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 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 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 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!
1 Cor. 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Today's devotional is the result of a witnessing encounter I had with a man at the coffee shop next door to our church. Many of you will remember that I recently made a commitment to witness to at least one person a week. Since I rarely meet an unregenerate person in my office, I have begun taking my laptop to the coffee shop next door and working there. Today, God arranged an opportunity to witness. This opportunity would have never occurred if I had not been intentional about hanging out with unsaved people. How about you, are you intentional and available to witness? I recognize for some of you this isn't a problem, but unfortunately many Christians have become isolated from a lost world. They will have to be very intentional about being available to witness.

The man I encountered shared that he was attending a Catholic church, but that he found it lacking. This man was not Catholic, in fact, when I asked him if he had a personal relationship with Christ it was clear that he was not a Christian of any sort. He said something about believing in an impersonal force. The man also shared that he couldn't believe in any god who wouldn't accept Muslims, Buddhists or any person that kept a set of rules similar to the Ten Commandments. If I understood him correctly, he essentially believed you earn your way to heaven by being good. The man’s beliefs were not well thought out. In fact, many of them were based on his personal opinions and feelings. Interestingly, some of his beliefs were even contradictory.

What I found really amazing was that the man had grown up in a Christian home going to church three times a week. He shared that both of his parents continue to be devout Christians. How is it that a man with his background can be so blind to biblical truth and the gospel?

I only have one answer and it's likely to make some of you uncomfortable. 1 Cor. 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." A natural man is a lost man. All men in their "natural" state are unregenerate and without the Spirit. Without the Spirit they are unable to comprehend spiritual truth. Therefore God has to do something so they can understand spiritual truth and believe it. What does He do? Somehow God reveals it to them.

Remember, Peter's words in Matthew 16:16 when he confessed Jesus was the Christ. Jesus responded by saying, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." God the Father revealed the truth to Peter. The Bible doesn't say how.

Before I came to Christ, I heard the gospel many times. One day the "light came on" and I believed. I don't know how the "light came on", I just know it did. Suddenly spiritual truth made sense and I was capable of understanding spiritual things. Before that time, spiritual truth bounced off me like bb's on a block wall.

Some claim to have this mystery figured out. I don't. I do know that in order to be saved the Father must draw you and reveal the truth to you. This is His work and no man can do it or initiate it. When the Father reveals the truth, we have a responsibility to respond.

What's my point today? We are responsible to witness. As every Christian knows, the Bible has commanded us to witness! But God is responsible to reveal spiritual truth and save men's souls. We should not be surprised when we witness if the truth seems to bounce off. The gospel doesn't make much sense to someone who is unregenerate. God has to "turn the light on." We can't do that and a lost person certainly cannot do that!

The man I witnessed to yesterday was open to listening. The seeds of the gospel have been sown into his life. They were planted a long time ago by his parents. Yesterday, I attempted to water them, but as Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 3:7 only God gives the growth. I'll be praying that God in His mercy will "turn on the light" for him.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Psalm 96

Psalms 96:1-13 (HCSB) 1 Sing a new song to the Lord; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation from day to day. 3 Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples. 4 For the Lord is great and is highly praised; He is feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. 7 Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering and enter His courts. 9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of [His] holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations: “The Lord reigns. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. He judges the peoples fairly.” 11 Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound. 12 Let the fields and everything in them exult. Then all the trees of the forest will shout for joy 13 before the Lord, for He is coming— for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with His faithfulness.

Why does the psalmist instruct us to sing a new song? In the Old Testament, worshipers sang a new song whenever God intervened on behalf of His people to deliver them. For example, in Exodus 15 Israel sang a new song after God delivered them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Also, the writer of Psalm 40 sang a new song after God delivered him from "the pit of destruction."

I hope you can sing a "new song" because the Lord has delivered you through Christ from the domain of darkness into His marvelous light! Through His mercy and grace you have been delivered from the cruel masters of sin and death and blessed with eternal life. Therefore, each of us should heed daily the psalmist's exhortation in Psalm 96:2-3. "Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. [3] Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples."

