Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Ephes. 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, [3] being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

In the late 1800’s there were two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield, KY. These two deacons didn’t get along and they always opposed each other in any decision related to the church. On one particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the preacher could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. People in the church took sides and eventually there was a spilt. To this day, they say you can still find the Anti-Peg Baptist Church in Mayfield, KY.

One of the worst things that can happen in a church is when God’s people begin to fight instead of working together. Yet it happens all the time. History is full of sad stories about Christians fighting among themselves. Let me share one that I recently read.

Tradition claims that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the cave in which Christ is said to have been buried. In July 2002, the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. The conflict began when a Coptic monk sitting on the rooftop decided to move his chair into the shade. This took him into the part of the rooftop courtyard looked after by the Ethiopian monks.

It turns out that the Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the Church belong to each of six Christian groups: the Latins, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, and Ethiopians. Despite the edict, conflict over the church remains.

The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Copts when hit by a disease epidemic in the 19th century. Then in 1970 the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. They have been squatting there ever since, with at least one Ethiopian monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. In response a Coptic monk has been living on the roof also, to maintain the claim of the Copts.

This brings us to a Monday in July 2002, when the Coptic monk moved his chair into the shade. Harsh words led to pushes, then shoves, until an all out brawl ensued, including the throwing of chairs and iron bars. At the end of the fight 11 monks were injured, including one monk unconscious in hospital and another with a broken arm.

How tragic that a church which serves as a memorial to Christ is the scene for such bitter conflict among those who claim to be his followers. This is a far cry from Christ’s call to love one another, turn the other cheek, and his prayer that his followers might "be one".

When the church is divided it always produces tragic results. On the other hand, when the church is unified it unleashes a power that cannot be stopped. In the book of Ephesians, more than any of Paul’s letters, he calls the church to unity. Paul mentions the unity of the church 18 times in this letter. You see, unity is essential in the church because it brings glory to God and it reflects one of God’s key attributes. Moments before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed for the church that would be established after his death and resurrection. He didn’t pray for large buildings or church growth. He asked for only one thing: “I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” If we’re going to be the kind of people God intends, then we need to be unified.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.

This verse doesn't teach that we should seek popularity for its own sake. In fact, popularity can disappear just as quickly as wealth. Neither does it counsel us to continuously wonder what other people think of us or labor to get them to like us. Popularity can be a stumbling block in fulfilling God’s will. Note Paul’s words in Galatians 1:10. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Today’s verse means we should live consistent lives that are above reproach. This applies particularly to money; we must be seen to be honest in the way we acquire it and wise in the way we use it. As Christians we bear Christ's name and his reputation is linked with ours. People are prone to judge our Lord by us.

May God grant us the grace and the wisdom to seek a good name over riches. Having a good name and reputation because of good character is to be valued far above having much wealth. Riches are useless if in gaining them one ruins his character.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

James 1:19-27 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; [20] for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. [21] Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. [22] But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. [23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. [25] But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. [26] If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

I believe James’s teaching in this passage needs to be proclaimed in every church in America. God is not fooled by people who come to church, listen to the Word of God proclaimed, and yet never act on what they hear. God is not fooled by people who claim to believe His Word when in fact their lives remain unchanged.

Do you know that 60 percent of Americans claim to be “born again” believers? Listen, if this were actually true America would be a different country. The sexual immorality, materialism and selfishness that presently pervade this nation would be greatly diminished. Our politicians and judges would not get away with calling good evil and calling evil good. Over 50 percent of all marriages would not end in divorce. If 60 percent of Americans were truly Doers of the Word righteousness would prevail in America and spill over into uttermost parts of the earth. As it stands today, America’s greatest export is filth and wickedness.

What about you this morning? Are you a Doer of the Word or merely a hearer who has deluded yourself? Are you a person who claims to be believer, but yet your life remains unchanged? Is your faith dead or alive? Folks this is so important! Listen, church goers do not inherit eternal life. Hearers of the Word only do not inherit eternal life. So called believers with dead faith do not inherit eternal life. Only Doers of the Word inherit eternal life! That’s why I am sharing this message. I want each and every one of you to inherit eternal life. My Heavenly Father desires that none should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth! Please hear and respond to His Word this morning.

Now I want you to understand that James is not saying and I am not saying that you earn salvation by doing. Salvation comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. If you have faith in Jesus Christ you will become a “Doer of the Word.” Saving faith changes your life! Dead faith leaves you just as you are!

Christian, are you a Doer of the Word or a forgetful Hearer? Do you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in continually stripping off the old humanity? Are you humbly receiving and submitting to the Word. Is it your “how to guide for life?” Or are you conveniently picking and choosing what you’ll obey and what you’ll ignore. To do so is the height of pride. As James will say later “God gives grace to the humble but He resists the proud.” Do you feel like God is resisting you? Maybe you need to examine your life more closely this morning. If God is resisting you it’s due to the fact you have been to proud to do things His way. Are you abiding in the Word? Is your life marked by self-control, acts of service to meet the needs of others and holiness? Are you a Doer of the Word? Don’t be deceived! Only Doers of the Word inherit eternal life because their faith is genuine!

Folks let me clear up any confusion you might have. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. But if we are truly saved then we shall be Doers of the Word! If you are a Hearer only and not a Doer your lost! If you claim to be believer and there is no fruit or “works” to use James’s words, to verify or prove genuine your faith then you’re lost! So I ask again; are you a Doer of the Word? If not, then the first step in becoming a Doer of the Word is believing in the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Will you turn away from your sin and believe in Jesus Christ? Will you become a Doer of the Word?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Proverbs 20:9
Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart,
I am pure from my sin"?

This proverb is put in the form of a question: "who can say?" Of course the answer is “no one”. This proverb proclaims the universal sinfulness of the human heart. This sad reality is confirmed in other Scriptures such as Romans 3:10 which says, “There is none righteous, not even one.”

You’ll notice the proverb is in the first person singular because each of us individually has to realize and acknowledge our sinfulness. Many struggle with the concept of total depravity in our politically correct and theologically inept society. But total depravity alone explains why behave as we do. There is no other explanation. Those who are bewildered by humanity’s deceitfulness, selfishness and violence have never faced up to this horrifying truth.

The bad news is “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The good news is, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)

Do you want to have a cleansed heart? Keep looking to Jesus!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Don't Blame God

Proverbs 19:3 NLT People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.

This truth of this verse has been confirmed often in my ministry. I have known many people who have chosen to live as if God did not exist or like He is irrelevant. They foolishly chose to ignore God’s revelation and they rejected the wisdom of His Word. Eventually they reaped the results of their rebellion and folly; a ruined life.

Some of those shattered souls cried out to the Lord for forgiveness, accepting responsibility for their sinful and foolish rebellion. In His mercy and grace, the Lord forgave them and slowly rebuilt their ruined lives. But far too many became angry and bitter at God. Instead of asking for forgiveness and repenting of their folly, they angrily cursed Him. They blamed God and anyone else within pointing range for the destruction caused by their own foolish choices. Their bitterness separated them from the only One who could repair their broken lives.

Is your life a mess? Don’t give into the temptation to angrily blame God for your foolish choices. Instead, confess your folly and seek His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Col. 2:16-23 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17] These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. [18] Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, [19] and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. [20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— [21] "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Some time ago, I was watching the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. One of the questions was how did God first appear to Moses. The man correctly answered in a burning bush. The shows host responded, “That’s right yes He did.” Then she said, “Actually we don’t know if God is a man or a woman.” Her remark is representative of the religious confusion in our country. Most people in this nation have no idea who God is or what He requires of them. I refer to God as He because this is how the Bible refers to Him. It is true that God is not a man. The Bible says God is spirit. John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

I told you this story because it exemplifies what is happening in our nation. Unfortunately it also exemplifies what is taking place in the church. Many people are being led away from faith in Christ by false religious teachings and philosophies. These false teachings and philosophies are not new. The church has had to deal with them from its beginning. In fact, every book in the New Testament except Philemon mentions the dangers of false teaching. In Christ’s letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation He warned and rebuked the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira because they had allowed themselves to be influenced by false teachers. I wonder what Christ would write to the church in America today. I am sure He would also rebuke and warn us!

