Brave in the New World

It’s Complicated | Case Studies

My aim in today’s daily is not to make any moral judgements about the following sexuality issues. My goal is to remind each of us to first prioritize the greatest commandment according to Jesus. That is to love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves. As a follower of Jesus we must learn to interact with each person we encounter as a valuable, God-created, God-loved human being. When we choose to acknowledge the complexities of human experience we respond to people in more loving and gentle ways. It would be much easier for us to treat this subject as a black and white issue but that doesn’t account for the complexity of human experience. Let us proceed with caution and love. As you read the following case studies I challenge you to ask yourself one question. What does love demand in this situation?

At birth, the child was healthy but there were a few abnormalities. This child had signs of both genders. One of the the genders seemed more obvious and so the doctors performed a minor procedure to clarify the gender and it was finished. But it wasn’t finished for this child. From a very young age she felt different than the other girls around her. She grew up loving Jesus and following Jesus but same sex attraction was a real part of her life. She was taught that homosexuality was wrong and was a sin. The internal battle raged in her so strongly that suicide crept into her mind over and over. Suicide seemed welcome as she attempted to escape the longings she couldn’t deny while she was maintained her faith in Jesus.

As soon as the national gay marriage laws changed they got married. It felt affirming to their relationship. They soon adopted a young boy and began living as a family. As they journeyed through life, they eventually both embraced Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Their new faith added so much complexity to this little family’s lives. They began to attend a local church where they seemed to be relatively welcome. As they grew in their faith they began to wonder what they should do about their relationship. Was their marriage void in the eyes of God? Were they living in sin? Would God rather have them divorce each other than to continue in this relationship? If the answer was yes to that, how would they continue to care for their child? They loved each other, they loved their son, and they loved Jesus. Which relationship should they sacrifice? What would Jesus have them do?

He was abused as a child by a neighborhood man. It was horrific and long lasting. By the time his family moved away from his abuser, the damage had been done. This boy was emotionally and mentally scarred for life. Would he have become homosexual himself if he had not been abused? He didn’t know. The statistics he had read indicated that he was not unlike many other people who had been abused as a child. Did he choose this life or did his attacker choose it for him? He didn’t know but now, it was his life and how should he live it well?

As you read these examples you may begin to see the complexity of this issue. Again, let us as believers ask ourselves what love demands of us. Let us never fail to hear the stories of people before making sweeping moral statements. Let us trust the guiding hand of Jesus to lead each of us from our brokenness into healing and let us trust Jesus to do that on his time table.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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It’s Complicated | Case Studies2019-07-22T16:35:11-06:00

Broken Sexuality | 1 Corinthians 6:17-20

But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. I Corinthians 6:17-20

In the beginning, our human sexuality was perfect. No jealousy, selfishness, shame, competition, comparisons, nor violence. After the fall, sin fractured our relationships with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with the world. Our broken sexuality in our current society is a direct result of the fall. God’s original design is for a man and a woman to make a lifetime covenant of marriage with each other, which includes an exclusive sexual relationship within their marriage.

Most people in our society do not use God’s perfect original design for sexuality as their guideline for their behavior. As a result we are bombarded with books, magazines, movies, television shows, pornography, and internet content that portray messages such as: “absolutely anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it” in the realm of sexuality. Yet the Bible says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” I Corinthians 6:13 b.

Because we live in a fallen world, where sin has influence on all of our relationships, we all experience brokenness in some way in our sexual relationships. Jesus spoke about the source of our sin, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality,…” Matthew 15:19a. What should we do with our brokenness? How can we be restored in our sexual relationships? Pray and confess, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” Psalm 51:10. Talk to God about the brokenness in your sexual relationship. Let him direct your next steps through prayer, Bible reading, and wise counsel. Sometimes consulting a professional counselor or pastor is necessary so that healing of past events or false assumptions can occur. Remember, God values you. If you are in a relationship that is harmful to you, or contrary to biblical teaching, leaving that relationship may be necessary.

The intimacy experienced between a man and a woman within God’s original design for sexuality in a covenantal, lifelong marriage, is beautiful and brings pure joy to both husband and wife. It is a picture of the intimacy God wants us to experience with him. This week set aside some time to be intimate with God. Find your way to commune with him, listen to music, take a walk and pray, observe and enjoy God’s creation, and talk with him about his desire for you as a sexual being.

By Grace Hunter

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Broken Sexuality | 1 Corinthians 6:17-202019-07-22T16:35:11-06:00

Birds and the Bees | Genesis 2:18-24

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”… Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18, 24-25

Christians have a complex relationship with sex, don’t we? While most of us would agree on an intellectual level that sex is good and healthy in the context of marriage, any mention of it in real life strikes discomfort and perhaps shame into our hearts. For so many of us, sexuality is seen as something to be avoided or managed, rarely something to be examined, much less embraced. But that doesn’t seem to be what the Bible says. The opening chapters of the Bible point to humanity’s deep need for connection and intimate relationship, as well as a lack of shame (Genesis 2:18, 24-25). There’s even an entire book of the Bible dedicated to romantic love (Song of Songs). Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Before we ask, “what do we do with sexuality?” we should ask, “what hardwiring does sexuality point us to and how do we steward that well, no matter our relationship status?”

