Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Roger Federer: When The Great Fall

With many of his fans, I was greatly disappointed and dismayed at Roger Federer's loss at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in NY yesterday. He lost to a 31-year old Spaniard, but not Rafael Nadal, whom everyone wanted him to play. Interestingly, few expected the "Fed" to win the Nadal-Federer match up, but many wanted to see Federer play in the Quarterfinals of this Grand Slam. I am but a very amateur tennis player, but have admired and watched Roger Federer for many years, reveling in his mastery of the game and his greatness in tennis. He is arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tennis players in the modern era. I have read a number of articles about the loss yesterday, and have a few comments of my own at this stage of my life and career, which is nearing retirement itself.

Know when to retire. This is probably the hardest lesson for any of us nearing the end of our careers, especially such an illustrious one Federer has had. The question is not, Can Federer win another Grand Slam? Everybody fairly agrees that in his early 30s he can and may well do so. The question is, Can he win Grand Slams consistently? The answer probably is, Not really. I remember Andre Agassi's run in his mid-30s. It was great, but he knew when to retire, when to quit the major tennis circuit. Federer can continue to play and win tournaments, but probably few major ones. This is not a slam on him or his game, which everyone admires. He has lost a step or two. He just is not the amazing shot maker he once consistently was. I would humbly say to him, Know when to retire.

There is always someone better. Someone more skilled, someone quicker, someone stronger, someone with better consistency. Perhaps that is Nadal or someone else in this era of tennis. The point is to humbly accept this reality and not try to pretend that you are the best. Perhaps Federer was the best ever--until now.

Use your skills and standing to help others. This is what Agassi has done, and rather successfully. He has been honored over and over again for his work with kids and others. Federer can do the same. He has plenty of money and fame. People would flock to his sponsored tennis institutes. He could write books, teach many others, and continue to get the plaudits.

Finish well. I think the saddest thing any great athlete or business person or mega-church minister can do is to not finish well. We all know the "greats" who have left this life in disgrace and dishonor. Perhaps it was alcohol or drugs or gambling or whatever. Their marriages have disintegrated. Their kids lose respect for them. They end up helpless and hopeless. Roger Federer needs to finish well. I would not even venture to say what this means in his life and in the tennis world. But he needs to finish well, whatever that entails.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wilderness People: Christians in the Coming America

I had a favorite seminary professor of Old Testament studies that talked about "wilderness people." He was applying the wilderness journey of the Israelites to our journey of faith today in a secular and even pagan world. We are on a wilderness march across rough desert, dry and uninviting terrain. We have to watch out for spiritual "snakes" and poisonous insects. We need to be careful not be caught in the prickly thorns along the way. We may faint some days because of the heat of the sun and just about freeze due to the coldness of the night. Long marches and weary travelers are found in desert places. There may be an oasis now and then, and refreshment from God there, but we cannot stay in an oasis and cannot camp there forever. We still have to reach our Canaan.

I read two interesting articles today from Colson's Worldview Church Digest (Aug 30, 2013 edition). Both writers talk about the hard journey Christians in America have been and will be facing. About how this secular nation will steal away our religious heritage and freedoms and the choice will be to bow before the statue of state regulated anti-biblical sanctions and rules and laws or stand and be jailed or worse. (See http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/20302-if-we-must-choose-we-choose-christ-over-america?spMailingID=6852274&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID=86046258&spReportId=ODYwNDYyNTgS1). To pretend that the journey will be exciting and filled with joyous worship Sunday after Sunday is to go down a path that we need to not travel -- "I’ll say again, the moment we decide to go for excitement in every service, we have started down a troublesome path that leads to nowhere God’s people ought to be going." (http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/20299-the-excitement-factor-in-church?spMailingID=6852274&spUserID=NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID= 86046258&spReportId=ODYwNDYyNTgS1). While these writers make some valid and troubling points, perhaps another view should be aired from one who generally agrees with their presuppositions and conclusions. One who agrees with their scenarios, but sees the journey a bit differently.