Man is a very religious creature. He is going to worship something even if it means worshiping himself. Because of man’s religious nature and his sinfulness many religions have been developed. Unfortunately these religions serve as religious substitutes for the true faith in Christ. Many of these substitutes are very deceptive because they use Christian terminology. We must not let this fool us. False religion will always provide some other way to God than Jesus Christ. My goal in sharing this devotion is to help you recognize and avoid these religious substitutes. This morning’s text describes three specific religious substitutes for faith in Jesus Christ. They are legalism, mysticism, and asceticism. Every false religion or philosophy is based upon one or a combination of these religious substitutes. Dear People of God, beware of any so-called religious substitutes for Christ!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Partnership for the Gospel

Philip. 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

This morning's devotion will focus on Greek word koinonia from Philippians 1:5. In the NIV, RSV, NAB and HCSB this word is translated partnership. In some other versions such as the KJV, ASV and NKJV the word is translated fellowship. In the NASB and NET, koinonia is translated participation. In the NRSV the word has been translated sharing. In the NLT the word has been translated as partners spreading. My point in sharing with you how all the different English versions translate this word is to show the difficulty in translation. This is why it's important that you look at several English translations when studying the Bible. When several translations disagree then it means the word or phrase likely has several different meanings. This is the case with the word koinonia. In fact, koinonia has even more meanings than reflected in this text. It can also refer to an offering or collection. This is this word from which we get our word coin

I believe the best translation of koinonia is partnership because it best fits the context of the letter. Paul and Philippian church were fellow participants for the advancement of the gospel. In other words, they were in partnership. Their partnership was marked by an intimate relationship with one another. It was based upon mutual love, respect and the common goal of advancing the gospel.

Why am I talking about partnership this morning? Our LVCC family has been granted the incredible privilege and opportunity to enter into a partnership with some dear friends for the advancement of the gospel in Central Asia. I pray that each of you will answer God's invitation to participate by praying, giving and going!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Love your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's. These tumultuous years were marked by the cold war with the former Soviet Union. In grade school we used to have drills in preparation for a nuclear attack by the Soviets. I hated the Soviets because I believed they wanted to destroy our country. This hatred and animosity intensified when I joined the Air Force. All Air Force personnel were shown films about our enemy’s intentions and efforts to destroy our way of life. I took that threat very personally and seriously. I viewed the Soviet Union as an evil empire and a godless people.

This past week I did something that I never thought possible. I spent a week in a Russia and I worshipped God there. I worshipped God in the land of my former enemies and the hatred in my heart has been transformed to love. What an amazing glorious God we serve! He changes the hearts of people and makes former enemies brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dear people of God love your enemies and overcome evil with good. When we respond this way we are imitating our Heavenly Father. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Friday, May 05, 2006

1 Tim. 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, [2] older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.

In First Timothy chapter 5, verses 1 and 2, the apostle Paul advises Timothy on how to relate effectively to individuals who make up various groups in the church. Paul’s advice was that Timothy handle people in various age groups as he would members of his own family. Once again, we see that the home is the training ground for relationships and ministry in the church and the world.

It is so important that we learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships in our homes. If we fail to learn these lessons at home, it will greatly diminish our ability to relate properly to others. This is why we who are parents must faithfully teach our children these skills if we want them to succeed and prosper in life. I have seen very gifted and talented people fail to reach their potential because they could not get along with others.

This morning I would like to recommend an excellent resource that will help you in developing and maintaining healthy relationships in your families. It's entitled Peace Making for Families by Ken Sande. The book is primarily a Biblical guide for handling family conflict. More than that, it will teach you how to relate to your family in ways that are Spirit led and glorifying to God.

Healthy families are the foundation of a healthy church and they bring God glory. I'm praying for your families (LVCC). May God be glorified in your homes through healthy relationships!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Psalm 34:1-3
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
[2] My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
[3] Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

Dear people of God, how different our lives would be if we would follow David's example in Psalm 34:1-3! So often our focus is on ourselves and our circumstances. Sadly, our natural nearsightedness keeps us from recognizing and acknowledging the incomprehensible goodness and greatness of our LORD.

What would happen if we deliberately chose to praise Him in every circumstance whether good or bad? If we truly believe in God's Sovereignty this should be an easy choice to make! Furthermore, if we believe that God is good and loving then we should be able to praise Him at all times! His praise should always be on our lips!

Romans 8:28 says: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Everything that happens in our lives passes through the hands of our Lord and He is working it out for our good and His glory. We may not enjoy or even understand what's happening in our lives, but we can always praise God because we know it's for our good! Folks don't listen to your feelings! Trust in God’s Word and give Him praise! It will change your outlook on life. I guarantee it.

I know someone who is enduring terminal cancer who would testify to the truth of these words. I know another who needs a heart transplant who would shout “Sure enough!” I know a third person who is facing Alzheimer’s who would also agree. Most of you know the folks I’m talking about. They are praising God in the midst of great adversity. His praise is always on their lips. Many lives are being touched by their faithful endurance as they rely on God’s enabling grace. I have personally heard each of them boast in the Lord in the midst of their suffering.

Father, I thank you for these three and their testimonies. Please continue to sustain them with your grace! Please continue to fill their mouths with your praise. Your power is perfected in weakness and your grace is sufficient for every circumstance. Help the rest of us to learn from their examples. Amen.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Each day we are required to make many decisions. Hopefully, our desire is to make decisions that are pleasing to God and fulfill His will and purpose for our lives. How do we go about making wise decisions? Over the years I have leaned on the wisdom packed into these two short verses.

The first key to making wise decisions is to trust God completely. He delights in giving us guidance and direction. He wants us know to know His will and purpose more than we desire to know them. Bit if we fail to trust God, for whatever reason, we will not be blessed with His guidance. Remember, He reserves His wisdom and guidance for those who seek Him. If we truly trust God, we will ask Him for wisdom, wait for his answer and refuse to develop an alternate plan.

This leads to the second key for making wise decisions. Do not lean on your own understanding! I cannot emphasize this point enough. God is omniscient and we are not. In other words, He knows everything and we know very little. So does it make sense to depend on our own limited understanding when we know the One who knows everything? Folks, leaning on our minute understanding is what gets us into trouble! Think of the number foolish decisions you have made because you chose to depend on your own wisdom rather than God’s. Ouch!!

The third key to making wise decisions is to acknowledge God in all your ways. Another way of communication this would be to say, “be so intimate with God that you talk to Him about even the smallest details of your life and then submit to His will.” No detail of you life is too small for God’s concern!

If you’ll apply these three keys, then you can count on the promise contained in these verses: He will make your paths straight. God will remove the obstacles, make a smooth path and bring us to the appointed destination. I like what Eric Lane says about this promise:
Most people would give a lot to be sure of this. For us creatures of time the future is at once a reality and an uncertainty. We know there is a future but we don't know what it holds. God offers us a future in which we can see our way ahead clearly, like a straight road with no obstacles to hinder us (cf. v.23, 4:11f). This may sound too good to be true — like an offer of infallible foresight combined with a cosmic bulldozer to cut out all the corners and flatten all the bumps. This is not what it means or even says, for it is he (God) who makes our path straight. A path is only a way to a destination. Our destination is sure — final glory, to which we are predestined’ (Rom. 8:29). It is what happens on the way that is uncertain. The bus to London has its destination on the front, but what sort of journey will it be?
A journey is marked by many decisions along the way. I urge to trust God for the wisdom to make each one!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

1 Tim. 3:5 For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

This verse is from a passage that details the standards for elders in God’s church. I review it often because it reminds me not to neglect my responsibilities at home. It doesn’t matter how well I take care of God’s church if I fail to manage my own household. Failure at home disqualifies me from shepherding God’s people. This makes perfect sense! If I cannot love, serve and nurture the three people who live with me, how I am going to minister to God’s people? All ministry begins at home and our homes are the training ground for ministry. This is God’s design.

