Tag Archives: Bible

Ashley Madison

Ashley Madison is not merely a fashionable woman’s name; it’s a website that promotes adultery. Their slogan is: Life is short, have an affair. It’s run by a couple who say this is just business; they’re faithful to each other (so they claim). Reminds me of drug dealers who sell heroin but don’t do it because they realize how addictive and destructive it is. Yet they don’t care how many people the drug ruins or kills, as long as they make money. After all, it’s only a business.

The reason I know about Ashley Madison is the same reason many of you do. Hackers stole their private client list and publicly posted it (not easily available unless you know your way around the web, however). The media has exposed reality TV Christian Josh Duggar, as well as Sam Radar, who hosts a  show with his wife on YouTube about raising their kids. Both have apologized. There is also a Muslim preacher, who has denied his involvement. Is it wrong to reveal these people’s private choices? Do you think this whole affair (forgive the pun) is sad? How should we feel?

What is wrong is that this service exists at all. What is sad is that 37.5 million married people have been using it to betray their spouses. I am not at all upset that any of them got caught. I am concerned about those who have harmed themselves as the result of being exposed, rather than seeking mercy and forgiveness.

Is this anyone else’s business, though, beyond the couples involved? Actually, yes, it is. Marriage is a commitment to one other person, but it is a public commitment. In a wedding ceremony promises are made before family and friends, and by extension to those friends and family. The promise is this:  I will remain true to this one person, he or she is mine and I am theirs for life. The cheater is betraying not only their spouse, but everyone else who has any kind of relationship with them. The betrayal moves out in concentric circles beginning with the spouse, then to the children, close relatives, friends, coworkers and so on. Adultery is the breaking of a promise made to everyone.

How should someone feel who has committed adultery? Ashamed. I mean it, you should feel bad about what you’ve done, or are doing. You feel guilty because, well, you are guilty. And I don’t mean just because you got caught. Don’t justify yourself; don’t make excuses. Alleviating guilt by rationalizing your choices won’t change anything. Shame and guilt are not enough, though. That will only serve to destroy you emotionally, and perhaps socially as well. You must feel and think, and believe and do something more. You must repent. That means you have an honest and real change of heart. So much so that if you could go back, you wouldn’t do the same thing again. Make no excuses. Just admit it’s wrong. Then seek mercy and forgiveness from God, your spouse and everyone else in your life. Change your thinking; change your ways.

You need to fear God. In my estimation, that is precisely what is lacking in our nation today. People don’t fear God so they do whatever they feel like doing… until they get caught and have to face the consequences of their actions. In the Bible there is an entire book called Judges, which narrates a time in Israelite history when the people did some pretty shocking things (even by our standards today). The book concludes by explaining all of the moral insanity: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The people had neither an earthly king, nor did they live in submission to God as their king, and so it is in our day.

Yet in the ancient world even those who had no faith or allegiance to the God of the Bible were made to realize that adultery was evil and posed grave consequences. Consider a situation that arose with both Abraham and again years later with his son Isaac (Genesis 12, 20 & 26). Both father and son were blessed with beautiful wives, and both stayed among foreigners whom they feared. Abraham stayed among the Egyptians for a time and called Sarah his sister (a partial truth) in order to protect himself from any who would kill him to marry her. Indeed, Pharaoh took Sarah into his harem and gave Abraham favor and many gifts as a result. However, the Bible reports: “But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” Pharaoh recognized that the calamity had come as the result of taking another man’s wife and returned Sarah to Abraham and sent them away. This happened again when Abraham lived near a king named Abimelech, then with his son Isaac and Abimelech’s son of the same name. In each case the reaction was the same: fear of God and repentance.

God offers forgiveness, even if your spouse doesn’t. You have to admit you are wrong. You must repent. You have to stop the affair. God forgives because Jesus died the death you and I deserve because of our wrongdoing. Too often, though, we want freedom from guilt and shame, but we fail or refuse to admit we’ve done anything truly bad. I believe that repentance involves a deep sense of guilt and shame. Then we lay our guilty selves at the crucified feet of Jesus and cry out for mercy. Because of the Lord’s grace anyone who repents and has faith in Christ will be granted forgiveness and set free!

So, even if you haven’t been caught cheating, stop now. Even if your cheating is only in your imagination, and via porn sites, it’s already adultery of the heart. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Cry out to God. Run to his merciful arms. Allow his Spirit to convict you of your wrong and to forgive you and raise you up and give you new life. If you feel that conviction now, don’t even finish this article before you pray…

Adultery is particularly confusing to children, and destructive to families. “Why is daddy with a different mommy?” The adulterer is teaching their kids that it’s okay to lie, cheat, steal, betray and break your promises. They are showing no respect for their family. So, what happens when those kids reach the teen years? They may be jaded. They may see the adulterous parent(s) as having no moral authority (at least in the sexual area). They may perceive that marriage has little or no meaning. A recent  movie called Trainwreck illustrates this reality. It is a cynical comedy about a woman whose father has taught her by word and example: “Monogamy isn’t realistic.”  She spends her adult life moving from one meaningless sexual encounter to another, until she meets a guy who tries to steer her toward marriage. As in this movie, the children of adulterers will be tempted to see sex as an end of its own, instead of the special expression of love to one other person within the bounds of marriage.