First, the Devil is not around every corner. There are not snakes in every step in the desert, and danger is not everywhere. I say this because there are some Christians who are either worry-warts, or extremists who see every day as a fight, every secular announcement as a cause to vilify and every non-Christian out to conquer and demolish their Christian values. This is simply not true. I know many value-centered non-Christians who may not attend church, certainly not mine, but do not disparage those who do. They actually agree with protecting our children in our neighborhoods, and have no trouble with invocations and prayer at secular-sponsored banquets, ballgames and get-togethers. Actually, they value them. They accept the prayers of thoroughly orthodox Christians even as we denounce their lifestyles in our churches and groups and classes.

Second, have we forgotten that though the desert is difficult, and the daily struggles are real, and the battles may set us back a bit, the victory is assured?!! Jesus Christ WILL come again, and whatever your eschatological viewpoint is, He will conquer because He already HAS conquered! The victory is assured. The kingdom of God will come. The new heavens and new earth will take place. In an interesting and convicting way, heavenly messengers admonished the first disciples to get to work even as they were watching Jesus ascend (Acts 1). Yes, they had to wait and pray for power from the Holy Spirit, and His timing, but victory was assured. The Church would stand the ravages of secular empires and self-proclaimed Nebuchadnezzars, and it would grow and blossom and prevail. It doesn't matter how persecuted it may become, it will not merely survive but outlast the enemy and prevail.

Third, we need to start giving God's people some hope and assurance, rather than continually sow seeds of doubt, despair and discouragement. I find too much of the modern evangelical press to be uninspiring and despair-driven. Sorry, but it's true. Too many blogs and articles and books have been recently written warning us and driving us to not journey far in the wilderness, lest we be embattled and even consumed. The modern evangelical Christian wants and needs some relief! While leaders talk about spiritual warfare tactics, many Christians in the pews want someone to tell them that there are oases, that refreshment can be found in the Lord and in His people, that not all is gloom and doom.

What I am calling for here is some balance. Balance between the messages of warning and caution with messages of hope and comfort and peace. Balance between the call for Christians to take up their spiritual swords and the call for Christians to build the walls of blessing around them. Balance between marching against whatever the next secular anti-Christian legislation may be and earnest, loving prayer for and not against the legislators.

There is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. BUT you can help him to become thirsty enough to want to drink! Is our Christianity so attractive that my very secular neighbors are wanting to drink the Gospel, the Good News?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sermons, sermonettes, and true worship

In a recent Worldview Church Digest post by Albert Mohler, Jr, president of Souther Baptist Theological Seminary, he makes the case that the essence of true worship is expository preaching of the Word of God (http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/20248-expository-preachingthe-antidote-to-anemic-worship?spMailingID=6790154&spUserID=NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID =84541713&spReportId=ODQ1NDE3MTMS1) He maintains that the contemporary focus on choruses on the one hand, or large choirs and musicians on the other, and the emphasis on musical presentation has clouded the true purpose of worship and the centrality of preaching. What has been lost, he says, is the robust preaching of the Word of God. He favorably quotes Michael Green: "This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes."

There is much in my training and background and theology that has me agreeing with Mohler. Key to my training and development as a pastor from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) was the centrality of the Word of God and the preaching and teaching of that Word. And though my horizons have broadened somewhat since those formative years, and my worship has become more "contemporary" by choice, I still default to exposition of the biblical text in sermons and teaching venues. Yes, I have had to "shorten" the messages and do more thematic or topical messages. But in agreeing theologically with Mohler, I have to give some reservations to his thesis.

First, much of expository preaching is insipid, dry, boring and lifeless. I have been to a lot of churches and conferences, and have listened to a lot of sermons and teaching sessions in my career. I have come away bored and unmoved and uninspired. While detractors would say this is my fault, I would rather protest and say, no, it's the speaker's fault. I listen closely, prayerfully seek to be engaged in the message, have a generally positive attitude about the presenter, and seek to make application to my own life from the messages. But I usually end up bored, unchanged and unmoved. Expositors simply need to preach better!! Especially in an information age where I can see and hear my choice of speakers and sermons and messages.

Second, expository preaching without life-changing application ceases to be what Jesus and the Apostles taught and illustrated and evidenced in their messages. They rebuked, confronted, encouraged, pleaded with, taught, used life illustrations and so forth in their deliveries. I am sure they were not monotone speakers who merely droned on and on and hoped the listeners would "get it." We need more life-changing application and life in general in expository messages.

