Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Obligatory Gay Marriage Post

So homosexuals can now legally marry in all 50 states.  It looks like unicorns that only eat skittles have puked all over social media.  There are more rainbows than a 10 year olds watercolor paintings.  Everyone has weighed in and sides are chosen and words exchanged.  So here is my view on the whole thing, like anyone really needs one more opinion.

In a democracy, with an open government that is ruled by the people, our society does and needs to reflect the people of the country.  Marriage is a rule of law in a government system and therefore needs to be equal.  If that means giving homosexuals the right to marry, then the government should afford that right to homosexuals.  The ability to destroy the institution of arraignment should be available to all people.  It shouldn't be just a heterosexual issue, let's all trash marriage.

Now you may think I am saying sarcastically, but I'm serious.  We have destroyed marriage long before the homosexuals decided they wanted a piece of the action.  At it's foundation, marriage was about a man and a woman, two incomplete people coming together making a more complete whole.  We once understood that men and women were different.  They have different strengths, different weaknesses.  Long before this idea of gender neutral, we understood that God made them male and female, instead of God making them men and surgery and hormone replacement making them female.  We got it, and we put men and women together to form the basic core unit of the family.  That combination, two becoming one flesh usually resulted in children.  Yes, some couldn't have children, but most could.  That unit was the family and it was the core of community.  The family unit then helped to build the community, they contributed and invested and sacrificed.  The community came together to build a society which built a nation.  We were much less focused on the good of the one, more on the good of the whole.

Then we decided one day that we are all about us.  We are about what is good for me.  What is going to make me happy.  We decided that if community doesn't make me happy, I find a new one, or just leave it all together.  If marriage doesn't make me happy, I just get a divorce and find someone else.  Now, I can choose if I like men or women or both, or I can switch.  It's all about what makes me happy.  I have kids because they make me happy, and if I begin to have a kid and that isn't what I want, I can abort it.  We just change our minds based on what we want.

The issue isn't choice or freedom or equal rights.  The point is that we are so selfish that we have begun to worship ourselves, and Romans 1 tells us that when we do that, God gives us over to our depravity.  We will then do whatever we think will make us happy.  News flash, homosexuals won't be happy with this, there will be something else later.  Maybe polygamy or the push for the removal of age limits so I can marry a 14 year old, or whatever.  The self will never be happy, there always must be something else.

Is homosexuality wrong?  Bible says it's just as wrong as any sex outside marriage, even if the homosexuals are married.  Why?  Telling two guys they are married doesn't mean God says they are married, it means the state says they are married.  In the Bible, God made them male, God made them female and for this reason and man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.  God makes this happen, not the word marriage, not the state, not the Supreme Court.

It's wrong, but so is abortion, sex outside of marriage, most divorces are wrong, and a list of other things.  It doesn't change anything and it really doesn't matter.  Pride and anger and lust and greed are wrong and we are all full of those things.  I'm wrong every day and so are you.  That's not the problem.  The problem is that we are saying it's not wrong, it's ok and we are told not to say it's wrong.  The truth is we need Jesus to save us from our sin.  From our greed and lust and pride and murder and perversion.  Yes, I said perversion.  We all need Jesus, me and you and the two guys who got married today.

The ground is equal at the cross.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Martha, Martha. The Great Anxiety

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

Do you ever struggle with fear? We are all afraid of something,  for example I am not a fan of birds. I don'think like things flying around my head,  it just creeps me out. There is a difference however,  between things that creep you out and genuine fear.  Many struggle with anxiety and fear on a daily basis. I have some anxiety issues,  but mine are very minor compared to many. We live in a world that is filled with much fear. I think the high pace of our society,  combined with constant pressure to succeed,  and the bombardment of information constantly has made us a stressed out people. Even today,  things at work didn't go exactly as planned,  and I may possibly face some consequences. That makes me nervous.

Sometimes it's simple things that cause us to worry. Every woman I have ever known worries about how the house looks when company is coming over. Remember Martha? She was stressed that she had so much to do and her sister Mary wasn't helping out.  Jesus told her "you are concerned with a great many things".  Not exactly what she wanted to hear I imagine,  but exactly what she needed. I know that often I am concerned with a great many things that don't have eternal significance. I worry about work and money and family and health and a long list of issues I have little to no control over. Do you relate?

