This will be a short post.
3 Things to Remember
1. God is in control. We forget this too often and panic. We think the world is going to hell in a handbasket and the truth that nothing happens apart from the will of God is lost to us too often. But God is in control. God is not taken by surprise. God is not in the dark, wondering what will happen next. God remains God, and he does as he pleases. We have to be willing to admit, like it or not, that God has chosen, in His providence and sovereignty, to allow/ordain all events in the world around us. The need to wrestle with that and come to grips with that truth is incredibly important for our spiritual maturity and growth.
2. The early church faced much bigger problems than we are facing today and FLOURISHED. Let us consider their ways and figure out how to have a better impact on the world around us. Early Christians were burned at the stake, eaten by wild animals in the view of thousands of cheering fans in the Rome Colosseum, and used as human torches to illuminate the night. And what was the result of their faithfulness and commitment to God? Gigantic church growth. In the face of intense persecution the church flourished because the world looked at them and saw what they were willing to endure for the sake of God and was forced to ask, "Why? Why would anyone go through that for something that was just 'made up' or had no evidence to support?"
3. How we respond will dictate the effectiveness of our witness. Do we want to be taken seriously as Christians? We have to fight against the Westboro Baptist image of Christianity portrayed in the media. Too many people believe that Westboro Baptist and other "Christian" hate groups are proclaiming that which all other Christians believe. We must be prepared to love all the more, be kind and gracious all the more, seek to foster close and genuiune relationships with those of the homosexual community, and be respectful in our disagreements. We must overcome the stereotypes created about who we are, who God is, and what Christianity is all about.
Remember: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8
Anything else we should remember? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Do We Actually Know What We're Talking About?
Yesterday was a day for the history books. Minnesota became the 12th state to recognize and legalize gay marriage, sending a wave of excitement through many, and disappointment through many others.
Social media erupted with strongly opinionated posts either rejoicing or lamenting the Senate vote. Those social media posts inevitably led to debates and heated arguments, with both sides usually taking pot shots or low blows at each other. Sadly, it was rare to see a sane, intelligent argument.
Reading through the Christian chatter on Facebook was particularly frustrating. The frustration came mostly because both sides really don't know what they are arguing for or against most of the time. The sad reality is that the two sides usually break down into one of two completely arguments:
* Christian Pro-Gay Marriage Argument: "Marriage should be allowed for any two people who love each other because that's the basis for marriage: love between people. God wants us to be happy and wouldn't create people with the desire to marry the same sex unless it was okay. The Bible says nothing against gay marriage."
* Christian Anti-Gay Marriage Argument: "The Bible says its wrong, so that's what I believe."
Clearly, that may be an oversimplification of the arguments. But I think that gets at the heart of the arguments. Please correct me if I'm wrong. My main issue is not the arguments themselves. You are free to hold either argument. My main problem is that it seems that far too many people have their opinions with absolutely no evidence to support it, or weak arguments at best.
* Rebuttals against the Christian Pro-Gay Marriage Argument: If the basis for marriage should be love alone, why? Who makes that decision? Whose personal beliefs trump all others to reach that conclusion? God wants us to be happy? Prove it. God wouldn't create us with the desires to marry the same sex unless it was okay? Prove it. The Bible says nothing against gay marriage? Respond in an intelligent and educated manner to the people who will point out 4-6 Bible passages and themes that seem to say otherwise in addition to the many theologians and scholars who clearly disagree with you.
* Rebuttals against the Christian Anti-Gay Marriage Argument: If the Bible says it is wrong for gays to marry, why do so many theologians and scholars disagree with you on that opinion, using the same Bible you have? Isn't our context different than the contexts of the ancient people written to and about in Scripture? Shouldn't our understanding of the Bible adapt with the times? Isn't it outdated? Why would God create people with the desire to be gay if it was wrong? Respond in an educated and intelligent manner to those questions.
What's the Point?
Obviously, if you've read my blog before, you know where I stand. But what frustrates me more than people disagreeing with my position is people disagreeing with my position with no real evidence or support. We all have a personal responsibility to know what we believe and why. Our culture, society and future hinges, to a fairly large degree, on educated people making educated decisions. It scares me to death to know that people make big, national decisions based significantly on feelings or uneducated opinions. When those people vote, the repercussions are enormous, and can be disastrous.
Our culture and society hinges, to a fairly large degree, on educated people making educated decisions.