Folks, this principle is not just for elders but every Christian. Our effectiveness in ministering to others will be largely determined by our faithfulness at home. If we fail to love our husbands, wives and children, can we really love those outside our families? If we neglect the development of healthy relationships at home isn’t it foolish to assume that we will be able to do so with other people? If we neglect to nurture and disciple our families do we have the credibility to teach others?

I recognize that learning to manage our homes is a life long process. None of us have it all together. But are we cooperating with the Holy Spirit? Are we becoming “Doers of the Word” and not “Hearers only?”

Before any of us contemplate becoming involved in ministry to others we need to ask ourselves this all important question: Am I managing my responsibilities at home in such a way that God is glorified and my family is edified? I challenge you to ask you spouse and children that same question. Most importantly, ask your Lord.

16 years ago, I resigned from the pastorate to care for my wife Melinda who was seriously ill. I resigned because of 1 Timothy 3:5. I found it impossible to properly care for her needs, raise my son and meet the demands of shepherding a church. I continued to serve God’s people, but in less demanding ways. I thank God I made that decision and I’m certain I was in the center of His perfect will.

After Melinda passed away, the Lord reopened the doors to the pastorate. The church that called me did so not because of my education or abilities but because of my faithfulness at home. I give God all the credit for my testimony. I would not have been faithful apart from His enabling grace. I was tempted to give up many times but I thank God His power was perfected in my weakness.

The Lord knows that I am not trying to discourage any of you from ministering to others! There’s so much ministry that needs to be done! But the Bible teaches that ministry begins at home. Be faithful at home and God will expand your ministry in His time.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Traveling Mercies

Psalm 121:1-8
A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
[2] My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
[3] He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
[4] Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
[5] The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
[6] The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
[7] The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
[8] The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

As many of you know, I’m about to take a long trip. For the first time in my life I’m going to leave the borders of North America. I’m going to a country that was once our country’s greatest adversary. My purpose for going is my Dad’s business. He has people there He wants to invite into our family.

I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that every once in a while I feel some apprehension. For example, I don’t particularly like to fly. This trip requires that I spend almost two entire days on an airplane. My prayer life always radically improves when I fly!

I found great comfort and assurance in this morning’s Psalms. As is my habit on the first day of the month, I read Psalm 1,31,61,91 and 121. The last four Psalms happen to major on the theme of God’s protection. I found verse 8 of Psalm 121 particularly comforting. “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

This verse goes beyond guaranteeing traveling mercies. Someday it will be time for me to make the journey from this world to the next. In fact, that day is already on God’s calendar. This verse promises that the He will see to it that I safely reach my destination!

Friday, April 28, 2006

What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?

The Bible has much to say about homosexuality and its utter sinfulness. Before discussing the passages directly related to homosexuality there are two foundational truths that need to be unpacked. First of all, according to Genesis 1:27 gender is a gift from God. God made human beings both male and female. He made them to be sexually compatible. Our sexuality is a gift from God. Secondly, God founded the institution of marriage in Genesis 2:24-25. These verses teach that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s design. Any relationship that seeks to alter this design is rebellious and sinful. Furthermore, God designed sex to be enjoyed only in a marriage relationship. Therefore any sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage is sinful, including homosexuality.

The first recorded instance of homosexuality in the Bible is in Genesis 19. This passage describes God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. It should be stated up-front that the people of Sodom were guilty of other sins besides homosexuality. This doesn’t alter the fact their homosexual behavior was debauched and immoral, and worthy of God’s judgment.

In answer to Abraham’s prayer in Genesis 18, God sent to angels to rescue Lot and his family from the coming judgment. The angels came into the city and Lot invited them into his home. In Genesis 19:5 the men of the city demand that Lot turn over his guests so that they could have sex with them. Lot responded by offering his virgin daughters to these perverts. They in turn threatened to rape Lot. Then the angels intervened by blinding the perverts. Amazingly, they continued to look for the door to get in Lot’s home. God destroyed the cities the next morning.

God’s anger at Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin of homosexuality is obvious. The biblical revisionists would disagree. They base their arguments on Ezekiel 16:46-59. Revisionists use this text to say that Sodom’s real sin was neglecting the poor. Other revisionists say the issue was pride. They claim that the crowd was not demanding sex but wanting to know the divine presence. In essence, they wanted to rise above the divine in an act of pride. They base this argument on a faulty interpretation of the Hebrew word yada. Yada does mean to know but it is also a word that is used to describe sexual intimacy. Five out of the ten times this word is used in Genesis it is used to describe a sexual relationship. For example, in Genesis 4:1, the Bible says Adam knew Eve and she became pregnant. The problem with these arguments is they are based on a false dichotomy. Sodom was guilty of all these sins not either or!

The revisionists also conveniently ignore the context of the Ezekiel passage. In verse 43, Ezekiel uses the term lewdness, which is the Hebrew word zimma. This word is used in another passage that clearly forbids homosexuality, Leviticus 18:22. In this passage zimma is translated abomination and refers to deliberate sexual sin.

Jude 7 also teaches that sexual immorality was a major reason for the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. This passage says they went after strange flesh and indulged in gross immorality. The revisionists respond by claiming the cities were judged for rape and not homosexuality. This doesn’t explain why God’s judgment fell on the entire area and not just the guilty. In addition, the text doesn’t teach that homosexual sex would have been okay if it was consensual.

Another revisionist argument is that Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of breaking ancient hospitality codes. Some say it was the city that broke the code while others blame Lot. The first argument says the men just wanted to rough Lot’s guests up, not rape them. The second argument says that Lot failed to properly introduce his guests to the city leaders. When they came to Lot’s door, they just wanted a proper introduction. Again this argument is based on a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word yada. This word is clearly being used to describe a sexual relationship in this verse. If the men didn’t have sex on their mind, why did Lot offer them his virgin daughters? The revisionist view would also make God unjust and less than omniscient. If you believe the revisionists, God misunderstood what they men really wanted from Lot and mistakenly judged the city.

In addition to Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 clearly condemn and forbid homosexual behavior. In fact, one passage declares homosexuality a capital offense. The revisionists say that if we embrace these Scriptures then we must favor capital punishment for homosexuals. This is because they fail to understand the differences between the ceremonial, civil and moral law in the OT

Some revisionists claim these passages only condemn homosexuality in pagan worship. This argument won’t hold water because they fail to recognize the context of the passage. Other sinful behaviors like incest and child sacrifice are mentioned in the context. Would these acts be okay if they are not a part of pagan worship? Of course not.

Some Revisionists say this passage is concerned only with ritual purity and not right and wrong. This argument is based on an exegetical fallacy with the Hebrew word to’ebah. We must remember that a word’s meaning is determined by its context. When the revisionists try to limit to’ebah’s meaning to ritual impurity, they are conveniently ignoring the fact its meaning includes any behavior that is morally detestable.

Judges 19-20 is another passage that speaks to homosexuality in the OT. It has some interesting similarities with the Genesis 19 passage. A man who is a guest in another’s home becomes the object of some homosexuals’ wanton desires. They demanded that the man come out and satisfy their perverted lusts. He responded by tossing them his concubine. They raped her until morning and she died a short time later. In anger, the man cut his concubine in pieces and sent them to the tribes of Judah. The tribes of Israel confronted the tribe of Benjamin because the perverts were from this tribe. Benjamin refused to hand over the guilty party. The other tribes responded by nearly destroying Benjamin in a civil war. This all happened in a period when “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Clearly the tribes of Israel viewed sexual perversion, including homosexuality, much differently than the revisionists.