Adultery starts before you’re married. Moving from one sexual partner to another reinforces a desire for novelty and change. It also fails to develop genuine intimacy and the necessary skill to please one other person consistently for a lifetime. The hook-up culture that predominates in high school and college today fails to develop healthy relationships. It is pleasure seeking and inherently self-centered. Patience is essential in marriage. Any relationship that has sex as the primary goal will not encourage tolerance for the shortcomings of the partner.

What about married people who are bored with their partners? How about those who no longer feel the same attraction, or even love, for their partner? The marriage covenant is not based on feelings, but promises. How you feel at any point in time is irrelevant. You made promises. You are responsible to keep them. Marriage requires work, and that work doesn’t stop.

Communication

If you are having difficulty, communicate with your spouse. If things are going well, tell them how much you appreciate them. If they don’t think sex is as important any more, talk about it. If sex is no longer fun, talk about what made it enjoyable earlier in the marriage. Communicate with one another regularly and with detail. In order to communicate effectively, you must listen more than you talk. You must be empathetic. As Atticus says to Scout in the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Consideration

Say, “it’s not about me.” Now, repeat. “Let each of you look not only out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). Selfishness destroys relationships. Love is inherently unselfish. Put your partners needs above your own.

Compromise

Finally, learn to compromise. Both partners must practice this important discipline for the relationship to remain strong. This applies in the sexual area as much as in any other. Many times one partner (often the husband) wants to have sex more often than the other. Studies have shown that women may have a lower sex drive after having children. This coincides with a time when many marriages end in divorce. If you are the less motivated partner, compromise is necessary to keep your spouse satisfied. On the other hand, if you are the partner who is more sexually driven, it is important not to treat your wife (or husband) as the object of your pleasure. She’s not your porn project. If your partner is not as adventurous as you want them to be, you will need to be understanding and patient. Above all respect your partner. There are some sexual acts that don’t belong in anyone’s bedroom.

Are Christians Becoming Stupid?

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen! And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

(Mark 4:23-25)

Not all Christians are stupid, and I do not use the term in a derogatory way. I use it advisedly to both get your attention, and to point out that many who would claim the name Christian, who once accepted the truth of the Bible and sought to live accordingly, have now willfully chosen to eschew that knowledge in favor of many opposing views. They could hear, but have now chosen not to pay attention.

Ignorant refers to someone who simply doesn’t know, or know any better. Stupid refers to someone who knows better than, say, to do something, but charges headlong into doing it anyhow. Stupid is someone who knows the truth that sets them free and remains instead a slave. Increasing numbers of Christians are in this position because they have chosen to be shaped by a post-Christian culture instead of having minds transformed by paying attention to and applying the truth of the living and active Word of God.

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get…

I wrote the next two paragraphs like a journal entry when I encountered Jesus words about paying attention to what you hear. You see, I need to get this.

Measure you give = how much I pay attention to the Word being spoken. Measure you get = how much truth I receive and retain. I don’t want to be like those “who are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

When I listen, focus, pay attention to the Word being communicated through the Scripture by the Holy Spirit, or the internal witness or conviction of the Spirit about some issue, then I will realize the truth being communicated. I will receive knowledge. Then I will act on the truth. If I do this, then I will retain what I’ve learned (remember it) and remain active in it (continue to act upon it), and I will be in position and privileged to receive more truth from the Lord. If I fail to pay attention, to believe in and act upon the truth the Holy Spirit is teaching, then I will not be given anything more. Not only that, what I’ve already learned will begin to leech away until I have nothing. I must live out what I’ve learned, and keep learning more. I must move upward and go forward and grow and change into the image of Christ, or I will fall backward and become more and more like a fallen man, who “fades into the light of common day.”

I think some of you need to understand this too…

Jesus told parables. These are “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.” In relating the reason he spoke in parables, this master teacher indicated it was in order to hide the truth from the uninitiated and those unwilling to change (see Mark 4:10-12). He explained his parables to the followers he chose. The beauty of Jesus’ parables is, they are memorable and tangible and may be recalled by anyone who has heard them even once. However, the meaning is not obvious; it requires an instructed mind, a mind taught by the Holy Spirit. This represents the Lord hiding the Truth in plain sight. The genius of the parables is, the truth remains locked up inside them ready to be revealed when the person who has heard decides to pay attention. “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a command Jesus appended to many of his parables and other teaching. It is like a zip file on a computer: that small file contains a compressed information which must be unzipped, or decompressed, in order to be understood by a user. A parable of Jesus, like that zip file, is stored in the memory of someone who has heard it. When once that person is ready to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, who is trying to speak to them and transform them, there comes a moment of serendipity (an Aha! moment) when they realize the truth (like “the moral of the story”).

