Racism and Christ, By: Doy Moyer

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He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26).

Racism is not just a political issue, and it cannot be fixed through political means or force. It is the symptom of a much greater problem, and this is not a problem that will ever be legislated or forced away by violence. First, and even most significantly, racism is a moral and spiritual issue. It is, at its heart, a failure to understand and appreciate that all humans are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). “Human” is not a skin color or ethnicity. Being human does not depend on being a particular ethnic background. The greatest human quality is that of mirroring God’s image, and this is shared by all humans, however imperfectly.

As sin entered the scene of human history, God put a plan into effect that would allow humans to be saved from their sins and the corruption of the world. To do this, He called out a particular person, Abraham, and through him a particular nation, which came to be called Israel. Through this nation He would bring about His promises. His purpose in doing this was so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason He maintained a distinction between His chosen people and all others (gentiles) was to keep them holy as His people (see Josh 23:4-13). The danger was not in other ethnicities per se (as is seen in the fact both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles who became part of Christ’s lineage); the danger was that paganism had become standard among the nations and He wanted them to stay away from the influences that would lead them down that path of worshipping other gods.

God’s plan all along encompassed the idea that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would bring together all nations into one. This is not to say that all nations would become one big worldly kingdom. Rather, all nations would unite together in Christ as one “chosen race” and “holy nation” who would proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). In this holy nation, there are no distinctions to be made when it comes to the outward matters of skin color. In Christ, there is no “white church” or “black church.” Such distinctions are unknown to the Gospel. Should Christians, then, continue to perpetuate them? Shall we willingly participate in the worldly stereotypes that only divide?

Perhaps the earliest, most significant challenges for the church came in the form of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 15). Let’s just say they typically didn’t care for each other very much. There was initial reluctance on the part of the Jewish Christians to preach to the Gentiles, as is seen in Peter’s response to the Lord’s desire for him to go Cornelius, a Gentile soldier (Acts 10). It took a vision and a command for Peter to get it, and once he did, there was no turning back. “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (vs. 28). It may have been a bit shocking, then, for some fellow Jews to hear Peter declare:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

God’s will is that all come to repentance, that all will come to the knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4). Racism is a denial that Christ died for all. It is a denial of God’s desire for all to know the truth. It is a denial of the unity desired by the Lord. It is a denial of the gospel. It is sin.

Again, Peter said, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). Everyone. No one is out in this endeavor.

Political agendas will be what they are. God’s people need to transcend the clamor and evil trappings of the world in order to be what God intends. To be effective in reaching out to the world, we cannot pull back our hands because those of another person are a different shade. All hands are made by the same God, who desires all to be in His fellowship. Dare we deny this most important desire of God?

In truth, there is only one race. It is the human race. And there is only one holy nation, comprised of all of God’s people, who transcend the boundaries and borders of worldly kingdoms and earthly cultures. May God help us all to see all humans for who they really are—made in His image, fallen, and in need of His grace and mercy.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/01/racism-and-christ.html

 

The Vision of a Blind Man, By: Doy Moyer

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“Why was this man born blind?” the disciples wondered. Was it because he sinned or because his parents sinned? “Neither,” responded Jesus, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man didn’t know that he was about to become the object of a miracle. His purpose now was to display the greatness of God. People knew he was blind from birth; they also knew that one blind from birth doesn’t just start seeing. Jesus spat on the ground, made clay and applied it to the eyes of the blind man. He then instructed the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9:1-7). Oh, is that all?

This event is told in such simple terms — no fluff or pomp added. That in itself is amazing. Doesn’t that suggest that God wants us to be struck by the simple truth? Truth needs no embellishments. It is what it is. The facts themselves are awesome.

Now that’s not the end of the story. People were amazed at what happened. How does a blind man suddenly see? They took him to the Pharisees, who cross-examined him in no kind way; and the man held up quite well. Why? Because he caught vision — not just the ability to physically see, but a vision of who Jesus was: “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33). The man hit it right on the nose. Not only could he now see, he could now see.

Then there were the Pharisees, demonstrating once again their self-righteous inability to see what was most important. What was their first impression of the One who made the blind man see? “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (9:16). So much for Jesus — how dare He heal a man on the Sabbath! Some were a little more honest: “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” They basically dismissed the evidence because of their own bias. How did they respond to the man’s point about Jesus being from God? “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out. How’s that for honesty? They could see, but they couldn’t see.