Let’s go back to God’s statement in Genesis: “it’s not good that man should be alone.” What does he do next? Create another person! And not just so Adam can have a co-worker, but so that Adam can be deeply known in a unique way. Part of what it means to be human is to have this desire to be known in an intimate way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to be in a marriage relationship. After all, Jesus was single and Paul advocates for singleness! But it does imply that the deep desire for connection and to be known is inherent in every person.

Reflect on your own heart today. Where do you see this deep longing for connection with other people show up in your life? Where do you see this deep longing for God manifest in your life? How are you trying to satisfy those longings? If you want to take this a step further than reflection, try reaching out to someone today. Invite them to coffee, dinner, or just send a text to say hello.

By Jessica Rust

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Birds and the Bees | Genesis 2:18-242019-07-22T16:35:11-06:00

God’s Design| Matthew 22:34-40

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

God’s creation story shares his design with us. This ran the gamut from plants to humans, whales to chickens. His design included things like pollination, plant growth, food consumption, sexuality and marriage. Many of these are inconsequential to most people. I know I’m not overly concerned that my flowers get pollinated. But there are other aspects of God’s creation that are at the forefront. One in particular has surfaced multiple times in the Church: marriage. God originally designed and created marriage as a heterosexual, monogamous, convenantal and life-long relationship. Then Genesis 3 happened.

Adam and Eve gave into temptation for just a moment, and everything went upside down. God confronted their brokenness, sending them out of the Garden. It didn’t take long for marriage to be pulled and contorted. We find the Patriarch’s having multiple wives and concubines, and Solomon led the pack with 700 wives and 300 concubines. Then there’s the discussion of divorce, which has been a topic raising ire and eyebrows for many years. Even I can remember the strife stirred as a kid. Once again, marriage has surfaced, dividing the Church.

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme court determined same-sex marriage be recognized under the 14th Amendment. While same-sex marriage had been happening for some time, it wasn’t recognized as legal. The court changed that.

What to do? Just like the church steers clear of being ‘in on’ the process of divorce, so, too, (following God’s example listed above) marrying same sex couples within the Church is off the table. This sort of Church response isn’t new. In II Corinthians 6:14-16a, Paul informs believers in Corinth to avoid mixing a marriage with believers and unbelievers. Despite any theologically-centered decisions, these marriages take place, as does divorce and same-sex marriage.

The question we as a Church need to come to grips with is this: What does God’s Church do when same-sex married couples come through our doors? We’re called to love. Rereading the passage for today reveals no qualifiers, check-boxes or any other filter. Love. Being created in God’s image, they’re deserving of love, and grace. As we experience God’s grace, our ministry is to share that same grace with anyone who might come through our doors. Knowing how God’s grace has been given to you, be open to opportunities to share God’s grace with someone else.

By Rich Obrecht

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God’s Design| Matthew 22:34-402019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

Quantum Entanglement

Quantum entanglement is interesting. How is that for the start of a devotional? This subject has become an interest of mine, though I don’t claim to understand quantum physics very well. I feel as though I am in good company since Niels Bohr, one of history’s leading physicists, claimed that entanglement made his head spin. Now that I have scared you away from reading this devotional, let’s dive in.

Quantum entanglement is one phenomenon among many in the past decade that has scientists baffled. Classical physics is a model of understanding the world that begins to fall apart at the molecular level. The shortest explanation I can offer is as follows: Quantum Entanglement is the reality that two particles that have interacted (become entangled) in some way can no longer be observed without affecting each other, even if they are separated by vast distances. When one particle is observed the other one is affected.

Two pioneering physicists, Einstein and Niels Bohr, disagreed on the reason particles seemed to behave as they did on the quantum level. Einstein theorized that the particles must be infused with some hidden information that allows them to react as they did even though they were separated. Niels Bohr hypothesized that the particles were actually changed by the observer. Bohr believed that the universe is actually, in some way, affected by the observation of it. In 1982 an experiment was finally run that proved that Bohr’s theories were actually more accurate to the situation. In essence, two entangled particles are affected by each other faster than the speed of light, which contradicts the laws of relativity. Since that day, other scientists have postulated theories beyond Bohr’s in an attempt to preserve relativity.

The natural question is, “what does quantum physics have to do with our faith?” Well, quantum physics is a discipline that is currently operating heavily on faith. Scientists are discovering things in the universe that they cannot explain. Things that even break the rules of classical physics. These new discoveries have driven physicists to rethink reality. It has forced them to consider multiple universes, wormholes, and matter being a projection of some unknown force. Some physicists would cringe at the idea that these questions will eventually lead to God, but for others it has opened that door more widely.

Faith in God is a logical and reasonable option to explain the world we observe through science. Scientific pursuit has created as many, if not more, questions than it has answered. Einstein called Bohr’s  view spooky. Some might call resurrection spooky. The fact is, there are strange forces in our universe. Forces that the greatest minds in history cannot explain through observation alone. Does the science point directly to God? I am biased and I believe that science does, and eventually always will, point to God. My propensity to see God’s hands in creation is the same propensity an atheist has to avoid God in creation. At this stage in history, both worldviews demand faith-filled seeking. I have a hunch that faith isn’t going anywhere.

