Homosexuality

Things are moving quickly in American culture.  Like predators striking their prey opportunistically, godless forces in our culture are pouncing on any remaining vestiges of Judeo-Christian ethics in America.  The homosexual rights groups are just such an example, as seen from their recent efforts to remove an evangelical preacher from President Obama’s inauguration, because he preached against homosexuality a decade ago.  I encourage you to read the comments below regarding this latest attempt to pounce on ethics.

Louie Giglio’s Ouster from the Presidential Inauguration for a Sermon on Homosexuality from the ’90s

Joe Carter:

For the past several decades voices inside and outside the church have said that Christians have hurt our witness by focusing on issues that challenge individualistic sexual permissiveness. They say that if we would only focus on actions that show how much we love our neighbor, actions like ending human trafficking, we would be welcomed in the public square. But as the Giglio incident reveals, no amount of good works can atone for committing the secular sin of subscribing to the biblical view of sexuality.

It’s not even enough to stop talking about the issue. As Giglio says in his statement,
“Clearly, speaking on [homosexuality] has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years.” But for the sexual liberationists, both secular and religious, it is not enough to have stopped talking about an issue decades ago. Anyone who has ever spoken about the issue—or at least has not recanted from believing what God says about homosexuality—is to be treated as a bigot.

Russell Moore:

When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church.  Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude Baptists, the new state church requires a “license” of embracing sexual liberation in all its forms.

Note, this now doesn’t simply exclude harsh and intemperate statements or even activism. Simply holding the view held by every Roman pontiff and by every congregation and synagogue in the world until very recent days is enough to make one “radioactive” in public.

As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his “base” and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the problem is not that this evangelical wants to “impose his religion” on the rest of society.  The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won’t say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That’s not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.

Albert Mohler:

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment. By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.

The gauntlet was thrown down yesterday, and the axe fell today. Wayne Besen, founder of the activist group Truth Wins Out, told The New York Times yesterday: “It is imperative that Giglio clarify his remarks and explain whether he has evolved on gay rights, like so many other faith and political leaders. It would be a shame to select a preacher with backward views on LBGT people at a moment when the nation is rapidly moving forward on our issues.”

And there you have it — anyone who has ever believed that homosexuality is morally problematic in any way must now offer public repentance and evidence of having “evolved” on the question. This is the language that President Obama used of his own “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. This is what is now openly demanded of Christians today. If you want to avoid being thrown off the program, you had better learn to evolve fast, and repent in public.

This is precisely what biblical Christians cannot do. While seeking to be gentle in spirit and ruthlessly Gospel-centered in speaking of any sin, we cannot cease to speak of sin as sin. To do so is not only to deny the authority of Scripture, not only to reject the moral consensus of the saints, but it undermines the Gospel itself. The Gospel makes no sense, and is robbed of its saving power, if sin is denied as sin.

An imbroglio is a painful and embarrassing conflict. The imbroglio surrounding Louie Giglio is not only painful, it is revealing. We now see the new Moral McCarthyism in its undisguised and unvarnished reality. If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face: “Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexuality is a sin?” There is nowhere to hide.

 

Turning Right Instead of Going Straight.

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I turned right last week in Nicaragua instead of continuing straight, and God changed lives as a result.  I was on foot, walking the muddy streets of the village of El Carmen in north-central Nicaragua.  Accompanied by a handful of fellow North Americans who were taking a break from their tasks at the medical clinic, I was leading them out to visit house-to-house.

As we dropped down the hill from the clinic, I planned to follow a mountain path that winds its way high through the rugged terrain.  A glance at the team changed my mind.  One lady in particular wouldn’t be able to endure the lengthy, steep hike.  So I turned right instead.  The rest is eternal history.  Who knows what would have happened had I stayed straight?  What I know for certain is that God orchestrated the presence of the lady who steered my course to the right, ensuring that our path would cross that of several people He led to that particular road as well.

The rain-soaked, puddle filled, dirt road wasn’t choked with foot traffic, but our “house visit” outing soon transformed into several gospel conversations along the way.  Small groups of people grew curious, I suppose, as to why white people from the U.S. were standing on the road talking with villagers.  New arrivals seemed to wait their turn to talk.  One lady from our little team used balloons to magically create animals for the waiting children, while others handed out candy.