After the man was put out, Jesus found him again and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.

The point of this miracle should be clear: Jesus can open our eyes! His power to open the eyes of the physically blind demonstrated His power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. But we must be willing. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some Pharisees asked, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” What does that mean?

Men are responsible for what they are able to receive and do. But if pride keeps one from receiving truth, he will be condemned. They thought they knew the law concerning the Sabbath better than Jesus, and they condemned Him for healing on that day: “We see.” Therefore, their pride and self-confidence left them condemned. As long as people are proud, self-sufficient, and confident in their own wisdom, they cannot receive forgiveness of sins from God: “your sin remains.” On the other hand, if people recognize their complete dependence upon God and His ways, coming to Him with humble hearts, confessing their ignorance and their sins, God will forgive.

This is where our vision begins. We are blind. We dare not trust our own wisdom and ways. We must see the vision of Jesus, the Great Redeemer and Savior, then respond in faith: “Lord, I believe.” We must worship and praise Him. As we humble ourselves before God, we will begin to see the light of the gospel shining on the path to heaven. But if we think, “we see,” that we have it all figured out by ourselves, the path will remain in darkness. It all starts with an attitude of humility toward God. Let us pray that Isaiah’s prophecy of spiritual blindness be not fulfilled in us (Matt. 13:14-15). Instead, may the Lord say about us, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (vs. 16). What have you seen lately?

Doy Moyer

The Greatest Commandment, By Doy Moyer

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Matt 22:34-40

Why is loving God the greatest commandment? In a nutshell, because it gets to the foundation of our true motivation for serving God. It strips away our pretensions and forces us to come to terms who we really are and what our purposes are.

There are some commands that we can outwardly and ritualistically do by rote. We can attend assemblies. We can mouth the words of songs and prayers, we can take the bread and fruit of the vine of the Lord’s Supper, and we can put on an outward show that may fool those around us. But loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind is not something that we can ultimately fake. The actions are outward, but this command goes to the very depth of our being. We don’t want simply to be “attenders”; we want to be sacrifices.

Sometimes we focus on the outward items, but must never neglect the heart and mind. Loving God this way means giving him every fiber of our being — truly denying self and giving ourselves as complete sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him (Rom 12:1-2).

God has never accepted mere ritualism. Just read the prophets, where you will find some of the strongest rebuke and judgment geared toward ritualism (cf. Isa 1). It wasn’t acceptable then; it isn’t acceptable now. God deserves our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Nothing is left untouched.

To see this point even more, let’s look to a couple other passages:

1. Matthew 15. Recall that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees here for placing their tradition on par with or above God’s commandments. Then, He quoted Isaiah: You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors ME with their lips, But their heart is far away from ME. ‘But in vain do they worship ME, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

This is taken from Isaiah 29, where God is, in no uncertain terms, pronouncing judgment on a wicked and obstinate people — His people here, Jerusalem, not the surrounding nations. According to verse 13, their “reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” There was no heart and soul in their relationship with God, and so they were ripe for idolatry, deaf and blind like the idols they served, unable to appreciate what God had done for them.

2. Deuteronomy 6, where the original command to love God with all the heart was given. Here we should notice the close connection to the first of the Ten Commandments. After the initial command is given to love God, He then tells them to pass the instruction on to their children, to make it permanent, not just on the frontals of their foreheads or the doorposts of their houses and gates, but in their hearts. They were to make sure they remembered this as they entered the land and built their houses and enjoyed the fruit of the land. Why? Verses 12-15 answers: “then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

What intrigues me here is the relationship to the first of the Ten Commandments: 1) Have no other gods before Me; 2) Make no graven images; 3) Do not take the Lord’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. In Deuteronomy, He says to fear only the Lord, worship Him and swear by His name; don’t follow any other gods.

Here’s the point. A person might outwardly keep the Sabbath. A person might not make a graven image. He may not even take the Lord’s name in vain through falsely swearing by Him. A man might do that without truly loving God. But the one thing he could not do without loving God with all the heart, was to have no other gods before Him. How so? Having another god before Yahweh was more than just having a material image to bow down to; it is more than outward action. It is deeply connected to what is in the heart. If a man places, in his own mind, anything before God Almighty, then he has violated the point of this command.

So it is with us, for if God is not first in all, then, we have made gods of ourselves. Loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind places our own deaf and blind gods, whether in mind or in material, on the altar to be burned up and forever laid to rest.