The New Testament also has much to say about homosexuality. Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and I Timothy 1:9-11 all address the issue. In Romans, Paul condemns moral chaos, pagan worship and radical autonomy. He specifically addresses male and female homosexuality and makes it quite clear this behavior is deserving of God’s wrath. The revisionists claim Paul is not taking about people they conveniently claim are “constitutionally” homosexuals. This simply means they were born homosexuals. Instead, they claim Paul was addressing people who are “constitutionally” heterosexual participating in homosexuality. The problem is the revisionists have no proof to back up their contention. No where in the Scriptures does it say God created people to be homosexual! Science hasn’t proven this contention either.

Other revisionists argue that Jesus never personally said homosexuality was wrong. Since Jesus is greater than Paul, he must be right and Paul is wrong. The problem with this logic is that Jesus never mentioned many things that are wrong. For instance, Jesus never expressly forbids beating our wives. Yet virtually no one would claim that beating our wives is acceptable behavior. In addition Jesus clearly recognized the inspiration and authority of the OT Scriptures. Furthermore, it’s a false dichotomy to say that we must choose between Paul and the Scriptures.

I Corinthian 6:9-11 is a vice list weighted with sexual sins. Paul uses two important words that revisionists dispute in this passage. The first word is malakoi and the second is arsenokoitai. Malakoi, meaning soft, refers to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. Arsenokoitai is made up of two words, male and intercourse refers to the active partner in a homosexual relationship. Interestingly this word is a compound of two words found in the Septuagint passages of Leviticus 18:22, 20:13. Revisionists claim these words can have other meanings. This is true, but a word’s meaning is always determined by its context. Paul has already used the words in this list for sexual immorality among heterosexuals. If these words refer to heterosexual sin then Paul is being redundant. Furthermore, the fact these two words are coupled together strengthen the argument they refer to homosexual behavior.

The important truth we get from I Corinthian 6:9-11 is that homosexuals can be saved and transformed by the gospel! This is not a popular message in our politically correct society.

Our last New Testament passage is I Timothy 1:9-11. In this text the apostle Paul makes it clear that some lifestyle behaviors are ungodly, unholy and rebellious. He declares that these behaviors are in violation of God’s moral law. The Apostle includes homosexuality in this list.

In short, the Bible makes clear that homosexuality is sin and a violation of God’s design for sex and marriage. Furthermore, God takes sexual sin very seriously and He will judge it. Praise God that through His glorious gospel He can transform the homosexual just like he does the fornicator, adulterer, and sinners every ilk!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Righteous Lot?

In my Bible reading this morning I read Genesis 19. The story of Lot captured my attention. In verse 16, the Bible says, “…the compassion of the Lord was upon him.” The “him” is referring to Lot. From all outward appearances, Lot was not a man who deserved the Lord’s compassion. In fact, Lot’s ungodly choices, worldliness, and greed put him on a collision course with God’s judgment. In spite of this, God chose to save Lot and his family from His planned destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. To do so, God’s angels had to practically drag Lot out of the city. When the angel told Lot to run to the mountains he said “No” and then he begged to go to Zoar. At the end of the chapter, Lot becomes involved in an incestuous relationship with his daughters. Why in the world would God want to save a guy like Lot! It’s hard to see how Lot is much different from the people who lost their lives in Sodom and Gomorrah!

I discovered the answer to my question in verse 29. This verse says, “Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.” It is obvious to me that God saved Lot in answer to Abraham’s prayer in chapter 18. Abraham had asked God to spare the cities if they contained 10 righteous people. Unfortunately, God only found one and that man was Lot! Who would have guessed by Lot’s lifestyle that God counted him as righteous? I discovered that 2 Peter 2:7 actually refers to Him as “righteous Lot!”

This passage shows us just how important and powerful prayer is. I doubt that God would have saved Lot apart from Abraham’s prayers. Why else would the Lord put such emphasis on Abraham’s prayer in chapter 18 and mention it again in chapter 19?

Another truth we get from this passage is that it is possible for a Christian to be so enamored and involved in the world that only God can tell they are saved! Sadly it appears many American Christians have much in common with Lot. What is scarier is that sometimes I am more like Lot than I care to admit. Father please forgive me for my worldliness. Through your grace and the power of your Spirit may I be more like Jesus. Amen

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

James 1:13-18 Resisting Temptation (Part 4)

James 1:13-18 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. [17] Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. [18] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

This one of those times the preacher is going to say something beyond what the text actually says, but my point is theologically and biblically true. The third key to resist temptation is that we must trust God for the ability to overcome it.

James says in verse 17 that God is the source of every perfect gift, and in verse 18 he makes it clear that God is the source of our new birth. Folks, if God is the source of every perfect gift with greatest gift being our salvation doesn’t it follow that we can count on Him for the ability to resist temptation? The Apostle Paul said we could in 1 Cor. 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Furthermore, in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray for God’s deliverance from temptation. Listen; if God is willing to deliver us from sin and death then certainly He is just as willing to deliver us from temptation. Isn’t God good? James agrees!

In addition to teaching us about temptation, this text teaches us three important truths about God; He is holy (13), He is gracious (17a, 18) and He is unchangeable (17b). When we resist temptation we are imitating God’s holiness. When we give mercy, forgiveness and love even to our enemies we are imitating God’s grace. When we persevere in the midst of adversity we imitate God’s unchangeableness. The good news is that God will give us the grace to be all these things. Because He is the giver of every perfect gift, we can count it!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

James 1:13-18 Resisting Temptation (Part 3)

James 1:13-18 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. [17] Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. [18] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Today we are going to examine the second of three keys for resisting temptation. If we are going to resist temptation we must understand its course.

I want to remind you of the fact that temptation is common to every person and it is no sin to be tempted. The trouble comes when we desire what temptation offers more than we desire God. This is the very essence of sin. As John Piper says, "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him." Sin is the result of seeking to find satisfaction in someone or something else.

Dietrich Bonheoffer, in his book entitled Temptation, describes how temptation can extinguish our desire for God:

With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. . . . It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money. . . . Joy in God is . . . extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; . . . Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. . . . The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. The questions present themselves: “Is what the flesh desires really sin in this case?” “Is it really not permitted to me, yes — expected of me, now, here, in my particular situation, to appease desire?” . . . It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.

Folks this is so true! When we are overwhelmed by desire we distance ourselves from God. We become idolaters who have forgotten our true identity as God’s children. We willfully ignore the pleadings and judgments of His Word.

What happens after we give into temptation and sin is conceived? Sin gives birth to death. Usually when we think of death, we first think of physical death. Sin always leads to physical death. This is why we all die. This has been true since the Garden of Eden when Adam’s sin brought death into the world.

Sin also leads to spiritual death if one fails to trust in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s cross. But I believe death can manifest itself in other ways that we often fail to recognize. For example, the children of Israel, whom God delivered from Egypt, experienced a type of “death” that we would not necessarily categorize as physical or spiritual. If you know your Old Testament, you will remember this generation of Israelites refused to trust God and enter the Promised Land. Because of their sin of unbelief, God caused them to wander around in the wilderness for forty years. For forty years they went around in circles and they were “dead” long before they actually died. Their lives were wasted because of their sin. They missed forever the opportunity to enjoy God’s provision of the Promised Land.

When we give into temptation and sin is conceived, “death.” will always result. We all have observed what I am describing and most of us have first hand experience. Our sin has led to the death of trust, integrity, relationships and future opportunities. We continue to grieve these loses. Yes, we thank God for His mercy, grace and forgiveness, but we must live with the consequences of succumbing to various temptations.

Painful memories of lessons like these motivate me to resist temptation. I have learned through failure and God’s revelation that the course of temptation is always “death.” I have experienced enough “death” in my life. How about you?

James 1:13-18 Resisting Temptation (Part 2)

James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Yesterday, we began a discussion about resisting temptation. James gives us three keys to resisting temptation. The first key is to recognize temptation’s source.

