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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Lancaster County Mennonite farm
Wash Day on a Lancaster County Mennonite farm
(Click here for a larger image.)

"But Because Of Sexual Immorality"

Note: Today's message addresses a difficult and sensitive subject.

Message summary: A part of our high calling in being recipients of God's grace is "to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). May God give us all this aspect of grace!

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"On hearing it, many of His disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'" (John 6:60). "But because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2).

As I greet men in the course of my work as a chaplain I encourage them, whether young or old, to be faithful men. I also thank and commend them for their hard work and remind them of the contribution they make to their company and their responsibility to provide for their family.

I see a lot of single fathers and young men unmarried but with a girlfriend expecting a child. I urge these young men to commit their lives to Christ, marry, be a good husband and give their child(ren) a stable home. I also remind them they are a father from the time their baby was conceived.

This last Friday I shared this with a young man whose girlfriend is expecting their first baby. He was excited about the baby and was receptive and understanding to the truth concerning that he already
is a father. In fact he seemed to light up with the revelation that on the coming Father's day he already was a father!

However others find this hard to grasp, probably because of godless lies they hear about the pre-born baby being merely a fetus or "blob of tissue". I recall one young man that actually seemed offended by the reminder although now, following the birth of his daughter, he is a loving father.

Increasingly through my lifetime the traditional (Biblical) standards of morality have been shrugged aside. What once, and still does, constitute morality includes waiting till after you are married to have sexual relations, children born to a married couple (the perverse notion of homosexual "marriage" was not even remotely imagined), faithfulness of the husband to his wife and the wife to her husband, parents providing for their children and so forth.

For many younger people these previous patterns of moral behavior that many of us grew up with have been so scorned and  mocked by Hollywood, the entertainment icons, public educational systems, our own government and so forth that they just no longer know right from wrong and really have no sense of what "moral" is. Sadly many churches are essentially silent on these matters, being careful not to rock the boat and likely offend some younger attendees who are steeped in this teaching.

These days it may very well be financially beneficial to remain unmarried which I have actually had people tell me. I recall a young man who told me this when I pastored a church in New England. If he got married his girlfriend and the mother of his children would lose government benefits and he would actually have to bear responsibility for his children and he candidly told me he did not want this.

Weddings are now often seen more for the big party aspect than a ceremony of solemn commitment to a faithful marriage.

Today's first text is a response to the teachings of Jesus. "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Sometimes the teachings of Christ and the Bible are hard in the sense of understanding them, at other times they are hard in the sense of obeying them. Today's second text is a hard teaching in the sense that it runs so counter to modern practice.

It comes from a very frank chapter on marriage. It was written in the context of very promiscuous Corinth. "But because of sexual immorality." See here for how various translations render this phrase.
Perhaps Corinth was not all that different than our modern world!

"Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband". This is one of many verses beginning in Genesis 2:24 that establish the only Biblical pattern for marriage.

A part of our high calling in being recipients of God's grace is "to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). May God give us all this aspect of grace!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You who created us know what is best for us and thus we have the Scriptures as our guide and Your commands to teach us the paths of righteousness. Paul writes that each of us should live as a believer in whatever situation we find ourselves in, whether we are single, married, widowed, divorced, or a parent. Our behavior, attitude, and lifestyle should express the heart of Christ and reflect the kingdom of God. Help us to honor You and one another as we live out our daily lives in our troubled world where approval is sought from polling rather than the living and timeless Word of God. Help us not to be swayed by the decay of truth and purity in our day. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

For further consideration: In 2007 I started a separate blog titled "A Little Foolishness" which uses humor and satire to get a point across. I haven't posted since 2013. However a recent Babylon Bee article titled "To Avoid Problems With Lyric Slides, Innovative Church Prints Out Songs And Compiles Them Into Book" prompted a similar approach with an article I wrote.  (Although it is posted on the blog I will also paste it in below.)

Warning: This is satire (the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues).

"The Mighty Cross" Church in Taunton, Massachusetts has developed an innovative program, teaching a strange concept of what Pastor Masciantangelo calls "traditional Biblical morality".

