Hey, Christian: Ditch the Car and Take the Bus

maxresdefaultSince your reading this, I assume you were intrigued enough to find out what sort of rant I’m on now. “Surely he isn’t saying that Christians should get rid of their cars,” you say. Of course I’m not. But I am saying that you should ditch your car once in a while and discover the joys of public transportation.

We live in a happy-meal society that tends to want everything quick and easy. We’re always aiming for what’s more efficient.

So, you hop in your car and head for work in the morning, taking the freeway to avoid stopping at every red light that just seems to be waiting for you to show up. Then you punch-out from your 9-to-5, get back into your car, head home, eat dinner with the family, and then kick your feet up to watch the evening edition of SportsCenter.

Or maybe you’re the Christian who attends every church service, hosts a community group, and can always be found studying the Puritans at the local Christian-owned coffee shop.

So, what’s the problem, you ask? Nothing, if you enjoy existing in your own little homogenous community. But, if you wish to be faithful to tell the world the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and make disciples, that’s going to require venturing to the other side of the tracks, where Cross-necklaces and fish-tattoos are virtually non-existent.

Recently, I decided that I was going to occasionally start taking the bus to work. In doing so, I have rediscovered my fondness for public transportation and am reminded of, at least, three reasons why taking the bus—especially for Christians, and anyone in some sort of ministerial role—is a must:

1. Able to Meet People Who Aren’t Like You

It’s true. If you ride your local city bus, you’re going to meet people who do not believe what you believe, think the way that you think, or look the way that you look. This can serve as an incredible opportunity to catch a glimpse of reality—outside of the realm of Christendom.

2. Raises Your Cultural Awareness

The more time you spend out of the world, the more removed you are from the world’s struggles, and the less compassionate you become. I find that as I enter in to conversations with people who are as screwed up—or worse—as I was, back in the day, the more I am reminded of God’s incredible grace in my own life. Such a thing compels me to want to learn more about others, in light of God’s own love for me.

It’s easy to say that the “problem is sin” (though it certainly is), yet have not a clue as to how or why any one particular sin manifests itself within a given context. We must learn to become “all things to all people, that by all means [we] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22 ESV). It’s not about compromise; it’s about concerning ourselves with God’s own concern for His glory, and the salvation of the world. And sometimes, that means laying aside our own preferences and presuppositions for the sake of others.

3. Creates Opportunity to Share the Gospel

Just the other day I was having a conversation with a guy in his twenties and somehow my occupation came up (I’m an IT professional). This led to me being able to share my life journey, including the way in which God saved me. He then opened up to me, telling me about how he had wasted his life on drugs (addicted to Oxycodone), and had now been clean for six months. I prayed with him, and for him, that God would make him alive, together with Christ, and we parted ways. Who knows, I may see him at church this Sunday!

The point is, how can we proclaim the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ if we do not position ourselves in a place to do so?

Let’s be intentional.

After all, God was intentional when He sent His Son to live among us, to teach us, and to die for us, despite His disdain and deep hatred for sin and evil. Imagine how He felt being around people like us, who spit in His face daily through the way that we live? (And yet we have the audacity to get undone in the presence of “sinners”).

Let us go, in love, like Christ, and do likewise. Don’t be afraid, just ride the bus!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m not saying that this is the only way to accomplish what I’ve laid out, I’m only merely pointing out what an incredible means the public transportation system can be to further the cause of Christ, and, if nothing else, enjoy some good conversation with people outside of your own comfort zone. 

Why Won’t I Speak Up Against Abortion?

 

Abortion is not an option it’s a travesty. I know it, and you know it. Heck, even liberal activists and politicians know it, choosing, rather, to suppress it. After all, dollars make sense, right?

But why do I avoid the subject? Why not join in with the rest of my brothers and sisters in publicly exposing this injustice for what it really is: murder.

It’s not because I’m insensitive, or just flat out don’t care.

It’s because I’m ashamed.

It’s because I’m a murderer.

Before the Gospel of Jesus Christ arrested my heart, I was involved sexually with a young woman who had loved me endlessly. She would do anything for me. As our relationship progressed, so I began to take more advantage of her.

I didn’t want her hand in marriage; I wanted to trample over her purity for the pleasure of my own pride, because that’s what I thought it meant to be a man. Sexual activity and performance was directly tied to my identity as a man. I wanted to enjoy the pleasures of manhood, without assuming the responsibility of manhood.

The end-result? Four counts of cowardly murder against innocent little lives, which never stood a chance and never got to hope or dream… or breath.