Doy Moyer

viahttp://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/10/the-greatest-commandment.html

A People Set For Restoration

This week I posed what I suspected would be a valuable question: “In your experience, or studied understanding, what are some “poor excuses” for multiple churches/congregations who “teach the same things” in a given locality? Feel free to respond privately as well.” I received a wide range of responses both publicly and in a private format.  At a later point I will address some of those comments. For today I thought it best to consider how things are, rather than how did get here. With that in mind, and know that many hurt as I do about the deep divison among those who claim to follow the Christ

Be Forgiving

If you really want reconciliation, our foremost importance is the ability to forgive and let the hardness of the past fade. We all know it hurt, but will it not hurt more to let the injury exist untended?

21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22J*sus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.g

23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.h 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.i 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servantj fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,k and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,l until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)

Be Ready for Forgivness

I have lost track of how often folks worry so deeply if the one they hurt will or could ever forgive them. When they finally build up the courage they need to beg for forgiveness they often behave with such amazement! They wonder how it is they could ever have waited so long to have things right again. If you really want to be a person set for reconciliation, be ready to accept forgiveness openly.

7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her,“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.b The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:7-15 ESV)

Be A Disciple

Jesus declared a simple truth:

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15 ESV)

Instill within yourself a deep love of Christ, and you will find yourself seeking to be at peace with God and if possible all men. Were there one thing you could do to help build a bridge, it would be to teach people to love the Christ.

Be An Example

Finally make sure you show reconciliation both in matters involving those who claim Christ, but also to all men.

6If you put these things before the brothers,a you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and strive,b because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,c so that all may see your progress. 16Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV)

Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex, by Anne Marie Miller

Dear Parents,

Please allow me a quick moment to introduce myself before we go much further. My name is Anne Marie Miller. I’m thirty-three years old. I’m newly married to a wonderful man named Tim. We don’t have any children yet, but we plan to. For the purpose of this letter, you need to know I’m a recovering addict. Pornography was my drug of choice.

I grew up in the church – the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher man with a passion for learning the Bible. I was the honors student; the athlete; the girl who got along with everyone from the weird kids to the popular ones. It was a good life. I was raised in a good home.

It was 1996, I was sixteen, and the Internet was new. After my family moved from a sheltered, conservative life in west Texas to the ethnically and sexually diverse culture of Dallas/Fort Worth, I found myself lonely, curious, and confused.

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Because of the volatile combination of life circumstances: the drastic change of scenery when we moved, my dad’s depression, and a youth pastor who sexually abused me during my junior year of high school, I turned to the Internet for education. I didn’t know what certain words meant or if what the youth pastor was doing to me was good or bad and I was too afraid to ask. What started as an innocent pursuit of knowledge quickly escalated into a coping mechanism.

When I looked at pornography, I felt a feeling of love and safety – at least for a brief moment. But those brief moments of relief disappeared and I was left even more ashamed and confused than when I started. Pornography provided me both an emotional and a sexual release.

For five years I carried this secret. I was twenty-one when I finally opened up to a friend only because she opened up to me first about her struggle with sexual sin. We began a path of healing in 2001 and for the last twelve years, although not a perfect journey, I can say with great confidence God has set me free from that addiction and from the shame that followed. I returned to school to study the science behind addiction and family dynamics.

Over the last six years I’ve had the opportunity to share my story in a variety of venues: thousands of college students, men, women and teens. This summer, I was invited to speak at several camps to both junior high and high school students and it’s without exaggeration when I tell you with each year I counsel students, the numbers and the stories shock me more and more.

There are more students compulsively looking at pornography at younger ages and with greater frequency than ever before.

This summer, by a long stretch, was the “worst” in terms of what secrets I learned students carried. After my last night speaking at my last camp, I retreated to my room and collapsed on the bed face-first. Tim simply laid his hand on my back to comfort me.

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I could not logically reconcile in my mind all the confessions I heard over the summer with the children who shared them. While every story was unique in the details, in most situations, there were three common themes that kept surfacing.