The scripture is full of words to tell us not to worry,  to be brave and courageous.  2 Timothy 1:7 says we have not been given a spirit of fear.  In Matthew 6, Jesus asks if we can add a moment to our lives by worry,  which is probably the opposite of what we are actually doing. Jesus knew the stress would kill us,  and we are killing ourselves,  for what? I know I don'don't want to be afraid anymore.  I don't want to live in fear,  I don't want to suffer from anxiety.  I am going to continue to put my faith in the one who holds it all in His hands. I hope you find his peace today.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Real American Idol

Sometimes I wonder if we have all gone crazy. Take a look at the world today,  and it seems we have our priorities backwards. Slavery and the sex trafficking of minors is at an all time high,  but we are worried about Brucelyn Jenner. Millions of babies are murdered every day in abortion clinics,  but we are more concerned with same gender marriage.  Yes,  these are all issues and each one represents the depravity and the lostness of our society, but as Christians we need to make it a priority to protect those who cannot protect themselves.   Children,  infants and the unborn should be our priority. Heaven should be filled with our cries and pleas against these atrocities.

These problems and many more plague us as a society.  We have abandoned the values that once kept marriages,  families,  communities and churches strong. Instead we have given our hearts to the American idol,  not the TV show,  but the idol of happiness.  It'S the American dream right,  the pursuit of happiness?  The desire to be happy has given to a feeling of happiness. We worship this feeling so much that we have become narcissistic without even noticing. Abortion,  divorce, same sex marriage,  transgender issues, even sexual abuse comes down to our attempts to try to fill our lives with things that make us happy. The problem is that we are not happy when we get what we want. We then turn our attention to the next thing that we think will make us happy,  and the depravity spiral downwards.

The woman or man believes if they are in a relationship,  they will be happy. Once in the relationship,  they feel if they get married,  they will be happy.  In the marriage,  they believe if their spouse will just do the thing they want them to do,  they will be happy. The spouse doesn'doesn't do the things they want them to do,  and even if they do,  they still aren't satisfied. In the course,  they find someone else who they think will make them happy. They get a divorce and remarry,  thinking then they will be happy.

Somehow we have begun to think that we have the right to be happy. That we deserve to be happy That somehow we have this great value and we are owed happiness. We have a sense of entitlement that has come from worshipping the American Dream. Our pursuit of happiness has given way to the worship of happiness.
So what is the solution? I think there are several issues that we need to come to terms with.  First is the issue that suffering is bad and we should never suffer. Do you know people who have never suffered? How would you describe those people? The people I know who have never suffered are usually selfish,  self focused and often whiney. They are spoiled and haven'the learned the first thing about livingliving in community with others. We sometime ask "why do bad things happen to good people"  but people who are good people are good because they were shaped and tempered through adversity. Next,  we need to realize how emotionally driven we are as a people. Out movies,  TV,  music,  books,  all these forms of entertainment are designed to impact our emotions. We let our emotions control our thinking,  our actions and our behaviors.

It can be phrased a thousand different ways, the bottom line is we need to mature. I am hesitant to use the phrase "grow up"  but in many ways that is what is comes down too. We no longer live in a society where community is the goal. We want what we want,  when and how we want it. We do it in marriage,  in family,  community and in the church. How many churches have fights over worship styles and music? How many churches fight over personalities,  worry about "stepping on toes" and split over non-essential doctrine? How many complain about the sermon length,  the music volume and how many pastors have lost their jobs to keep people happy?

This is an epidemic,  we have become self-self-absorbed and narcissistic to the point we will walk away from church,  seek a divorce,  redefine marriage to make it fit whatever we think will make us happy,  change our gender and murder our unborn children. None of these things seem to be making us happy as a nation,  maybe it's time to suck it up and care more about our neighbors,  seek to build real community and help one another again. Maybe then we will find something better than being happy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Longing For Eternity

As a Christian,  I think there is a natural longing for heaven and for eternity with Christ.  This life seems so long,  especially during times of pain. I remember after my abdominal surgery,  laying in a hospital bed feeling miserable, praying that Jesus would return or just take me home to be with Him.   Even the Apostle Paul said that to die is gain. Eternity with Christ is so much better than anything.

With a glorious afterlife awaiting us,  we have to stop and ask the question about suicide.  If we kill ourselves,  will we be in heaven?  Some churches teach that suicide will cause a soul to go to hell.  I don't agree,  if you are in Christ,  there is no condemnation,  your sins are forgiven,  past present and future. A Christian who takes their own life will enter paradise with Jesus.

Is it a temptation?  I think the Apostle Paul thought so. I think Paul struggled with longing to be with Christ as he suffered through prison,  beatings,  stoning,  ship wrecks and trials of all kinds.   What kept him going forward was those he loved and served.   The churches,  the other disciples and missionaries,  those young in Christ.