Truth demands a response, a parable containing truth does not. The more people hear Truth and refuse to accept it, the harder their hearts become to it. Jesus was encountering opposition and hardening hearts when he began to use parables. Eventually, the truth must be told explicitly, without figures of speech and stories (see John 16:19-33), and the Spirit of Truth will make it plain to those who are paying attention. Are you paying attention?

If you pay attention and receive what you hear by faith, then you will learn and grow. You will be entrusted with more truth and more knowledge of God and His Word. If you do not, then even what you once had will be taken away from you. You may well fall into a horrible state of disbelief, and, well, stupidity regarding God and the Bible. You may come to a point of no return, a place where you seek to repent but cannot change your heart and mind back to the simplicity of trust in Jesus and belief in the Bible as God’s holy Word. It is pointless for me to warn anyone who has already come to such a point. Such a person will scoff, discount, ignore or argue against such a warning. I am speaking to someone who has yet to turn away, but may be tempted.

If you are being tested today, if you feel like turning away, I say come back home. Return to the beginning of your faith journey. You’ve become to wise in your own eyes. You don’t know what you think you do. The truth hasn’t changed. Jesus is the same and His love is never ending. Return to the place where you began to stray. Do what you refused to do back then. Go back to the place where you began to do what you still know is wrong, and repent. Change your thinking and change your ways, while you still can. “Night is coming when no man can work,” and no more change may be made.

Here’s a final warning from Scripture. Heed it, and don’t be stupid.

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 If you

Homosexuality and the Bible

It is obvious to me when reading the online comments of several professed Christians that culture is having a greater influence upon their thinking than the inspired Scripture. And it is equally obvious by references these people make to the Bible that many don’t really pay attention to what it very plainly says.. Rather, they rely on others who have read key passages to (re)interpret what it says about homosexuality. Additionally, I see increasing instances of people disrespecting the Apostle Paul and discounting what he wrote as irrelevant for a 21st century context. What is even worse is the assertion that Paul is teaching a different Gospel than Jesus! Because if you can dismiss the Apostle Paul, then you’re left with a much depleted New Testament, and a far less defined Gospel.

I’m not going to make the attempt at the moment to defend Paul. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then you dismiss Paul at your own risk. Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul in the road to Damascus, and called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. That means he’s the key communicator for the overwhelming majority of us. Further, Paul started churches and set precedent for how churches should be formed, which arguably continues to bear fruit today. See, I couldn’t leave it alone! I will proceed with the same faith passed down to the saints from the beginning: the Gospel distilled and proclaimed by Paul, Peter, John and at least four other New Testament writers.

But, just to make a point, let’s start with Jesus, whom many make the case never addressed homosexuality. Actually, Jesus taught about something more important than sexual choice, he taught about God’s design for gender and human relationships. Most importantly for this discussion, Jesus affirmed Old Testament teaching about marriage.

Matthew 19:3-6
“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

The one flesh relationship that Jesus affirms is part of God’s design in creation. In fact, the Lord quotes from the creation account in Genesis (2:24) in his reply to the Pharisees. I think Jesus might say the same thing to us today regarding the issue of marriage: “Have you not read…?” God intentionally designed and created two different genders, male and female. Sex is part of God’s design and the physical connecting link between the man and woman who commit themselves to each other in marriage. It is also the procreative tool to bring about new life. When a man and a woman join together by covenant and in sexual union, they become one physically, emotionally and even spiritually. The one flesh relationship God designed is impossible between two people of the same gender. This should be anatomically obvious to anyone who considers it.

It has become culturally acceptable for men and women to act like the opposite gender, and even to have themselves surgically and chemically altered to resemble the opposite gender. However, God’s design is deeper than that. We are living in a fallen world and there are some who are born with characteristics of both genders, and others who never feel comfortable living out their genetic gender. “God created them male and female.” Each one of us is created to be either male or female, outside and inside. Perhaps the person born with both characteristics is a good illustration of the “inside” gender idea. That individual must chose to live as a male or a female and will choose what they are inside as opposed to living according to their ambivalent or confusing anatomy.

You are either male or female. God designed you to be that gender. Physically and emotionally and spiritually you will become more and more a man or more and more a woman.

It is not God’s will for everyone to marry. Observe what the Lord taught us about divorce. The disciples were surprised about his strict interpretation.

Matthew 19:10-12
“The disciples said to him, If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
A eunuch cannot have sexual intercourse with a woman. Some men are born this way, some were conscripted and surgically altered as children, and others may choose to remained celibate.

There is a pattern and a principle here. If you are a man and are not attracted to women, or if you are attracted to other men instead, then it is incumbent upon you to remain celibate, not to presume that God made you to be a homosexual. We are living in a fallen world and I have no doubt but that there are complex factors at work in the lives of those who have same sex attraction. However, sex is not the answer to same sex attraction. You may genuinely love someone of the same gender. Good! But sex is not love. You find yourself in the same position as the eunuchs Jesus taught about above, and the same situation as any unmarried person with heterosexual attraction. You can abstain. Nothing bad will happen if you do not act out on your sexual attraction and desire. However, it will be very bad if you determine to identify with homosexuality and act against God’s design for male and female.