We talked, moved down the road a bit and talked some more, made our way into a few homes to share the gospel, and then hit the trail again.  In the course of one afternoon, God’s providence never let us leave the road.  And we never needed to.  He directed people’s steps to us.  By the time we hiked back to the village center for dinner, our hearts were raw with emotion.  God had given us the high and holy privilege of being the instruments through which He saved people, drew others back to Him, and planted gospel seeds for future harvest.

I can still see the face of a young school teacher, tears streaming down her face as my translator and I shared Christ with her.  Already a Christian, she had gradually re-embraced a life of sin, walking away from the Lord.  Gospel words opened the floodgate of guilt and regret.  Hearing her heartfelt prayer of repentance brought tears to our eyes.

With heaviness of heart, I see the young mother whose husband left her and their children.  She too was a Christian, but sin, a hard life, and man-made religion worked to lead her far from the cross of Christ.  Her husband had cruelly woven a web of deceit, telling her that the Roman Catholic Church allowed him to legally divorce her, but she wasn’t free to remarry.

Depression had settled on her so heavily that she couldn’t meet our gaze.  Her home was perched high on the mountainside, providing a spectacular view across the valley and clear river that cut through it.  North Americans would pay a substantial sum for such a picturesque lot, but the beauty was entirely lost on her dark heart.  She sat alone with her melancholic thoughts, her ignored children bustling about around her.

As we gently shared the gospel story, reminding her of God’s love in spite of our sinfulness, God gradually softened her heart.  Though we were total strangers, this dear woman opened her heart to us and shared her heart-breaking story.  We were able to teach her that her husband and the Catholic Church had lied to her, that God doesn’t bind her to man-made laws.  We were able to share with her the blessed forgiveness of Jesus Christ when we repent of our sins with a sincere heart.  Her quiet prayer of repentance warmed our hearts.

I slid back down the muddy trail to the road below, praying earnestly that God will heal her, encourage her, and grow her in the days ahead.  Waiting at the bottom were two or three members of my little team, those who had stayed behind because the woman mentioned earlier wasn’t able to climb the hill to the lady’s house.  Again, God’s providence had kept them below.

Their presence on the road perfectly coincided with that of a 12-year old boy.  They had stopped him, made a balloon creation for him, given him candy, and tried their best to communicate, even though they didn’t speak a word of Spanish.  When my translator and I arrived, we introduced ourselves, learned his name, and shared the gospel with him.  He nodded with conviction when I asked if he wanted to heed Jesus’ command, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  We gathered around and laid our hands on his shoulders as he prayed and placed his belief in Christ for salvation.

The afternoon on that particular mountain road was filled with just such encounters.  At some stops, we planted gospel seeds, finding rejection, but knowing that God’s word never returns void.  At other stops, we found and gave encouragement to solid believers.  We never had to walk far.  God seemed to bring the people to us.  We didn’t have to climb the high road I had intended.  All we had to do was turn right.  God is a powerful, sovereign God whose work is abundantly evident to those who go on mission.

I am happy to hear from readers.  Please go to the “Contact” tab on this web site and send me a message.

Christianity, Unplugged

Are we using today’s new media tools (e.g., smartphones, iPads, Internet, etc.) as tools, or are the tools of our invention controlling and shaping us?  Increasing evidence reveals that our minds – the way we think, respond, and react – are actually being reshaped by persistent exposure to tools which are turning the tables on us and becoming our masters.

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He has written an excellent article on the importance of Christians regularly withdrawing from contact with the “always on” world.  Enjoy.

 

Christianity, Unplugged

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When was the last time you withdrew? Not the last time you were the only person in the room or in the house — when was the last time you withdrew from contact with anyone else? Jesus “would withdraw” from the crowds “to deslolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). He knew that His busy schedule required time alone — completely alone — with His heavenly Father.

