Monday, August 29, 2011

Reaching Our World - Part 1

Over the next two blogs I want to mention a number of practical ways we, as believers, can impact our neighborhoods and work places for Christ. We live and/or work around people who do not know the message of grace that comes through the Gospel of Christ. I came across a web-site of a church planter and, while I do not know his doctrine or convictions and am in no way endorsing him, I do admire how he weaves opportunities to witness in everyday life. So, on today’s blog I want to give you some of his ideas as to how to make an impact on your co-workers for Christ. Make a commitment to attempt at least one of the things on this list and use it as an opening to share the Gospel. I pray that God will use many of our people to bring the Gospel to those around us!

1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.

2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.

3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.

4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.

5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.

6. Organize a running/walking group in the before or after work.

7. Make a list of your co-workers birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.

8. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.

9. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.

10. Find others that live near you and create a car pool.

11. Offer to throw a shower for a co-worker who is having a baby.

12. Offer to cover for a co-worker who needs off for something.

13. Start a regular lunch out with co-workers (don’t be selective on the invites).

14. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda/coffee while you’re out.

15. Be the first person to greet and welcome new people.

16. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families.

17. Visit coworkers when they are in the hospital.

18. Go out of your way to talk to your janitors and cleaning people who most people overlook.

19. Find out your co-workers favorite music and make a playlist that includes as much as you can (if suitable for work).

20. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.

21. Start/join a city league team with your co-workers.

22. Start a small business that will bless your community and create space for mission.

23. Work hard to reconcile co-workers who are fighting with one another.

24. Keep small candy, gum, or little snacks around to offer to others during a long day.

25. Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trinity Baptist's Parent Summit This Saturday!!!

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and wrote about some things that, as parents, we really should consider. Let me reiterate, I am afraid the reason that often times we fail to come to Biblical conclusions is that we seldom ask the right questions. I know I never considered the idea of teaching my boys that there are actually alternatives to dating, until I heard of Joshua Harris. Even when I heard of him, initially my reaction was that this was just some guy who was pushing his conviction on the masses and he would probably garner a following or movement, but it would pass. However, as I became more educated as to the thinking regarding dating, I really began to ask myself questions like: “Why am I so closed to thinking another way about dating?” Well, when I gave an honest answer, it was because I dated and so did everyone else I knew. I really thought, “What was the harm?” After all, even though my boys were very young at the time, I already hoped that they would find a godly wife, and had, in fact, prayed for that from day one. So, how could they find a wife if they didn’t date? But, then I had to ask more probing questions like: “Was I, and the young ladies I dated, better Christians because of our date life?” I have to be honest; I wasn’t as consumed at that time with knowing Christ as much as I was getting to know and impress the young lady I was dating. Then, I asked myself, “Does the dating culture enhance or impede the purity of heart, soul, mind and body?” Honestly, as I look around at the present time, and think back to the Churches I have been a part of growing up, and I noticed that even relationships between godly young men and women will impede godliness as a general rule.

After answering those questions and dealing with some tough answers, I knew that I was blessed enough to gain this conviction prior to my boys even asking about dating. It was during this time, when they really had little interest in girls, that I wanted them to think through these questions Biblically. All of this to say, that regardless of where you are with your child, this Saturday will be an incredible opportunity do two things: (1) Open up communication about various topics: this will be the main topic as you and your kids will be together involved in fun interactive discussions. There will be an array of subjects, discussions and fun for the entire family. (2) In the bonus session Bro. Brad, Bro. Jeff and I will have an open discussion of what “courting” looks like and how it can be a reality, not a fantasy, in the life of your family and students.

You make time to take your kids to ball games, band, and a variety of other activities- make this a priority this Saturday - you will not regret it. Be at Trinity for this exciting event and expect God to do a great work in the life of your family.

By the way: I wanted to mention a very special event that will begin this Friday at our local football games and want to encourage all of our church members to participate in some way – it is our Desoto County 4 Prayer events. You can find out more about it on their Facebook page or their web-site here

I am so thankful that we have many of our parents and students involved in this effort. May God be glorified through this!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I try to post Biblical reflections on marriage, whether it is from a youtube clip, from another blog or from my personal study. When I came across this from Ben Boyd’s face book page, I found it to be extremely Biblical and encouraging. I hope it blesses you!