We stay on earth after salvation because Christ has good works for us to do. We are the Incarnational representation of Christ as the church.   We are the body of Christ, we are here to do the work of Jesus. If we leave,  there is no one to represent Christ on earth,  to do the good works that He has prepared for us. If we abandon this world,  the darkness will be out of control.  You think it's bad now,  imagine the worst.  It would be reality.

I long for heaven,  I long to be with Jesus. I'm ready for His return,  but I'm not ready to leave my children and my family.   I want them to be with me,  and I want you to be with me. If Jesus comes for if I go,  I will be in heaven for eternity.  The other option is eternity in hell,  seperated from God by sin.   A place for eternal punishment.  Trust Christ,  place your life in Him and look forward to an eternity with Him.

Fellow believer,  hang in there today. When suffering comes and you feel like Paul when he said it would be better to be absent form the body and present with the Lord. Paul remained for the work set before him,  and he finished the race. Let's run hard until we are glorified in Christ Jesus.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's Judge Judging

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
I Corinthians 5:12 ESV

I hear all the time people saying "don't judge".   There is a popular quote that says "don't judge people because they sin different from you".   I want to look at what Paul has to say about that in 1 Corinthians 5.  Paul tells us not to associate with the sexuality immoral,  and he clarifies.   He said "I didn't mean those outside the church who are sinners,  if you couldn't associate with sinners outside the church,  you'd have to leave the world.   It's people in the church that you need to avoid if they live in a sinful mannor".  (Dan's parahrase).

We need to support one another,  and we need to call out one another when we see an issue.   I am so thankful for those in my life who have been willing to call me out for sin. They have been life savers in turning me away from a path of destruction.

We have found ourselves in the age of tolerance,  where whatever you feel is ok. It's not abnormal for couples to live together and be sexuality active before marriage.  It may be common,  but that doesn't make it ok. Sexual activity outside of marriage is not ok in the church.   Paul says we don't need to condemn those outside the church,  but inside the church.  Drinking,  drug use, criminal behavior of those inside the church,  we need to be aware and save our brothers and sisters from themselves.

I hear you asking already,  what about homosexuality marriage.   It's a hot button issue and something we need to deal with. Homosexuality is a sin,  just like hetrosexuality when engaged outside of marriage. Jesus said that marriage in a man and woman coming together,  being one flesh.  A same sex couple cannot be married,  even if they have a state signed document that says they are married. You can call a civil union a marriage,  just like you can call a cardboard box your mansion.   It's still a cardboard box. In God's view, it's not a marriage,  regardless of what the state says.

Inside the church,  sexual immorality needs to be addressed.   Inside the church,  greed and idolatry and selfish pride need to be addressed.  Sin needs to be called sin,  and not in a general way from the pulpit,  but from a brother or sister in love.  It's time that we in the church begin to look out for each other.   Sin brings to death,  and we can do so much good by pulling someone aside and speaking truth in love.

The key to the entire thing is love. We don't condemn people,  we don't tell them they are worthless. We don't tell people with signs and with protest.  We need to stop worrying so much about what is going on in the world,  and begin to focus on what is going on with the church.

We judge those in the church because we love them.  It's not different that telling a child that they are doing something wrong,  because we don't want them hurt.  We love people and we want them to have real life.  Those who are part of a lifestyle of sin won't see it as love. If you tell a practicing homosexuality that they are involved in a sinful lifestyle,  they probably won't see it as love.  If you tell a young couple who is living together that they are in sin,  they may not respond well. If someone in your church has an addiction to drugs,  alcohol or gambling and you take them aside and tell them they are in sin,  they probably won't feel the love.   We must do it from love and judge based on God's Word.

For those who are reading this who call themselves a Christian who are engaged in a sinful lifestyle,  you may be less than happy with me. It's ok,  I can handle you being mad at me,  but I don't want to live my life ignoring the truth of God's word.   His word doesn't change or give way because of society or new definitions or Supreme Court rulings. Let's take the word seriously,  call sin what it is and address in love those who are trapped.

Thanks for taking some time with me today.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Self on the Shelf

Have you ever felt like you've been put on the shelf? Like something that was needed and used,  but now you are just sitting,  waiting to be used again. This sometimes happens to those who serve God.  You may have been there,  you may be there.