Let’s look at what Paul had to say in his letter to the Romans. This is an important inspired document. It was written to the capital city for the entire Roman empire. Paul distilled the Gospel and presented it very clearly in Romans. The epistle starts with a presentation about the world’s number one problem: sin. This is a longer passage, but read it carefully. I want you to understand the flow of the Apostle’s inspired reasoning.

Romans 1:18-27
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

I left the verse numbers so that you can find what I comment on.

First, God’s righteous anger is demonstrated against all sin (v. 18), not just sexual sins, and not just certain sexual sins. People who live sinful lifestyles suppress the truth (v. 18)—sin as defined by God in the Bible, and clearly in this Epistle to the Romans. To suppress means they try to hold the truth down, cover it up and keep people from hearing it, or argue against it. People suppress the truth with words and with their actions and lifestyle choices. That describes a variety of ways advocates energetically defend homosexuality and same sex marriage today. It has been cast as a civil right, and same sex marriage is “marriage equality.” Who wants to deny someone equal rights? Do you want to be on the wrong side of history? In one sense we’re all on the wrong side of history, until Christ returns and establishes righteousness and justice on the earth.

Because many Christians oppose homosexuality and support traditional marriage, a number of outspoken LGBT groups express outrage, sometimes even hatred. Apparently Christians don’t have the right to speak or exercise freedom of conscience. Activists shout down and attempt exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinion about homosexuality. Do you need reminding about the Atlanta fire chief who was dismissed for at statement in support of traditional marriage, or of how national Christian speaker Louie Giglio was pressured by the gay lobby to turn down an invitation to pray at Obama’s inauguration because of something he said in a sermon against homosexuality many years earlier. And do you remember the Chik fil’ A brouhaha and boycott? All because the mild mannered founder supported traditional marriage. Suppressers are not supporters of free speech… unless they are the ones speaking.

Everyone is accountable to God because God has revealed himself in some way to everyone, both in their conscience and in creation (vv. 19-20). Suppression of the truth continues: Is it any wonder that many who reject God embrace a worldview that teaches everything came from nothing as the result of pure chance, and “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no good, nothing but pointless indifference” (Dawkins). Every living thing is the product of the blind force of natural selection. This certainly leaves a gaping hole, through which any random idea or set of values can come, and indeed have come. If you begin with the provable assumption that the world is designed, created by an intelligent mind, then the next step is to understand the design and discover how you fit into it.

Even though we have all seen evidence of God in ourselves and in the created order, we all rebel and refuse to acknowledge Him in our thinking (v. 21). There is a biblical Proverb that says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him,and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). No, we put God out of our minds and think and do whatever we please. We think we are so wise! Further, we are ungrateful for all that the good and loving Creator has provided and done. The result is idolatry. We idolize things, people, and most of all, self (vv. 21-24).

Now let’s focus on those last two verses, which clearly describe homosexuality, even though they do not use that term. In fact, that has been an argument used by the pro homosexuals who try to use the Bible to buttress their position, or disabuse it in a continued effort to suppress what it says. The argument goes like this: The word “homosexual” is never actually used, so what we call homosexuality is not wrong. Actually, more descriptive and graphic words are used to describe and define the behavior. We often use the English word “homosexual” to gather these ideas together.

The Apostle Paul observes the ancient world and states (Romans 1:26-27 again),
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Once someone gets to the place where they choose an active lifestyle of sin, rebellion and perversion, it is the because they have stopped responding to God who has been convicting their conscience about right and wrong. Eventually, the person who chooses such a lifestyle hardens their heart to the point that they no longer respond to God’s urging. So, he gives them up to their desires (v. 26). Among these may be a burning desire to do sexual things with the same gender. Women are said to exchange natural sex with a husband for disordered sex with other women. Men are said to burn in their passion for other men. I believe that this is an expression of self-love and selfish idolatry.

I have come to believe that, at it’s root, homosexuality is an attempt to love and worship the self. A gay man sees another like himself, projects himself onto that person and makes love to them, and in so doing loves himself. This is partly what sex is, a means of obtaining acceptance and love. The perversion with homosexuality is the inability or unwillingness to completely love the other. I’m not saying that a lesbian couple cannot love one another (not sex, but compassion), but I am saying that the sexual side of homosexual relationships is very self-involved. The homosexual may project onto someone who is very much like themselves, someone who has similar physical features, and then show affection to that person and try to become physically intimate with them in an attempt to love themselves. In a different case a homosexual may project themselves onto an ideal person, someone they wish they were like, and make them the object of affection, in which case they are compensating for what they feel they lack. Now, this is my theory; you may criticize or jettison it as you’d like. I’m trying to understand homosexuality as it relates to sex itself.

The Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 5:28-29: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it….” It is evident, then, that sex is a means of self-love. The man and woman become one flesh, and when they have intercourse, they are expressing love each for the other and for the self as they identify with the other. The problem with homosexuality is both, that it cannot result in a one flesh relationship, and that it is expressing love for what amounts to an ideal image in the mirror of another just like me or like I want to be.