Marriage: The Happy, Holy, Beautiful Mess

Matt Johnson » God Marriage Dating Complementarian Gospel Sin

Ever hear the old adage: “Marriage isn’t primarily intended for your happiness, but for your holiness?”

Well, it’s true and it’s a glorious thing.The growing in holiness part doesn’t always seem blissful. But it means that God isn’t finished with you yet, either. The purpose and hope in marriage isn’t defined by you or your spouse, but by God.

The Bride & Groom’s Sinister Minister

Its summer time and that means one thing: wedding season. Well, summertime also means BBQs, beach vacations, and sunburns, but let's talk about weddings. I’m no veteran, but of the five or so years I’ve been a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of officiating a handful of weddings. It's fun to be part of a couple’s huge life event. Two lives come together in the sight of God, family, and friends; it's a pretty big deal. I love the excitement of it all and the awkward amusement of watching the controlling mother-in-law fiascos behind the scenes. And selfishly speaking, I’m always up for the self-restraint exercise that performing a wedding entails. Allow me to explain...

My wife and I have this unofficial tradition in the car as we’re driving on the way to weddings. We’ll be driving in silence when out of the corner of my eye, I’ll see her smirk. Then in unison we both burst out in our best impersonation of a sinister sort of laugh,


There is a singular, profound meaning to this shared laugh. You see, the couple that’s about to get married has no idea what they’re in for. The self-restraint part for me is not laughing sinisterly during the ceremony. If I did, I’m sure it’d be misunderstood.

After the wedding, many couples forget that God is still up to good even when things don’t seem good between the couple. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Get that? ALL things. Including trivial frustrations involving toilet seats and dirty laundry on the floor as well as decades long disagreements and everything in between. Take a breath. ALL things.

What They Don’t Tell You: Matrimony = Spiritual Surgery

To paraphrase my good buddy Pastor Phil Smidt, you can find all kinds of info online for “wedding planning.” But try typing in “marriage planning” and Google gets confused. No doubt, wedded bliss is a beautiful thing. Enjoy it. Just don’t panic when you realize that sometime between saying your vows and after you get home from the honeymoon (maybe during), there will be a clash of wills and most certainly disagreements. And not the cutesy, romantic comedy type that resolve in a half-hour either. When the inevitable tensions rise, there is an insidious temptation in these moments. You’ll want to check out, hold a grudge, or demand your “me time.” But this is the Great Physician’s surgery prep and you’re slated for a spiritual operation asap.

Spouse Fixer Is Not Your Job Description

Years ago I received some simple, wise advice that is highly applicable to marriage. Here it is: You can’t change people. That’s up to the Holy Spirit. Facing dilemmas in marriage is a fact of life and many times there are no clear answers. But remember, the dilemma is a gift. Because when you’re at a standstill, in a disagreement, or lacking resources, you are put into a place of dependence: dependence on Jesus. And this is the best place to be.

So here’s a word specifically for the guys in the room: sometimes you just can’t fix it. All you can do is step forward in faith with Jesus at the center of your family. The ultimate goal is not for you to be a hero husband or dad; the goal is pointing your family continuously back to the good news of what Jesus has done. This can be done in the midst of disagreement and the unknowns of life. In faith, you can walk into the unknowns with confidence that God is not finished yet.

“ You can’t change people. That’s up to the Holy Spirit."

Neighbor Love 101 and Little Marriage Annoyances

When our marriages become about telling our stories instead of God's, we’ve got it completely backwards. The temptation is either to live for personal fulfillment through your spouse or to get stuck in a sort of hand-wringing self-involvement over how you’re going to be a better spouse. Both sides of the coin are selfish. This may seem like a rabbit trail but the summation of God’s law comes to mind here. Just stick with me and you’ll see what I mean.