The hard questions of life, theology, and science are meant to drive us forward into a world of discovery. We need not fear. Instead we should continue to seek all the while trusting God to guide our search. This week, let yourself be curious about something. Ask God to teach you something about himself through your learning process.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Quantum Entanglement2019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

Discovery Requires Wisdom | Romans 1:18-20

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

When I was finally old enough to grasp history, I used to look at my grandparents, all born within 12 years of the beginning of the 20th century, and feel awe. It wasn’t because they were old. it wasn’t because anything they did was spectacular. It was that things had moved so dramatically in their lifetime. A very short list would be: primary modes of transportation went from horse to mechanical; Observing the Earth went from balloon or mountain top to observing it from the Moon.

Speaking of awe and amazement, look at your hand. The complexities contained in just your hand can be mind-blowing! Simple chemicals like carbon, iron, calcium, and others compose the instrument without which our lives would be quite a bit more difficult. The thinking capability, or wisdom, necessary for humankind to move from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century is, quite literally, beyond my comprehension. All because God created us this way.

The wonder of God’s creation in humanity, including gaining knowledge and wisdom, is astounding. These abilities have led to innumerable inventions and discoveries. More and more of God’s creation is becoming better understood by the work of people like Francis Collins, a geneticist and leader of the Human Genome Project. He, and many others like him, took their God-created abilities to research human genetics and document the genome. The future this discovery holds has yet to be fully understood, but it boggles the mind how much good can come from it.

If understanding the results of this research interests you, or you want to be filled with wonder at the amazing creation we are, you can visit the Human Genome Project Information site, which is now an archive. As you read the website, let the expansive creation God has wrought in humanity fill you with wonder, awe and worship!

By Rich Obrecht

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Discovery Requires Wisdom | Romans 1:18-202019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

Discovery Inspires Worship | Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

There are many things in our world, our sky, and our universe that defy understanding. When I look at the night sky and see the Milky Way and identify the constellations of Orion, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, I am amazed at their placement, their predictable movement, and their beauty. In April 2019, scientists released pictures of a black hole. Before this year, it was thought black holes were too dark to ever see. As scientists uncover new, vast, and complex mysteries about our universe, they bear witness to a creator God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” Psalm 19:1. Being able to see a black hole fires my imagination and inspires me to worship the Lord, its creator.

A few weeks ago, I held my first grandchild for the very first time. When I think of all her body parts, blood, cells, tissues, bones, each hair on her head, each feature on her face, I am amazed at her beauty and perfection. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place; When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body,” Psalm 139:15. When I see the miracle of my newborn granddaughter, when I hold her in my arms, I’m compelled to respond with thanksgiving and to worship God, her creator.

The human body, the process of photosynthesis, the water cycle, the life cycle of plants, all point to a God who designed and created these complex systems. As we discover more about our intricate universe this knowledge directs us toward our God who created our universe, and our world. Look for a scientific discovery, or an unsolved mystery, that captures your imagination. Look into the research, read about it, look for God’s fingerprints within the mystery. Remember, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know it full well.” Psalm 139:14. God made us with intelligence. We are supposed to use it, discover mysteries, and solve problems. Allow scientific discoveries to awaken wonder in your soul, and praise the creator of our incredible world, our complex bodies, and our vast universe.

By Grace Hunter

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Discovery Inspires Worship | Psalm 19:1-42019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

Mystery Drives Discovery | Matthew 2:1-4

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. Matthew 2:1-4

Who am I? How’d I get here? And Why am I here? The answers to these questions compose a person’s worldview. Let’s take a worldview history journey starting with the wise men, the magi, who traveled from the east to find the King of Kings. Their worldview included studying the mystery of the heavenly bodies and following the event of one unusual star. They came seeking, anticipating discovery and prepared to worship. They were humble.

No person has the whole picture, no person knows it all. Scientific discoveries keep happening.. Many more mysteries are waiting to be discovered. We live in a tension between accepting the latest scientific discoveries and holding on to time-tested, well-established facts. We live in a culture of competition for which ideas will prevail and which worldview will dominate. The great men of science in the Scientific Revolution from 1500-1700 A.D. were also great men of God inspired by the belief humanity was created by an intelligent, rational being. This changed in the 19th century when the idea of natural selection emerged. So many new discoveries in the 21st century keep pointing to a Creator God and back to intelligent design. Science keeps on changing. People still need to be willing to investigate and humbly embrace discovery and the mysteries of the universe.

The intersection on the highway of worldviews competes fiercely for our choice of a path. With humility, research your beliefs to follow them to their conclusions. Do they match what God’s inspired word says? There is more evidence to believe in God than not. Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence to see where it leads you. Anticipate discovering and be prepared to see Jesus face to face. He is everywhere in his creation, waiting to meet you. As you reflect on your worldview journey, enjoy the pictures and listen to Chris Tomlin’s Indescribable.

By Donna Burns

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Mystery Drives Discovery | Matthew 2:1-42019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00
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