In the twenty-first century, being alone and withdrawing mean much more than being the only person in the room. They mean being unplugged. In our appreciation for the help that technology can bring, we have perhaps been unaware of its more subtle dangers. And its dangers are not simply located in the content that technology can deliver, harmful as that may be. Its dangers lie also in the behavior that is required by its use. Owning a smartphone creates the peer pressure of immediate communication. How many times a day do you check your email — by phone, computer, laptop, or tablet? How many times do you check it even when you’re in the middle of a conversation? Also, with the reality of our new penchant to be in constant contact comes the reality of others’ constant expectations of us. Owning a cell phone brings expectations that one should never be alone.

One of the historical paradigm shifts in neurology came when the “standard view” of the brain as a hardwired machine was shown to be false. Instead, studies have shown, the brain is a pliable organ. It is shaped and molded, in large part, not simply by what we think but by the manner or way that we choose to inform our brains. This phenomenon of pliability is called “neuroplasticity.” The brain is a kind of soft and supple clay. Like clay, it can be formed and conformed; but like clay, it can gain a rigidity over time, once formed in a particular way. If we train the brain to be distracted, it will “learn” that distraction is its normal mode of operation. It will also “learn” that contemplation and thinking are foreign to its practice.

It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” What McLuhan was setting forth with that phrase was that it was not only the content of a particular medium that is important to recognize. For instance, it is not only the images that a television communicates that are important. Perhaps even more important, because it is more subtle, is that it communicates by way of images. The medium — that is, the communication of images on the television — is the message. Images are two-dimensional; they cannot communicate depth. They are not context dependent; they are their own context. Images are unable to communicate concepts like universals or the content of emotion (though they can communicate the emotion itself).

With the ever-burgeoning advances in technology, we have become a society (and a church?) that has committed itself, perhaps unwittingly, to distraction. The problem of distraction is serious enough, but the power of that distraction to train our plastic brains can be deadly for Christian growth. If the brain is really molded by how we think, then it is possible that our addiction to distraction will eventually train us not to think at all. We will be so mastered by our constant urge to check and answer our email, to look at our smartphones every time they buzz, to check the scores of our favorite teams, to “text” notes that our ability to think, to pray, to savor the truth of God will be all but gone.

Like Christ, Christians must withdraw, unplug. It is time to make sure that we are molding our plastic brains in a way that they will be trained again to think carefully, to concentrate, to work through difficulties, to meditate on God’s character, to revel in His glory. The Apostle Paul commanded us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. It might be possible to fulfill that command by reading and memorizing Scripture. The adverb, however, is all-important. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The adverb expresses a depth and abundance that can come to us only if that Word that we read, even memorize, takes its place in our minds such that we contemplate and meditate on its truths. If the medium is the message, then the Word of God in Scripture is given to us so that we might continue to renew and train our plastic minds to think God’s thoughts after Him.

When the crowds pressed in on Jesus, He knew that obedience to His heavenly Father required that He must at times withdraw to focus on that relationship, and on it alone, in order to meet and confront a needy and hostile world afterward. A Christian who is serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ will make technology a resourceful servant, not a mind-numbing master, and will commit to making a habit of withdrawing from it all in order to mold the mind, more and more, in conformity to the depth and truth of the Christian faith.

12 Years of Suffering!

Read this brief article and then read the passage referenced from Mark 5.  You will be blessed by Christ’s power and His compassion!

A Throwaway Line that Should Not Be Thrown Away

Posted by Carl Trueman

One of the most enjoyable aspects of preaching is the way that it forces one to look in more detail at biblical texts than one would typically so do; and this often throws up odd textual peculiarities and apparent throwaway lines that, on reflection, are anything but irrelevant.  One such occurs in Mark 5.  The chapter is one pervaded by uncleanness, from the man who lives among the (unclean) tombs filled with (unclean) demons to the poor woman who has an (unclean) flow of blood which excludes her from life in the covenant community to Jairus’s daughter who has been taken by (unclean) death.  It is, of course, a great chapter for talking about sin in a world where it is claimed people no longer grasp the concept of sin at all.  They may not know what the word means but they probably know what dirty tricks, dirty minds and dirty politicians are.  The language of dirt is still accessible as a moral category, even in these apparently amoral times.