What is the greatest of the commandments? To love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:36-40). I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly encouraged by this summation. Because I know I’ve failed at it miserably. Heart, soul, mind, strength. Have I ever done even a single one of these perfectly one day in my life? No. And neither have you. Okay, how about love your neighbor as yourself? Well, come to think of it, my next door neighbor has been pretty annoying lately with his 7am lawn mowing. I’d have to admit that when I come home from work and he’s in his front yard, I avoid eye contact. So....yeah, no. I haven’t loved my neighbor as myself. And who is more like a neighbor than your spouse? Loved them as you love yourself? Perfectly? Everyday?

The Requirement of Perfection In Marriage

See, you and your spouse need much more than improvement. God requires perfection (Mt. 5:48). And we’ve easily dismantled the notion that you or I are perfect. So where do we get that required perfection? Jesus. We need His perfection and a foundation of forgiveness and absolution in our marriages. Marriage trouble has less to do with he said, she said, he did, she did and more to do with what God has already done in Jesus. We have everything we truly need in Jesus; we just forget as we busy ourselves telling our story by pointing to our hard work (or failure), our good moral record, or super-spouse self-image. Marriage is not about what we accomplish or even hope to accomplish. All life flows from Him in a worshipful response to what He has done that works itself out first and foremost in neighborly love to our spouses.

“ It is beautiful. Not because it’s about your story or mine, but because it’s about God's. ”

Grace Amidst Failure

As has already been clearly stated here, the Christian life is less about the upward progressing staircase of personal potential building (i.e. building a perfect marriage) and more about returning again to the cross where we tell it like it is. We all have failed at loving our neighbor. When we turn to God for grace and forgiveness, we are empowered to love our neighbor the way that God wills. Now you don’t have to live for spouse approval or grovel when you fail because you are already infinitely loved, forgiven, and accepted in Christ. Once you realize this (and RE-realize this) you’re free to love your spouse no matter what.

Beauty Amidst the Mess

My beautiful wife and I have been married ten years. We’re not veterans but we’re not exactly beginners either. Here’s one profound, awe-inspiring, worshipful truth that we’re beginning to learn along the way: Marriage isn’t primarily about the love story that exists between us, but it's about what God has done in love to involve us in His story.

There’s a whole lot of happiness to be had in marriage. But God-wrought holiness does not always come easily or feel happy—at times, it feels more like a mess. But it is beautiful. Not because it’s about your story or mine, but because it’s about God's.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thank God for Ed Welch

I admire Ed Welch, a great brother in Christ and counselor who received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I first encountered him by reading his book When People Are Big and God Is Small. Below is a great blog he wrote that deals with some recent scientific findings. I hope it gives you great perspective!

My Brain Made Me Do It?
Today’s technology is providing new windows into brain functioning.

Now we can volunteer to have our brains digitally observed by laying in a scanning device and thinking about something. Meanwhile, a researcher watches our brain in action. Think about a math problem and one part of the brain goes into a frenzy while other parts are dormant. Think about sex and a different area of the brain lights up while the logical, executive functions of the frontal lobe fall asleep. This research is fascinating, and it drives me crazy. It is being used to suggest that morality—sin and obedience—is ultimately caused by our brains.

It's Not Me, It's My Brain

This is most apparent in discussions about addiction. If your behavior releases endorphins, and you really like that endorphin high, then your endorphins made you addicted. If your behavior excites a pleasure circuit in the brain, then who are you to be able to say no to those neuronal reverberations? This is hogwash.

This Does Not Necessarily Equal That

Statistics 101 teaches there is a difference between discovering how two things might be related and discovering what causes what effect. For example, height and weight are related. Taller people tend to weigh more than shorter people. But that doesn’t mean if you gain weight you will get taller. A direct relationship between two things is not the same as a causal correlation. That’s why it took so long to put warnings on cigarette packages. Early on, the relationship was obvious, but it took years of research to demonstrate conclusively that cigarette smoking could actually cause lung caner.