Whatever the root and reason for homosexuality, it is inherently unfulfilling. The homosexual receives in her/his own body the due penalty for their error (v. 27). Same sex marriage, social acceptance, or pleasurable sexual experiences: none of these will fill the emptiness. Homosexual activity merely exacerbates the loneliness and inevitably results in pain, loss, depression, isolation, despair. Whatever the psychological, emotional and physical consequences of homosexual behavior, it is sin. All sin separates from God, and without God we are all empty and headed for destruction.

There are two other New Testament passages of Scripture about homosexual behavior and relationships. Like the passage above, homosexuality is not treated alone. It is listed alongside other sins.
The Apostle Paul indicates that the Law should be taught or preached to those who are acting lawlessly so that they will be given an opportunity to realize that they are wrong.

1 Timothy 1:8-11
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
The word for immoral is “pornos” in Greek and likely refers to the sexually immoral, of which the next word is an example. In the NASB, the Greek word “arsenokoites” is translated “homosexual.” In the NRSV and the NKJV it is rendered “sodomites.” It is a highly descriptive term that refers to more than mere same sex attraction; rather, it speaks of men actually having anal intercourse with other men. We get the English word “coitus” from one of the two words this Greek term has joined together. “Male” and “intercourse.” Please notice, homosexual conduct is treated no differently than any other sinful lifestyle choice on the list, from murderers and kidnappers to the profane or perjurers (liars).

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
The key teaching in this passage is that all sin separates people from obtaining eternal life with God in His Kingdom. The two terms that refer to those who actively practice homosexuality are very graphic and refer to the active and passive male partners in homosexual sex. Those who are involved in such activity are included in the larger list of people who are living other sinful lifestyles, such as, fornication (heterosexual sex outside of marriage) and adultery.

So, there it is, a concise overview of what the New Testament (and Old Testament as Jesus taught it) teaches about homosexuality. This is why I am opposed to it. I don’t hate professed homosexuals, any more than I hate people caught up in other sinful lifestyle choices. I don’t believe I am any better without Christ. But I am in Christ, and he has given me life. I want everyone to receive what I have, but to do that you’ll have to have a change of heart and mind about many things, not just homosexuality.

Gay Cakes

The provocative title is more narrow than this editorial. I’m reading all of the rhetoric about baking cakes and making pizzas, and it occurs to me that some of you, at least, are on an agenda-driven adventure of missing the point. Completely.

There are several issues here. Some are civil. Some are religious.

Civil issue 1) Should a person of faith (or no faith) be required by the state to violate their conscience? I should say not. This is precisely what has been at issue since the Obama administration began to prosecute businesses that object to paying for abortofacients (drugs or other contraceptives that cause de facto abortions to occur). This is what is at issue when a business that bakes wedding cakes, does wedding photography or rents space is required by the government to do so for those who are plainly in violation of every religions traditional view of marriage.

Civil issue 2) Should a business person with any particular viewpoint be forced to trade or service those with whom they disagree. We see signs on restaurants (and similar establishments) that stay: “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” Is that acceptable? Not in the broadest interpretation, but it is done all of the time, and we don’t experience a media firestorm over it. That’s because this refusal is typically for an agreed upon good reason. For example, most of us would agree with a restaurant refusing to serve someone not wearing a shirt or shoes. However, there could be a civil rights lawsuit filed if the restaurant refused to serve someone because of their race or religion. This is the generalization that the left is seeking to make concerning issue 1 above. Refusing to serve a homosexual in your restaurant is not the same as refusing to cater their wedding. Anyone may enter a restaurant, order and eat. The restaurant is not perceived as condoning the lifestyle choice of every patron. However, catering a wedding may be perceived as tacitly or actively supporting, if not the couple, homosexual marriage.

Religious issue 1) From a Christian perspective, should I do business with openly gay people, adulterers, spousal or child abusers? I’m sure many will be offended that I’ve bundled these types of people together. For the record, I do not think consensual homosexuality is harmful in the same way as spousal or child abuse. What I want you to understand is, there are some people you don’t want to do business with because of their character or lifestyle. But should you? The argument I’m hearing from a number of Christians is the standard evangelical mantra. We should do it to witness to them. I would agree, if that’s your genuine motive. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, both groups despised by the religious leadership of his day. However, Jesus was never accused of either sinning or extorting money from people (as the tax collectors were accused of doing). The Lord taught the truth and spoke honestly about the need for both the religious and the irreligious to change their thinking and change their ways. Often when a Christian does business or befriends someone who is living a lifestyle that openly defies biblical morality, we just look the other way. And that is why we have a godless nation today. Develop relationships with everyone, even those who don’t think the way you do, even those who oppose Christianity, and then openly share love, grace and truth. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before people in such a way that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Religious issue 2) Should a Christian caterer or photographer (for example) do their work for a homosexual wedding? I’m not asking whether they should have a civil right to refuse, but whether, from a biblical standpoint, this business person should participate in such an event.