I am a murderer.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

And with every assault against abortion on social media, in our churches, and on freeway billboards, I am reminded of my past shameful actions.

But that’s not the Gospel I received from the Word of Christ. And that’s not who I am today, thanks be to God.

But it got me thinking. Maybe I am desensitized to the horrors of abortion, and its negative implications on our society at large. And what about those young men and women who are growing up in a similar context as once did I, impoverished and hopeless, struggling to survive this thing we call “life”? For babies having babies from broken homes, it’s scary. Without having a father to show us how to be a father, we run from fatherhood, out of fear of failing and becoming just like the father we never had.

The truth of the matter is that we can sign a thousand petitions and argue our points into legislation, but unless we address the root of it all, the problem will remain.

So, I ask the question: what can we do?

Maybe we can begin by paying better attention to our children, and being intentional in identifying the fatherless so that we, the fathers of this generation, can do a better job at showing our young boys what it looks like to be a man.

Show our young men what it looks and feels like to walk a woman down the aisle rather than dropping her off at an abortion clinic, while cowering in the comfort of drugs and alcohol, never really escaping the look of horror and devastation that swept across her face, as you left her to be stripped of the life growing within her (a look–forgiven or not–that I will never forget). Taking a part of her, as well.

So we can show our young girls their worth, and what sort of qualities and characteristics they should be looking for when it comes time to identify that future husband.

So we can teach young men and women alike, that sex is not a game, but a molding of the souls, an intimate oneness to be enjoyed by husband and wife, with the intention of bearing a child, raising a child, and finally, sending a young man or woman to go, and do likewise.

Pro-creation is essential to our existence, and an integral part of who God has created us to be, in His likeness, as creators, also.

God created us to create, not to destroy.

But again, I pose the question: how did we, as a society, get to the point where which we can call murder an “option”? And how can we, as Christians, combat this assault against the image of God, through more than just grassroots efforts? Is there a reason why most Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics are located in and near impoverished communities? How, in our own little world and in our own little way, can we help?

Think about it. Pray bout it. Do something about it.

 

 

Farewell Southern Seminary: A Bitter Departure Home, Sweet Home

maxresdefaultBitter sweet. As cliché as that may sound, it’s the only way I know how to describe what I am feeling.

One year ago, my family and I left everything, including those closest to us, in California, and headed for Louisville, Kentucky. Admittedly, I was as giddy as a Toys ‘R’ Us kid on a mega-shopping-spree. I was in theological heaven, and I was determined to learn from some of the greatest evangelical minds of our day.

But God…

During our time with Southern, I suddenly and progressively began experiencing a deeper awareness of my own spiritual stagnancy. As close as I felt to God in my mind, I was even further away from Him in my heart.

I began to notice how I had slid downward on a spiral of isolation and prayerlessness. It’s almost as if, for the last few years, I’ve had an Elijah experience on repeat:

“And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” – 1 Kings 19:4

The problem was, unlike Elijah, I had failed to allow the angels of God to minister to me, to nourish me and rejuvenate my soul.

Rather than face all of my past fears and failures, and take ownership of them, I suppressed them and avoided them, hoping to move on to a greater spiritual awakening. But only, I didn’t know how. I was stuck between the wall of my past, and the wall of my present.

I desired to be a better husband, a better father, and a better disciple, but avoided the relational intimacy that each of those roles require. Sure, I could play the extrovert, and have you believing that I was good at this whole “relationship” thing. But that could not be further from the truth.

The truth is, I suck at relationships. I tend to be whom you want me to be, in the moment, so as to advance my own agenda.

So, why did I go to Southern Seminary?

I do feel called to the pastorate. To preach and teach the Word of God and see others come alive, together with Christ. I knew that Southern Seminary provided top-notch theological education, and so that is where I was determined to go.

Amidst my short time here at Southern, however, I’ve learned far more than any classroom could provide. I look around and see brothers who are not only passionate about the Gospel, but brothers who are passionate about biblical manhood.

I look around and see the time and the sacrifices that they have made for their wives, and sons, and daughters—how they love them with the love of Christ—and can’t help but notice how it all points back to the love of our Father who is in Heaven. I sat through chapel services and heard some of the greatest preachers I’ve ever heard, humbly proclaim a crucified Christ, and God’s sacrificial love for us.

Conviction began to set in, and I couldn’t help but to feel as if I was not being the father I ought to be. What was I doing here, in Louisville, while my children were growing up without me, 2000 miles away?