Your Actions Are More Than Brain Synapses

We are taught there is a connection between brain activity and thoughts. This, of course, we knew all along. From a biblical view of a person, we can predict that every thought can be observed biologically. We are created by God as embodied. Given enough technological sophistication, we could find neurons connected to every thought, every memory, every desire. That, however, does not mean, "my brain made me do it".

“ Since our culture doesn’t understand both prongs of sin, it must look to the brain in order to make sense of being out-of-control and dominated by passions. ”

When you read articles and books that attribute moral behavior to the brain, the writer is looking for a definitive proof—text to make his or her point. The writer is not citing any credible science.

Your Brain on Sin

Of course, there is a legitimate message in this literature. People who struggle with addiction have always said they feel out-of-control. The popular diagnosis of sin is that it is deliberate and intentional. Sin, however, is intentional and enslaving. Sin says that addicts do what they want, but they are also tragically bound to their despotic desires. Since our culture doesn’t understand both prongs of sin, it must look to the brain in order to make sense of being out-of-control and dominated by passions.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Shout Out to Moms

If there were a contest as to who is the best spouse and parent in the Everson home, my wife would win hands down. She is an amazing wife and an incredible mother! I came across this blog and wanted to share it with you because it is an encouragement for every parent out there, but it is also a shout out to some incredible Moms that read this blog.

Choosing to Delight in My Children

Posted on 07.27.11 by Erin Davis

My kids tickle me pink lately. My three-year-old, Eli, keeps me laughing all day long with his constant major league baseball re-enactments and endless questions of “why?” My one-year-old, Noble, has a new “first” every day. (Today, it was saying the word “grapes.”) Watching him transform from baby to big boy is a thrill. But . . . I haven’t always felt this way.

Motherhood is tough. That’s an understatement! Let me try again—motherhood is like running a marathon uphill in your church shoes (because your toddler used your sneakers as playmates in a recent game of hide-and-seek). When looking at the big picture, being a mom looks pretty great, but navigating life among endless dirty diapers, discipline hurdles, potty training, and runny noses can choke out the joy of parenting pretty easily.

What I’ve found is that this is an area where I need to grab onto God’s Truth and hold on for dear life. Psalm 127:3-5 says,

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

How does this passage describe children? As a heritage from the Lord, a reward, and a blessing. In Genesis 33:5, Jacob describes his children as a gracious gift from God. Jesus Himself knew that children were a worthy investment of His time, and chastised His disciples for squelching their childlike faith (Matt. 19:13).

These are biblical points that look nice in cross-stitch, but are difficult to remember when the day in, day out strain of parenting starts to pile up on our shoulders. But when we forget that our children are a gift, we get discouraged, depressed, overwhelmed, and cranky. In fact, that is the exact state I found myself in most of the time during my first two years as a mom.

What changed? I simply made the choice to believe what God says about my kiddos, and to delight in my children because I know they’re a gift. We have a million opportunities to choose Truth every day. Choosing to live like I believe the specific Truth that my children are a blessing has made a huge difference in my life as a mother.

So, when my kids throw a tantrum (usually in front of a large crowd at church), I remind myself that my kids are a heritage from the Lord. When my house looks like it’s been turned upside down, I think about the fact that Eli and Noble are my reward, and that they matter so much more than spic ’n span floors. When I’d rather sleep in than dish out Cheerios before the sun rises, I focus on the fact that every morning with my kids is a blessing.

The bottom line is that delighting in our children is a choice. It’s a mothering lesson I wish I had learned sooner, but one I choose to remind myself of every time parenting gets hairy.

What delights you about your kids? What part of God’s Truth about children do you need to hold on tightly to today?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Defective Dating

Last blog I mentioned the Parent Summit that will be taking place on August 27th. The Summit is for students and parents, but the focal point of this blog and the previous one was our “Post-Conference” that will be discussing the issue of courtship. I want to say, regardless of what your personal conviction is regarding this matter, I don’t think one would have to think too deeply to conclude that they way dating is set up in our society is something pretty modern from an historical standpoint, and something that few really think biblically about. I want to take some time to simply mention some points that Joshua Harris makes about some natural defects of dating and comment on them. We will discuss these in detail at our Summit.