The peculiarity in the text is the role of ‘twelve years.’  Mark tells us that the woman has suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years (v. 25); in other words, she has been unclean, and thus excluded, for that length of time.  Then, later in the passage, almost as a throwaway line or an afterthought, he mentions the little girls is twelve years old (v. 42).  The placement of the information jars a little and, indeed, the detail seems unnecessarily specific: that the girl walks about after being resurrected seems to require no explanation as the report of her walking obviously implies she is of an age to walk.   Yet Mark adds this detail anyway.  Why?

Well, this is just speculation but could it be that he is underlining the acute nature of the older woman’s suffering?   In my mid-forties now, I can remember being thirty-three as if it was yesterday.  When you are eighteen, twelve years seems a long time – indeed, it is two thirds of your life, after all.  But at forty-five, the years flick by like trees observed from a fast moving train carriage.  Yet if I had had a toothache since the age of thirty-three, or had been undergoing cancer treatment for a decade, I suspect I would have been acutely aware of the length of every single second of my suffering.

Behold the compassion of the Lord: the healing of this woman was no cheap stunt; she had suffered. She had been consumed spiritually, physically and financially by the affliction.  More that that, she had suffered for twelve long years.   Let those words sink in.  Twelve long years  – the twinkling of an eye to some, but for Jairus’s daughter, an entire lifetime; and presumably it felt like an entire lifetime to this woman, whose memories of her earlier life in the covenant community must have been distorted, if not buried, under the years of torment.  And as she reaches out in her uncleanness and touches Christ, the net result is not that both of them become thereby unclean (as should have happened according to Leviticus 15) but she is made clean.   This is an act of great power; it is also, given her pitiable chronic condition, an act of amazing mercy and deliverance.    The throwaway line about the little girl’s age serves to point us to the desperate condition of fallen (unclean) humanity and to the remarkable compassion of God – our God – in addressing the human predicament.  Praise God for literary touches, the throwaway lines, in the pages of scripture that bring out so beautifully his grace and mercy.

How to Handle Controversy

I don’t care who you are, you will face trouble.  We live in what theologians refer to as a fallen world.  This is a reference to the Garden of Eden, where our ancient parents – Adam and Eve – sinned by eating the forbidden fruit.  They subsequently fell from the pristine, sinless state in which they were created and thereby cast their future descendants as well as creation itself into endless sin and trouble.

We labor, as a result, by the sweat of our brow.  We face sickness and disease.  We struggle to make good, moral choices.  We fail.  We hurt others and others hurt us.  We fight, argue, and debate, demanding our own way.  We are selfish and self-centered.  All of this leads to inevitable controversy.

That we will face controversy is certain; it is beyond our control.  How we handle controversy, however, is totally up to us.  I ran across the letter below, which will hopefully shed great light on how Christians should handle controversy.  The letter was written by John Newton, the English pastor who penned the words to Amazing Grace.  Newton was the epitome of a reprobate, worldly sinner before salvation.  He was a ship captain who regularly bought and sold African slaves.  God amazingly saved him, however, and he never got over the Lord’s amazing grace!

Newton is famous for his letters, words penned to friends and colleagues.  I hope you enjoy reading this one, in which he offers advice to a friend who is poised, ready to write scathing words of attack.  Perhaps God will teach each of us how to handle controversy much better than we typically do.

On Controversy

from Mar 02, 2012 Category: Articles

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied as follows:

Dear Sir,

As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

Consider Your Opponent

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

Consider the Public

By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

Consider Yourself

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.


Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day is Sunday.  I ran across this article which forces us to realize that millions of little girls no longer enjoy the safe joy of living with their mothers – these precious children are now sex slaves.  But the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, as Christ said.  Christians in India are fighting to rescue as many little girls from sex slavery as they can.

 

The statistics on human trafficking are both stomach-turning and mind-numbing. According to the UN, it’s now a $32 billion annual business.

Consider India. There, in just one city, it’s a billion-dollar-a-year business. Little girls—some as young as 7 or 8 years old—are being forced into the sex trade. It’s estimated that 30,000 minor girls are trafficked annually—82 girls per day. India also has 25.7 million orphans at risk of exploitation.

The problem is massive. But it feels distant. Resistance seems almost futile. It’s easy to slide from the reality of “I cannot change this” to the attitude of “I can do nothing.”