Third, what can be said in forty-five or fifty minutes can often be said more succinctly and pointedly and with much more memorability in fifteen or twenty minutes. I realize the old adage that homiletics people would say that a presenter needs to make the same point over and over, at least three times, for it to stick. Well, I'm not at all sure about that in a computer and electronic driven age. Younger people used to short texts "get it" with much shorter presentations. And we have the means for them to download messages, interact electronically with sermons and use Facebook and other means to "get it."

Fourth, I maintain that a good message has one central point, not three or five or ten or twenty points. Because of decreasing attentions spans in our congregations, most can take home usually only one central theme or point. Sure, we can seek to apply that point and illustrate that point in a number of ways during the message, but when they leave the meeting, they should have one key and central point ringing in their minds and hearts.

Until our expositors learn how to exposit not merely theologically better, but make better presentations, the centrality of the sermon is in jeopardy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

LGBTQ College Offices: Diversity, Non-Discrimination or Something Else?

In a recent alumni college magazine I receive, a letter to the Editor referred to the newly created Office of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning) Services on the campus of my alma mater as "recognizing diversity among individuals. The office creates a space in which no one is ostracized, marginalized, sidelined or ignored." As a biblical evangelical and an alumnus, I would say "really?!!" On a fairness level, I would ask, Where is the Office of BEC? (Biblical, Evangelical Christianity) Interestingly, biblical evangelical students at the college have been made fun of in class settings (I have witnessed this), ignored by many, and simply not included in many decisions and so-called college progressivism. And this reflects a society today that sees biblical, evangelical people as narrow, bigoted, hateful, repressive and not worthy of respect, a hearing and an audience in planning and promoting.

I can hear my alma mater crying loudly against such an assessment. But I hear more voices there crying against letting these Christian students have a real voice in college affairs, plans and promotion. It has always been so, unfortunately. For all of our swagger, all of our so-called diversity planning and events, the biblically defined evangelical Christian is left behind. Or shuttled to the sidelines. Why? It's not an issue of intelligence, or sophistication, or liberal-arts savvy, or excellence inside and outside the classroom. It is for the simple reason that such people adhere to and proclaim absolute, God-centered truth that trumps all other definitions, all other rationale, all other man-made toleration variables. Where are the biblically defined voices in college forums and special events? Are there not scholars with such values and credentials that can be seen and heard in a liberal arts forum?

And, hence, the problem. For the biblical, evangelical Christian, "truth" is not negotiable. It is not decided by our post-modern proclivity to reading the text "our way." And, from Jesus' own command, the Christian is obligated and commanded to "make disciples" of all peoples--including self-proclaimed LGBTQ people. A thorough and fair examination of biblical texts speak directly against homosexuality and its outcomes. This was true in the ancient Israelite society as well as in the Apostle Paul's day and now in our own. That is interpreted as "hate speech" by a number of LGBTQ people, or simply ignored for the time being. But the biblical, evangelical Christian is under a "higher" authority than any university-related restrictions can ever stifle.

My alma mater has chosen to define "diversity" as inclusive of people they believe have been marginalized for too many years. I say again, "really?!!" What about the marginalization of biblical evangelicals? What about the slighting of biblical, evangelical scholars in the fields of biology and the other sciences? Is this not anti-diversity? It is a fundamental "religious" gut-choice of the university to ban or bar such professionals from interacting with and dialoguing with their students.

So, instead of diversity or non-discrimination, something else is going on. Whether consciously or unconsciously, there is a rejection of Judaeo-Christian moral standards going on. There is a rejection of biblically informed values going on. There is an intentional sidelining of what has been good and wholesome and morally innocent going on. The sad thing is this is not the college I recall or value anymore.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Response Strategies to Same-Sex Marriage

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as "unconstitutional" and a "deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution" opens a floodgate of challenges to long-held moral, ethical and legal views in the United States. Make no mistake -- this is not merely a California decision. It has ramifications that go way beyond a state's rights to declare same-sex unions legitimate and the "same" as historic marriages between a man and a woman. It is not merely "equality under the law" that has been affirmed here. It strikes at the very root of biblical truth and God-established moral boundaries. Pollsters are bold to suggest that a majority of the U.S. population also support same-sex unions. The Court simply legally affirmed what homosexual advocates have been saying for a number of years now.