1. Dating tends to skip the friendship stage of a relationship: Now, there are some relationships that are an exception to this, but few. If there is no friendship and everything begins and hinges on “romantic” or hormonal feelings, it would be really difficult to discern the character of that person. When I am more concerned with getting closer physically than getting to know them better and understanding them as a person, it can be problematic.

2. Dating often mistakes a physical relationship with love: Love is a self-sacrificing commitment. When a physical relationship begins move to sinful areas it is always selfish. One is not looking for the best and desiring God’s best for the other, only that their own passions are met. A physical relationship can only skew things when determining love.

3. Dating isolates a couple from other vital relationships: I look at my life in high school, and even for a while in college, and found that at the time I really needed godly people in my life to walk with me, to hold me accountable and to confront sin - I was dating a girl and was consumed with developing a relationship that really helped me be a better boyfriend, but in truth never really enhanced me spiritually nor helped make me a better husband.

4. Dating can distract young people from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future: Serious dating does nothing to prepare someone to be a better spouse. The goal of all we do is to glorify God! The goal of our students should be to be conformed to the image of Christ so as adults they can be as arrows shot forth for the Kingdom of God. How does focusing on a few serious relationships during a 6-8 year period enhance this?

5. Dating can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness: The majority of our children will grow up and be married, but they are single for a time. They are single because there are some things they can learn. They are single to use this energy in multiple godly relationships with both sexes and to be involved in multiple areas of service in the Kingdom. There is nothing wrong with ball, band or any other activities as long as they become activities and not “jobs” and/or “gods.”

6. Dating can create an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character: My wife and I regularly go out on dates. It may or may not be a “big-to-do” but nevertheless, we enjoy taking a break from life. No cooking, no cleaning up, and usually for a short while, we are alone with no kids. It is a moment in time that gives us a break from real life. But when a dating relationship consists of…well, dates, - then everything is built around pretending to be something he/she are not. One thing they are pretending to be many times is married. They celebrate “special dates,” they romance things up and, many times all of this is promoted by parents who, for some reason become completely oblivious to what they are doing. The dating scene is not the best arena to teach about marriage, because it is artificial by nature.

7. Dating can often become an end in itself: What should be the goal of dating? Is it to find out who you want to marry? If this is so, do you really want your 14 year old princess to be a fiancé right now? If not, then what is she really trying to find out? Is it to have fun? Certainly it can be fun, but is it less fun for 7 Christian students to out than it is for two? Is it just to date? If that is your goal then it becomes the end in itself, and if this happens when does it stop? Is there a magic age when you just turn that thought off and say to yourself after 7 years of just dating to have fun, now I need to hunt for a spouse?

Again, these are just questions that, if you are like me, prior to really thinking through this biblically they never occurred to me. An alternative was never presented to me and if it was sprung on me at age 15 or 16, I would have hated it. Now, you are probably saying “So why torture your children?” - Because from about age 10, this has been taught to them, and the older they have become, the deeper our discussions have gone. Also, thank the Lord we have many parents today that see there are good, healthy, alternatives… and thankfully, wonderful books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl and so many more that help parents really think this through. If you disagree with this, come and discuss it at the conference – Again, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits dating, but there are countless verses to warn us against conducting our lives they same way the world does. So, at the very least we need to ask ourselves how our child’s relationships will be different than the worlds’.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Trinity Parent Summit

This month we will have a Parent Summit at Trinity for students and their parents! It will be an incredible day for all of our families, but I want to take today's blog and the next in order to specifically give some food for thought concerning our bonus conference during the Parent Summit.

Bro. Brad, Bro.Jeff and I will be covering the subject of Courting and discussing what this looks like in our day. If you are like me, when you first hear of "courting" you think of Andy, Aunt Bea and Opie. But it is actually a Christian alternative to dating. Now let me make myself clear - this is not a gospel issue or even fellowship issue, but it is a conviction issue and it should certainly be something that we think about. There are so many issues in our lives that we allow the world to dictate to us the way things should look - that we never take step back and ask "is this the best way for my child to be a godly husband or wife?" After all, isn't that what we are preparing our children for? I mean, it is our job to show them what marriage is, and what it means.