Traditional adoption is difficult (at best) in India. So that significantly raises the stakes for orphan-care within India itself.

I’m intrigued by the work being done by As Our Own. They are “a Christ-based, community-driven movement in India that rescues vulnerable children from certain enslavement and exploitation, caring for them as our own.”

These girls are welcomed into their new families within India.  They never graduate out of the program. They are loved and parented, given the crucial support system they need, including schooling, career preparation, marriage and family, and beyond.

So what does this have to do with Mother’s Day—with your mother, or the mother of your children?

As Our Own has initiated a new campaign where you can make a donation in honor of your mother or spouse. By doing so, you’ll be supporting young girls in India who have been rescued and who will (Lord willing) grow up to be mothers themselves.

Follow this link to donate. When you do, they’ll e-mail you a printable card where you can fill in her name and that explains the gift you’ve made in her name.

Our small gifts can make a big difference, honoring our moms and serving future moms on the other side of the world.

A Brave New World is Here

brave-new-world

I ran across this piece at the Gospel Coalition website.  Aldous Huxley, it turns out – not George Orwell – was spot on with his prediction of modern America.

 

Kyle Smith has a helpful piece in the New York Post exploring various parallels between Aldous Huxley’s 1932 sci-fi dystopian novel Brave New World and the reality 80 years later. Here’s the opening:

If Orwell’s “1984″ is a cautionary tale about what we in the capitalist West largely avoided, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is largely about what we got — a consumerist, post-God happyland in which people readily stave off aging, jet away on exotic vacations and procreate via test tubes. They have access to “Feelies” similar to IMAX 3-D movies, no-strings-attached sex, anti-anxiety pills and abortion on demand. They also venerate a dead high-tech genius, saying “Ford help him” in honor of Henry Ford just as today we practically murmur “In Jobs We Trust.”

In many ways the book, which was published 80 years ago this winter, has become sci-non-fi. It is still developing, taking on additional richness according to the times in which we read it.

You can read the rest here. One more excerpt:

Huxley also foresaw a disturbing partnership between the state and capitalism but didn’t anticipate how little need for government collusion sophisticated marketers would need to reorder society. In “Brave New World,” the state has suppressed all simple sports because they don’t require lots of expensive equipment to keep the economy humming. Instead, it relentlessly hypes complicated tech-y activities such as “electromagnetic golf.” A couple of generations ago, kids might have bought one baseball glove and one bat that would last for years. Today they instead spend hundreds of dollars on Xbox 360s and games that quickly become boring and demand to be replaced with upgraded versions.

Thanks to subliminal messages repeated thousands of times in nurseries while kids sleep, the “Brave New World” characters grow up conditioned to accept a disposable society in which everyone is always hungry for the latest thing and simply discards the old. Huxley would be surprised to see that no such indoctrination is necessary to make people throw away an iPhone that was state of the art three years ago and line up overnight to get a slightly improved version.

In his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Neil Postman argued that Huxley’s dystopia was coming to fruition more than that of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949):

Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing.

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression.

But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.

What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.

Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.

Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.

Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.

Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

. . . Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Trouble in England! (Taking an Ax to Your Own Beliefs).

The Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams (R) and atheist scholar Richard Dawkins pose for a photograph outside Clarendon House at Oxford University, before their debate, February 23, 2012.

What happens when the world’s greatest atheist and England’s top churchman sit down together to discuss religion?  Not dig-your-heels-in, come-out-swinging debate, in this case.  Both men, I believe, took an ax to their own belief system.

The atheist to whom I refer is Rickard Dawkins, long regarded as the most famous atheist in the world.  He is an evolutionary biologist and professor emeritus at Oxford University.  The leading British churchman is Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.   The two conversed recently as part of a public dialog regarding the role of religion in public life in Britain.  Their topic of debate was “The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin.”

The Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams (R) and atheist scholar Richard Dawkins pose for a photograph outside Clarendon House at Oxford University, before their debate, February 23, 2012.