Research. Know the arguments for both sides. Come to grips with why you believe what you believe and what support exists for it. Realize the weaknesses of your side and where you might be relying more on faith or opinion than actual facts. That is my challenge to you and me. When we can dialogue with one another in an intelligent, educated and respectful manner, we may make strides forward in not only this debate, but many others. But when our opinions are ill-informed and even based more on emotion than facts, we are a detriment not only to our own arguments, but also to the future of our culture and society.
For More On The Topic of Homosexuality...
In the News...
Christians want the message of Christ to go throughout the whole world. One of the greatest blessings that we have to utilize is technology. In a few mouse clicks we can send the Gospel message to the very ends of the earth. However, there is also a downside to the ease of communication. Unbiblical, hateful messages like the one of Pastor Charles Worley, shown below, are given equal opportunity to spread like wildfire. Sadly, messages like these are usually heard even louder.
Pastor Worley is clearly vocal in his beliefs regarding homosexuals in our world today. And let me be equally vocal in saying this:
"This is not the attitude of biblical Christianity on this subject."
I fear for the very soul of Pastor Worley. I fear for the unbelieving world's perceptions of Christians as a whole as a result of this hateful, inappropriate, highly sensationalized message. I fear for the roadblocks that this will place in my own life as I try to be a good witness for Christ yet will be labeled as a pastor by some as espousing similar views as Pastor Worley.
I am very concerned with the incredibly bad theology spouted off by this North Carolina pastor. There are so many problems with this 2 minute clip of an even longer sermon that I can scarcely contain myself. Here's the transcript of the most troubling section:
"I figured a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers...build a great big, large fence, 50 or 100 miles long, put all the lesbians in there. Fly over, and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed 'em...and you know what? In a few years they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce. ...I'm gonna preach the hell out of all of 'em. ...I ain't gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!"
Pastor Worley Is WRONG. But What Is RIGHT?
In every way I can describe, this statement embodies everything I've tried to stand against as a Christian and a pastor regarding this issue of homosexuality. I would actually like to rewrite this entire sermon section, using the right words this time. I would love your input on how I did.
"I want to figure out a way to bridge the gap between the homosexual community and the Christians who disagree with them...break down the great big, large fence that separates us by loving one another well, as Christ would. Get together, have some food. Talk. Feed each other our thoughts. And you know what? In a few years, the hatred will die out. Do you know why? Because love reproduces. I'm going love the Gospel of Jesus into them. I'm going to be known as a homosexual lover!"
I'd like us to remember 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 - "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
In regards to this issue, I'd like to leave us with several challenges to keep in mind.
How do you think this video will negatively affect our efforts of reconciliation and love with the homosexual community? I'd love to hear any of your thoughts! I look forward to chatting with you.
- Love is characterized by patience and kindness. Pastor Worley demonstrates neither. Do we?
- Love does not envy or boast. Pastor Worley boasted highly, though perhaps subliminally, in his self-righteousness. Do we?
- Love is not arrogant or rude. Pastor Worley was both. Are we?
- Love is not irritable or resentful. Pastor Worley was highly irritable and resentful. Are we?
- Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Pastor Worley's congregation vocalized their approval of his message throughout his tirade. Do we?
- Love bears all things...endures all things. Pastor Worley could not endure this issue in a godly way, marked by love. Do we?
Check out my other posts regarding this controversial topic of homosexuality and our need to approach it biblically --> CLICK HERE
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Today in an important interview, President Obama came clean and admitted what most of us have been sure of all along: he's in full support of gay marriage and that it is a matter of equality. He hedged his approval with some emotionally-laden comments such as these:
"Over the course of several years as I talk to friends and family, and neighbors...when I think about members
of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same sex relationships,
who are raising kids together...When I think of those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are
out there fighting on my behalf, and yet feel constrained, even now that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is gone,
because they're not able to commit themselves in a marriage...At a certain point I've just concluded that
for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples
should be able to get married." - President Obama
I have a few things to say about this....
This whole same-sex marriage thing is understandably emotional for many people. No doubt for others it is just a nifty thing to get involved in protesting for or against, but I understand the raw emotion that many carry with them when they approach this subject. The problem is that we forget a few key things when we listen to perhaps very genuine cries for "equality" and "rights" regarding this issue. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Marriage began from the very start as a union between a man and woman with the goal of illustrating Jesus' relationship with the Church through the complimentary relationship innate in men and women. One of the core purposes of this union was and is to procreate (this is not a point to take lightly) in order to spread the representation of God throughout the earth. Though nations rebelled throughout history and have forsaken this understanding, it continued to propel the Christian church through the New Testament as something of high importance. Today, 2000 years later, the primary understanding of marriage on a worldwide scale continues to be that it is meant to be between men and women, something even held by many who are unbelievers.