If you are like I was, I had never even heard of the idea of courting and I knew of Joshua Harris's book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but to be honest when it came out I simply dismissed it because of the title and because I have never really thought biblically about the idea of dating. I have taught the importance of purity to students for years, I have taught the importance of biblical manhood and womanhood to young people, but I never thought very much at all at the importance of guarding your heart until marriage. The idea that "young love" and "heart ache" is just part of growing up. But the question is...should I give my heart away in 5-7 relationships before I ever give my heart to my spouse? Even if two students are believers and they committed to purity and never to cross a line in their physical relationship (which is rare if they date any amount of time), how many emotional lines are crossed that our Lord only intends to be experienced in marriage? I want to show a little bit of my hand in the next blog for the Courting Session and bring up a few items for discussion that, regardless of what your convictions are, you need to think through these questions. But for the right now I want to bring up a few initial thoughts:

1) Does the way we date really prepare us for marriage? I dated, and the romantic feelings of new "love" was always fun, but when a "steady" relationship is formed, the tendency is to become consumed with this new interest in our life. I can count 5-7 long term relationships I had prior to meeting Michele, and the break ups that I initiated or received basically came when I found someone else I wanted to date, or because of some other selfish reason. Basically, I learned when things are too frustrating or fail to suit me, I can find someone else. Can I honestly say that having 5-7 "serious" relationships helped me be a better husband?

2) With regard to the way we "pick" who we date, does it promote a selfless, Christ-like love or is it usually selfish? I had a lot of friends in high school and to be honest, my friends had a lot of influence on who I dated. If they thought she was a pretty girl and it allowed me to gain approval it would work, however, if I tested the water and my friends laughed or said "Why would you ask her out?" I would have a change of heart. Basically, to steal an analogy from "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" I picked my girlfriend like I would pick a pair of jeans. How do they look? How do they make me look? Are they a popular pair? Do they make me comfortable? The central theme of dating becomes the concern for me. That is okay when we are dealing with jeans, but it is the opposite of Christ-like love when it comes to dating.

3) Why should I seek deep intimate commitment when I can not fulfill the role of commitment? I know when I dated I celebrated anniversary, I romanced, and with the exception of a physical relationship, we treated one another (and was treated) as a "couple." How can I play couple and act married when in truth, at 16 years old I can not make that type of commitment? When a student is in this type of relationship, it can isolate them from other vital relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ that can in fact, enable them to be a better husband or wife down the road.

Again this is not a fellowship issue: it is not a salvation issue. But most parents have never thought through the potential dangers of dating the same way the world dates. But in truth, when our marriages end up much like the world, I think we should step back and at least ask some real questions. I hope to you see at the Parent Summit.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Women And Pornography:

Below you will find an article I referred to in a sermon a couple of weeks ago. It is important for everyone, but especially our dear ladies.

Beware Romantic Pornography

I recently watched the film Sleepless in Seattle with my teen and tween daughters. I hadn’t seen this particular romantic comedy since it was first a blockbuster in 1993. I suppose I found watching the film a little bit like riding a stomach-dropping roller coaster—I have to do it every so often to remind myself why I don’t do it more frequently.

Somehow I had forgotten that Sleepless is the archetype of the treacly “rom com” of the modern age. As soon as I saw Meg Ryan uttering the word “magic” to essentially describe what was missing from the relationship with her fiance, I thought Uh-oh, here we go. It was too late to pull my girls out of the film. But it’s never too late to talk to them about the downside of chick flicks.

As a Christian mom to four school-age children, I find myself often challenging the culture. Many times this means helping my children learn to engage wisely with it. As a single mom, helping my kids to think rightly about the God-given, necessary, and wonderful differences between the genders is a subject matter I pay special attention to.

So maybe it’s for my children’s sake most of all I use the term “romantic pornography” to describe most romantic comedies.