Suppose I graduate with my Master of Divinity, and go on to plant a budding church, or step into a pastorate at some mega-church along the Bible Belt down South. What would I have gained if my children had grown up bitter towards Father God because their only connection to Him was through their own father, who had abandoned them for the sake of “ministry”?

My family is my first ministryHow can I evangelize and disciple my children if I am ever so absent from their lives?

It is not a matter of being in the wrong or being in the right, it is a matter of being in Christ, and becoming who God has created me to be. God has created me to be a husband, a father, and a son. How could I ever honor God through the pastorate, if I fail to honor God in my marriage and in my relationship with my children?

So, I received a job offer in Fresno, the city where my children reside. Sure the cost of living is higher. Sure I’d be leaving one of the greatest seminaries in the world.

But, it is one of the greatest seminaries in the world that God has used to bring me to this very conclusion: I need to love and lay down my life for my family and friends in the same way that God has done for me.

I need to meet my kids where they are at so that they will understand the God I serve, and His great love for us.

Though we will deeply miss the church that we have grown to love, the work—here at Southern—that I feel serves the greater cause of Christ, and the friends that we have come to know, God has used Southern Seminary to prepare us for such a time as this.

Farewell, friends, at Southern, and thank you for the light you shine. We are forever grateful for the work you do.

With that said, we’re going back to Cali.

I’d Bake Them a Cake, and Eat Some Too: Religious Freedom, Gay Rights, and the Man in the Middle

635635829040203317-2-ReligiousFreedomThere’s been a lot of fuss surrounding Indiana’s recent enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Following the legislation, liberals and progressives came out of the woodworks to go toe-to-toe with conservatives—especially conservative evangelicals. Rallying around the call for tolerance—which is a two-way street, by the way—liberals cite Christians as supporting such laws for the sole purpose of combating the LGBT community and same-sex marriage initiative. My first reaction was that of a man caught in the middle; compelled by love, but captive to the inspired and authoritative word of God.

To set the record straight, I am convinced that homosexuality is a sin, and separates us from God, much like any other sin, including that of pride, adultery, idolatry, and gossip. Sin is sin, and ultimately results in eternal separation from the God who created us to know Him and to be known by Him (Isa. 59:2, Rom. 5:12; 6:23). We are created in His image (Gen. 1:26-28), and marriage, according to His image, is between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:23-25). Clearly, the language of God’s Word provides gender distinctiveness to highlight the very uniqueness of God’s image. Any relational union apart from God’s intended design is a deviation from His creative purposes and, ergo, a distorted and disorderly representation of God Himself (Rom. 1:22-23; 3:23). Furthermore, over 2,000 years of church history affirms our contemporary understanding that homosexuality is a sin that has never been acceptable among believers (and, more often than not, most cultures).

Since we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me go on to say that I believe that evangelicals do tend to place an unhealthy emphasis on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, without reiterating the detriment of other sinful behaviors as well. True, the reason that homosexuality is often pointed out is because it seems to be one of the only sins that has been popularized as “normal” and “okay,” while other sins are clearly condemned by believers and unbelievers alike. Even among gay couples, adultery and lying and murder are all considered to be wrong, while, homosexuality, is not. This is why Paul pinpoints homosexuality—commonly referred to as “unnatural”—as the supreme example of self-worship and godlessness (Rom. 1:18-32). Homosexuality represents the epitome of distorted and disorderly worship. Nevertheless, the more we impress upon others the weight of sin, without following up with the hope of Christ, we start to look more like the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus condemned, rather than the Christ Himself who came in grace and truth. Sure, my evangelical friends are right in their assertions, but we must not allow ourselves to live by the letter of the law, while neglecting the spirit of the law—namely, the law of Christ.

This past Thanksgiving, my wife and I had an opportunity to make (courtesy of Kroger) and share a meal with our neighbors. The gay couple downstairs—who are well aware of our conservative beliefs—came over and we talked, and laughed, and got to know one another, over some good ‘ole Cajun-infused turkey. We seized the moment to love people, and have table fellowship (a very intimate occasion in biblical times) with those who are very different from us, but, then again, maybe not so different. Sure, they are living in sin—but so were we (and yet, even still, sin abounds).

One of the most beautiful conjunctions in the Bible is the word “but.” In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul names off a laundry list of sins, including homosexuality, following up with an emphatic “and such were some of you!” “But,” Paul says, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This, my friends, ought to be the chief-motivation behind every Christian endeavor: that we were sinners, and Christ saved us! We did not pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, no, but rather, Christ Himself snatched us from the grip of death and breathed life into our sinful souls, covering us with His everlasting love and mercy.