**Edited - special thanks for DAVID (commenter below) for pointing out the error in my previous writing of this section.
- Marriage is not a "right" for anyone. Period. Marriage is a gift, responsibility, blessing...and much more. But marriage is not a right. It never has been, and it never will be.
- Marriage is defined and designed by God. What God says marriage is meant to be is what marriage is meant to be. From the very beginning of creation God ordained and demonstrated what marriage was meant to be:
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:23-24).
God created woman out of man, visually demonstrating his intention for them to be unified once again, symbolizing the unity of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit). We were created in their image, which is unity within diversity. As such, we reflect that within the intention God had for marriage relationships between men and women and their coming together as one. Men and men or women and women engaging in activities or relationships where that intention is perverted and twisted are not engaging in things that are in line with God's desire for human relationships, especially in the realm of marriage. Marriage is not merely a union of two people in monogamy and commitment to love each other. It is far deeper.
I really don't like writing on this issue. In fact, I really hate it. But it's part of our world today, and as a preacher and teacher of the Bible it is my duty to address it. Until the last half century, this was scarcely even an issue to be debated. It was understood. It was obvious. Now, following the heels of the sexual liberation movements, women's rights activism, and the complete and utter devastation of marriages through high divorce rates (also caused by a poor understanding of what love and marriage is at a primary level), this issue has continued to rise in prominence. Only once we return to Scripture, history, and sanctified common sense will we truly see the truth in this issue. I hope we do soon.
Like it? Hate it? All the same, share it with others to let them know how you feel.
I know...I can't remember ever hearing a more ridiculous question. But recently, a feminist theologian by the name of Dr. Susannah Cornwall asked that very question. Dr. Cornwall is a professor at Manchester University's Lincoln Theological Institute, and recently wrote a paper that proposed that the idea of Jesus being male is "simply a best guess."I'll give you a few moments to pick your jaws up off the floor and pull yourself together.That's right. Dr. Cornwall proposes that idea in her paper titled
"Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision." Dr. Cornwall "supports" this idea by explaining that 1 in every 2,500 people are born with a condition known as "intersexed", meaning that their bodies differ from typical male and female development. I hope that description is clear enough to let your mind fill in the rest.Dr. Cornwall is right about the numbers. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology, and we studied intersexed conditions as well as many other abnormalities in physical development. So, naturally, merely based on percentages, it is possible that Jesus could have been born intersexed. We'll go into this more later, but for now, let's assume that possibility.Later on, Dr. Cornwall postulates,
"It is not possible to assert with any degree of certainty that Jesus was male as we now define maleness. There is no way of knowing for sure that Jesus did not have one of the intersex conditions."Well, first of all, there is a certain degree of certainty we can have when we assert that Jesus was male. The potential for Jesus to have been born intersexed is only 1 in 2,500. Thus, it is highly probable that Jesus was wholly male.
1 in 2,500 people may be born intersexed, but that just means that Jesus still only had a 0.04% chance of being one of them -- 99.96% is, in my humble estimation, a "degree of certainty." But since there is still an extraordinarily slight probability that Jesus was born intersexed, what other evidence is there that Jesus was male? Here are 3 BIG reasons we can be sure Jesus was male:
- Jesus was circumcised as a baby (a normative Jewish practice for every baby boy). No doubt Mary and Joseph would have known whether Jesus "looked" like a boy or if there was any reason to question this. Additionally, if Jesus wasn't a boy...what was circumcised?
- Every time Jesus is referred to in Scripture he is referred to in the masculine pronoun at each stage of his development. Greek makes things clear that Jesus was male. God's Word can be trusted, even in its grammatical structure.
- In Luke 1:31-32, the angel Gabriel tells Mary the mother of Jesus that she will bear a son who will be in fact the Son of the Most High (God). Now, if Jesus was intersexed (granting the enormous speculation that Mary and Joseph couldn't tell the difference between an intersexed baby and a normal boy), odds are that the dedicated messenger of God, Gabriel, would not screw this one up.
Besides the absurdity of Dr. Cornwall being taken seriously as a professor at a theological institute, nothing seems so ridiculous as the possibility of Jesus being born as anything but a male. This is merely another attack on orthodox Christianity by a feminist theologian who desperately wants to discount the maleness of Jesus in order to open the doors for homosexual and feminist theology to spread like wildfire. Dr. Cornwall has an agenda. You may think that sounds harsh, but look at some of her published works and you tell me
that my assumption isn't correct: Books and Journal Articles:
Don't be fooled.