For the record, I can enjoy a good chick flick as much as anyone. Sleepless seems almost like a caricature. But Enchanted, for instance, is hilarious. And at least it’s obviously a fairy tale.

When you’ve seen one romantic comedy you’ve of course seen them all. There is some level of confusion involving a wonderful woman and an idiotic man. He doesn’t know how romantic he really is until the wonderful woman shows him the way and reveals his fabulous, sensitive, romantic side that was aching to get out all along we find. He so wants to talk about his feelings, just like her best girlfriends! Who knew? Romantic man finally realizes he cannot live without said woman, and pursues her in an ever-so-sensitive if bumbling way. There seems to typically be a fountain involved at some point.

If it’s all not quite “magic,” it sure is fantasy.

That’s where the pornography comes in. Just as sexual pornography twists an understanding for men about real women’s bodies and sexual appetites, so romantic pornography twists the perception for women about real men and how they “ought” to behave toward women, which tends to amount to, well, behaving like a woman. I have a dear friend who once didn’t like a fellow I was dating. Among other shortcomings, he didn’t arrange spa treatments for me, she explained. Seriously. No more chick flicks for that girl.

Ultimate Husband

The notion that the ideal fellow is sensitive and devoted to his woman didn’t start with Nora Ephron or even Jane Austen, of course. Our true husband, Christ himself, “wept.” And Scripture is clear that the ultimate bridegroom jealously pursues his bride, the church. In fact romantic pornography has a ring of truth to it, which is one reason it is powerful. A man in love with a woman is stubborn in his pursuit. Hence I’ve passed down to my children the maxim my mother shared with me: “Girls don’t want a boy they have to call themselves.”

But both kinds of pornography go wrong by portraying genders as unidimensional. And the unidimension of men in romantic porn gets magnified because our mainstream culture has a “man bad, woman good” view that opposes traditionally male qualities (unless they turn up in women, but that’s another column). In a symptom of what’s going on in the culture at large, “rom coms” and many television sitcoms denigrate such traits such as aggression, competitiveness, a certain amount of stoicism, and even the desire to protect and care for a woman.

As we value such men less, it seems we are getting fewer of them. In her book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, Kay Hymowitz presents the phenomenon of the disappearing man as a group suicide being committed by young men playing Xbox in their parents’ basements. Kathleen Parker, writing in Save the Males: Why Men Matter and Women Should Care, calls it a homicide by the American culture.

Insidious Tolerance

Mainstream culture tolerates this insidious expectation for men to act like women. Any doubts? A married couple goes to a counselor, Christian or otherwise. The husband is steeped in sexual porn and dissatisfied with his wife. Is there a chance the counselor is going to encourage the wife to act more like the women her husband finds attractive online? Of course not.

Now let’s say she’s steeped in romantic films and dissatisfied with her husband. There’s an almost 100 percent chance the counselor will encourage the fellow to be more romantic and sensitive. Which might be a fine thing, except that typically it will be “sensitive” according to his wife’s definition, even if that’s not what he is wired for.

One of the marvels of marriage is that God gives us someone so different from ourselves to love. It’s easy to love someone just like me. It’s hard to love someone so fundamentally “other.” What a gift it is to be able to stretch in such different ways as we seek to love, serve, and appreciate at the deepest level an “other” who is also an image bearer.

I admit that as a woman, I want to be wanted, pursued, protected, and cared for. I also have a desire to be “known,” which I know will not be fully met in this world. But I hope that I have an accurate picture of how men as image bearers are typically built, how it’s very different from me, and why that is quite wonderful.

C. S. Lewis addressed the issue so well in his essay on chivalry:

The medieval knight brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate toward one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valor of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop.

In other words boys and men may need to be civilized, but never feminized.

At Home

I can’t fix the culture at large, but I sure hope to affect it in my own home. So I tell my girls that I want them one day to look to marry a Christian man of faithful and strong character; whom they will respect and whose distinctly male characteristics they will appreciate; that I hope they will have a group of close women friends, and that they will never get them and their husbands confused.