Therefore, we must make every effort to show the same grace, and speak the same truth, in love, to those who—though may look and believe different from us—suffer from the same sinful condition that we do.

So, though I would not preside over a gay wedding, much like I would not preside over an unbeliever’s wedding (without being honest, in love, of course), I would bake them a cake. In fact, not only would I bake them a cake, but I’d stop by and share a slice with them as well. That’s my religious liberty. After all, you never know when you may have, not only an opportunity to reflect the love of Christ, but to share the love of Christ as well. And how did Jesus share His love for sinners? He ate with them, He healed them, He protected them and gave to them—He gave Himself, for them and for us. But Jesus also left us sinners with a solemn warning that we must heed: “[Now that you know the truth,] go, and sin no more” (John 5:1-15, 8:3-11).

The Joyless Joys of Godlessness

Jobless man

I ought to be satisfied by now. You would assume that after years of filling in the ________’s of my heart’s desires, that they would have ultimately produced a joy that quenched the inner thirsting of my soul. Yet, here I am. Still wanting. Still dissatisfied with my 9-to-5 little prison.

Still, unhappily married while staring at Jezebel’s digital screen of pornographic false-promises, hoping to find solace through the sensations of extra-marital sex while, still, yearning.

It’s like I am running a marathon on a treadmill, expecting to get somewhere.

I work harder, and longer, so I can buy more stuff, and yet even when I have more stuff, I hardly enjoy it.

Sound familiar?

What’s missing? What’s missing from this mirage called “life”?

If my senses were created to dance in delight, by nature, then my Creator has created me to enjoy the world wherein He has placed me.

But how?

Him. He is the answer to every delight. 

For every good and perfect gift comes from Him[1] and it is by Him and through Him that we are created to share in the goodness of His splendor. To be partakers of that which He considers joyful: His creation.

Life, without Him, makes no sense. Apart from God we are abnormal creatures, deceived into believing in a happily-ever-after apart from God, that only God can every truly provide. After all, without Him, there wouldn’t even be happiness at all. God created happiness.

Sex without God is good. But sex with God—framed within His intended marital-design—is better. Food without God is good, but a steak eaten to the glory of God, is better.

In life, you find happiness, but true and everlasting joy only comes from God.

If a life separated from God is devoid of the Spirit, and the fruit produced by the Spirit is joy[2], then a godless man is a joyless man. The joyless joy of a godless man is only temporary pleasure, followed by the weightiness of eternal dissatisfaction (Hell—and separation from God).

But the joy produced by the Spirit, is a joy inaugurated by the joy of our heavenly Father, who found pleasure—or, joy—in crushing His one and only Son, for His glory, and for our salvation.[3] And, make no mistake; there is joy in His salvation![4]

God has redeemed us to enjoy Him and the life that He has given to us. Only in Christ, can there be found a “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.”[5]

The life lived, in Christ, magnifies the joy of our existence, and liberates us to enjoy the treasures of this world, both in this life, and on into the next, where the new Heavens and the new Earth will consummate our everlasting joy in Him and all that He has created.

[1] James 1:17

[2] Galatians 5:22

[3] Isaiah 53:10

[4] Psalm 51:12

[5] Psalm 16:11

You Might Be a Cultural Christian If ______________

50e05749-b250-4144-87b5-a80cebec79371. Worship, to you, is just that part in a church service where songs are sung

“So how was church,” you ask. “The sermon was okay, but the worship part of  the service was awesome!” That is the false dichotomy echoed among cultural Christians. We have “worship leaders” and “worship bands” that are somehow distinct from the rest of Sunday morning’s worship service. While the songs we sing unto God are a part of how we worship, the reality is that worship is a lifestyle, not merely a moment of song and dance.

Paul, beginning in Romans 12, calls us to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1, emphasis mine). Worship is the way in which we live our lives. Everybody worships, the greater question is, what or whom? Christians are called to worship God, by devoting every area of our lives to glorify Him. That’s worship.

2. You’ve professed your faith to the Census Bureau but never to an actual human being.

If the only time you profess Christianity is when the Census Bureau comes a’ knocking at your door, asking you to fill out a census form, which includes your religious preference, there is a serious problem with the state of the very faith in which you profess.

Christ did not call you for you to couch your faith, but to be proactive in sharing His marvelous Light with others. You are called to be Salt and Light, but how can you season the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you never open your mouth about Him? People do not “light a lamp and put it under a basket.” Neither should you. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world so that the world will see it and give glory to God (Matt. 5:14-16).