- Susannah Cornwall. SCM Core Text: Theology and Sexuality. SCM Core Texts. London: SCM Press, 2013. eScholarID:130385
- Susannah Cornwall. Controversies in Queer Theology. Controversies in Contextual Theology. London: SCM Press, 2011. eScholarID:130312
- Susannah Cornwall. Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ. Gender, Theology and Spirituality. London: Equinox, 2010. eScholarID:130311
- Susannah Cornwall. "Wild Rice and Queer Dissent: Wrestling With God in Genesis 32:22-32." Journal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research 18(2010) : 61-74. eScholarID:130316
- Susannah Cornwall. "‘State of Mind’ versus ‘Concrete Set of Facts’: The Contrasting of Transgender and Intersex in Church Documents on Sexuality." Theology and Sexuality 15, no. 1(2009) : 7-28. eScholarID:130320 | DOI:10.1558/tse.v15i1.7
- Susannah Cornwall. "The Kenosis of Unambiguous Sex in the Body of Christ: Intersex, Theology, and Existing ‘for the Other’." Theology and Sexuality 14, no. 2(2008) : 181-200. eScholarID:130321 | DOI:10.1177/1355835807087061
This isn't an attempt by Dr. Cornwall to use good hermeneutics or be accurate or theologically sound in exegesis. This isn't even just an innocent attempt to bring up possibilities to discuss in theory within the confines of academia. This is just another poor attempt at blowing smoke screens and confusing the general public so liberal agendas can take root. And the sad part is, people will buy into it. Don't be one of them.- Joel OnyshukPlease share this article using your favorite social media platforms. Help get the word out by using the buttons below.
It's heartwarming to hear the stories of people raised in warm, loving households.
The laughter, eating meals together, game nights, vacations, Christmas cookie parties, etc. Family traditions and cuddly memories abound for many people, including many raised in homes with two homosexual parents.
"Hey wait a second", you quip. "Hold on one moment. Aren't you a pastor? Aren't you conservative? Aren't you against such things?"
Yes to all those. Yes, yes, and yes. I am a pastor at a church. I am conservative in my theology and my politics. I am against gay marriage. But not because I think all homosexuals are out to "destroy the sanctity of marriage." I truly believe that many just want "fair" treatment for what they believe is a legitimate lifestyle and personal choice to make. For those in that boat, my heart goes out to you.
I get it.
I have questioned, wondered and wrestled with this topic because of its enormous presence in our world today. I have read both sides of the argument for why Scripture either affirms or rejects homosexual relationships as legitimate and God-honoring. I really do feel for those who believe themselves to be homosexuals and who wholeheartedly desire a committed, enduring relationship with the people they care for and love. I love them and I can't stress that enough.
Again, I get it. I actually do. We all want love. We all want security. We all want to be able to be "genuinely who we are."
Here's the problem...
We aren't good at knowing who we "genuinely are." We have skewed vision. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Our urges, our desires and our internal drives to pursue things and people aren't wired right. As sinful creatures we are inherently skewed toward the wrong things and they feel so right. The wrong things feel like right things and we chase after them.
That's the issue with sin, in this case, homosexuality. Arguments using the Bible to "prove" homosexuality stretch truth and imagination and cause us to dance around other clear biblical evidence while tantalizing our deceitful and desperately sick hearts. Many proponents of homosexuality wish with all their hearts that such a lifestyle is acceptable and that homosexuals will be given 'fair treatment." Because the desires for such an end are so strong, and the deceitful hearts are so deceived, homosexuality just feels so right. It seems natural, commendable, and, to some, beautiful. I admit, I've seen recent videos of heartfelt lesbian couples crying, clinging to each other, fighting for their relationship and the legalization and public embrace of their lifestyles. It can be touching. Such resolve. Such dedication. Yet, there is also strong confusion and deception at work.
At its center, homosexuality goes against the very core of who men and women are meant to be. We are meant to be complimentary beings, each possessing uniquely different yet equally valuable gifts and abilities. Equal in value and worth in the eyes of God, men and women we meant to work together to reflect the glory of God as a whole. In a marriage relationship this is seen most clearly. At the risk of sounding crude to some, even the physical bodies of men and women are complimentary. We "fit together." We are puzzle pieces, made to work as a team, representatives of God to the world.