  1. Google is the new Sex-Ed: Remember the first time you, as a parent, saw pornography? Likely it was a friend’s parent who had a dirty magazine or maybe you saw something somebody brought to school. Now, when a student hears a word or phrase they don’t understand, they don’t ask you what it means (because they fear getting in trouble). They don’t ask their friends (because they fear being ashamed for not knowing). They ask Google.Google won’t judge them for not knowing. Because of our short attention spans and desire for instant gratification, they don’t click the first link that shows up – they go straight to Google Images. In almost all of the stories I heard, this is how someone was first exposed to pornography – Google Image searching. The average age of first exposure in my experience was 9 years old.Google Sex Image Search
  2. If Your Child was Ever Molested, You Likely Don’t Know: Another extremely common theme was children being inappropriately touched, often by close family members or friends. When I was molested at sixteen, I didn’t tell a soul until I was in my twenties. I didn’t tell my own mother until I was twenty-eight. The stigma and shame of being a victim coupled with the trauma that happens with this experience is confusing to a child of any age: our systems weren’t made to process that event. Many things keep children from confessing abuse: being told they’ve made it up or are exaggerating, being a disappointment, and in most cases, getting the other person in trouble. While a child can look at pornography without being abused, children who have been molested by and large look at pornography and act out sexually.
  3. Your Child is Not the Exception: After speaking with a youth pastor at a camp, he said most parents live with the belief their child is the exception. Your child is not. The camps I went to this summer weren’t camps full of children on life’s fringes that one would stereotypically believe experience these traumatic events or have access to these inappropriate things. You must throw your stereotypes aside. Most of the children at these camps were middle class, mostly churched students. Let me give you a snapshot of a few things I heard from these students:
  • They’ve sent X-rated photos of themselves to their classmates (or received them).
  • They’ve exposed themselves to strangers on the Internet or through sexting.
  • They’ve seen pornography.
  • They’ve read pornography.
  • They’ve watched pornography.
  • The girls compare their bodies to the ones they see in ads at the mall or of actresses and keep those images hidden on their phone (or iPod, or whatever device they have) so they can try to imitate them.
  • They question their sexuality.
  • They’ve masturbated.
  • They know exactly where and in what movies sex scenes are shown and they watch them for sexual gratification.
  • They’ve had a homosexual experience.

And they’re terrified to tell you.

But maybe you’re right. Maybe your child is the exception. I would argue at this juncture in life, being the exception is as equally dangerous.

At the end of every session I presented I intentionally and clearly directed students to ask me or another leader if they didn’t understand or know what a certain word meant. “Do not go to the Internet and look it up.”

Sure enough, there is always the child who stays behind until everyone leaves and quietly asks what the word “porn” means or if God is angry because that boy or girl from down the street told them it was okay for them to touch them “down there.” There is the child in the back row who leans over to his friend and asks, “what does molest mean?” and the other boy shrugs.

This summer, I am beyond grateful that mature, God-fearing adults were available to answer those questions with grace and tact and maturity; that we were in a setting that was safe for questions and confessions. It was entirely appropriate. Not every child gets that opportunity. Most won’t. Most will find out from the Internet or from a peer who isn’t equipped to provide the correct answer in the correct context.

Parent and Child

As the summer camp season ends, I feel a shift in my heart. For the last six years, I’ve felt a calling to share with students how God has set me free from the shame and actions of my past and that they aren’t alone (because they truly believe they are). One college dean referred to me as “the grenade we’re tossing into our student body to get the conversation of sex started” because they realized how sweeping these topics under the rug caused their students to live trapped and addicted and ashamed. I will continue sharing my testimony in that capacity as long as there is a student in front of me that needs to hear it.

However, I am more aware now more than ever before in my ministry how little parents know about what’s happening. And because I’m not a parent, I feel terribly inadequate in telling you this.

But I can’t not tell you. After seeing the innocence in the eyes of ten year olds who’ve carried secrets nobody, let alone a child, should carry; after hearing some of the most horrific accounts from students I’ve ever heard this year, I cannot go one more day without pleading with you to open up and have these difficult conversations with your children. Would you prefer your son or daughter learn what a “fetish” is from you or from searching Google Images? Talk to them about abuse and yes, even trafficking.

Just this month I met a relative of a girl whose own mother was selling her body from the time she was five until now, when she’s sixteen. This was not in some drug-infested ghetto. It was in a very upscale town in a very upscale state known for its nature and beauty and summer houses.

Your children need to know. If not for them, maybe for a friend. Maybe they can help bring context or see warning signs.

Ask them what they know. Ask them what they’ve done. Ask them what’s been done to them. Show grace and love. Stay far away from judgment and condemnation. If you feel ill equipped, ask a pastor or counselor for help. If you hear an answer you didn’t expect and your first instinct is to dismiss it – don’t. Find a counselor. Look for resources. Continue following up. If you struggle with this (and let’s admit it, statistically, a lot of us do), get help too.