No, I do not believe a Christian has any business (pardon the unintended pun) supporting something so obviously against Christian morality and the Bible, and beyond that against the time honored traditions of every civilization and religion for 5,000 years. As a minister, I would go to jail rather than officiate a homosexual wedding. Now, you may think that I shouldn’t be forced to marry a gay/lesbian couple because I am a minister in a church. The case I would make is, every Christian is a representative of Christ and every one of us are ministers. I have done videography. I would refuse to do a gay/lesbian wedding. But let’s say a homosexual couple, “married” or not, approached me to do videography for one of their children’s sporting events or birthday parties. Would I take that job. Absolutely. Look at Religious issue 1 again. If I baked cakes, would I do so for the birthday of a vocal homosexual. Again, yes… unless, they ordered some sort of sexually explicit decoration (which I would refuse to do for a heterosexual as well).

Christian friends, you need to stop allowing the culture to make up your mind about these issues. You must stop being swayed by the opinions of your friends and relatives. As a disciple of Jesus I am shaped by his teaching, the Gospel, the Word of God, which is in the Christian canon of the Bible. Speak the truth in love, and love the people of the world as Christ who died to prove his love for the whole world (Ephesians 4:15, John 3:16).

Suicide and Christianity

If it means anything to be a Christian, anything beyond accepting Jesus as a mascot for kindness and civility, then being a Christian means thinking like the Jesus who is revealed in the New Testament. That Jesus lives on: he was raised from the dead and he lives in the hearts and minds of those who have submitted their wills to his lordship.

For those of us who live under the authority of Jesus Christ, who have surrendered our very selves to him, there is a different way of thinking which places at odds with a post-Christian culture. Indeed if we communicate this kind of Christian thinking in the marketplace today, we will encounter strident opposition from a growing segment of the population influenced by popular culture, even among those within “the church.”

I read today that a terminally ill 29 year old cancer patient committed suicide, and that is lauded as heroism by many, even by some who would call themselves “Christian.” Suicide is not heroic. It is selfish, and cowardly. However, I do not expect a world that rejects Jesus Christ and his way of thinking to agree with my assessment. For those who call Jesus their Lord, however, I have a different expectation.

Jesus people do not play God. When someone commits suicide that is precisely what they are doing, even if they have a terminal disease. The reality is, all of us have a terminal disease. We all live under the curse of death. Every single one of us will die. I did not give myself life. I did not decide the day of my birth. I do not have the authority to decide the day of my death. God does. God says, “Do not murder.” This applies to suicide. If you commit suicide you will answer for it in judgment.

But you may say” “You don’t understand. You are callous. You don’t know the pain this woman was in.” I do understand. I simply do not agree with this choice. More importantly, I am making the case that Jesus Christ disagrees with this choice. I am not callous. I have been in great pain. I have suffered emotionally and physically. I have had suicidal thoughts. Fear of God and respect for life has kept me from considering such thoughts.

What if I had cancer? God forbid it, but what if…? I know I would want to die peacefully, painlessly. I believe I would be tempted to take my life too. Sadly, the precedent is not being set by a 29 year old woman, but by the media who condones (perhaps even celebrates) euthanasia. It will make suicide a more viable option for others who are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or even those who suffer physical or emotional pain. Would it make it easier for me to do the same? I know I must face God in judgment. My life is not my own.

The Apostle Paul was facing execution at the hands of the Romans due to false accusations by his own people. He wrote from the equivalent of death row: “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He had reason to despair, but he continued to hope. He confesses that he’d prefer to die and meet Jesus. However, the Apostle was convinced he would continue to live and love.
“Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me” (Philippians 1:25-26, NLT).

A more contemporary example is found in Pope John Paul II. In his waning years the Pontiff suffered from Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthrosis. He had difficulty hearing and speaking. It was painful to observe him in public. However, John Paul II chose to press on as an example to everyone of how a Christian should bear up under suffering. This is an example we desperately need today. Christianity is not about getting everything we want in this life. It is not about the supreme value of freedom. It is not about being healthy, wealthy and wise. It is about denying myself, taking up my cross and following Jesus. Sooner or later that will mean following my Lord through the valley of the shadow of death, but even then I will not fear evil because He will be with me, to comfort and guide and bring me to the other side.

We must learn how to suffer. We must learn to place our hope in Christ’s gift of eternal life. We must learn to value life. Above all we must learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom. Acknowledging God in all of our thinking is vital. Too many Christians are influenced by contemporary culture more than the teaching and example of Jesus. Too many of us believe today’s talking heads and self-proclaimed experts above the Word of God. I don’t expect those who doubt the Bible and disbelieve in it’s God to agree with me. But you who claim to belong to Jesus must think differently. The world needs this contrast. For who will recognize that they are in the dark if they are not shown the light?

Fan or Fanatic?

When it comes to sports there are fans, and there are fanatics. I know, I know, “fan” comes from fanatic, but not all fans are created equal.

A simple fan enjoys watching their team compete and roots for them to win. This fan may feel a bit of a letdown when the team loses, but they don’t lose their temper, or any happiness, as a result.

A fanatic is different. This is the person who speaks in the first person plural when referring to the team. We won! Those officials are calling against us! The fanatic is possessive when it comes to the team. Yeah, those are my Boys!