Do you see what God is after? He seeks our worship and the worship of the nations! Why you ask? Is God an egotist? No, God does not need our worship or us for that matter!

God seeks are worship because He alone is worthy! Psalm 96:4-6 says, "For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. [5] For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. [6] Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." These verses declare that the Lord (revealed through the written and living Word) is the one true God. Every other god is an idol!

The rest of Psalm 96 exhorts the peoples and nations to worship the LORD. The last verse declares that the LORD is coming to judge the earth. On what basis will He judge? Worship. You see, it is either worship or wrath! If you think this is too harsh or don't believe me, read Romans 1:18-32.

Will just any worship due? No you must worship God in spirit and truth. How do you do that? It begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus' words in John 14:6. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Therefore, there will be no worshipers of Allah, Buddha or any other god in heaven.

Folks, this is why it's so important we take the gospel to the nations! We must offer them the opportunity to worship the one true God! Are you ready? Are you willing? Romans 10:14-15 say, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? [15] How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!"”

Let's take the gospel to the nations so we can all sing a new song together! Rev. 5:9-14 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. [10] "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." [11] Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, [12] saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." [13] And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." [14] And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

James 1:9-12 (Focus on Rewards During Trials)

James 1:9-12 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; [10] and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. [11] For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. [12] Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James says blessed is the man who perseveres under trial or testing. Yes, blessed! A person who perseveres under trial shows their faith is real or genuine. In the OT, Job was such a man. Do you remember what Job said when he lost his children and possessions all in a single day? “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In the NT Paul was such a man. In 2 Tim. 1:12 Paul wrote, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” Then in 2 Tim. 4:6-8 he said, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [8] in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Folks, trials test the validity of our faith and our love for God.

If we walk away from the Lord when trials come then it proves we really don’t have genuine faith or love. It was one thing for me to tell my first wife Melinda I loved her and would remain faithful until death do us part. It was another thing to prove that love by taking care of her through seven years of chronic illness. The testing proved my love was genuine. It proved it to me and proved it to her. Genuine faith in God and love for Him will endure the trials and tests of this life! If it doesn’t, then it was not genuine to begin with.

What happens if you pass the test? James says you will receive the promised crown of life! This same promise is repeated to the suffering church in Smyrna in Rev. 2:9-11.

Beware, if you’re not careful you’ll get the idea that you earn or maintain your salvation by endurance. Neither of these things is true. If you have been born again you will endure! You will endure because the Holy Spirit will enable you to persevere! As Paul said in Ephesians, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.

Jesus said in John 10:27-30, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; [28] and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. [29] "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] "I and the Father are one." Jesus brother in the flesh Jude wrote, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, [25] to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

So what’s today’s main point? Wise Christians will look forward to their promised reward. What have we learned so far this week? First, wise Christians will evaluate themselves and their situation by God’s standard and not the worlds. Second, wise Christians focus on the eternal rather than the earthly. Finally, wise Christians will look forward to their promised reward.

You who claim to be followers of Christ, are you responding wisely to the trials of life. Are you evaluating your situation by God’s viewpoint or this world’s? Is your focus on the earthly or eternal? Are you looking forward to your future reward or do you have some anxiety about the judgment? What has God said to you this morning? Is there sin that you need to confess or forsake? Are there attitudes that need to be changed? Are there Priorities that need to be rearranged?