Do the right thing, the hard thing, for the sake of your children. If we don’t do this now, I am terrified of how the enemy will continue stealing hope and joy from our youngest generation and how they’ll be paralyzed to advance the Kingdom of God as they mature.

We cannot let this happen on our watch.

*Specific details that could identify children have been changed in such a way that it does not affect the story and only protects the children. Mandatory Reporters reported confessions that involved abuse or neglect or situations that indicated a child was in any type of danger by using proper state laws and procedures.

Via: http://www.annemariemiller.com/2013/08/19/three-things-you-dont-know-about-your-children-and-sex/

“You May Now Kiss the Bride” by Cindy Dunagan

via Focus Magazine, No. 98, April, 2008.

Sexual purity. What virtue is more difficult to instill in our teenagers than purity of heart? No one needs to tell you we are living in an ultra-sexualized culture where your teenagers will be continually surrounded with sexual temptation. This roaring lion (I Peter 5:8-9) is a computer click, radio station button, and TV channel away. Many of the ones your teens will spend the day with at school are not only sexually active — they are advertising themselves as so. It is no wonder we are losing more teenagers to fornication than any other temptation. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and I share your concern — yet there is good news.

Recently I attended two weddings where the bride and groom experienced their first kiss together on their wedding day upon the words, “You may now kiss your bride.” The first time I attended such a wedding, despite being relatively well acquainted with the family, I did not know until sometime after the wedding that this vibrant, college-age couple had made such a goal. With the second couple, I only knew of their commitment to this atypical standard because we are very close friends with the family. Both couples were clearly motivated by a sincere desire to honor God and one another by making this sacrifice. Neither reflected an arrogant or “holier than thou” attitude. How admirable.

Shortly after one of these weddings, my daughter posted a little survey on her blog, which read,

[This couple] courted for a year and didn’t kiss before they were married…. What are your thoughts on what is appropriate physical affection before marriage? How will your children be raised to date/court compared to how you were raised? Do you ever wish your dating/ courting years were more or less physically involved?

As would be expected, responses varied greatly. One stated she could never resist kissing because she enjoys it way too much. I could see her point. What is not to like? Another respected those who chose not to kiss, but had once broken up with someone because she realized by kissing her boyfriend she was not physically attracted to him.

A mother of a bride wrote,

Not kissing before marriage was her choice, not our rule. But she came to the decision after reading about courtship, and deciding that purity begins in the mind and heart, and they need to be educated. [My husband] and I dated for a year before we were married, and did kiss. After reading the same things [my daughter] did, educating myself and looking back, I wish we had waited too. It’s a piece of your purity that is precious and should be saved.

How wise for this mother to realize that the only way her daughter was able to successfully achieve her goal was that it was deeply part of her own heart, and not something that was only valued in the hearts of her parents.
One young bride wrote,

[My husband] and I didn’t kiss before “you may kiss the bride” …it made our dating relation-ship unique to the others that we have had and made our relationship so much more than physical attraction. It also made our wedding day even more anticipated. However, I don’t believe that it is wrong to kiss your boyfriend/ girlfriend… but I wouldn’t change our decision if I had to do it over again!

She went on to explain that both she and her husband had previously kissed other people. How encouraging to be reminded that although a girl has kissed in her past, if she decides to save the rest of her kisses for her future husband, she can!

Another bride also had wise advice for those who would start afresh:

[My husband] and I kissed before we were married — but at a point in our relationship, we had to make the decision that we needed to stop because it was becoming a focus in the relationship. As we got to know each other better and learned to balance stuff in our relationship, we were able to gradually reintroduce it. … [My husband] was the only guy I’ve ever kissed and I feel like it’s a very special thing. I think it depends on the individual couple — if kissing is the focus of the relationship, it’s not a good thing. I think I definitely want to teach my kids that they shouldn’t devalue themselves or the importance of relationships by kissing every person willy-nilly.

What are some practical steps successful parents have taken to encourage purity in their teenagers?

