Prism of Perspective
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
May 12, 2012 | 3579 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Went to the eye doctor yesterday to get new glasses.  I've been needing new glasses for quite some time now as it's been probably 5 or 6 years since I last had my eyes checked.  The world, it seemed to me, had started growing "a little cloudy" or blurry.  Certain small fields of my vision were perfectly clear, but others it seemed could not be brought into focus.

I sat through the battery of tests where they show you the little farmhouse off in the distance, the "little pufts of air" for each eye, and the dilation drops which turns regular sunshine into something bordering on offensive.  In the end, it turns out my eye glasses were just really scratched up.  There were no changes to my vision, but my perspective had changed because of what my glasses had been through.  I was looking at a perfectly clear world through a bad set of glasses.

As I walked, squinty-eyed, to my car, I began to think of a conversation I had with a friend earlier that week about the whole gay marriage debate.  My friend, who is a Christian, felt that people could be born gay.  Not that he was completely convinced of it, but leaned toward that as he has also held the opinion that not everything in the Bible is true.  It was a very interesting conversation for me, because I like rational discussion with rational people who can explain their position without finger-pointing and name calling.  For my friend, it all seemed to revolve around the concept of a question: How could two people, mutually committed to each other in love, be wrong?

I conceded that I have seen some gay/lesbian couples in relationships that seemed far more loving, healthy, and even "more Christian" than some Christian marriages.  However, I still held the view that it was wrong, simply because the Bible very clearly spells out that homosexuality is wrong.  Where I think my perspective differs from others is that homosexuality is wrong, but it is no more grievous or wrong than the other sins of fornication or adultery.  For that matter, homosexuality is no more wrong than any other sin.

I think there is too much focus on homosexuality being wrong, and not enough focus on simply loving people where they are, regardless of where they are.  This is not in any way a condoning of homosexuality, but it is my view that it is not only useless to condemn people for it, it is also hypocritical.  As abhorrent as the idea of homosexuality is to some people, every single one of us is equally abhorrent in the eyes of a perfect sinless God without Jesus Christ in our lives.  Only by the blood of Christ are we made perfect.  I believe it is enough that the Bible condemns homosexuality (and all sin), there is no need for me to do so.

Because of my acceptance of Christ, I am forgiven, loved, and accepted.  I will not lose my place of relationship with Him, nor will I ever exhaust His love and forgiveness for sins.  I can accept that I will do wrong things, for nothing prevents my sinful flesh from being tempted, and I am still just as human as anyone unsaved.  The difference in my life is an acceptance of forgiveness, a recognition of right and wrong behavior according to the Bible, and a desire to please my Savior through a life that is pleasing to Him.

And what would be pleasing to Him?  Should I then, as a forgiven, loved, and accepted son of God, run around finger-pointing and name-calling?  Or rather, should I be just as accepting and loving of others as Christ was of me?

To my friend, I made it clear that while the Bible may actually speak of some people being born not attracted to the person of the opposite sex (Mt 19:12), the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is wrong.  The greater explanation is that maybe these people were born to serve God unencumbered by marriage (I Cor 7), and that while others may be tempted by sexual sin with someone of the opposite sex, there is no way the devil would leave these people untempted by sexual sin, and so we have the sin of homosexuality.

I wish I could get into all the aspects of the topic we talked about as the discussion was very interesting.  I am convinced that what confuses people on the topic is not what the Bible says, but where we stand on our perspective.  Just like my glasses were scratched up and had affected my vision, if we see this sin-scratched world first and try to align it with what we know about the Bible, our perspective will be skewed.  However, when we look through the clear prism of the Bible first at the world, we then see the world as God sees it.

There is no need to justify the world of sin to relate to it, Jesus justified all who would accept His payment on the cross.  Homosexuality is no less wrong than any other sin just because it is forgiven, the difference is a recognition of what is right and wrong, and a born-again life that seeks to please God.  As God sought you in your sin, to redeem you to Himself, so ought we show the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God that is available to all regardless of where they are in life.

The Value of Identity
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
May 05, 2012 | 3120 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

"Who are you?"  My daughter had been parading through the house with just about every piece of plastic jewelry she could find in her toy chest on her person along with parts of two or three different princess costumes.  Oh, and sunglasses.  "I'm a princess," she responded and began to tell me her own little tale about the world she lived in.  It was fascinating to just watch her play.

