: My seminary (Students, profs, and its mission)

Tuesday: Churches I have previously served and attended. (Their leadership,   congregation, and so on.)

Wednesday: Former kids I had at FUGE Camps over my 3 summers.

Thursday: Friends and people I know who are lost, by name.

Friday: Missionaries I know, and the countries I have been able to travel to on mission trips.

Saturday: SBC agencies (Other seminaries, IMB, NAMB, ERLC)

I also pray for certain things everyday. My wife, family and in-laws, my church and pastor, the students in my ministry, other pastors at our church, best friends and mentors in my life. If you don’t know what to pray go to the Scriptures and let that be your guide.

Spend 30-40 minutes for worship through the Word.

This is a time you will hear God speak. The Bible is the very Word of God and when read we are hearing His words. If I read an Epistle I try to read the whole thing. The Epistles were letters and they are best read in one sitting, because when you get a letter you read the whole thing not parts at a time.

Take notes, write down questions, underline, and study. Saturate yourself with the word of God. If you read a chapter a day then read it two or three times. Get to the meaning of the text. This will be a time you will learn to look forward to and treasure. Some people will try a chronological Bible reading plan to read it in one year. That’s awesome, just don’t get discouraged. When you get in Leviticus you might be ready to hang it up. Remember the Bible is God-breathed and all of it is useful. I recommend a good study Bible to help understand what you are reading. I use the “ESV Study Bible” and I think it is one of the best.

Be prepared. I do not recommend opening up your Bible and wherever you finger lands is what God wants you to read. Read through books start to finish. If you have never done this I recommend three books to starts with. John, Acts, or Proverbs.

Spend 10 minutes of meditation and prayer

This is a time to just focus on God. Listen to God, maybe go back to the Word as you feel led. Then pray. I pray that God will use me as His vessel, He will use me to further His gospel for His glory and not mine, and many other things that I may need pray for. Write down your request in a journal and flip through it every few months and see things that God has delivered on.

The most important thing: Just do it.

The first day may be the hardest but if you stick to it I really believe this will be one the things you look most forward to everyday. Find someone to hold you accountable that you are doing yours, and likewise do the same for them. Where we spend the most of our time is where our heart is. I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

Serve God, Serve People

FUGE Camps does a lot of things great, but for me one of the greatest things they do is serve other people. I have had the privilege of spending the past two summers at M-FUGE and am thankful to be spending a third summer serving. If there is one thing that camp has taught me is the importance of service leadership, and being a servant leader. We often look to our pastor, youth pastor, or any other church leader to be a servant when, in reality we are called to be servants as Christians.

The best place to find what being a servant leader means and looks like is rooted in the context of scripture. The four verses below lay out how this looks and provides us the perfect example of a servant leader, Jesus.

1. John 3:30 ESV “He must increase, but I must decrease”

These words come from John the Baptist on the arrival of the Son of Man. John, who prepared the way for Christ and was a strong leader, makes a great point. In order for his life to be full, he needed to make much of Jesus and little of himself. Everything we do is to be for His glory. How are we showing this daily?

2. Philippians 2:3-8 ESV Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped ,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Church at Philippi. He explains the sacrifice Christ made by coming to earth. The words to count others more significant than ourselves are powerful. The only way we can do that is to serve people and put them before ourselves.

3. 1 John 4:7-11 ESV “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”

I love this passage as it beautifully describes God’s love for us as we go from being children of wrath to being children of God. Love is from God. The only way to love is by God, and the only way to love others is through God. He enables us to go and do things we would never have done without Him.

4. Matthew 20:26-28 ESV “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Of course this is Christ talking, and He makes it abundantly clear we are here to serve. Christ is the one we are to emulate. If the Son of Man came to serve surely that means we are to serve as well.

This past summer at Charleston M-Fuge, I took my ministry track group to a trailer park to do some yard work one day. We finished early and had some time before we needed to get back to campus. I noticed a yard that needed a good bit of work done on it, so we decided to knock on the door and ask the family if we could cut their yard, trim the hedges, weed eat, and wash the trailer. The lady who came to the door allowed it and gave me the key to get in the backyard. When we finished and I knocked on the door, a man came to the door, and he began to weep. He explained that he had carpal tunnel disease and had been laid off work just prior to being diagnosed. Now he was unable to work, had been denied disability, and did not have insurance to get the proper operations he needed. On top of that he could not physically keep up with his yard, nor afford to pay someone to do it. He asked us why we did it, because he said he could not pay us. We simply told him we did it because Christ loves him, and we love him and wanted to serve him. That impacted my group and at the end of the week one of the students told me he wanted to find more ways to seek out those who need help because of the joy that man felt by us helping him.

Last March, I had the opportunity to go to Zimbabwe with other FUGE staffers to serve the Sanyati community is replacing their roof at their hospital. I remember one of the locals asked me one day why I would be willing to come from America to spend my vacation on a roof in Africa. He could not understand why I would be willing to do that. I explained to him it was something I prayed about and felt called to do with my spring break. The love the people showed us because of our efforts I will never forget. They felt loved, and in return gave us love. There is no better display of what the Church is supposed to look like as a community than that. It was not that we were American and they were African. It was that we are a family of believers and as my friend Shadreck put it, “We are all on the same team.”

A final example of serving others is an experience I had while in college. Our church is involved with a ministry called International Coffee Hour. There we go meet internationals, many who have no knowledge of Jesus, and witness to them. One guy named Jay from South Korea started coming. We made it a point to pick him up and take him to church, to hang out with us at the house, and to go to other events we attended. We did this in order to share Christ with him and love him. When he was taken to the airport to go home, my friend asked him the greatest lesson he learned while in America. His response was: “The love of the Church.”

One thing I try to emphasize to campers and to people in my small group is that the ways to serve are endless: from mowing lawns for the elderly in our church, to serving in the church nursery to give people time to enjoy the service, to going to a soup kitchen, to being a friend at school. All kinds of other opportunities are out there, we just have to go and find them. Teaching the importance of servant leadership was a priority for Christ and it should be for the Church, especially for students who are the future Church leaders.

That’s what FUGE Camps does for teenage students. It instills in them at an early age that servant leadership is a vital part of the Church, and we’re all called to practice it. If we teach our students this at a young age, they will carry it with them for a lifetime and pass it on when they are leaders. Christ poured into 12 men while on earth and taught them the importance of serving. Because of that investment, those 12 influenced and impacted the world. It is up to us if there are going to be servant leaders, and it starts by discipleship: doing it ourselves and then teaching students.

Seeing others more important than ourselves is often difficult, especially in a country that’s all about looking out for number one. The cost can be high if we truly want to follow Christ as He has commanded. We could lose money, friends, security, and much more. However, following the command of Christ is only beneficial in the long run for Christians. I have come to find that a life of service for the glory of our Creator is a life of joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction. My life verse is Acts 20:24 which instructs us to account our life of no value but to use it only to testify the Gospel of Grace. We do this by serving others

Love God, love people – serve God, serve people