In verse 13, James unequivocally states that God cannot be the source of temptation. James says, “God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God is not temptable because there is nothing in God which temptation can appeal to. In 1 John 1:5 the Bible says “God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. God is absolutely holy which means He is completely separate from sin. Therefore it follows that He would never induce anyone else to sin.

So who is responsible for temptation? You’re probably thinking it’s the devil, right? No, we are! “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” James uses an illustration taken from the sport of fishing. A fish sees the lure and is tempted to strike. When the fish takes hold of the bait, it is suddenly dragged away and pays with its life for its innocence and ignorance. But we cannot claim innocence and ignorance. James takes away all excuses and the ability to place the blame on someone or something else. He says, in effect, that the cause lies within us. Our desires lead us into temptation, and if we are not controlled by the Spirit of God they lead us into sin. The heart of man is deceitful, as Jeremiah prophesied (17:9). Jesus repeats the same thought when he describes the human heart in these words: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19).

The next time your tempted take note of the fact that temptation simply reveals the true condition of your heart. If a desire for evil did not reside within, you could not be tempted.

So what is the source of temptation? Your own evil desires!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

James 1:13-18 Resisting Temptation (Part 1)

James 1:13-18 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. [14] But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. [15] Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. [17] Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. [18] In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Along with every trial or test that God designs for our spiritual growth comes temptation. The original recepients of this letter would have been faced with some very specific temptations. Hopefully you remember that the recipients of James letter were Jewish Christians who became refugees due to intense persecution. They fled Jerusalem and Judea to escape, but many of them continued to suffer for their faith in the various places to which they scattered. What kind of temptations did these refugees face? For one, they would have been tempted to give up on or turn away from Christianity. This is always a temptation when persecution arises. The book of Hebrews was written primarily to deal with this very issue; Jewish Christians who were contemplating a return to Judaism because of persecution.

A second temptation these Christians would have faced would have been to grumble and complain about God. “If God is good and loves me why is he allowing me to suffer?” “God this is not fair, I don’t deserve this!” “Life was so much easier before I became a Christian.” We see this kind of response illustrated by the Israelites in the wilderness after the Exodus. Grumbling and complaining always reveal that we doubt God’s goodness.

Another temptation for these refugees of persecution would have been to blame God for their failure to respond properly to the testing and falling into sin. Folks, this is a temptation that has marked humanity from the beginning. Remember the scene in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed his sin on Eve and God. Eve blamed her sin on the serpent.

One of the most frustrating things about ministry is the number of people I meet who refuse to take responsibility for their behavior. “It’s my parent’s fault.” “It’s my boss’s fault.” “It’s my pastor’s fault.” “It’s God’s fault! He made me this way! If He didn’t want me to do this or that He shouldn’t have put me in this situation.” I have met Christians who have blamed God for almost every kind of sin you can imagine.

The thing that bugs me most about modern psychology is that it seeks to relieve people of responsibility for their behavior. Modern psychology has renamed numerous sins and called them disorders. Instead of holding people responsible, which is the first step to change, they have given them excuses to continue their sinful behavior. A person who makes excuses is trying to shift blame from himself to something or someone else. A Christian, on the other hand, accepts responsibility for their sins, confesses them, and asks God for forgiveness.

We must have a correct view of God in order to persevere during times of trial and testing. Additionally, we must understand God’s view of our temptations. Trials and temptations always present us with choices. God wants us to make righteous choices, not evil ones. It is important for us to always remember that God tests people for good; He does not tempt people for evil.

We’ll talk more about this tomorrow. Are you resisting temptation? Are you making excuses?

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Assault on Traditional Marriage

American Christians now face the most serious attack on their faith and values that has ever been launched. Amazingly, the church has basically been asleep while this assault has intensified. The assault on traditional marriage has been steadily escalating for a period of more than fifty years. It’s way past time for the church to wake up and engage the battle! Christians must awaken out of their drowsy stupor and recognize what has happened. They must understand what’s at stake and why the battle against same-sex marriage is so vital. Finally, they must fight this battle with every weapon at their disposal, which includes weapons both spiritual and political. This article will limit its focus on the Christian’s spiritual weapons.

What’s happened and how did get to this point? Traditional marriage has been under attack in America since the late 1940's. The attack began in earnest with Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. This book made the outlandish claim that 10 percent of men are homosexual. Worse than that, it helped begin the long and steady march toward same-sex marriage.[1]

The attack on marriage continued with the sexual revolution of the 60's fueled in part by Kinsey’s writings and research. As Erwin W. Lutzer describes, “Sexual self-expression, which traditionally had been regarded as a privilege, became perceived as a right; something to be expressed publicly, frequently, and outside of monogamous, lifelong marriage.” [2] Before the sexual revolution the majority of people recognized that promiscuity was wrong. Although promiscuity existed, it was the exception not the norm. Regrettably, the sexual revolution changed that.

Another grave attack against traditional marriage was the implementation of no-fault divorce laws. Dr. James Dobson comments on no-fault divorce help us to understand how these laws have served to undermine traditional marriage. “. . . for the first time in our nation’s history, the understanding of marriage as a personal and spiritual contract was no longer backed by law. And once heterosexuals dismissed the essential as long as we both shall live component of marriage, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to do away with the fundamental husband and wife part.” [3] Of course, this is precisely what we face today.

The most recent and devastating assaults on traditional marriage have been launched by our nation’s courts. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Lawrence v. Texas that the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to sodomy. Amazingly, the highest court in the land declared morality outdated and perversion legal. Unfortunately, this volley was only the beginning of the assault. In November of 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court used the ground gained from Lawrence v. Texas to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. On May 17, 2004, the state of Massachusetts began handing out gay marriage licenses. These couples are now legally married. As Dr. Dobson says, they have fanned out across the nation demanding legal recognition of their new status.[4]

Thankfully, the results from the November 2004 elections give us some hope that traditional marriage can be defended. Ten states overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendments to protect traditional marriage. It remains to be seen if the courts will continue their assault on marriage and overturn the will of people. Unfortunately, this is precisely what happened in Louisiana last year when an activist judge over turned a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. The amendment had passed by a whopping 78 percent of the vote.

Clearly, traditional marriage is in trouble. Even so, why is it so important that Christians defend it? Dr. Dobson’s book Marriage Under Fire provides several good answers to this question. We will examine several of his most convincing answers.

First, Dobson says that legalization of same-sex marriage will eventually destroy traditional marriage and the family.[5] This has already proven to be true in Western European nations that have instituted gay marriage. Supporting this conclusion, Gene Edward Veith of World Magazine wrote;

Sweden was the first country in Europe to legalize homosexual unions in 1989,and Denmark and Norway followed soon thereafter. Today, a majority of children in those countries are born out of wedlock. Although some older couples are getting married after having more than one child, younger couples are dispensing with marriage altogether. Southern Seminary president Al Mohler reports that in Sweden, the few young couples who do get married often do not like to admit it,since what they have done is so far out of the norm that they feel embarrassed.[6]
This is exactly what will happen in America if same-sex marriage is legalized. Traditional marriage and family will become abnormal. In fact, that’s nearly the case in America today since only one in four families is considered to be traditional. By traditional I mean having both a father and a mother.

Next, Dobson points out that our children will suffer the most if same-sex marriage is legalized. This fact has been testified to by many social scientists. Studies have proven that children do best when raised by a committed and loving father and mother. Children need both parents because God designed the family this way.[7] What will happen if we defy God’s design? A quote from Dr. Dobson answers this question.