This kind of behavior is seen with the simple fan at times too, but there is a difference. The simple fan doesn’t allow their emotional state to be determined by a team they don’t play for, don’t own, and cannot do anything to improve. Well, I suppose you improve the owner’s bottom line by spending money on tickets and paraphernalia, but that won’t make them play any differently.

Why are fanatics so, well, fanatical? One word: identification. The fanatic identifies with the team on a personal level. They are projecting their ego onto the field, or court. It’s not just a team, it’s my team, and that means it’s me out there. When my team wins, I win. I am a winner! But when my team loses, I am the one who got beat. I am mad. I feel lousy. I am not a loser!

Sports fanaticism (or celebrity fanaticism, which is another form of this) is an unhealthy sign that you don’t have anything more valuable to live for. Your life and happiness is dependent on a team you don’t play for (or a sport you probably don’t even play, even if you once did). Sad. Living vicariously (that is, through someone else) is not real life. You have a life. You have a purpose.

Purpose. Everyone needs a reason. It’s not an accident that Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life has sold over 30 million copies. Is it a good book? Sure it is. Straight forward and biblical. But that’s probably not what got most of those people to buy the book. It’s what the title of the book promises: there is a purpose for your life. You have a purpose in life, and only God can show you what that truly is.

So, what is your purpose? Do you know? Have you been searching? Have you been asking yourself, or, better yet, asking God? Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened” God has a plan for you. Seek Him for it, and don’t give up. Then pursue God’s purpose for you fanatically!

There first purpose for all people made in the image of God is to re-establish a connection to their Creator. That happens through Jesus Christ. “To as many as received Him he gave the right to be called children of God, even to those who called on His name” (John 1:12). The “Him” in that Bible verse is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He lived, died and rose from death so that you and I can be a part of His family and have a relationship with God as our Father. Once that relationship is established, I spend the rest of my life becoming more like the Jesus, which prepares me to live forever in the presence of my Father.

There are specifics to this for your particular life. You have a calling. You were created to do something on earth, something special. Ask, seek, knock, and start living life on purpose.

If you’re living vicariously through the Cowboys, Longhorns, Mavericks, or even the NBA champion Spurs, you’re going to get let down. Even if your team stays on top, that has nothing to do with you. You didn’t put them there. You’re not there with them. You didn’t play, recruit, coach or do anything, except pay them to entertain you. Stop living your life for people who don’t know you or care about you. Enjoy your sport; watch your favorite team play. Now go and live your life for something more meaningful.

Suicide and Salvation

I write this in the wake of the reported suicide of Robin Williams. Many of us are shocked, and many who battle depression have empathy for him. Everyone should have sympathy, and no one offer condemnation. However, it is very important to realize that suicide is not the answer to peace or escape.

There is a very dangerous belief shared by many Americans when death occurs. I’ve heard it at many funerals, and you’ll hear variations of it as people talk about Robin Williams or others who’ve died, whether by their own hand or in another way. Theologians call the belief in question, “universalism,” which means all people are going to heaven, or to “a better place.” Sadly, I must report the truth, however: everyone who dies will not go to a better place. I realize fully that this is neither comforting nor popular. However, if you are comforting yourself and others at the price of perpetuating a lie, then you are buying a little comfort at the price of eternal pain. If you want to know the truth, then you need to go to the Bible, which is God’s message to humankind.

The Bible teaches the following. Everyone dies. Everyone will be judged by God. “It is appointed for everyone once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Not everyone will be in heaven. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Devil and his angels” (Revelation 20:15). You will be judged. Only those with their names in the book spoken of will go to heaven. How would you know?

Actually, you get to choose one of two destinations, but only two. Either you choose to spend eternity with God in heaven, or to be eternally separated from God, which is hell. There is not a third option. There is no purgatory mentioned in the Bible, even though the Roman Catholic church has developed such a doctrine. Heaven is not a place of your own making, the realization of your fantasies, or the reward of living a good life (even if that were possible on your own).

Appropriately, Robin Williams was in a movie about heaven once. The 1998 release “What Dreams May Come” was based on a 1978 book of the same title by Richard Matheson, The concept of heaven is not one you’ll find in the Bible; instead, it depicts a sort of dream heaven that might be nearer to the idea many share, or, at least, wish for. In the movie heaven is essentially the living out of one’s wishes and desires. This is a “heaven” without God, or perhaps, more accurately, a heaven of one’s own making, so I am my own god. In the film Robin Williams plays the main character, Chris Nielsen, who dies in a car accident and is led through his heaven by a “friendly spirit” (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris’s wife, Ann (Annabella Sciorra), commits suicide and lives on in her own self-made hell (the antithesis of this concept of heaven). Chris saves his wife in the end. This kind of thinking has displaced the Bible in our culture and that gives more room for people who are considering suicide to believe they will be in a “better place.” 

Williams may have been inclined to believe in some form of reincarnation. Here’s a quote about the film from an interview mentioned in an article by Huffington Press. 