Shocking the world, Professor Dawkins confessed that he is less than 100 percent certain that there is no creator.  An incredulous Sir Anthony Kenny (a philosopher who chaired the debate) replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist!”  Professor Dawkins acknowledged his precipitous fall from atheism into the muddier world of agnosticism – not being sure.  He was quick to add that he is “6.9 out of seven” sure of his belief that God doesn’t exist.

Wow!  That 0.1 difference may well be infinite.  An atheist says with conviction, “God does not exist!”  Opening up the possibility that he might exist reveals a massive shift in thinking.  Could it also signal the presence of the Holy Spirit’s secret work of regeneration in Richard Dawkins’ heart?  Regeneration is the supernatural, God inspired moment when the Holy Spirit breathes new life into a spiritually dead sinner.  As a direct result of new life, the new creation then exercises the gift of faith and responds affirmatively to Jesus’ command to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Time will tell with Professor Dawkins.  We should pray for his salvation, and we should also rejoice that news of his leap from the pinnacle of atheism is sending thunderous ramifications through the world of unbelief.

If Richard Dawkins took an ax to his own belief system, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wielded an even greater ax.  Imagine the awesome opportunity.  England’s top churchman is sitting with the world’s greatest atheist at the moment he confesses a chink in his atheistic armor.  Surely, a Christian would lovingly and boldly step in with the gospel.  Surely, he would sense the presence of God’s Spirit and join him there.  Regrettably, Archbishop Williams revealed that he isn’t a believer, either!  Here is a smattering of inconceivable comments made by the Church of England’s top minister.

  • The Archbishop said he believed that human beings evolved from non-human ancestors.
  • He also said that the explanation for the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis could not be taken literally.
  • When Professor Dawkins suggested that the Pope took a rather more literal view of the origin of humans, the Archbishop merely joked, “I will ask him some time.”

If the Archbishop’s comments had been made in the context of international politics, he would have revealed himself as a traitor to his own country!  Williams is supposed to be a heartfelt defender of the Bible.  He is supposed to know the depravity of men’s hearts and believe that Christ is the only source of rescue and hope.  He is supposed to share the gospel that men might hear, repent, and believe.  Instead, he took an ax to the gospel and missed a significant opportunity to give Richard Dawkins what he needed most.

This sad exchange reveals the tragic state of affairs when men begin to arrogantly think they can pick and choose what to believe in the Bible and what not to.  Once we afford ourselves this kinglike freedom, we render the Bible’s power – in our own hearts and minds – powerless.  Obviously, Archbishop Williams no longer believes.  Is it any surprise that less than 2 percent of England’s population worships at church on any given Sunday?

I am happy to hear from readers.  Please go to the “Contact” tab on this web site and send me a message.

Whitney Houston Dies at 48.

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Like most of America, I awoke Sunday morning to news that Whitney Houston had died the night before.  Here is the opening paragraph I read:

“Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image was ruined by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48” (www.billboard.com).

What a tragic end to a success story that unraveled too quickly and fell apart in embarrassing fashion.  Her death reveals that God’s timeless wisdom shows itself true and trustworthy even when the “wise” world views it as foolish.

The apostle Paul said, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).  He was speaking to Christians living in the flourishing, materialistic city of Corinth (in modern day Greece).  They were falling back in love with the world and turning their backs on the gospel-driven lifestyle.  Getting it all backwards, they saw God’s ways as foolish and the world’s ways as wise.  Recognizing the practical, even eternal, hazard of their worldview, Paul warned:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Cor. 3:18-19).

The final quote is from the Old Testament; it’s a hunting metaphor, which speaks of how easily a human hunter takes advantage of the natural cunning of a predator in order to capture and kill it.  A coyote, for instance, will cleverly stalk a wounded prey animal, not knowing that he is actually walking into a trap laid by a hunter.  God just as easily “catches the wise in their craftiness.” Paul’s point is that the unbelieving world deceives itself – thinking its ways are wise and God’s foolish – but God always wins.

Whitney Houston’s tragic life is a sad example.  Her magnificent voice and fresh, youthful looks shot her to stardom.  She was apparently ill prepared, though, to handle fame and fortune.  I don’t pretend to know the details of her life, but the media’s coverage through the years reveals the heartbreaking tale of a tragic butterfly buffeted by the cruel gales of evil forces for which it is no match.

