Tag Archives: Church

Where Is The Middle Ground?

ropeThis is the question when it comes to sexuality issues for many in the United Methodist Church. For decades our church has wrestled with this question and tried to find the safe place to stand that holds both Scripture and culture together.  I am not writing to those who wish to rehash all of that.

I am writing to the majority of pastors and churches who wish to go on like this issue won’t affect them or their churches, to those who want to keep their heads down and focus on their local church, to those who don’t want to inform their congregations of denominational troubles because of the conflict it will bring.

I am writing to let you know, as politely as I can, the middle ground doesn’t exist anymore. Actually, I doubt it ever did.  We were only made to believe that it did because we were not forced to make a decision.  We could go on doing what we do at the local level and hide our dysfunctional denomination.  We could table the issue, talk in code, manipulate words, ignore the elephant and continue to dialog with a vain hope of discovering middle ground.

There is none.

The culture won’t allow middle ground. Sexuality has become peoples’ identity.  It is the core of who we are.  Our uniqueness, our distinctiveness, our individuality springs from our sexuality.  God made us this way and there is no ability, reason, or need to conform to an ancient standard.  To say otherwise is to deny our rights, our freedom, our God-given being.  We define marriage, parenting, and family in new terms that must be accepted, respected, and taught without question.

The Scriptures won’t allow middle ground either. They are clear about sexuality.  They state that our identity is much grander than our sexuality.  Our identity is found in Christ and He is remaking us into His image.  That process is called sanctification or, as Jesus put it, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Our sexuality has a context that is not to be desecrated or debased.  Throughout Scripture the message is clear: The context is within marriage between a man and a woman.  Anything other is to be left behind.

The church has reached the point of decision because the culture and Scripture do not coexist on this issue. One is right, and therefore, one is wrong. General Conference is only a few months away and again these two positions will clash.  Only this time, there will be no fence to sit on, no place to keep your head down, no middle ground.

The United Methodist Church will be the first large denomination to address this issue since the Supreme Court ruling on June 26th of this year.  Do you think the culture will allow the church to maintain its current position without a fight?  And do you think the news cameras will not be there to cover it?  And do you think your church won’t hear calls of bigotry and intolerance?  And do you think your people will not be confronted on social media by friends and family as to why they belong to a hateful church?  Don’t be fooled.  The culture won’t allow it.

When that happens, which way will you go? It’s the broad road or the narrow way, the rock or the sand, the sheep or the goats, the wheat or the chaff.  The middle ground is gone.  The time for choosing has come.

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If My People

I try to tell myself that today is no different than any day in the last four years. No wonder I feel terrible. I turned off the tv last night about 10:30 and went to bed. I went to bed, but I didn’t get much sleep.

This morning and throughout the day I have received emails and texts from friends asking some hard questions. “I don’t understand how God would allow this leadership in government. Is this His will?” “How do I get past the anger and anxiety?” “What are Christians suppose to do now?” Reminds me of the Psalmist lament in 11:3, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous to do?” I wish I had an answer for the Psalmist.

One friend told me she could not remember an election so prayed over. I had made that same observation. I can’t recall more materials coming across my desk, more calls for prayer and fasting, and even prayer meetings for an election than this one. “Why didn’t God answer those prayers?” I don’t know that one either.

But I can say this with full confidence: Purity is on the other side of the refiner’s fire. God wants a holy people. And let’s be honest, the church is far from it. Oh, we’ll be decent and kind as long as it doesn’t inconvience us, but even in churches we don’t use the word “holy” anymore. We pretend the word is too offensive to others, but the reality is, it’s too offensive to us.

Our nation is in need of a Great Awakening. The foundations are being destroyed before our eyes and we are helpless to do anything about it. Or are we? I believe the cure begins with each one of us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Did you notice who God requires to humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways? Is it the entire country? Is it the government? No, it is His people. We must be the ones to pursue holiness in our lives. And when we do, God will heal our land.

The world will continue to act like the world. But judgement comes when God’s people act like the world. Or didn’t we read the Old Testament? How serious are you willing to get with the Lord about your sin and His holiness? Are you willing to turn from you wicked ways? Will you humble yourself before the the Lord? There is no more time for games with God. He is not one to be triffle with.

What we do now as Christians is to humble ourselves before God, confess our sin and turn from it, and seek to honor Him in all our ways. Then God will hear us and heal our land.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tune in tomorrow to hear from Jonathan Witherspoon, a minister and signer of the Declaration of Independence, on his thoughts concerning this.

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Filed under Church, Discipleship, Government, Holiness, Prayer, Revival

The Pulpit and Politics

Should pastors preach on political issues? I have heard both yes and no. From my congregation I have heard people tell me, “I’m a big believer in separation of church and state.” I’ve also heard, “Why don’t we hear about these thing from the pulpit?” I believe that pastors have a responsibility to preach on political issues…..sometimes. Not all the time, but definitely some of the time.

I believe that because there is nothing outside the realm of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As Christians we don’t get to compartmentalize our life and surrender only parts of it to Jesus. We do not have the option of saying, “Be Lord of my life here and here, but not here.” I also believe that the wisdom contained in the Scriptures can and should guide our lives, especially in how we live them out in society. The whole “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “You are the salt of the earth, light of the world” thing means we should be informed and active for His glory in the world around us.