3. You know and love those mostly-unbiblical clichés like “God would never give you more than you can handle”

It sounds good when they say it, and the person saying it certainly means well, but the problem is that such a statement is unbiblical. God doesn’t call us to “handle” anything in the midst of trials and tribulations, but to cast our cares upon Him. We are called to depend upon Him, and to trust in Him. In fact, often times God allows struggles to occur in our lives so that we would learn to lean on Him, and not our own understanding.

At the root of this issue with clichés among cultural Christians is their lack of knowledge and reverence for the Word of God. It is imperative, therefore, that we be a people under the authority of God’s Word, as students of Scripture, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), testing what others say, and searching the Scripture for God’s revealed truth ourselves. Christians are called to trust in God’s Word, alone, as sufficient for equipping us to live lives pleasing to Him (2 Tim. 3:16).

4. You Church-hop on Sundays and Bar-hop on Friday’s

You may go to church. You may pay your tithes. You may know all the right things to say and do. Heck, you may even have memorized the entire New Testament. But at the end of the day, if your life doesn’t reflect the faith you profess, your faith is dead (James 2:17). Meaningless.

1 John gives us some solemn warnings, and is a great go-to-book to measure ones spiritual vitality. “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” (1 John 2:15). The “world,” here, is not the same “world” of John 3:16. The “world” in this verse is not talking about the people of this world, but rather the patterns of this world. Simply put, do you love the things of this world more than you love God? Sex, money, entertainment, food, or whatever it may be, are all good things, no doubt. But a good thing can become a bad thing when to you it becomes god. You’ve been saved by faith, for good works. Now walk it out (Eph. 2:10) and be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

5. Christianity, to you, is synonymous with American.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to break it to you but Christianity is not an American religion. It’s not even a Western religion. It was a bloody, Jewish, Middle-Eastern Messiah—whom you, as the arrogant and ignorant American, would probably report to TSA at an air terminal—that established the Christian faith.

Besides, you are in for a rude awakening as the tide of Post-Christian thought comes rolling in from Europe, permeating American society and institutions of higher learning. And it is because of you, cultural Christian, that they will become more effective.

Learn and know the faith that you claim to stand upon. And learn to contend for it, whenever and wherever necessary (Jude 1:3).

6. You say awesome—a lot.

You are not awesome. Your friends are not awesome. That steak from Ruth Chris’ is not awesome. Even that latest edition to the X-Men film series is not awesome. I’m afraid that such a light-hearted usage of the word “awesome” has given way to irreverence for what is truly awesome: God Himself.

Rather, let us sing, with the Palmist, “awesome is God from His sanctuary!” (Psalm 68:35, emphasis mine)

Amen.

 

Obviously I could not fit all of the ways in which cultural Christians manifest themselves into this brief post, but feel free to add some of your thoughts in the comment section!

How’s Your Prayer Life?

child_prayingHow’s your prayer life? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that it is not very good. After all, we are still sinners, who, at our very core, struggle forward in our relationship with God. We set our alarms to wake up an hour early, re-dedicating our lives to be devoted to prayer, and time with God.

But then we wake up and hit the snooze button.

Or maybe your prayers don’t lack consistency, but certainly lack substance. You pray the same rigid and repetitive prayers you’ve been praying for years, and have become quite shallow in your prayer life, which, ultimately, has affected your relationship with God.

Prayer is the means whereby we communicate with God, cast our cares upon God, confess ourselves before God, and exult in His glory.

Prayer should be done, even when we do not feel like it, because it is precisely when we don’t feel like it, that our relationship with God is open to compromise. Jesus tells His disciples, in the Gospel according to Matthew, to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41, emphasis mine).

Yes, do come to God with your petitions, and yes, do thank God for His healing power, or even for that new promotion at work. Thank God, through prayer, in all things. Come to God, in prayer, for all things. But come to God in prayer, nonetheless.

Christ, our Great High Priest, through the shedding of His blood, has secured for us unlimited access to the presence of God. Therefore, we may boldly go where no one before Christ has gone before (unless, of course, you were a Levite, chosen as the High Priest).

The book of Hebrews reminds us that “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near [to God]” (Heb. 10:19,22).

Be confident that Christ has paved the way, for you, into the presence of God, and pray. Pray often. Pray when you do not feel like praying. After all, quality time in prayer really only comes through the quantity of time you spend praying.