If the present trends continue the majority of children will have several moms and dads, perhaps six or grandparents and dozens of half siblings. It will be a world where little boys and girls are shuffled from pillar to post in an ever-changing pattern of living arrangements; where huge numbers of them will be raised in foster homes or living on the street . . . Imagine an environment where nothing is stable and where people think primarily of themselves and their own self preservation. And have you considered what will happen when homosexuals with children divorce? Instead of two moms and dads, they will have to contend with four moms or four dads.[8]

When a child’s family unravels it usually leads lead to that child being placed in another home either through adoption or foster care. If same sex-marriage becomes legal, our present adoption laws will become obsolete. Defenseless children will be placed in homes with people who will glorify and exemplify a lifestyle contrary to Scripture and God’s design. In addition, Christian foster-care parents will likely be required to undergo sensitivity training to rid them of heterosexual bias. Moral training against homosexuality will be forbidden. This is already the case in the state of California.[9]

What will happen to our children at school? Every school in the country will be required to embrace homosexuality and teach that this deviant behavior is on equal footing with marriage. I recognize this is already the case in some schools, but if same-sex marriage is legalized it will be mandatory everywhere.[10] Christians who send their children to public school will have no choice in the matter. Their children will be indoctrinated. This fits the desires and the plans of the homosexual activists. In fact, Alan Sears & Craig Osten, in their book The Homosexual Agenda witness to this point;

Homosexual activists know the best time to reach children is during the earliest, most impressionable ages. Christian researcher George Barna has documented that the chance for an individual to make a personal decision to believe in Christ greatly diminishes after age fourteen. Just as children are more receptive to the gospel and religious instruction at an early age, they are also more susceptible to homosexual indoctrination.[11]

In their private meetings, homosexual activists make it clear their goal is to get Christian children to reject their parent’s beliefs. At the 1999 Atlanta Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Educational Network conference, these comments were made; “The fear of the religious right is that schools of today are the government schools of tomorrow. And you know what, they’re right. If we do our jobs right, we are going to raise a generation of kids who don’t believe the claims of the religious right.”[12]

One of the direst consequences of same-sex marriage for Christians will be the loss of religious freedom. One only has to look north to Canada to verify this statement. In fact, Canada recently passed a law known as C-250. Before C-250, London, Ontario, officials recently fined a Christian mayor $10,000 for refusing to proclaim “Gay Pride Day.” A Christian businessman in Toronto was fined $5,000 for refusing to print materials for a gay-rights group. After C-250 things will only get worse.[13] A quote from a World Magazine article, “Remaining Silent,” explains the devastating ramifications of C-250:
Before C-250 it was already illegal to publish, distribute, mail, import, or speak any communication that could be perceived as promoting or inciting "hate"against "identifiable groups," such as members of a certain race or gender. The new law recognizes gays and lesbians as an identifiable groupCand makes any person who criticizes homosexuals publicly subject to two years in jail.[14]
The World Magazine article went on to explain that in light of C-250's passage, church-law analysts were already advising religious leaders how best to protect themselves. Essentially, they advised church leaders to avoid public criticism of homosexuals and to limit their opinions to private conversations.[15] Now pastors in Canada are wondering whether they can preach from several passages in Scripture that clearly prohibit homosexuality. As it is, a Focus on the Family radio program on homosexuality was declared homophobic by the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. Focus on the Family has not been allowed to address the subject since.[16]

Canada is not the only nation to hinder religious freedom due to homosexuality. Last year, Swedish authorities jailed a pastor for preaching that homosexuality is immoral and a violation of biblical teaching. The pastor was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 30 days in prison for violating Sweden's law forbidding hate speech against homosexuals. Imagine, a preacher was arrested and imprisoned for preaching a sermon in his own church! It should be noted gay activists are promoting similar hate-speech laws for the United States.[17] Will anything be left to hinder them if same-sex marriage is legalized?

Now that we understand the frightening ramifications of same-sex marriage, how should Christians respond? As I said at the beginning of this article, we must respond with every weapon available to us. Our most powerful weapons are spiritual. We must not shrink back from using them in this conflict! Our spiritual weapons are best defined by what the Apostle Paul taught in 2 Cor. 10:3‑5 NIV: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. [4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” In the context of 2 Cor. Paul identifies the weapons of the world as things like learning, personal influence, impressive credentials and rhetorical polish. He discounted and discarded these things. Paul did not wage war as the world does or use their weapons. The weapons Paul used were weapons with divine power, namely prayer and the proclamation of God’s Word. These weapons are weak by the world’s standards, yet they are able to demolish the arguments and every lie of the gospel’s foes.[18] By and large, the proponents of same-sex marriage are foes of the gospel.

Prayer is the Christian’s mightiest weapon and often the least used. If the church expects to win the battle waged against traditional marriage it must unleash the mighty weapon of prayer. First, the church must pray for the homosexuals and their allies. Our Lord commanded us in Matthew 5:44‑45 NIV “. . . Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Secondly, we must pray for those in authority as Paul instructed in 1 Tim. 2:1‑2 NIV when he wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone‑‑ [2] for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Third we must pray for our Christian leaders as Paul requested the Ephesians to pray for him. In Ephes. 6:19, Paul requested, “ Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel . . .” Today’s Christian leaders must fearlessly stand for the truth of the gospel and the Word of God, which includes defending traditional marriage. Finally, Christians must pray for themselves and their families that God will grant them the spiritual boldness and commitment to wage this battle.

Our second spiritual weapon in defeating same sex-marriage is the bold proclamation of God’s Word. Sadly, many Christians have been silent rather than boldly proclaiming God’s Word concerning homosexuality. Others have totally surrendered the truth and embraced homosexual behavior. We can neither afford to be silent nor surrender the truth. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16 NIV, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Only the Word of God can change people’s hearts and lives. If we surrender this weapon or leave it unused, the church has no hope of defending traditional marriage! More important, it will render itself impotent in delivering homosexuals and their allies from the horrible bondage of sin and eternal punishment in hell.

The proclamation of God’s Word in reference to same-sex marriage needs to be focused on three important truths. First, we must proclaim God’s design for marriage. Secondly, we must declare God’s condemnation of homosexuality. Finally, we must make known God’s abundant forgiveness, healing and deliverance for those who will repent of their homosexuality and turn to Him in faith.

God’s design for marriage is found in the book of Genesis. According to Genesis 1:27 gender is a gift from God. God made human beings both male and female and He made them to be sexually compatible. Our sexuality is a gift from God. In Genesis 2:24-25, God founded the institution of marriage. These verses teach that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s design. Therefore, any relationship that seeks to alter this design is rebellious and sinful. Furthermore, God designed sex to be enjoyed only in a marriage relationship. Therefore any sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage is sinful, including homosexuality.

God’s condemnation of homosexual behavior is scattered throughout the Scriptures. The first recorded instance of homosexuality in the Bible is in Genesis 19. This passage describes God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. It should be stated up-front that the people of Sodom were guilty of other sins besides homosexuality. This doesn’t alter the fact their homosexual behavior was debauched, immoral and worthy of God’s judgment. Ezekiel 16:43, a passage that further describes Sodom’s sin, corroborates this conclusion. The New Testament passages of 2Pet. 3:6-7 and Jude 7 also agree.

In addition to Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 clearly condemn and forbid homosexual behavior. In fact, one passage declares homosexuality a capital offense. Judges 19-20 is another passage that speaks to homosexuality in the OT. It has some interesting similarities with Genesis 19.

The New Testament also has much to say about homosexuality. Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and I Timothy 1:9-11 all address the issue. In Romans, Paul condemns moral chaos, pagan worship and radical autonomy. He specifically addresses male and female homosexuality and makes it quite clear this behavior is deserving of God’s wrath.

The above Scriptures, though unpopular with many, must be proclaimed and defended. Needless to say, there are those liberals and revisionists who will attempt to subvert and twist the truth of these Scriptures. Dealing with the revisionists is beyond the scope of this paper. An excellent resource for refuting the revisionist’s arguments biblically is Thomas E. Schmidt’s book Straight and Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate.

When Christians boldly proclaim God’s truth about same-sex marriage they must expect and prepare for tremendous opposition and persecution. This shouldn’t surprise us. In the New Testament, our Lord promised us that we would face such opposition whenever we proclaim the truth. Also, the book of Acts records how the apostles boldly proclaimed the truth in the face of great opposition. In addition, Philip. 2:15-16, from a book whose theme is partnership in the terrifying campaign to advance the gospel in face of great opposition, the apostle Paul exhorted the Philippians to hold forth the Word of Truth in a crooked and perverse society. In Philip. 1:29 Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him . . .” Yes, if we proclaim the truth we will suffer, but to do anything less is disobedience and cowardice!