Young people are expected to abstain from sex and living together until they enter into a very serious covenant contract called marriage. Many in the younger generation have never heard of or witnessed anything like this. What they are used to is this: Couples usually start having sex right after they meet and then start living together just weeks after meeting so in their observation nothing is really all that different after they get "married".

The couple tries to save up money for a "wedding", which is essentially a big, expensive party with lots of food and drink, often held in a barn. Some vaguely recall a brief ceremony with some religious-sounding words they had to endure before the real party began with all the food and drink. After this the couple goes on a two week vacation known as a honeymoon prior to resuming living together no differently than before they got married.

Pastor Masciantangelo has a wedding service that includes a brief challenge to the couple on faithfulness, responsibility and putting God first. He actually uses some "vows", which are brief challenges from an ancient ceremony he found that include phrases like “for better or worse”, “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part”. He even suggests the radical notion that the wedding ceremony could be held in the church building.

The pastor counsels the couple prior to the wedding with innovative ideas such as being faithful exclusively to each other, practicing lifelong love for one another, being a good role model for their children, providing for their needs, living responsibly, etc. He teaches that a good marriage is built on obedience to God and consideration to one another. He counsels them to see raising their children as a solemn duty. The pastor expects the couple to see their marriage as a lifelong commitment which some brides are upset about since they had expected to have numerous big expensive parties through their lifetime with themselves being the center of attention.

One of his most controversial assertions is that if the couple abstains from sex till they get married they will not have children till after they’re married. This has researchers at Harvard University baffled; some saying that this is impossible. However the researchers have applied for a $10,000,000 government grant to test the premise academically.

John Smith, a sociologist who manages the family services department in Bristol County calls  Masciantangelo's ideas "outdated and dangerous". When pressed to clarify in what sense they were dangerous he pointed out the devastating effect it would have on his department of 155 county social workers if the pastors ideas were actually implemented. "We would face major layoffs as our workload would most certainly decrease" he stated.

Mary Lee Sanders, a divorce lawyer also expressed concern that if these ideas ever caught on she would see a decrease in her business as well as Fred Hodkins, owner of "The Wedding Barn" in Norton, who foresees a decline in business if people aren't married multiple times. "A key part of our business plan is repeat marriages from satisfied customers", he stated.

Melissa Hervey who teaches sex education to kindergarten and elementary age children said she was amused by the notion, informing that she has a Master's Degree in early childhood sex ed and what possible qualifications does the pastor have anyway.

Dr. Allison Jones/Harper/Smith/Brown, an esteemed professor of feminist, transgender and transpecies studies at Wellesley College asserts that Masciantangelo's teachings are an example of the "abuses of the patriarchy or something like that". Jones/Harper/Smith/Brown, who is a transpeceite who identifies as a cat and insists on being greeted with a "meow" scoffed at Pastor Masciantangelo's views as being "just plain weird".

However 94 year old church member Dorothy Mayhew recalls that when she was young this was considered the proper pattern of morality and was even taught in the public schools. The ACLU has proactively written letters to each school district in the area warning against allowing the pastor to have any influence on the young, reminding them of the amendment somewhere in the Constitution that states there must "separation between church and state".

John Hughes is a thirty-three year old millennial who has attended college off and on for the last fifteen years. He is still undecided about what to do with his life and racks up college debt for which he is confident others will eventually pay. He identifies himself as a "Social Justice Warrior" and saw a post by Pastor Masciantangelo on Facebook with the Meme "True Love Waits". He claims he was triggered by the post and has reported it to Facebook as "hate speech". Facebook spokesman, Cory Arnold confirmed that they had received the complaint and stressed they take these matters seriously.

Planned Parenthood of Southeast Massachusetts also expressed alarm at Pastor Masciantangelo's teaching, a spokesperson stating, "Expecting young people to abstain from sexual activity is cruel and unusual punishment and that's against the constitution. After all, we have 'solutions' for any consequence."

But the pastor is undaunted, referring to a Bible verse that speaks of teaching the whole counsel of God and states he will be accountable to God rather than man.

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Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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