What should be the evangelical, Christian response? Since most people who read posts like this are going to describe themselves in that category, these comments are for "the choir," so to speak. Same-sex advocates could care less, no doubt, what this post has to say. And that is the underlying presupposition of this post. The majority of homosexuals and same-sex couples simply "ignore" the evangelical point of view or defense. In the words of Eric Teetsel of The Manhattan Declaration, the seminal study written by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George defending the biblical viewpoint of marriage has been simply "ignored" by same-sex marriage advocates (SEE http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/19964-dont-try-the-same-marriage-debate-again spMailingID=6430205&spUserID=NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID =76741877&spReportId=NzY3NDE4NzcS1). Nobody is listening to the evangelical voice or defense except evangelicals. Noting this as a presupposition, here are various attempts at a response.

We could fight a "rear-guard action." And a number of evangelicals will do so. They will attempt to hack away at the heels of the homosexual advance by exploiting social and political "weaknesses" in their arguments and unions. They will attempt to continue to show how psychologically damaging this lifestyle is, how same-sex unions cannot give a child the proper foundation he/she needs to grow up normally. They will continue to write legislators in their city and state to continue to oppose same-sex unions in those states that have not yet caved in. The problem here is that state legislators care little what evangelical Christians have to say in a country fast-moving toward homosexual inclusion and freedom for all (SEE Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom, Fundamentally At Odds by  Matthew J. Franck  within Marriage, Religion and the Public Square, June 18th, 2013).

We could mount better argumentation a la Paul in Acts 17 in defense of biblical truth and points of view. We could study that apology for the Christian faith in the midst of unbelief and formulate better debating points, more cogent argumentation and (seemingly) more convincing "proof" of the truth of biblical marriage boundaries. We could try to find "common ground" debating points. We could marshall quotes from non-Christian marriage scholars as to why the traditional position is "better" than the same-sex viewpoint. The problem again is "no one is listening!!" Gone are the days of town-hall debating where the better debate wins the day for the audience. People rarely pay attention to who wins, and Christianity is left holding a trophy no one cares about except the evangelical.

We could simply ignore the issue ourselves and isolate ourselves from the rest of the country and world. We could circle the wagons on this, and a whole host of issues, and become people once again seeking to be "separate" from the world. We could even defend such a stance biblically as the "called out" ones, the "holy" ones who wish to distance ourselves from evil. As part of a denominational group that historically attempted to so so, I would just say--"it does not work!" And, I don't believe Jesus Himself would approve of such isolationistic actions and attitudes.

Or, we could seek to "change people's aspirations," as Nathan Hitchen suggests in Don't Try The Same Marriage Debate Again (SEE http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/19964-dont-try-the-same-marriage-debate-again?spMailingID=6430205&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID= 76741877&spReportId=NzY3NDE4NzcS1). His thesis is that people do what people feel, not what rational argument wins the day. He says that we need to "inspire people to change by making them feel something." Not that we give up our stand for biblically based truth and right. But we market and package it very differently, especially for twenty-somethings, than we ever have. We need to address the "persuadables" by showing them how and why biblical marriage works and provides peace, comfort, security and hope.

While many fundamentalists I know would scoff at such a "subjectivistic" approach and label it as "watered down" or even flawed because it appeals to people rather than God, this approach has the merits of grace, gentleness, and dependence on the Holy Spirit alone to finally persuade, convict and change a person. Think of a gathering almost anywhere, in any secular venue, where the master of ceremonies congratulates couples celebrating their 50th or 60th wedding anniversary. Everybody claps. Everybody feels "good for them!" Everybody applauds their years of sacrifice, love and perseverance. Why? Because at the heart of everyone, even the most unbiblical skeptic, is that moral, deep sense that "this is the way marriage should look and be!" This may not automatically change the mind of the homosexual with an agenda, or the same-sex couple of giving it up, but it can make a dent in the ongoing argumentation.