Christians must not only proclaim the truth concerning same-sex marriage boldly, but we must also do it in love. Too often those who boldly proclaim the truth do it without any vestige of love. For example, the infamous Fred Phelps, who claims to be a Christian but his message, in his own words, is “God hates Fags.” Thomas Schmidt’s comments about such people are enlightening and need to be heard by all. Schmidt says;
I will be blunt. Christians who cannot yet deal with the issues calmly and compassionately should keep their mouths shut, and they should certainly stay away from the front lines of ministry and the public policy debateCnot to mention television talk shows. Such people are hard to reach, because they suspect those who call them to account are “soft on sin.” They must be convinced the way of Jesus is the “Wounded Healer” not the “Holy Terror.”[19]
Paul’s instruction in 2 Tim. 2:24‑26 NIV support Schmidt’s comments. “And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. [25] Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” Bold proclamation must be coupled with love to be effective.

Finally, Christians must live the truth they boldly proclaim. This means we must exemplify God’s truth in our families. Every Christian husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church. Every Christian parent must raise their children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord. Furthermore, we must acknowledge our own sinfulness and repent. Too many Christians have approved sin by their actions they have objected to with their words. For instance, a multitude of Christians have embraced entertainment that supports the very behavior they preach against. We must live our message as well as proclaim it!

When the truth for God’s word about same-sex marriage is proclaimed boldly in love and without hypocrisy lives will be changed! Paul made this point in I Cor. 6:9-11 when he wrote that some of the Corinthians were formerly in bondage to sexual sins, including homosexuality. Verse 11 of that passage states, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” How did this all occur? Paul preached truth of God’s Word and they repented of their sin and trusted Christ. Because Paul was faithful to preach the truth, they experienced God’s forgiveness, healing and deliverance.

In short, American Christians are now engaged in a life or death struggle for traditional marriage. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose because as the family goes the church goes. If same-sex proponents have their way the family and the church in America will be destroyed. Religious freedom will be a distant memory. The good news is that the church has incredibly powerful spiritual weapons at their disposal. These weapons are prayer and the proclamation of God’s word. The question is do we have the commitment and courage to use them?

[1]Dr. Alan Branch, “Christian Ethics Class Notes” (Kansas City: No Publisher 2004), 97.
[2]Erwin W. Lutzer, The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 17.
[3]Dr. James Dobson, Marriage Under Fire. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), 38.
[4]Ibid., 39-42.
[5]Ibid., 47.
[6]Gene Edward Veith, “The Nordic Track” World Magazine (March 6, 2004), available online at http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=8599 accessed November 23, 2004.
[7]Dr. James Dobson, Marriage Under Fire. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), 53-54.
[8]Ibid., 55.
[9]Ibid., 56-57.
[10]Ibid., 56.
[11]Alan Sears & Craig Osten, The Homosexual Agenda. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 47.
[12]Ibid., 47. These comments originated from: Torres, “Conference :New Moment.”
[13]Lynn Vincent, “Remaining Silent” World Magazine (May 8, 2004), available online at http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=8871 accessed November 23, 2004.
[16]Dr. James Dobson, Marriage Under Fire. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), 60.
[17]Gene Edward Veith, “Losing Liberty” World Magazine (May 8, 2004), available online at http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=9596 accessed November 23, 2004.
[18]John F Walvord, Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).
[19]Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1995), 172-173.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Rev. 1:1-8 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, [2] who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. [3] Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. [4] John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, [5] and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— [6] and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [7] Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. [8] "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

This morning’s musings are about the book or Revelation. As you all know, Revelation is a book that people have mixed reactions about. For many people the book of Revelation terrifies them. The vivid pictures of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth are frightening indeed. If you are reading this and you haven’t made peace with God through Jesus Christ you have reason to be frightened. The wrath and the judgment described in Revelation will be poured out on all those who have rejected God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Even though many people are frightened by Revelation, most continue to be curious about its prophecies. You see most people want to know what the future holds. Revelation does give us some very important details about the future. The most important detail being that Jesus Christ is coming back to defeat the forces of evil and claim His bride the church.

Unfortunately, some people have tried use the book of Revelation as a manual for date setting. The have misunderstood why God has given us this book. God did not give us the book of Revelation for date setting. He gave it to us to provide hope for the future. Also, God gave us the book of Revelation so we would be able to see His complete redemptive program.

To fully comprehend the purpose of the book of Revelations we must recognize that it had a clear meaning and message for the Christians who first received it. The original recipients of Revelation were under severe persecution. Even worse times would follow. Literally millions of Christians would be slaughtered over the next few hundred years. Therefore, they need to be encouraged to persevere and stand firm in their faith. They needed to be reminded that God is in complete control and that righteousness will be rewarded and evil will be judged. We must keep this fact in mind as we study the book.

Folks, I believe persecution of Christians will intensify before Christ returns. This will likely include America. All over this planet people are laying down their lives for Christ. 2,000 Christians a day are martyred for the cause of Christ. American Christians have enjoyed a long season of respite from persecution. That is not the norm. Persecution will soon reach our shores and some of us may be called upon to lay down our lives. This is precisely why we need to study the book of Revelation. We will need the same encouragement and hope that it provided its original recipients some 1900 years ago.

I recognize that many of you have been taught to believe that the rapture is going to save you from the troubles to come. This is a teaching I also believed for many years. I think it is important for you to know that this view is only 150 years old. No one in the early church or any Christian for several centuries believed this. I personally believe this view is dangerous because it causes many Christians to have a false sense of security and an escapist mentality. We have eternal security in Christ , but Jesus promised us that we would have tribulation in this world. Jesus laid down his life and each of the apostles laid down their lives. Millions of Christians have laid down their lives since. Who are we to think that we will be any different?

I recognize that much of what I have just said may be unnerving or cause fear. Don’t be afraid. John 16:33 says, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

1 John 2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. [4] The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; [5] but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: [6] the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Today we are going to talk about the marks of real Christians. Our Scripture passage teaches that there are two identifying marks. First, real Christians are obedient to the commands of Christ and secondly, they walk as Jesus walked. Clear biblical teaching like this is not popular in our day. Many are offended by the idea of examining people to see whether or not they are Christians. Sometimes people use the Bible to defend their position. For example, “judge not lest you be judged,” is an often quoted verse.

Folks, when the Bible says “judge not lest you be judged” it is instructing us not to condemn people. It is not saying do not practice discernment. The Scriptures plainly teach that it is every Christian’s responsibility to exercise discernment. We must exercise discernment so that we can avoid the perils of false teaching. We need discernment in order to recognize temptation and avoid sin. We need discernment to know who we should and should not fellowship with. God through His Word and His Spirit provides discernment. It is our responsibility to use it!

Recently, someone was upset by the fact that I said no one living a lifestyle of habitual sin would go to heaven. That includes adulterers, liars, thieves, and homosexuals to name a few. Folks, this is not just my opinion, but the teaching of Scripture. It does not matter if one professes to be a Christian. If you are living a lifestyle of habitual disobedience to God, and are not attempting to walk as Jesus walked you will not enter heaven. I’m not claiming we earn our way into heaven by obedience and by following Jesus example. What I am saying is that if you have truly placed your faith in Jesus Christ your life will show it! No one who trusts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord remains unchanged. In fact, the Bible says in 2 Cor. 5:17 “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Is your life marked by obedience and Christ-like living? Are the “old things” passing away?
Psalm 139:1-6

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
[2] You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
[3] You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
[4] Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
[5] You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
[6] Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

These first six verses of Psalm 139 are about the omniscience of God. Simply stated God knows everything! He is intimately acquainted with each one of us. There's nothing we can hide from Him. He knows us even better than we know ourselves.