Tim Keller, in his new book entitled Prayer (a must read!), writes the following:

Just prior to giving his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus offered some preliminary ideas, including this one : “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. . . . But when you pray , go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . in secret” (Matt 6: 5– 6). The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life. Many people will pray when they are required by cultural or social expectations , or perhaps by the anxiety caused by troubling circumstances. Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so. They pursue it even during times of spiritual dryness, when there is no social or experiential payoff.[1]

Do you even want to pray? Keller is saying that if we do not desire to pray, then something is detrimentally wrong with our spiritual state. Our relationship with God depends upon the time we spend with God, in prayer. Prayer is essential to our spiritual being.

So then, what’s left to do but to pray?

[1] Keller, Timothy (2014-11-04). Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (p. 23). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Does God Actually Say No to the GLBT Community?

leviticus

NOTE: This article is meant to address the decisions of the church in dealing with, and allowing such sins as homosexuality and gender confusion, and does in no way devalue the need for loving and evangelizing those who are dead in such sins. All of us need Jesus, our only Lord and Savior.  

 

This week, the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) gathered together to vote on severing ties with one of Louisville’s local KBC-affiliated churches. What was the reason behind their decision to release the church from affiliation? The church, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, made the choice to affirm and perform same-sex marriages. As if that was not bad enough, Crescent Hill also decided to ordain members of their church, regardless of ones sexual preferences or gender-identity. This would allow homosexual or transgender men and women to serve and lead from within the church (you can read more here).

So, what’s the problem? It’s the 21st century, and shouldn’t we be over this sort of rigid fundamentalism by now?

Sure, if your desires and actions are motivated by the culture, rather than God.

But God loves everyone, doesn’t He? Surely He wouldn’t allow for such condemning and judgmental behaviors from within His own church?

Well, let’s see.

Here is a list of passages of Scripture that clearly condemn homosexual activity:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).

If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them. (Lev. 20:13).

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:26-28).

These passages, when taken within their rightful context, leave no room for speculation. Homosexuality is a sin, like every other sin mentioned in the Bible, in that it is punishable by death (Romans 3:23). Yet homosexuality is unique because it is the supreme example of distorted and disorderly worship. Homosexuality, and to deny ones God-given identity, is to deny the very image of God in which they were created. This is not to say that man’s sinful nature does not produce unwanted desires and attractions in us; but they can be overcome, in Christ. For the Christian, they must be overcome, as we are to no longer live according to the flesh (Romans 8:12-13). Furthermore, nowhere does the Bible affirm same-sex relationships, let alone condone the appointment of unrepentant homosexuals to the office of deacon or elder (See biblical qualifications in 1 Tim. 3, Titus 2).

To reject these truths of scripture is to reject God’s Word, and to reject God’s Word is to reject God himself. What Crescent Hill church has done, is taken a ride down the slippery slope of biblical liberalism. When being politically correct becomes more important than being biblically sound, you have degenerated from the very will of God.

At the heart of this issue between the KBC and Crescent Hill, is the question: did God actually say no to homosexuality? In fact, this is the very question posed to Eve, in the Garden of Eden, that deceived man into rejecting God’s Word, while choosing the creation over the Creator. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) This is the very question that is being answered wrongfully by so many professing Christian denominations across the globe. But God does say no to homosexuality, same-sex relationships, and all-of-the-above, as clearly revealed in His inerrant and authoritative Word. To deviate from God’s Truth is to deviate from the standard of faith, as measured according to scripture, and practiced and affirmed by over two thousand years of historical Christianity.

Crescent Hill, and others, must realize that when it comes to God’s Word, you must either believe all of it, or none of it, but it must not be just some of it. This is not a gray-area issue like whether or not Christians can drink alcohol or dance—the integrity of God’s Word is on the line. Once Christians begin to reject fundamental truths concerning the institution of marriage and being made in the image of God, it isn’t too long before the Bible itself is rejected. Sure, they may say they believe in God, but it will not be the God of the Bible! The truth of the matter is that you will either stand on the Word of God, or you will fall by the Word of God.

So, Christian, where will you stand?

To listen to Dr. Albert Mohler of The Briefing, and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, weigh in on the issue, click here.

Cut It Off, and Pluck It Out: Preventing Sexual Immorality

Cut-It-Off-Pluck-Out-Matthew-18.8You love Starbucks. In fact, you go to Starbucks everyday. Not because you love the coffee, but because you love meeting the young college girls who go there, thanks to a nearby campus. You look at them and lust after them, convincing yourself, as a Christian, that as long as you don’t have sex with them, it’s okay.