Homosexual relationships strike against the core of this complimentary, team representation of God in human marriage relationships. The very genesis of humanity began with one man and one woman. Even if a liberal understanding of a non-literal Adam and Eve is taken, the fact remains that the story is of a man and woman, not two men and not two women. Our ordered and organized God has a very specific and detailed plan for how his creation is meant to exist. Creation procreates utilizing males and females. Creation continues to spread and grow and would cease to exist if such a core, essential characteristic was ignored. This is how it was meant to be. I find this to be potentially the strongest of all arguments against homosexuality. It's frankly so basic and intuitive. It's logical and organized. It's the way it was meant to be.
Though as a Christian I do not wish for homosexuality to be accepted in our society, for it goes against the will of my God, quite honestly I do occasionally wish that homosexuality was acceptable, to a certain extent. It would mean fewer difficult conversations. It would mean less fighting and bickering in theology and politics. It would make so many people I know happy. Yet, easy conversations, fewer disagreements and happiness aren't the keys to successful living. Successful living comes from following the design of God for our lives and frankly, I believe homosexuality doesn't fit in.
This is not the end of the discussion...
I know, I know, there are many other strong arguments against homosexuality. I know that many people may disagree with the intuitive conclusion I raise about "the way it was meant to be." This post is not about creating a deep and detailed Scripture-based argument against homosexuality. I could, and I may someday write a lengthy exegetical work on the topic. But today that is not the point. Today I just wanted to say, "I understand and empathize with hurting people, especially homosexuals." Sure, I threw out one or two points against it, but we all know the arguments. We know the sides of the story. Though important, the arguments have been smashed into the ground. Today, I hope to open the door for just a few Christians and just a few homosexuals (whether they consider themselves Christians as well or not) to lovingly approach each other in genuine affection and dialogue. Both sides have burned bridges. Both sides have attacked and hurt people.
Regardless of what side you are on, have patience and give grace, and try opening the door again to having real and loving relationships with each other.
Question for you: How can we show our love and affection for those whose lifestyles we disagree with, while calling out sin, but not burning bridges and making God and Christians look bad? Billboard signs and hate groups aren't the answer. But what is?
This is Important To Understand
Today I’m writing about something that I find extremely important in the Christian community today. We are seeing a gradual but clear movement into embracing more and more liberal theology while dismissing clear biblical teaching that has been orthodoxy since the early church. I do not have time, nor do I have the desire at this time to write about specific issues that this movement has bled into (embracing the dismissal of biblical manhood and womanhood and gender roles, welcoming homosexuality, excusing abortion, etc.). However, I will speak briefly about the path we take when we make the sad transition from holding to clear biblical truth to holding to insinuations and wild assumptions.
Now, I am not a negative person, nor am I a pessimist. Many, including my wife, would actually consider me to be overtly positive almost all the time. Yet, in the midst of elaborate youth conferences and energizing evangelists shouting the mountaintops that “revival is coming,” I see our “Christian”culture slowly embracing noticeably more worldly wisdom and defending it by making a few typical excuses. (1) “This is actually the way it has always been and what we’ve always believed as Christians” (in the face of thousands of years of church history that defies this); (2) “Well the ‘insert word here’ in the original language doesn’t actually mean what you think it means (and then the liberal theologian goes on to redefine the word loosely based on a minority position in the theological world or based on hardly any fact whatsoever); (3) “There’s no way the Bible could actually mean ‘insert difficult theological concept here’ because that’s not the God to whom I could worship or submit my life.”
What is difficult about these excuses is that uneducated (and even some educated) people may be quickly misled by smooth arguments and plausible theories. The Apostle Paul knew the power of eloquent words. He knew that throwing around fancy words can draw a crowd and convince masses. Yet, he also knew that such was not the way of true preachers of the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:17).
I submit that the core problem of what liberal theologians have done is that they have made the basic hermeneutical mistake of making biblical insinuations rather than demonstrations. When we make arguments for what we believe, it is essential that we are able to clearly demonstrate how these beliefs are firmly grounded in Scripture. We must remember that the Bible was written for lay-people, not highly educated scholars. Thus, if God desired that we know something about things as core and foundational as proper sexuality and roles in relationships, His Word would be clear in its teaching on such matters. Yet, liberal theologians make claims (e.g., 1, 2, and 3 listed above) that what is clear really isn’t clear at all, and that the truth is found when we read between the lines and let the things that aren’t clear dictate our core belief systems.
Remember, if we are going to hold to a belief and encourage others to hold ours as well, we must know how to defend those beliefs using the words of clear Scripture references. If we can’t do that and have to make insinuations and suggestions about how to read unclear texts or how to redefine things that are clear, I recommend that we reevaluate whether our belief systems are truly coherent and based on Scripture or if they find their roots in “words of eloquent wisdom” that pass as truth but aren’t truth at all.