It reminds me of another story, this one not so pleasant, about a young man who was having a hard time with life.  His parents divorced when he was a child, he took up drugs and alcohol and had taken a job as DJ at an old bar.  His story began like everyone else who comes into this world, but quickly took its own path somewhere along the way, and he began asking the questions we all eventually ask: "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"  Not finding any answers, depression overcame his will to live and he took his own life.

Even for Christians, this question is hard for many to answer.  Ask anyone on the street, "Who are you?" and if they aren't feeling to suspicious of your motives you may get their name, but the name of a person is not who they are.  My name is John Bagwell, but who is John Bagwell, and why is he here on this earth?  Stop and think about it for a moment before continuing on, for the question of "Who are you?" is not one of asking your name, but your identity.

You see, your identity is not just who you are, it also gives you purpose and context in life.  Walk up on a car accident and you will see all kinds of people with identities.  A policeman, an EMT, a wrecker driver . . . and they all are doing something.  They are not haphazard about what they are doing either.  It is an orchestra of motion, each person with their identity doing their job according to their identity and the context of the situation.  Then there are also the bystanders.  "Who are you?"  "What is your purpose here?"

The bystanders have no identity here, they have no purpose here, and so they stand around and do nothing.  So many people in life are still searching for their identity.  For many who do not find it, they ultimately end up standing around, doing nothing while life passes them by.  They do not know who they are, so they have no purpose and life for them is meaningless.

If you are a Christian, allow me to help you just a little bit on the path of identity, for who you are now is not who you were.  Romans 6:6 "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, . . ." (You may also see Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:9).  Too many Christians today are trying to walk around with two identities.  They have their old identity as a sinner, but have failed to let the dead weight fall as someone who has been born again.  They have a new heart, but still carry the old identity, and so they do not know who they are.

To discover your identity as a Christian, let's take a look at another few verses from the Bible.  Try reading just Ephesians 6: 14 - 17 and see if a picture does not develop.  There we read of different types of armor for the body, a helmet, a sword, and a shield.  Who operates this type of equipment?  Get the picture?

As Christians, we are soldiers bred for battle, but not a war of flesh and blood.  It is a warfare fought in the minds and hearts of men, and evil fears who you are and what you are capable of doing, for within you dwells the presence and power of the Almighty.  "Who are you?"  Well, what is that in your hand?  You have a sword and a shield and armor to fight, so stop standing on the sidelines and become engaged in the battle before you so that at the end of this life on earth you may say, 2Timothy 4:7 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"

Intolerant Atheism
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Apr 28, 2012 | 6837 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

As a Christian and a parent, I wish to both protect my children from the dangers of the world while at the same time educating them about the problems they will face in life.  Sometimes this comes by way of learning experiences when things happen to them, and other times it comes by way of an event they happen to witness.  Then there are those teachable moments when something happens outside of their perception, and you actually bring it to the attention of your child so they can see and understand.  Such was the case when I read an article yesterday.

I want my children to be aware of bullying, how and why it happens, and to be able to defend both themselves and others from the practice of bullying by others.  However, when I read the article yesterday, it kind of set the whole thing of bullying and intolerance in its proper perspective.  You can read the article here: "Anti-Bully Speaker Bullies Christians"

When you read the article, what strikes me most is that Dan Savage, the speaker invited to address specifically the topic of bullying, is a known homosexual, yet many Christians still went to hear him speak - not to judge him, hold up signs, heckle or protest, but to listen with an open mind.  They certainly didn't go there to be bullied.  The audience?  Teenagers.  Not a group of adults, but kids.  What happened next is all too typical of what happens by the same people who call Christians intolerant.

Dan Savage chose this moment to address his personal views about Christianity rather than talk about what he was actually there for.  Instead of talking about bullying, he cursed, name called, and generally bullied anyone in the audience who was a Christian.  Exactly what he was there to speak against, he began to do.  The Christian response?  They got up to simply walk away.  They did not scream, yell, protest, or anything.  They quietly rose up and walked out.  Dan Savage's response?  He name calls and bullies them even more.  Typical.

How does he justify this behavior?  He makes a claim leveled by many by saying "there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong."  This is wrong on two counts.  First, there are not "many people" doing anything even remotely like "gay bullying" and there is not one single account I have heard of where someone specifically used the Bible as their justification for bullying gays.  The Bible does say homosexuality is wrong, but as soon as some idiot bully happens to bully someone who is gay, it is people like Savage that assume the context must be the person was using the Bible condemnation of homosexuality as the cause of the gay bullying.  Again, typical.