What I do know is that unless we as evangelical Christians find a way to persuasively address same-sex couples and unions, we will not win the battles that are certain to come.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"I Don't Read It That Way" -- Homosexuality and the Bible

"I don't read it that way," was the response in a recent online YouTube interview on homosexuality with Rob Bell (See http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/167776-andrew-wilson-and-rob-bell-discuss-homosexuality.html). The interviewer plied him with a number of questions on the text of the Bible, the nature of God, and the obvious moral statements made in the Scriptures by Jesus and Paul on the subject of sexual deviation and homosexuality. Bell said Jesus made no statements per se on homosexuality, and that Paul must be read in the context of idolatry of his day, especially the rampant homosexual environment of men and boys at  pagan temples. And, as far as Leviticus and its obvious prohibitions, Bell discounted those as "particularized" instances for Israel in a pagan environment. In other words, Bell summarily dismissed most of what Scripture says against homosexuality.

However, he still insisted on being called a Christian, being held as a Christian minister of the gospel, and having fellowship with other Christians, even though and in spite of the fact they disagree with him on this and other issues. He discounted the label "liberal" as narrowly centered on a few issues, such as this one, and stated that should never bar Christian fellowship. 'We must get on with life as it is today," he insisted in accepting homosexual Christian couples into full church fellowship and communion. "Life as it is today" includes faithful, caring homosexual couples. The main issue with him was "unfaithfulness" either in regular marriage or homosexual unions. His response to his debater was, "I don't read the Scriptures that way."

So, let's recap. A person's private interpretation of Scripture, seen through his own lenses, takes precedent and is biblically warranted in spite of the fact that hundreds of Christian orthodox writers and theologians and commentators and churches have said otherwise. "Me and my spectacles" is the post-modern way of understanding the Bible and its prohibitions. This is dangerous self-sufficiency and proud obstructionism against centuries of recognized Christian evangelical scholarship.

Most theologians and church people who AGREE with Rob Bell DO take a more "liberal" view of the Scriptures. That means they question whole sections and parts of it being the very Word of God written. They wonder if this or that is simply Jesus or Paul or whoever "contextualizing" his words "for their time" or a special "situation." It is not the declarative, propositional Word of the Living God that crosses all time and all cultures for all people. So, whether or not Bell sees himself on the "liberal" side of the equation, he is certainly there by his bedfellows. This in no way takes away from the humanity or situation of the writer of Scripture. But I am affirming that the Holy Spirit spoke with all authority divine revelation, not just "current advice."

I say again, as I have elsewhere, that much of the modern evangelical church, especially the mega-churches, will no doubt rationalize their way through the challenge of gay marriage and homosexuality to somehow "affirm" people who practice such lifestyles. They will accept Rob Bell's premise that "this is just life the way it is" and we better get on board with life the way it is to effectively minister. This is a watershed issue and moment for the Christian, evangelical church. Make no mistake. What we say and do in the homosexual arena will mark us for years to come as to whether or not we have been faithful to God and the Scriptures. It does not matter if we are, at the end of the day, "relevant" or "up to date" or "seeker sensitive" or whatever. What matters is what GOD thinks and says.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christians, Homosexual Marriage & Marginalization

In a very compelling article from Colson's Ekklesia:Worldview Church, March 28, 2013, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes on the Supreme Court battle going on now about same-sex marriage and how those decisions will impact the nation and the church. (See http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/19473-marriage-in-the-dock-the-supreme-court-considers-same-sex-marriage spMailingID=5854420&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID=69711057&spReportId=Njk3MTEwNTcS1)

In another article referenced by the same source, Joel Rainey makes the point we just need to put our politics at the door and get on with the reality of ministry to same-sex couples and their adopted children (SEE http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/19476-the-future-of-pastoral-ministry-are-we-really-up-to-this?spMailingID=5854420&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID= 69711057&spReportId=Njk3MTEwNTcS1). These are just two more evangelical writers commenting on one of the most socially divisive and yet profoundly disturbing realities for evangelicals and churches seeking to remain true to biblical standards and revelation.