“When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much more true to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, and they held them up, and then the screen went to black.”

Did this play into his consideration of suicide? We may never know.

There will be no reincarnation, as Hinduism has it. There will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous (Revelation 20:6 and surrounding). The righteous are those who’ve been made right by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 3:24-26), who have been reborn by receiving Christ (John 1:12, 3:3 & 5). These people are justified (made right) by Jesus Christ and will rise from the dead and reign with Him. The unrighteous are those who do not believe, who reject Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for their sins . They will come up in the second resurrection and will be judged according to what is written in “the books,” which means they will be judged for their own works. Since none are righteous apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23), they are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be eternally destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).

Heaven is “God’s space, or God’s dimension” to quote theologian N.T. Wright (from his book Surprised by Hope). This is where God’s throne is (Psalm 11:4). After death we leave earth and enter the dimensions of God’s space beyond time.  So, I don’t die and go to “my heaven.” If I don’t believe in God, if I don’t want to be with God, if I want to escape his presence, the only option is hell. This is a realm where people are forever separated from God, and must ultimately pay the penalty for their own sins, which is eternal death, or destruction.

So, there is no heaven apart from God. Even if you were given some realm in which to live out your dreams, without God it would soon become hell. Human beings were made by God and for God (Psalm 100:3). We were made to be loved by God, and to love and worship God (Matthew 22:37-38). Self-love alone is malformed love, which soon devolves into selfish idolatry. I am missing what I was made for if I am apart from God. I become increasingly warped and monstrous the longer I remain separated from God. I believe what will make hell more “hellish” is that those who dwell there will have only self to sense and serve and love. We were created not only to love God but to love other people (Matthew 22:39). In order to do that we must receive the love God offers through Jesus. “Love one another the way I have loved you” (John 15:12). In hell we will be separated, not only from God, but from caring about others. Love will be impossible.

In this fallen world we are naturally separated from God by sin. Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but we are fallen; we are broken. So long as we live in this dimension of time, however, there is time enough to change.  We are malformed creatures, who may be reformed into the image of God by putting faith in Jesus Christ. That is our hope and our opportunity now, today. “Today is the day of salvation, now is the time of God’s favor” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is why suicide is such a horrible lie. When someone commits suicide, they are looking for salvation from their depression and pain. The reality is, they have destroyed the opportunity to be saved in that moment.

A hurting person wants whatever they are going through to stop, but ending their earthly life will not stop it. Instead it may bring more pain than they can possibly imagine. There was a time in the Bible when the people were longing for an end to their difficult circumstances. They cried out for “the Day of the Lord,” which is another way of saying “Judgment Day,” the time when God will make everything right. Problem is, the people who cried out for this were sinning. They were not right with God. In fact, the circumstances they were complaining about were actually sent by God as discipline. The pain they were enduring would only be temporary if they would change their hearts and minds and listen to God. Here is what the prophet Amos told these people about their desire to see the Day of the Lord, and I believe that this is what the suicidal person needs to hear, for they are hastening the day of their own judgment.

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! 

Why would you have the day of the Lord? 

It is darkness, and not light, 

 as if a man fled from a lion, 

and a bear met him, 

or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, 

and a serpent bit him. 

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, 

and gloom with no brightness in it?”

(Amos 5:18-20).

If you’re hurting, depressed, despairing, there is hope! Your hope is cannot be killing yourself. The Sixth Commandment explicitly forbid this: You shall not kill. That means God commands you not to kill yourself, friend. He loves you and has a better life planned for you than you are currently experiencing. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to help you, not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The promise made to His exiled people in this verse is for you too. If you are in exile from God, from love, from light, from experiencing life. Jesus offers a rich and satisfying life. It is the enemy of God, Satan, who wants to kill you. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come to give abundant life” (John 10:10). The thief is Satan. He is a murderer and a liar; in fact, he is the source of the lies you are believing right now. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).

Change your thinking, friend. Change your ways. Turn your life completely over to the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, right now.

We all sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us earn death for our sin. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus died so you don’t have to! Jesus also rose from the dead. He overcame our worst enemy, the devil, and our greatest fear, death.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had* the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

(Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT).

Jesus is alive and He offers you the gift of eternal life, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). 

You need to be saved. “What must we do to be saved” (Acts 2:38a)? All you have to do is turn away from your own thinking and your own ways and turn toward Jesus Christ. “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38b). Call out to Jesus right now. Admit you’ve sinned, admit that suicidal thoughts are sin. Confess that Jesus died and rose so that you can be forgiven and saved. “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved… whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9 & 13).

Pray right now:

Jesus,

I believe in you.

I believe you died for my sins.

I believe you rose from the dead.

I give you my life, right now.

I want your Holy Spirit to live inside of me.

I receive you, your gift of eternal life and all that you have to offer.

Jesus Christ, you are Lord and God.

You are my God.

Amen.

Now, get to a church and get some support. Start reading your Bible so that your mind can be renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2). If you haven’t been baptized in water since you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you must be. He commanded it.

For more, visit our church’s website http://lifewellchurch.com