Houston’s marriage to singer Bobby Brown represented – by almost all accounts – the beginning of her tragic descent into a living hell.  Drug use and abuse quickly followed.  Her once angelic voice, which soared to the heavens, crashed back to earth.  She was booed off stage at recent concerts, not able to hit her signature high notes.  She forgot lines and appeared lost in a drunken haze.  Was Sunday’s headline of her death truly a surprise?

People can laugh at God all they want; they can cunningly avoid Him, explain Him away, and ignore Him, but His ways and wisdom always prevail.  Human wisdom always, in the end, finds itself hopelessly ensnared in the Lord’s wise trap.  We can only imagine her story had Whitney Houston known and followed Christ, but if God’s Word is any indicator, she would be alive, singing, and blessed.

I am happy to hear from readers.  Please go to the “Contact” tab on this web site and send me a message.

Tim Tebow Bashing.

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Tebow defeating the Sooners

I’ll admit it – I was a Tim Tebow “hater.”  But not the way today’s football establishment is doing it.  As a lifelong Oklahoma Sooners fan, my “hatred” (consider that “fan” derives from “fanatic”!) for Tim Tebow is rooted in his destroying our national title hopes in the 2008 football season.  The BSC Championship Game on January 8, 2009 pitted the No. 1 ranked Sooners against Tebow’s No. 2 ranked Florida Gators.  Tebow’s Gators ended up on top, 24-14, riding the shoulders of their passionate quarterback to victory.

With partisan blinded vision, those of us in Sooner Nation found it quite easy to see only bad in Tebow.  His fiery rants turned us off.  His Gator munching motion sickened us.  His media overexposure nauseated us.  Then, he graduated, entered the NFL draft, and the Tebow circus merely switched gears.  We Sooners continued hating on him as his undeserved attention seemed to land him a first round draft choice of which even the world’s pro football experts said he was undeserving.

Fast-forward to today, however.  Two things have changed: one, Tebow’s media exposure has soared to such staggering proportions that he has crossed over into pop culture as few pro athletes have done.  Online dictionaries now officially include the term Tebowing as a verb.  Tebowing, according to urbandictionary.com, is “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” The second change has to do with my feelings toward Tebow, relative to that of the NFL establishment…or perhaps I should say, as a direct result of the establishment’s treatment of him.

Tebow praying - "Tebowing" in the modern vernacular

Let me be clear: my feelings have changed, because the media’s response to the young Denver Broncos quarterback has crossed over into real life, away from the silly allegiance to college teams which allows one to “hate” opposing players.  Many in the media don’t understand Tim Tebow – particularly his religion – so they use him as a weekly punching bag.  His crossover into pop culture now sees him as the butt of jokes on late night television entertainment shows.

What, I ask, has this young man done to deserve the constant beating he receives from stodgy NFL analysts and media savvy commentators looking for laughs?  Has he been accused of raping young women, such as vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger?  Has he been brought up on murder charges, as was fearsome Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker, Ray Lewis?  Does he stand at the head of a major drug operation, as the recently arrested Sam Hurd of the Chicago Bears is accused of?  Did he shoot himself in the leg with an illegally carried handgun at a nightclub, as did former Giants’ player, Plaxico Burress?  Did he spend time behind bars for extreme animal cruelty, such as Michael Vick?  Did he beat up his girlfriend, as countless players have done?

No, Tim Tebow’s only crime is that he is a Christian, period.  He is far from a great quarterback.  He’s still a rookie and only time will tell whether success awaits.  But the NFL is loaded with former and current quarterbacks who stink it up on Sundays.  No one’s crucifying them.  No one’s bashing them.  Tim is being raked over the national coals because he is a Christian, and natural men and women do not know what to do with him.

Saturday Night Live skit, making a mockery of Tebow and Jesus Christ

Paul the apostle – in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 – gave the clear reason why non-believers reject the things of God, and, by extrapolation, why Tebow is suffering such unwarranted abuse.  Natural people, Paul says, approach the gospel with their rational minds and find it to be completely foolish – moronic is the actual Greek word.  It doesn’t fit the way they esteem life.  It seems ridiculous and unbelievable, so they reject it as nonsense.  Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 1:18, “The word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing.” “Those who are perishing” represents the category of people who are going to hell.