I find this knowledge both comforting and unnerving. God's omniscience is unnerving because He knows everything! I cannot hide my thoughts from Him. He knows when I doubt Him. He knows when I lust. He knows when hatred fills my heart and I mentally plan acts of vengeance. He knows when I say one thing with my mouth and another thing in my heart. I'm laid bare before Him. God knows me thoroughly and completely.

God's omniscience is comforting because God loves me in spite of the fact He knows all my awful flaws. He's not surprised when I sin or fail Him. He knew what I was going to do long before I actually do it, yet He still loves me. How do I know that God still loves me? I look back at the sacrifice He made at Calvary's cross. God loves me so much He punished His Son for my sin so He could forgive me. He did that with full and complete knowledge of my utter sinfulness. As David said, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it." But I thank God for it!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Galatians 1:6-9

Galatians 1:6-9 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; [7] which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! [9] As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

To understand these verses we must comprehend the situation that provoked Paul into writing the letter of Galatians. When Paul first preached the gospel in Galatia, a number of people believed and accepted Christ. When they believed the gospel they received the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit was verified by the fact He did miracles among them and led them to worship God.

Shortly after Paul’s missionary activity in Galatia, some Jewish Christians appeared on the scene. They taught these new Gentile converts that faith in Christ was not enough, but they also most become Jews. Therefore these new converts also have to adhere to the requirements of Jewish law and religion which would include; circumcision, Sabbath keeping and food laws (see 2:12-14; 4:10; 5:2-3; 6:12-13).

The message of these legalistic teachers seduced the Galatian believers. They foolishly began trying to earn salvation by observing the law. Bewitched by these Jewish teachers, they began to turn away from Paul’s gospel message of grace. Their focus shifted from faith in Christ and dependence on the Spirit to identification with the Jewish nation and keeping the law.

The book of Galatians was one of the first New Testament books to be written. As you can see, the gospel message has been under attack from its beginnings. Over the centuries many have attempted to add to it, subtract from it or distort it in some way. They will continue to do so until Christ returns. Any revision or addition to the apostolic gospel (the gospel preached by the apostles and recorded in the New Testament) must be rejected. You’ll notice Paul uses very strong language about the destiny of those teachers who would dare pervert or distort the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In our day, there are many so called biblical scholars who are in danger of being accursed! Over the last week, I have heard some of them on the History channel and National Geographic channel seeking to explain away or distort the gospel. For illustration purposes I have attached a story from Baptist Press about the recently rediscovered gospel of Judas. It does a good job of explaining the documents origin and purpose. What Paul says in Galatians applies in this case as well!

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--“National Geographic’s promotion of their costly manuscript acquisition and television program, ‘The gospel of Judas,’ is one of the most deceptive and brazen attempts to profit from the general public’s unawareness of early church history since, well, ‘The Da Vinci Code,’” seminary professor Fred M. Williams III said in a statement to Baptist Press.

Williams, associate professor of history and languages at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., observed that the promoters of the gospel of Judas and The Da Vinci Code imply that the Gospel writers had something to gain either financially or otherwise in their eyewitness accounts of Jesus Christ.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Williams responded. “The only expectation that the New Testament Gospel writers -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- and their followers had was exclusion from the polytheistic society of their day, fear of persecution from those misunderstanding the Christian message, or torture and death from the Roman authorities if they were identified.”

Referencing Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.), a disciple of Polycarp who sat at the feet of the Apostle John, Williams said, “Irenaeus was aware of, and described the contents of, the gospel of Judas just as it is being described by the National Geographic Society today. Irenaeus said that it was a product of a cult known as the Cainites who deliberately honored every wicked figure in the Bible so as to promote their own immoral lifestyle. The Cainites considered the God who created the world as evil and Satan as good.

“Obviously, they would especially glorify the traitor Judas,” Williams said. “We have known all this for more than 1,800 years.

“Why is the National Geographic Society promoting this as the most sensational and important archeological find in the last 60 years?” the professor asked. “Obviously, National Geographic has a lot more to gain financially from all this than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ever did.”

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Proverbs 17:17

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity

Have you been blessed with real friends? Proverbs 17:17 teaches that real friends love and stick by you no matter what. They are available when you need them most, especially in the midst of adversity.

You find out who your real friends are when adversity strikes. Sadly, when my first wife Melinda became wheel chair bound it was amazing how quickly many of our friends disappeared. Her illness made them uncomfortable and when we needed their friendship and support the most they were no where to be found. It was a very painful experience and lesson.

Thankfully, God in His mercy blessed us with some friends who really loved us. The harder things got the more helpful and supportive they were. I don’t think I would have survived those days without their friendship.

Real friendship is based upon love. Love is constant at all times, even in the bad times or when things or people turn against us, even when we let our friends down. Such was Ruth's love for Naomi in Ruth 1:16. But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. David and Jonathan are another example of such friendship. From their first meeting, when David was in the King's favor, "Jonathan loved him as himself" (1 Sam. 18:3). But when Saul turned against him and Jonathan stood by him, David began to refer to him as "brother" (2 Sam. 1:26).

Do you have such a friend? If you know Jesus Christ you do. Jesus came to be “the friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19), to call us "no longer servants but friends"(John 15:13-15); in fact, “he was not ashamed to call us brothers” (Heb. 2:11-18). His friendship comes to us, not only directly, but through our Christian friends.

Are you a real friend?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Guarding the Treasure 1 & 2 Timothy

At the end of 1 Timothy, Paul instructed his son in the faith, Timothy, to guard what had been entrusted to Him. Paul repeats this instruction in 2 Timothy 1:14 (HCSB) "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you." The previous verse clarifies what the treasure is that Timothy must guard. 2 Timothy 1:13 (HCSB) says, "Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." The pattern of sound teaching that Paul is talking about is the apostolic gospel. The context makes this absolutely clear!

Paul viewed the gospel as a treasure that must be guarded. He passionately desired that Timothy view it the same way. You see, the gospel was under attack in Paul's day. He understood that attack would continue to intensify during these last days.

The gospel is indeed under attack today. One example is the book and soon to be released movie "The Da Vinci Code." These are clearly the enemy's effort to undermine the gospel. Many gullible people have already succumbed to the ignorant and vile ramblings of fiction writer Dan Brown who falsely claims his story is historically factual. If you don't know the story line let me summarize it for you. The story is about a secret religious organization that will stop at nothing to protect a secret that threatens to overturn 2,000 years of accepted dogma. The story claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a child in that union, and a clandestine society once headed by Leonardo Da Vinci has protected this information for centuries against a threatened Catholic hierarchy.

Gene Fant Jr., a professor at Union University, says, "The problem with Brown’s book is that most readers do not read with a biblical worldview. They conform their theology to Dan Brown, rather than holding up Brown’s story for scrutiny against the clear teachings of Scripture. Critics of Brown rightly have pointed out that he has simply repackaged old heresies and conspiracy theories for an age that craves mysticism and secret knowledge. People who “believe” Brown’s theories have placed his work as authoritative over and against Scripture itself. Christians, however, should elevate the Word above all other words."

The movie is set to be released on May 19 and stars Tom Hanks. It's almost certain to be a great success. After all, the book has sold over 60 million copies. Undoubtedly, most of us will encounter people who will have either read the book of seen the movie. Unfortunately, a number of these people will assume what they have read or heard is true. Some will buy in because they have never liked the gospel; it offends them. Others will buy in because they are biblically illiterate and don't know any better.

How should we Christians respond? I think Paul's instruction to Timothy is the answer. We must guard the treasure of the gospel through the Spirit who resides with in us! We must hold onto the pattern of sound teaching no matter how the enemy seeks to distort it! Is this enough? No, we must be prepared to also heed Paul's instruction in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (HCSB) "But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance to know the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will."

Get ready folks! We are going to have many opportunities in the near future to both guard and share the treasure we have been entrusted with!