And yes, I tell my girls if they want to enjoy some good romantic comedies along the way, go ahead. I just encourage them to remember where fantasy meets reality, and to never, ever judge a man by whether or not he makes spa appointments for them.

Betsy Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, and a frequent contributor to Fox News Channel. She is the author of It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting our Kids and What to do About It (Putnam Books, 2005.) She is currently working on her next book, The Disappearing Man. She and her four children are members of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Hinsdale, Illinois. You can follow her on Twitter at BetsyHartSpeaks and at

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Christian?

Anders Behring Breivik is the mass murderer who attempted to murder 176 people, most of them teenagers, in Norway. The media is certainly seizing the opportunity to squeal like school-girls that this man is a “Christian Terrorist” - and you have people who are understandably upset about this! You can certainly include me in that group! But, I want to offer two thoughts concerning this horrible event caused by this madman: the first one will probably suit most just fine, the other one…well, sometimes hit dogs get a bit upset.

There are numerous reports like this one that beg us to ask if there is an agenda by the media and others to capitalize on this tragedy:

But let’s not even argue that right now. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this guy goes to a Norwegian Baptist Church, is a supporter of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the President of the Norwegian Tea Party movement. Let me just share with you a few things you will see that separates true Christians: (1) You will not see this celebrated in any TRUE Christian congregation. (2) You will not see any Christian celebrations or dancing in the streets. (3) You will not see a video that promises there will be more of this coming unless the infidels convert. (4) You will in fact, see the Christian community condemn this with one voice, regardless of denomination or leader - the Christian community will whole-heartedly despise this act.

Now, here is the more difficult and controversial statement. I believe some are a bit hypocritical to be ready to battle at the thought that this man is being portrayed as a “Christian.” Let me explain….I, as well as many other Christians have been declared as mean-spirited or judgmental when we state that little Johnny who walked down the isle and was baptized at 10 years old, but is now 30 and an open drunk and whoremonger can NOT be considered a Christian based on his lifestyle. But now I am sure many of those same people (who would defend Johnny’s one time prayer) are up in arms screaming that this man can not be what he says he is. Why? Well, I would answer because a Christian is a follower of Christ - he is a new creation living a changed life. This doesn’t mean that he/she will not sin, but it does mean that sin will not dominate their life. David murdered and tried to cover it, but ultimately was broken and repented with deep remorse. This man murdered because of open hatred towards people and (judging some quotes from his journal entries) had overwhelming ongoing hatred towards groups of people. But, I found it quite strange to hear a liberal reporter on FOX News stating in short, that if this man claims to be a Christian, who are we to judge his heart and commitment!? (I actually thought I was hearing someone speak at a Baptist Church for a moment). This is not a heart judgment, this is an activity judgment. Unrepentant willful sin with no brokenness displays that this man can claim to be whatever he wants, but he is not a person who is a new creation! This is consistent with Scripture regardless of if the man is a psychotic-murderer, or if it is sweet Mrs. “Bee” who just slanders and hasn’t controlled her tongue for the last 25 years. Too many people attempt deal with the more ongoing “acceptable sins” by pointing to Lot. The problem with pulling the “Lot card” is that you see Lot accepting sin, but not actively participating in the sin of Sodom. It would not only be a stretch to say that Lot was actively participating in Sodom’s sin, but you would have to add to Scripture and concoct a story that is not insinuated anywhere. This impacted his entire family and we are told in the New Testament that he was a miserable, righteous man, but not a homosexual or fornicator. It is true that a believer can commit any sin an unbeliever can - but to believe a “believer” can practice sin and stay in sin but because he/she prayed a prayer, but they are saved, is about as believable as saying Anders is a Christian. Now, let me be clear - a drunkard, gossip, and mass-murderer are not morally equivalent. I would much rather live next to a drunkard than a murderer, but if one were to say that you can be in any ongoing sin with no repentance and sanctification process going on—you would be a huge hypocrite to say that there is no way Mr. Anders is a Christian. As for me and countless others who will contend for the faith---we say 1st John 3:9-10.