Visit the ancient ruins of the Circus Maximus in Rome and you will see a carving in stone of a cross.  Hanging on the cross is a man with the head of a jackass.  Beneath the cross, a man is bowing down in worship.  The inscription says that he is bowing to his God.  It is a laughing slur against Christians.  “Who would bow down to a jackass?” they were saying.  Christianity is that stupid, that moronic, to man’s rational mind.

Non-Christians are perishing, but, ironically, human pride keeps them from seeing it.  They look at believers and conclude – accurately – that most of us are the world’s nobodies.  Paul said in verse 26, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” Most Christians are not movers and shakers in society; most are not influencers of business, government, academia, or culture.

He continued in verse 27, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not.” Paul’s words (foolish, weak, low and despised, things that are not) represent the lowest slurs available to the Greek culture of his day.  People in essence saw Christians as non-people, unborn, totally insignificant, as if they didn’t even exist; they were that irrelevant.

The son of missionaries, Tebow preaches regularly

Obviously, this opened believers to ridicule and abuse.  One constant among mankind is that he tends to mistreat those he misunderstands or those he feels superior to.  This explains the media’s treatment of Tim Tebow.  They have no solid footing from which to ridicule him in the context of his football performance.  Again, many players perform poorly and never catch the sports pontificators’ attention.  Yet, they continue bashing Tebow, because they do not understand his life.

Tebow lives his Christianity as all genuine believers should: openly, bearing spiritual fruit.  His end zone prayers – Tebowing – merely represent the tip of the iceberg of his deep faith in Christ.  In short, he is an authentic Christian, and the natural, watching world finds him to be moronic and stupid.  Consequently, they ridicule him and use him as fodder for humor.

From a football perspective, something special and unforeseen is happening at the moment.  The Denver Broncos barely blasted from the starting gate this season and already languished in defeat, headed nowhere.  They benched their starting quarterback and reluctantly gave Tebow a chance – “What did they have to lose, right?”  Remarkably, Tebow began leading the Broncos to victory – they are now 7-2 with Tebow at the helm, and they’re all of a sudden relevant, with a chance to make the playoffs.  His quarterback play is unorthodox, often unimpressive, and even his coach and general manager refuse to openly give him their full support.  But still he wins.

Tebow’s story portrays in living color Paul’s lesson from 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.  His life, in a microcosm, reveals why some people believe the gospel and others don’t.  He represents the gospel, which those who are perishing find foolish.  He represents the true wisdom of God, rather than man’s limited understanding, which is doomed to destruction.  Paul wrote in verse 6 of chapter 2, “We…impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.” And then in verse 8: “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

And here is the ultimate answer for why America’s elite media is mistreating Tim Tebow: their ancient counterparts – “the rulers of this age” – failed, in their human wisdom, to see that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God and only Savior of men’s souls, so they crucified Him.  They are therefore, mistreating his modern follower, Tebow.  They misunderstand him; his life and values appear foolish, so they attack him.

Tim Tebow, now 7-2 as the Broncos' starting quarterback

Christian, don’t court the world’s approval.  Don’t expect man in his natural wisdom to understand you or even esteem you.  Don’t be surprised when you are misunderstood and even mistreated.  Never forget that the elite rulers of Jesus’ day crucified Him.  Stop working to attract the world to your churches, as if God relies on American consumerism to lure people to His gospel.  Preach Christ and His cross strongly and unapologetically, without fear that man will find it offensive or confusing.  Natural man needs to be offended – by the Holy Spirit of God, who persuades him of his deep sin and destiny with hell, should he reject Christ as the only means of getting right with God.

Paul told the Corinthian church members, who were in love with the world and rejecting his ministry: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified… My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:2-5).

Church, which do we want: man’s wisdom or God’s power?  Which does the lost world need?  Let’s defend our own – such as Tim Tebow – by praying for them, and let’s love the lost world the only way possible: preaching “Christ and him crucified.”

I am happy to hear from readers.  Please go to the “Contact” tab on this web site and send me a message.