You can’t wait until your wife goes to bed. You’ve been fantasizing all day about the girls you see online. The unlimited access to thousands of beautiful—and naked—women that you have, right at your fingertips. You look at pornography daily, and masturbate excessively. Your wife has no idea, even though your pornography addiction is the very reason that your marital sex-life is dwindling. You love your wife—or so you say—and reason that masturbation is okay, since your not actually having sex with another woman. Even still, you dread the day that your wife walks in on you and catches you in the act.

The mind that becomes imprisoned by lust gains a couple of cellmates named Denial and Rationalization. We love to mask the behaviors we know to be sinful; denying them for what they truly are: sin. We rationalize our behavior, measuring our lives against those around us, considering that because they are doing it, it must be acceptable. We work to minimize our sin, and reject the devastation it has, or will, cause us, and others. But the message of Jesus Christ goes beyond any act of sexual immorality, and cuts right to the heart of the issue. Literally.

Sexual immorality is just another manifestation of your heart condition. Jesus, in Matthew 5:28, says that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (emphasis mine). To look at a woman with lustful intent is to gaze upon another person with sexual gratification in mind. We turn our sisters, His daughters, into objects of our own sinful desires. We dehumanize them. When we lust in our minds, we sin in our hearts. Jesus says we’ve already committed adultery.

So how do we avoid it? Jesus goes on to say that “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29a, 30a).

Recently, I was talking with a friend when the fact that he did not have the Internet came up. What? Who doesn’t have the Internet these days? Apparently him. Curious, I asked him why. His reason astonished me—but not as much as it encouraged me. He said that he did not have the Internet because he “had problems looking at things he shouldn’t be looking at.” He struggles with pornography. Acknowledging this struggle, and born out of his desire to please God, he chose not to get the Internet. He dismembered himself from pornography by plucking out his proverbial eye. He took preventive measures against his sin. This is what Christ calls us to do.

In the concluding verse of the passage on adultery, Jesus gives us the reason as to why we should take such preventive measures against our sexual sin. “It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:30b). What Jesus is saying is that it is better to separate our selves from the temporal pleasures of sin, rather than be separated from God for eternity.

If going to Starbucks, or any other place, sets you up to stumble after the lust of the flesh, don’t go! If you struggle with addiction to pornography, get rid of the Internet, or take preventive measures to ensure that you are not alone in front of a computer that may have access to pornography. Cut if off, and pluck it out.

Breaking the Chains: A Christian’s Struggle With the Effects of Sexual Abuse

breaking-the-chains“If you tell anybody, I’ll kill you.”

These words are still as fresh in my mind as the feeling I felt from the barrel of a .22 derringer pressed against my neck. That night marked a series of evenings that would leave me laying in tears—and sometimes blood—violated and ravaged by someone I looked up to. Someone I trusted.

If you have ever been molested, raped, or sexually abused, then you can understand the mixture of emotions I felt. You can understand going through life, hoping to wake-up from a nightmare that never seemed to end.

And while I am not an expert in the study of psychology or counseling, I am an expert in the painful effects of molestation. I’ve lived with the effects of sexual abuse for over twenty years, and while the power of God allows me to experience freedom and a heart that forgives, the long-term impact that the abuse has had on my life has been devastating.

Sexual abuse affects so many areas of our lives, from the physical to the metaphysical, that simply telling someone what had been done, is not enough. Confronting your abuser, and telling someone what they did to you is only the beginning of a lifetime of dealing with the pangs of molestation.

Here are two of the most evident ways in which being sexually abused has impacted my own life. And while I do not intend for this to be an exhaustive treatment on the subject, my hope is that it will shed some insight into how sexual abuse affects its victims, and a couple of practical ways in which the Christian may begin to experience freedom.

Identity

If you were a growing young boy at the time of your abuse, like I was, and your abuser was another male, you have undoubtedly experienced identity issues. Perhaps you were asking yourself whether or not you were now “gay” as a result of your abuse. Or, like me, out of disgust at the very thought of being violated by another man, you decided to sleep with as many girls possible in order to prove your manhood, leading into a lifetime of homophobia and sexual immorality.

Or maybe there were times when you became aroused as a natural reaction to stimulation and, thus, minimized the fault of the attacker. Because, after all, you enjoyed it right?

For years—and, at times, even now—I’ve lived my life trying to prove I am a man. I’ve let my abuser have control over my identity as a man. In fact, his subconscious control over my life had inevitably fostered control issues within, which aimed to “take back” my life from my abuser through always trying to control my situations, circumstances, and relationships. Yet, be that as it may, I had no control. I was lost and broken. He told me I was at fault, so I was at fault. He told me I was the one that was sick and twisted, and so, I was sick and twisted. He told me that I was insufficient to please anybody, and so, I was. I lived for far too long believing these things about myself.

