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March 27, 2013, 10:48 AM

A few thoughts on the "Gay Marriage" issue

 

     Those who know me well know that I don't often speak about "political" issues.  My rationale for this is that as a pastor and follower of Jesus, I do not wish to obscure the Gospel or to give the perception that the Lord of Glory and His teachings are a part of any contemporary political platform.  God has spoken clearly for Himself in the Bible, not on Fox News or MSNBC.  However, the "gay marriage" issue and especially the way it is being defended goes far beyond politics.  It has tremendous implications regarding my right as a believer to define right and wrong according to my understanding of Scripture.  If homosexuals are extended protection as a minority group under the law, will I be prosecuted for preaching and teaching that it is a sin?  This kind of legal prosecution (and persecution) is already taking place in other countries around the world (see Canada for example). 

     I disagree with many people on issues of ethics and morality, yet none of them (to my knowledge) have accused me of being a "hate-monger."  I have kindly, but firmly told many couples who are or were living together before marriage that this is wrong according to my understanding of Scripture. Surprisingly perhaps, none of them deemed me a "bigot."  The manner in which "gay marriage" is being framed as a matter of "civil rights" leads me to believe that this kind of persecution of Jesus-followers is coming for all who insist that homosexuality is a sin, even if we do so in kind and gentle way.  In all honesty, I am somewhat puzzled by this response. I have never advocated violence or "bullying" towards anyone.  I have personally welcomed people caught in this and many other forms of sin into the worship services and other ministries of each church I have served and will continue doing so.  In fact, were it not for people with serious, even chronic, sin problems, our church would be empty every Sunday - and someone else would need to preach! 

     At the same time, I do not believe that anybody is helped by refusing to call sin and wickedness what it is.  For the record, and so that I may be clear, homosexual behavior is only one of a host of sexual sins the Bible defines very clearly, including premarital sex, adultery, incest, rape and various other forms of lust.  Regardless of the consequences or whatever subsequent drop in approval I may face, I will continue to teach and preach that these and every other behavior which is contrary to the revealed will of God as found in the Scripture are sinful.  My fervent hope and prayer this week as we remember the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is that we might all find forgiveness and peace through the grace that comes from confession and repentance rather than the guilt and continued conflict that stems from denial and defensiveness.




November 30, 2012, 9:16 AM

Why bother with church?

I went to a college football game the other day.  As I wedged myself into the 18 inches to which my ticket entitled me, I felt a surge of adrenaline.  As the game went on, I found myself talking to the people around me as though we were old friends.  As our team played, I gave high fives to people whose names I still don’t know.  The only person in the entire stadium I knew by name was my Dad sitting next to me, but for those four hours I felt a connection with the other 85,000 in attendance that is difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

I also got sunburned that day . . . and rained on.  At one point, I thought I might pass out from dehydration.  Around that time, I began to ask myself why I didn’t just watch the game on television at home.  Then some fans started the wave, and I remembered why I came.  The connection I felt to the other fans on that day is vastly superior to watching a game on television, but that connection is based solely on our loyalty to a certain team.  How much more should we desire to connect with people who love the same Lord? How much more powerful is the connection I have with people who know my name and care for my children?  The whole experience reminds me why I love God’s church so much.  Our meetings are more than just a time to hear from God’s Word; it is an opportunity to belong.  It is a body of people who are on the same journey of faith.  When we gather for worship, there is no better place to find that kind of connection.  If you call yourself a follower of Christ, let me urge you to find your place among His people.  Let us care for you in a way no stadium full of strangers can.        

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  Hebrews 10:24-25




November 5, 2012, 10:20 AM

Christian Citizenship?

As I post this entry, we find ourselves on the eve of another election.  Don't worry!  I have no intention of delivering yet another rant for or against either presidential candidate.  Rather, this election has given me reason to consider once again the nature of our interaction with the society in which we live and the difficulty of our position as followers of Christ. 

Last week in my private devotionals I came across the fascinating passage reported in Matthew 22:15-22.  In this passage, the Pharisees send some of their disciples along with some sympathetic supporters of Herod’s corrupt regime to question Jesus about the taxes owed to their Roman overlords.  Jesus’ simple, yet profound response (“Therefore, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”) reminds us that as followers of Christ we belong to two ages or worlds – the current, corrupt age in which taxes must be paid to every governing authority and the coming age of blessing which has already begun in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. 

Our dual citizenship in these two worlds complicates our responsibilities immensely.  On the one hand, we must live in this world and fulfill our obligations here.  On the other hand, we bear the image and imprint of our Creator and Redeemer and thus owe all that we are to Him.  For now, we are called to live in both ages/worlds simultaneously, but there should never be any doubt as to which is primary.  As John wrote, "Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17)."  So, I encourage you to vote and to pay your taxes.  Be great citizens of this great nation of ours!  However, if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, please don't forget that you are also and more importantly a citizen of a much better Kingdom.  As citizens in the Kingdom of God, it is infinitely more important that we "give to God what is God's" than that we 'win' in this world, no matter what the contest. 

On the eve of this election, my prayer is that every follower of Jesus in this nation would be so consumed by the high calling He has placed upon our lives that our friends, neighbors and coworkers would know more about the Lord we serve than the team we root for, be it sports or otherwise.  Lord willing, there will be another election in four years, but for some of those who live and work alongside of us there may never be another opportunity to meet Jesus, the true Savior and Lord of all things.

  




August 23, 2012, 10:58 AM

Do God's miracles depend upon our faith?

I believe that God still performs miracles today.  I do not believe that I or anyone else can predict, plan or otherwise manipulate God into performing the miraculous according to my own desires.  Much teaching that purports to be Christian today is actually more akin to ancient witchcraft (the attempt to manipulate spirits through rituals, spells, etc) than Biblical teaching.  The idea that faith alone is the determining factor in God's decision to act supernaturally or not gives the believer far too much credit and undermines a genuinely Biblical understanding of God.  Further, those who teach such ideas often imply, unwittingly or not, that those who are ill or impoverished are somehow less faithful than the rest.  The lives of the apostles and the history of Christ's followers makes this implication ludicrous.  That is not to say that our faith doesn't matter at all, but I believe it has more to do with how it shapes our expectations than how it affects either God's ability or willingness to act.  I encourage you to read Matthew 13:53-58 as you consider the remainder of my comments.

Jesus returns to His home town in this story - and is rejected.  Why? Not because He is any less powerful or authoritative in Nazareth than elsewhere, but because they are unable to change their preconceived understanding of Him.  How difficult it is to receive people as they are and not as we expect them to be!  The people of Nazareth take offense because Jesus has so clearly gone beyond His assigned station in life.  “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”  In our case, I wonder how many people today might truly change if those who love them genuinely expected it of them.  Jesus merely showed them His true nature, and it was too much for them.  We have all put our ugliness on display for this world – and it takes a powerful work of God to believe any beauty can ever be seen in us again. 

The concluding statment is fascinating and easily misunderstood. “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”  This statement is not to suggest that Jesus’ power is somehow dependent upon our faith, as so many in the health and wealth movement today would say, but that we might understand that a lack of faith lowers our expectations.  When people expect nothing to happen, they fail to even ask.  There is a thin line between expectation and presumption.  We must learn to ask the Father expectantly while simultaneously receiving whatever He decides to provide us in absolute submission.  So then, our faith is a key to God's miraculous work, but it is in shaping our willingness and expectation that God will work in such a way, not in influencing or enabling Him.  The final decision to act in whatever manner He sees fit is always God's.  We can ask expectantly, but we cannot presume upon His undeclared will in any matter.


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