And this week a relatively new person to our church, who is heavily involved in community activities, indicated he has a lot of Facebook friends in support of same-sex marriage. One of his friends put it this way: "I am glad my daughter will grow up in a much more accepting atmosphere." And then he writes:  "I don't hear the church saying much about it either . . . I don't even know how to respond to them." Much of the nation's media have accepted same-sex marriage as fait accompli. Obviously, churches and  ministries should follow suit, according to many.

Biblical churches can attempt to ignore the issue, side-step the issue or tackle it directly. My own denomination, which forbids ministers to perform same-sex unions and upholds the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, also takes a non-political viewpoint of the proceedings. To tackle the issue directly would imply confrontation and all the mess involved in such direct involvement. To side-step the issue or ignore it does not answer my friend's dilemma in his witness and outreach to his friends. The problem becomes one of marginalization in these choices. Right now in the national media and growing national consciousness, maintaining a biblical standard of marriage and excluding same-sex unions as marriages, isolates "white, evangelical fundamentalists" and pushes them into a minority fringe in this country. What we say and how we respond to this new openness and direct challenge to biblical standards and morality determines our ongoing impact on our society.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the fray. First, this is one of many "watershed" issues of our century in ministry and church work. It's not the only issue, but certainly a major one. The issue is not merely one of state's rights versus the federal government, or equal access according to the law, or constitutional guarantees. This is what our President and others would have us believe. It is part of an aggressive agenda of moving societal standards away from long-held Judaeo-Christian beliefs and practices. It is an anti-biblical redefinition of right and wrong. Whatever one says about same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, it clearly violates the marriage standard and definition put forth in Scripture. Saying nothing or trying to ignore it can be read as silent agreement with it. 

Second, same-sex marriage therefore is at root a moral issue, not of political and social correctness, but of right and wrong, of sinful behavior against that approved and promoted in the Bible. A number of conservatives and evangelicals maintain that this issue and its aftermath will destroy the American family. It will thwart the normal psychological growth and maturation of boys raised in lesbian homes. It will result in family fragmentation and create many more youth problems than what we have now. It will blur the lines of right behavior versus wrong behavior. While social statisticians will and have been debating these conclusions, there is no doubt that what is "acceptable" behavior will change in a number of areas.

Third, the church must make a critical decision. Will it be the church, devoted to God's defined standards and codes of conduct, or will it devolve into another social agency with minimally defined boundaries? Have we forgotten our mission and history of always being "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11) in a world-order set against God and His will? Our calling is to be "in" the world but never "of" the world. Why can't we radically separate from the world-order yet be radically involved with that order? We are to be "witnesses" to a world fleeing from God. Does this mean we will be marginalized by our world? The attempt to do so is already there. God is still God, however, and He will use devoted people to challenge, to confront, to show a different way to a world going its own destructive way. We need to make this choice!

Fourth, we have to clean up our own "house" in the church. For way too long we have danced with sinful behavior of various types and have failed to discipline, to confront, to rebuke and to be what God has called us to be and do. Homosexual sinful behavior is no worse or no better than unmarried couples living together, or wrongly divorced people happily and without remorse attending the same church, or people addicted to alcohol or drugs or food or whatever.

Fifth, we must really start believing in both the grace and power of God to change lives and habits and thoughts. I believe Jesus' words to his disciples "O ye of little faith" apply to much of the church and ministry today. We don't trust God enough to transform hearts and minds of same-sex couples. We think we must somehow "win" them by avoiding dealing with their lifestyle. Cannot God change their hearts and minds?

"For me and my house, we will serve the Lord." This continues to be my standard, my commitment, my challenge and my calling in a society where same-sex unions will be held up by many as normal, as the new order of marriage. What about you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Who Is Right? A Discussion About Louis Giglio's Dis-invite from the Inauguration

Commenting on the dis-invite of Louis Giglio as a participant in the inauguration, Robert George writes: "Christians shouldnt panic or cower when culture or political power shifts into the hands of those who hold our moral convictions in contempt. Christians shouldnt seek to silence our opponents. But calling for fairness and justice, as the Apostle Paul did for himself (Acts 16:37-39), is none of those things. When it comes to our public witness, we are our brothers keepers." This was a directed response to Matthew Anderson's blog comment that evangelicals need to "shrug it off."  (SEE Robert George and Russell Moore, First Things First post at http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/ 2013/01/shrug-not commenting on Matthew Lee Anderson, Christians ought to shrug off inaugural pastor rejection, CNNs Belief Blog)