Savage is but the tip of the ice-burg.  The situation in that moment all too clear.  Christians, when bullied, are expected to remain silent and are expected to take it, while if the same speech had been given anywhere in the nation by any Christian leader, that Christian speaker would have been labeled a "hate-monger" and accused of inciting "hate-crimes" against gays.  Savage is a hypocrite, and a bully.  Savage is also just one of many who persecute Christianity and Christians in general for no other reason than that they are Christian.  They like to lift their own banner of "free speech" while conveniently labeling any dissent "hate-speech not covered under free speech", and seek to remove the freedom of religion.

It is one more example I am going to use to educate my daughters about what they will face as a Christian.  It is a lesson about intolerant people claiming Christians are intolerant, bullying by those who claim to help the bullied, and hypocrisy from the same people who point the finger at others claiming they are hypocrites.  Dan Savage, as is the case with those who hate and do not understand Christianity, is simply ignorant.  My task in educating my children will be to teach them how to deal with that ignorance, intolerance and oppression, simply because they are Christians.

The Hunger Games, Bully, and Teen Violence
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Apr 21, 2012 | 4438 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Some few months ago, my wife started talking about this book she was reading called "The Hunger Games".  I asked her to give me the basic plot outline, and during the telling she mentioned the books were quite controversial because of the violence.  Then about a month ago there was a lot of talk about the movie "Bully".  There was a lot of controversy over the nature of the movie, again, because of the violence, and there were a lot of people wondering if kids should be allowed to see either movie.

My wife and I talked about the controversy, and she made a good point in that it was not the violent acts everyone was complaining about, but the rather that the violence was being perpetrated by teens.  Two weeks prior to this conversation, I went to watch the movie John Carter and in that movie, the lead character beheads one of the aliens and everyone cheers.  In Star Wars - Attack of the Clones, a Jedi knight beheads Jango Fett in front of his son Boba.  Never a word from the media about any controversy there.  While we are not allowed to see the actual beheading take place in either movie, there is a dramatic thud as the head of the character visibly hits the ground after their respective confrontations.

In the world we live in today, violence is everywhere for teens to view, but there is no outcry.  They are saturated with it in movies, video games, and all other forms of entertainment, but there is a sense that "it's just entertainment" and that "kids understand the difference."  I'm not one to disagree on the face of it, but there is another side of me that says all this has to be having some effect on how kids and teenagers perceive their world.  Or is it a reflection of how far we have already come?

In one of the more recent news reports regarding the movie "Bully", it showed a small handful of teenagers who were allowed to view a small portion of the movie and give their opinions.  Their response to the movie?  "That's how it is with teenagers in school today."  My response: "Yeah, that's pretty much how I remember it, too."

I remember seeing a gang of guys in high school jump one single guy and nearly beat him to death because he insulted the girlfriend of one of the other guys.  I've seen fistfights that left some kids in pools of blood while the offender got a week off from school and maybe a week or two of in-school suspension.  I also remember quite clearly being involved in such brawls myself, sometimes managing to put up a good fight, and other times not so much.  I've heard every cuss word, insult, and degrading remark hurled between teenagers both male and female.  What's more, as a teacher in a private school for a short time, I've been witness to some of the same things.  The reaction of parents to these reports?  "Not my kid" and "It couldn't have been as bad as they're making it sound" and "I didn't raise my child to behave that way."

This leads me to my conclusion.  The uproar over the violence in movies among teens is misdirected.  The movies, I believe, are simply showing us a reflection of the society we have become.  Violence among teens exists in all its ugly forms.  So why is it that there is such an outcry against the movies?  Again, my opinion, but I think it has to do with where the responsibility really lies.  If the violence is in the movies, it is easy to finger point there, but when it exists in the real world, the finger has to be pointed at the parents.

I'd encourage any parent to go see "The Hunger Games" and "Bully" with their child/children and have the hard conversations about violence among teens afterward.  I'd also encourage parents to be more attentive when your kid talks about violence in school in any form, and equally aware of when someone says something is going on with your child acting a certain way and not jump to the "My kid is an angel" or "My kid would never . . ." routine.