But God did not create me to be viewed in any of the ways in which my attacker viewed me. God created me (and you) in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). I am a man, because God created me as a man, and no one has the right to redefine that which God has created.

God did not create us to be violated, to be used like lifeless instruments of gratification for the purposes of serving man’s sick and twisted sinful desires. When we experience the trauma of sexual abuse, we are experiencing the depravity of man, not the will or the purposes of God.

What you’ve done or what has been done to you, should never serve as the basis for understanding your identity. You must never let the sinfulness of mankind affect that who you are, in Christ. You are a son or daughter of the living God, fearfully and wonderfully made—a new creature. Find yourself in Him, and you will begin to find yourself liberated from the effects of your abuse.

Relationally

When I started having children of my own, I was afraid. Not because I felt that I might abuse them too, but because the way in which my abuse has shaped the way I view boundaries.

Honestly, for years I was uncomfortable being naked and exposed around anyone, much less my own bride. Second to that, came the fear of performing what we would consider “normal” parental duties, like teaching your children to use the potty, or giving them a bath. Any of those things reminded me of my abuse. In the same sense, I didn’t want to violate my children’s boundaries. This, however, produced an unhealthy effect in the way in which I parented. I needed to move beyond having my attacker in view, and love and lead my children in a way that was healthy and fatherly.

This leads back to our identity. Our identity as sons or daughters of our God the Father, gives us a sense of what it looks like to be loving parents to our own children. To father and and mother in grace and truth, warmth and compassion, from the example set fourth from our own Father, who is in Heaven.

Yet perhaps the most devastating sense in which my abuse has affected me relationally, is in the area of trust.

All I have to do is try and count my closest friends, and this is where I will fail miserably. In fact, I have no close friends. Sure, I have plenty of Facebook friends that will occasionally post a “Happy Birthday” message on my wall and maybe “like” a status here or there, but I have had no real lasting friendships. Neither am I close with any of my family members, besides my immediate family of course.

When I look at how I have failed in relationships, I see, not only the result of a broken childhood, but also the result of my abuse, once again holding the reigns of my life in the palm of its hand. Not only has it affected friendships, but it has also infected my marriage.

While I was dating my now-bride, I ended up breaking up with her at least five times. I was constantly trying to find ways to end the relationship, to keep her at a distance—I didn’t want to let anyone in. But she kept pursuing, and loved me, despite my unhealthy attitude towards relationships. This, in turn, has had a profound impact on the way in which I now view trust and love working together.

It’s easy to distrust people, especially in light of being sexually abused. Our trust has been supremely violated; often times by those closest to us. Our view of people has been marred. But rather than building up a wall of distrust around us, and keeping ourselves from establishing healthy relationships, we must learn to trust, with the same love that God has shown us. God will not leave us nor forsake us—He is our God, whom we can trust, and depend upon.

Sure, trust is taking risks, but the benefits of it allow us to begin to see the world through the lenses of love, rather than viewing everyone as the one who betrayed our trust, and hurt us deeply. We mustn’t play the victim the rest of our lives, because then it becomes an excuse, and a means of escaping reality and responsibility. Not everyone will hurt us the way in which we’ve been hurt. In fact, you’ll be surprised at the amount of love you’ll experience from the church, family, and friends, when you begin to tear down that wall of distrust, and allow trust to be established and rooted in love.

Proverbs 3:5 encourages us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (emphasis mine). Here, it is our own understanding that leads us away from the very gifts that God has given us in family and friendships, in life itself. We must trust that God will lead us into true and lasting relationships that will allow us to be built up and encouraged in love and life with Him.

Conclusion

Have you forgiven your abuser? If not, I invite you to experience the freedom that comes from forgiving those who have wronged us. We don’t forgive merely because we are told, but because we know that all people have wronged God and others, in some shape or form. Even us. And just as Christ came to die for our sins, and offer us the gift of life, so has He died for them, extending to them the same forgiveness and everlasting life with Him. When you forgive your abuser, you are also freeing yourself from the power of sin over your life—freeing yourself from the control that your abuse has had over you for so many years. You are being found in the grace of God, and becoming the man or woman that God has created you to be—a reflection of His own love and mercy.

Finally, when you allow your identity, found in the image of God, to shape your relationships with others, you learn to be a forgiving people, a trusting people, a people who can live together, in love, and grow together, in Christ.