For you who are not Christians, that is believers and followers of Christ. God the Father invites you to believe in His son Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and as Lord of your life. What does it mean to trust Christ as your Lord and your Savior? It means that you turn your back on the ways of this world and follow Jesus Christ. It means that you love Him with all your heart through the good times and the bad. It means that you will be rejected by this world but embraced by God. It means that you will be rescued from this domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. It means that all your sin was paid for all Calvary’s cross and your sins are forgiven. It means that you will receive eternal life. It means that you will become a child of God! Will you believe? Will you decide to follow Christ? If you choose to follow Christ, pray this simple prayer as a way of expressing your commitment. Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that I have sinned and lived life my own way. Today I turn away from my sinful foolishness and I commit to follow you from now on. I will follow you through good times and bad. Please help me keep my commitment. Please teach me everyday from this day forward what it means to follow you. In your name I pray Lord Jesus. Amen

Monday, April 03, 2006

James 1:9-12 (Focus on the eternal vs. the earthly)

James 1:9-12 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; [10] and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. [11] For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. [12] Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

I do not believe verses 10-11 are written to rich believers as some do. Instead, I think James is simply pointing out what is going to happen to the rich oppressors of the poor and persecuted believers. James is saying the rich man maybe enjoying life now but humiliation is coming! Why because he has failed to recognize that everything in this life is temporary. Folks, the only things in this life that are not temporary are a man’s relationship with God and his relationships with other believers!

Jesus parable of the rich man illustrates the foolishness of focusing on the temporal in Luke 12:13-21. Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." [14] But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" [15] Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." [16] And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. [17] "And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' [18] "Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." ' [20] "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' [21] "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Notice also Luke 12:33-34 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. [34] "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Does God have a problem with rich people? No, not at all, Abraham and Job were both very wealthy! What angers God is when His people have the wrong attitude towards wealth. The Apostle Paul advised Timothy on how to instruct to wealthy Christians in 1 Tim. 6:17-19. Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. [18] Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, [19] storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

What’s the point? Wise Christians keep their focus on the eternal rather than the earthly. If God blesses you with earthly riches invest them in eternal treasures! God will hold each of us accountable for how we have used His resources. Remember, you can not earn your way to heaven folks. Salvation is a free gift. But you will be held accountable for what you have done with the gifts and blessings connected to it! Paul says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives. Those who have been faithful will be rewarded and the unfaithful will suffer loss!

Some of you maybe thinking these truths do not apply to you because you do not consider yourself wealthy. By biblical standards and by comparison to the rest of the world, nearly every American is rich!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

James 1:9-12 Responding to Trials (part 7)

James 1:9-12 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; [10] and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. [11] For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. [12] Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Today's text is about the practical application of godly wisdom. James wants his audience to understand and respond to their situation from God's perspective. To lack wisdom, is to lack God's perspective.

Remember that James wrote to Christian Jews who were refugees of persecution. They were suffering financially and being taken advantage of by rich oppressors. (See James 2:5-7 for some evidence of this fact.) In the first century, there was no justice for someone who was poor or of low status because court cases were decided by status rather than facts. Therefore, the rich always won since they were of higher status. They used their status to take away what little the poor had and to cheat them of their rightful wages. (See James 5:1-6)

James instructs these poor refugees to evaluate their situation from God’s perspective. In this world they maybe despised and rejected but God has chose them before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love (Eph1:4). In this world they maybe of low status but in God’s kingdom they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a people for God’s own possession (1 Peter 1:9). In this world they maybe persecuted, but at Christ’s coming they will be vindicated. (see 2 Thess. 1:3-10) In this world they maybe impoverished, but in God’s economy they are wealthy beyond measure. In fact,1 Peter 1:3-6 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, [5] who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials. In this world you maybe suffering, but in the next you will receive glory. Romans 8:16-18 says, The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. [18] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Are you in the midst of a trial? Are you wisely viewing it from God’s perspective? Often, this is our greatest struggle. This was the struggle for the original recipients of James’ letter. They came from a background that saw poverty and trouble as sign of God’s displeasure. If someone were prosperous they viewed that as evidence of God’s blessing and favor. James turned their worldview upside down!

Listen folks! The fact you have trials shows that God loves you and deals with you as His beloved children. He is seeking to build endurance into your lives. He wants to multiply you faith, strengthen your character, and mature you. These are the reasons for your trials! As Peter says, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time!

What’s the main point of today’s devotion? Wise Christians will evaluate themselves and their situation by God’s standard and not the world's. V9