(NOTE: Robert P. George is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University; Russell D. Moore is the provost and dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

O.K. who is right? Anderson or George? What SHOULD be the Christian's response to the dis-invite of Louis Giglio in the inauguration? I think there are actually a number of responses. First, a bit of background. I have marched in Right to Life rallies, served on a city-wide pro-life board, written letters and spoken to Washington, DC insiders. I have also, on the other hand, written letters and notes against Jim Dobson and other "activist" politically-minded evangelicals. I have been a Baptist, a Presbyterian and a Brethren in Christ pastor and church leader. So, I come from a wide perspective and with a breadth of interaction and experience in dealing with both non-conformity and, on the other hand, involvement with the culture. I believe in a God-centered, Bible-based, world-and-life viewpoint.

To begin with, you cannot have it both ways. Either we SHOULD seek to silence our opponents, OR we should PANIC and be VERY concerned. Not to silence our opponents means accepting more and more of a worldview at violent and inescapable odds against Christianity. The current homosexual agenda is very militant, very focused, and is saturating every aspect of our society. If we don't defeat this evidence of atheistic secularism, we will never be able to define marriage biblically. This may require severe means for Christians who take a stand against such agendas.

On the other hand, what does "silencing" our opponents mean and involve? Some would call for radical protests, marches, demonstrations, sit-ins (remember the 60s?), jail time, fines and so forth. A few would even propose more radically minded revolt. But I see this option as unbiblical and unworthy of what God finally wants of us. Jesus as a sheep was led to slaughter. He calls his disciples to turn the other cheek, to pray for enemies, to submit to even ungodly governments.

This brings me to my second point. The Apostle Paul DID plead for justice and his rights as a Roman citizen, BUT ONLY to be able to get the Gospel across and fulfill his calling from God. The key was the Gospel, because it is the Gospel which changes lives and minds and positions. It is the Gospel driven to the heart by the Holy Spirit which conquers anti-God secularism. It is the Gospel which turns it on its head. His purpose was never politically motivated. He could have complained against the Roman prison system and pleaded his case against the harsh treatment to the governor. His purpose was the Gospel, not to change the system in which the Gospel lived.

Third, and I have said this for years, it is the one-by-one internal, radical, God-given change in the heart that finally wins the day against secularism and atheistic movements. That is why I am a minister of the Gospel. That is why I believe in sharing the Gospel near and far. That is why I must at the end of the day trust God to change legislation and the minds and hearts behind it.

The objection would be that if my rights and liberties and means are taken away, the Gospel cannot get out. This is nonsense. The Gospel cannot be muzzled nor defeated! The fantastic underground growth of Christianity across the world in countries where it is officially outlawed is the witness for that. God always will find a way to get His eternal message and plan across. It doesn't matter how evil, how bad, how secular, how atheistic humankind gets. God will win. And that does NOT depend on us or our efforts at the end of the day. God will win because He is God. He is sovereign. He holds the rulers in His hands. He controls history. He has determined the means and the end.

Fourth, evangelical Christians must LIVE OUT the Gospel message. Judgment rightly must begin at the house of God, at the local and national and global level in our churches. We have generally failed to live out the Gospel message. We have imbibed secularism and then fight against it when it crosses our views and comfort zones. Unless we become what John R.W. Stott called "radical disciples," unless we live what we say and teach, unless we choose lifestyles that are Christ-centered and others oriented, we cannot and will not defeat the homosexual agenda or any other unbiblical agenda for that matter.

So, I am fully ready to do whatever I need to do to preach and teach and share the Gospel. That might even be from a prison cell. God will at the end of the day win. Both Anderson and George are right and both are wrong! Giglio did the right thing--he redirected the conversation back to the Gospel and to Gospel work. Unless we teach and preach and live out the Gospel and its demands, we will never be able to move forward.