Most pastors want to avoid controversy that preaching on a political issue is sure to bring. I certainly don’t want to cause rifts in the church. But if the Bible says something about a particular issue, don’t you want to know what it says? Don’t you want to know what God’s opinion is on the subject so that you can live in accordance with it? The Bible certainly doesn’t shy away from political issues. It is full of examples of preachers confronting, encouraging, and preaching to rulers, kings, judges, cities, and whole nations. And the topics range from adultery, extortion, private property, taxes, freedom, limits on power, role of governments, poverty, and the list goes on.

It has only been recently in American history that we expect preachers to remain silent on issues. During the Revolutionary War the British called the clergy, “The Black Robe Regiment” because of their preaching and influence in current affairs. Preachers did not shy away from preaching on God-given rights, limits of power, freedom, equality of all men and so on. And their legacy was passed on. What would have happened if preachers had remained silent on the issue of slavery? What would the civil-rights movement have been like if Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had decided not to preach on political issues?

As I stated earlier, I believe a preacher should preach on political issues. Not all of the time, but when it is needed. Take for instance the issue of marriage. Since when did marriage become a political issue? The church has been consistent about what marriage is and is not for two thousand years. Marriage is an institution established by God. The pastor who remains silent in the face of the government redefining it is not worthy of the calling and leads his or her people astray.

The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27. As a preacher, I know that I have a duty to proclaim, as best I can with love, the whole counsel of God. I am not looking to offend anyone by doing so. But I have found the truth contained in the Word of God is offensive all by itself. Perhaps the reason most people don’t want to hear about politics from the pulpit is because it would require some rethinking and possibly even – change.

Over the next month I am going to be addressing some political issues and exploring what the Bible says about them on my blog. On October 24th I am leading an Election Issues Forum at my church so this will be kind of a warm up. I have found Dr. Wayne Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible very helpful. You can hear Dr. Grudem speak about pastors preaching on political issues here.

I hope we will have some good discussions and gain insight into the wisdom God offers to us in the political arena. DISCLAIMER: I do not pretend to think that my opinions on these issues are from the mouth of God. I have tried to form my opinions based on His Word, but I am still quite falliable – just ask the Mrs.

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Filed under Beliefs, Bible, Church, Freedom, Government, Preaching

Your Bride Is Ugly

I keep bumping into this sentiment lately: “I like God, but I can’t stand the church.”  Or, “I’ll take Jesus, but I can do without Christians.”  It seems like even folks who claim the faith are taking their shots at the church.  Criticisms range from the church being too involved in politics to being irrelevant, from Christians being judgmental to not knowing what they believe.  Some people have decided that they are no longer going to call themselves “Christians” because it carries too much baggage.  “Christ-follower” is much more vogue and it gives one the option of following Jesus without being part of the church.

I wonder how that makes Jesus feel.  I think those comments are a kin to going to a bridegroom and telling him, “Dude I like you, but your bride is ugly.”  Honestly, how long do you think you are going to be friends?  Can you continue to have a relationship with the bridegroom and disparage the bride?  Do you think you are still going to get an invitation to the wedding reception?

I do not think that the church is above criticism.  In fact, when the bride is unfaithful to the bridegroom she needs to be corrected.  The Scripture is clear that judgment begins with the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17.)  But who is entitled to do the judging?  And to what standard is she being measured?  If the standard is other than the Word of God, then it is, at best, a distraction and, at worse, an idol.

Is there another institution that has done more to lift humanity out of the slim of history than the church?  Has government done more to restore the dignity of humanity to the elderly, the poor, the unborn?  Does Madison Avenue preach a message that gives people hope and peace?  Has technology been able to restore broken relationships, especially a relationship with God?  Can forgiveness be purchased on Wall Street?  Perhaps a little tolerance could be extended for poor coffee and hokey movies.

So why the hostility towards Christians and the church?  R.C. Sproul writes in The Holiness of God, “People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them.  The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance.  The world honors Christ, from a distance.” (pg. 71)  Two thousand years later it is easy to admire Jesus, but get close to Him and you might find out why the prophets were killed and He was crucified.  The closer He gets the more our unholiness is revealed.  Sproul continues, “They feel crowded by holiness, even if it is made present only by an imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel.” (pg.82). Imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel is a pretty good description of the church.

Yet, the Church is the bride of Christ.  She is not perfect (not yet anyway), but He is the one who has called her.  Jesus purchased her with His own blood.  He washed her in His Word.  Jesus is preparing a place for her at this moment for eternity.  And Jesus is anxious to return and get her so that she can be with Him.  Jesus loves the church.  The church is His creation.  He will make her holy and pure in His time. 

The church has issues, no doubt.  However, Christians should be a bit more careful before throwing her to the curb the way the world does.  For there is coming a day (sorry, I don’t mean to fixate on end times) when those who “love Jesus but can’t stand the church” are going to be very glad they are counted among her.

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Filed under Beliefs, Church, Marriage

Resources for the Sanctity of Marriage

If you haven’t heard of or read the Manhattan Declaration, I encourage you to do so.  If you are interested in defending religious liberty, and the sanctity of life and marriage I encourage you to sign it.  You can click here to go to their main website to learn about them.  You can click here to get articles, videos, and blogs with information on how to respond lovingly and Biblically to advocates of same-sex marriage.

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Filed under Beliefs, Church, Freedom, Government, Life, Marriage, Religious Liberty