Biblically speaking, all the passages about "turn the other cheek" and those that speak against violence are not to be taken out of context (though if you will scroll down to the comments section you will have glaring examples of such).  The Biblical principle of non-violence is one that teaches Christians not to fan the flames of an already hostile or tense situation.  We are to seek peaceful alternatives whenever possible, yet we are not supposed to just allow ourselves to be kicked around either.  When possible, we are allowed to legally defend ourselves within the limits of the law - including the use of deadly force - but again, I would say only after all other peaceful alternatives have been exhausted.

The key to teaching your children about violence is that it is not OK to be violent, but that to prevent violence it is sometimes necessary to employ force in a violent fashion, such as in the defense of others or in defense of yourself.  I think Katniss Everdeen was a good example of this type of character in The Hunger Games.  That is just my opinion.  Feel free to disagree.

Tim Tebow? Not Your Type.
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Apr 15, 2012 | 5873 views |  0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A few weeks ago I read an article on Fox News.  You can read the entire article here: INSIDERS.  In the article, they ask the question "But could all the Tinseltown-type attention jeopardize his game and wholesome Christian image?1"

Reposted from: MenRising

Rewind years ago when the nation didn't really know who Tim Tebow even was.  As an Alabama fan and a Christian (yes you Auburn fans, it IS possible!!), my first gut reaction to his public displays of faith were to shrug them off as meaningless.  How many times have I seen players kneel in the end-zone, point to heaven, thank God on TV, or make some other overt display of faith on the field only to be caught up later in some drug or immoral scandal later?  I thought he was a fake.  First impressions can be hard to shake.

As Tim Tebow grew into the role though, I began to pay attention more.  I read about his background as a home-schooled kid and missionary kid.  As a former missionary to China, I know how tough life can be on missionary kids, and now that we live in the states and home-school our two daughters, we see how the homeschooling movement is just now starting to be accepted even in largely conservative circles.  I can only imagine that it must have been tough for him growing up, and here he was experiencing success on levels most people will only dream of, and how does it affect him?  It doesn't even seem to register.  Nothing changes.  Tim Tebow is still the same person, and that is when I became interested.

I watched his last year in college with great fascination and wonder at the unprovoked hate that came from people who did not even know him and from the liberal media, and I found myself in the awkward position of rooting for him even though he played against Alabama.  I wanted Tim Tebow to win, but for Florida to lose.  It was an interesting year.  Then came graduation, and I assumed we'd heard the last from Tim Tebow.

Then came his chance to shine yet again.  After a losing start to the 2011 season, Tim Tebow was put in to replace Kyle Orton at halftime and quarterbacked the Denver Broncos on a wild ride taking them almost to victory against a 16 point deficit.  The rest of his season, as they say, is history but nothing short of inspiring.  The whole time, the media kept touting his style as awkward and that he'd never find real success, yet he kept winning.  His win streak was only broken by the New England Patriots weeks later, and again the Patriots handed him the defeat that would take his team out of the playoffs.

What was Tim Tebow's reaction to all this?  He was still Tim Tebow.  Nothing had changed.  Meanwhile, the rest of the nation had heard about him by now, and they couldn't seem to make up their minds about him.  Was he a good football player or not?  Was his Christianity real or not?  Who is this guy really?  And why does he have to keep making public displays of his Christianity?

Let me at least answer the last question for everyone.  The reason he keeps making public displays of his Christianity is simple: he is a Christian.  Would that all Christians had his courage.  Then comes this article and I think to myself, "Hollywood just doesn't get it".  Maybe the nation at large just doesn't get it.  Now, I've never met Tim Tebow, and I'm not his best friend or have any close relationships, but I've seen him enough over the years to realize one thing: Tim Tebow is legit.

As for the worryings of the media over how Hollywood will affect him, all I have to say is "Hollywood, Tim Tebow is not your type."  While Tim Tebow is only human and prone to failings and mistakes just like the rest of us, I tend to think he'll take the world on the same way he always has - by just being himself.  If he'll do that, then we'll never hear of a drug or immoral scandal unless one is manufactured, and we'll never even have to wonder if Tinseltown will ever jeopardize his Christian image.

He's a great example of a Christian man simply being a Christian man.  Maybe the real question isn't why the world thinks he's so odd, but rather why, in the public Christian community, his consistent example as a Christan man is so rare.

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