  • Nurture a chose relationship with your teens and enjoy your relationship with them. Your opinion should be the most important influence as they are deciding whom they will date, and how they will date.
  • Sit down with your teens and discuss or even list the ways teens show affection in their relationships and where they have determined to draw the line to keep their own hearts pure. Lack of communication, gray lines, and blurry standards can lead to compromise and excuses.
  • List with your teens all the blessings and benefits you can think of for guarding one’s purity, and as many specific consequences for sexual compromise you can think of.
  • Delay dating years as long as possible. When your teens do date, consider confining it to double or group dating, or better yet, primarily in the presence of family.
  • Read books with your teens such as Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye (also available on DVD), which is really more about dating wisely than not dating at all. Another popular Josh Harris book is Boy Meets Girl. You probably will not agree with everything the author proposes in either book, but many successful families have found these books chock-full of practical, wise advice and motivation to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 12:1-2).
  • Only allow media and technology in your house that does not put a stumbling block in the way of your teenagers. If you allow a MySpace blog, visit it frequently, and let them know in a friendly way you will be doing so. Many Christians are allowing http://www.pleonast.com as a safer alternative. Avoid televisions and computers in bedrooms. Even with parental controls and blockers, the spiritual disadvantages often far outweigh the advantages.
  • Many families present to their teens, on the birthday that marks for them the beginning of their dating years, a “purity ring” symbolizing their son or daughter’s promise to God and himself or herself to remain pure. It is often given by the father and is worn until it is replaced with a wedding ring. The ring is saved as an heirloom to give to the son or daughter’s own child one day. While the ring obviously has no inherent power, like a wedding ring, it is a reminder of a very holy commitment.

I see guarding the purity of our hearts when we are so very much in love with our future spouse as one of the most challenging expectations from God. Yet the reward of choosing to replace physical intimacy with emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy during courtship has a definite advantage. It prevents the natural progression of lust, which by its nature grows more and more alluring. Not playing with lust also gives couples better clarity as to whether they are together for more substantial reasons than sexual chemistry, thus allowing a deep, real love to develop. Although it puts stress on the relationship to deny oneself the fun of kissing, it is less stressful than feeling guilt, being dishonest with parents, and trying to stop the lust that can feel like a speeding train, which so often follows kissing. No one is saying that it is always sinful to kiss, yet many wise young people are discovering a clear spiritual advantage to staying off “first base” altogether, in order to avoid “second and third base.”

Each and every one of us was created with no greater desire than to love and be loved. God promises in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The two couples whose weddings I attended are beautiful and refreshing examples of love, self-control, and the full joy God wants for each of us. The word of God is powerful and by it you too can raise teenagers whose faith is stronger than the pull of sexual temptation.

Growing Up with Social Media

via Letterbox:

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As society hurtles towards its increasingly digital future, we all have to accept that children are starting their journey into the online world at a much younger age than any of us did and experience far fewer barriers (they’ll never know how lucky they are not to hear a dial-up tone). LETTERBOX has been looking into the effects that the digital age is having on younger minds and has generated the fascinating infographic below that’s teeming with interesting details.

For example, did you know that there are more than 5 million users below the age of ten on Facebook, despite the minimum age requirement being 13? Of these users, over 200,000 of them are aged six or younger. These statistics and others listed below all point to the incredible fact that the average age for a child to start regularly consuming online media is now only 8-years-old.

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Some of the statistics covered in our infographic may seem shocking, but they’re not necessarily doom and gloom statistics. Here at LETTERBOX, we realise that the future of entertainment is increasingly becoming screen-based, but we believe there can be a healthy balance between traditional entertainment and online interaction in your child’s life.

Talking to mothers of young children, we found that the online safety of youngsters is a very common worry. Amelia Henderson, a 34-year-old mother from Kent told us about her own concerns.

“My nine-year-old was so insistent that she wanted a Facebook account, but I was so worried about her signing up. I’m glad to see from this research that my concerns are a common challenge for young people online,” she said. “Children’s tablets and other online parental tools are giving me the confidence that the web can be safe.”

One innovation we are planning to bring into the LETTERBOX collection in time for our autumn catalogue is the Kurio children’s tablet computer. This 7-inch Android powered device features extensive and easily configurable parental settings. These can control when and for how long the tablet can be used, what can be viewed online, which apps can be accessed and many other aspects. The Kurio isn’t a dumbed down child’s tablet, but is a fully featured device that has been designed and optimised for a younger audience.

We still strongly believe that traditional values are an important part of every childhood, even with the surge in interactive media and online interaction outlined in this infographic. Our collection will always include traditional fun such as doll houses, learning toys, outdoor games and so much more to keep children’s playful imaginations as bright as they always have been.