The book of Daniel tells us about Daniel being put on the shelf.   Don't remember than part?  It's not in the text,  it's actually in the spaces.   Daniel interpreted a dream for King Nebuchadnessar,  and he subsequently went mad for 7 years.   We turn the page to King Belshazzar having the party. Well,  it may just be the next chapter,  but we missed 3 or 4 kings in the passage.  Nebuchadnessar is his "father" in the text,  but it's like the Jews calling Abraham their father.   He was more likely his Great Grandfather,  and Belshazzar's father,  who was actually the king,  was out at war,  leaving his son in charge,  a sort of temporary stand in King.   This was a big chunk of time between assignments for Daniel. During the time where there is no text and just space,  what is Daniel doing?   We have no idea,  it doesn't say.  

We know he is remembered for what he has done,  and I assume he was faithful in his job,  since he is still around.   There is no assignment given to Daniel that was written in the book that bears his name. It seems that Daniel was on the shelf. So what do we do during these times? It would be nice to have some instruction,  but during these times,  there aren't notes given.  

Like the time between Jesus at age 12 and age 30.  Paul during the time between his conversion and his missionary travels. What was John doing those years on Patmos when he wasn't writing Revelation?  We don't know.

I'm in a shelf time myself.  I haven't been at my last church for about 3 years. In my down time,  I'm trying to write,  obviously, doesn't always go as smoothly as I'd like.   I have found myself with a pretty decent job with the opportunity to share,  disciple and teach.  I am surrounded by a good mix of believers and non-believers and have a good relationship with them all. I long to be back in vocational ministry,  even part time or volunteer ministry.   I do what I can,  but I work rotating 12 hour shifts that go from nights to days every month.   It can't be at anything on a weekly basis,  so I can't teach a class or a Bible study every week.   I can set it up that I can meet after work,  but that only works until I switch from days to nights or vice versa.  With this job,  which was a gift from God,  I am effectively on the shelf.

I'm praying that I will be useful again some day in ministry.   I pray that I can go back into the calling that I love so much.   In the mean time,  I'll just stay on this shelf,  waiting for the time that The Father reaches for me and it's my time to serve Him in vocational ministry. Blessings,  thanks for spending some time with me today.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Does God Want You to Be Cold?

In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus addressed the church of Laodicea, and it's not a good report.   Jesus tells them that He wishes they were either hot or cold,  but they are lukewarm.   I don't want to address the lukewarm part,  I think Francis Chan handled that beautifully,  you can find his comments on YouTube.   Instead I want to address the hot/cold thing.

The general interpretation is that Jesus wants the church to be either hot,  on fire for Him,  or cold,  not wanting anything to do with Him.  I don't think this is a position that we have fully thought through. Does God really want us to be indifferent towards Him?

I read through quite a few commentaries and studies which agreed with this view,  but it didn't make sense to me that Jesus would wish for His church to out right reject Him.   I understand that being lukewarm is bad,  they will be spewed from His mouth,  but Jesus encourages them to be cold?   I think there is something missing.

What I have found is what happens often.   We are looking at this verse from a strictly textual interpretation and superimposed our meaning on it.   There are geographical implications to consider.  Where is Laodicea,  what is happening around it,  why would Jesus use these terms?   What is the deal with being hot or cold?

I found some help online,  I came across this from March 5 2013 Sparking Gem From the Greek by Rick Renner:

The city of Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in a seismic area, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed to be therapeutic and effective in improving one's health.

Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Just as people journeyed to Hierapolis to bathe in the hot springs for health purposes, people would travel great distances to vacation in Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.

Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. Therefore, the people of Laodicea had to leave their luxurious homes and travel to Colosse if they wanted to enjoy fresh, cool water. On the other hand, those who desired to soak in the hot springs had to travel six miles to Hierapolis.

Once in an attempt to bring the hot water from Hierapolis to Laodicea, a huge construction project was commenced. The goal of those who initiated the project was to build pipes that would channel the hot water six miles from Hierapolis to the city of Laodicea. The pipes effectively delivered the water - a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it!

It's so awesome how the Bible uses real places to give illustrations.   The people of Laodicea would understand this analogy because they lived right in the middle of it.   They understood how the hot water relaxed people and the cold water refreshed people and the lukewarm water repulsed people.  

Jesus wants you to serve Him and to be relaxing or refreshing,  notnot revolting. Have you ever met a self-righteous and arrogant Christian? Someone who wears you out and brings you down?   Don't be that guy,  be refreshing or relaxing,  soothe and encourage people.   Hot is useful,  cold is useful,  lukewarm is just disgusting.