America Needs a Spiritual Awakening

We look around at the state of society today and say, “It didn’t used to be like this” or “I’m scared for my children and grandchildren.”  But was it really much different going back a few hundred years? 

I am surprised to learn in the church history books I am readying (covering the period of the 1700-1900s) that the state of Christianity in our country, at points, was not much different than it is today.  The people then were in need of a spiritual awakening, a revival that would rekindle the faith and positively affect the nation.  God worked a miracle in a mass number of people then, and He can do the same today. 

Don’t be discouraged by the media or educational institutions, which try to suppress the voice of God, it happened back then as well. For example, in 1795 Yale University was in “…a most ungodly state.  Most of the students were skeptical, and rowdies were plenty.”  Alcoholism to immorality among the students was rampant as a result of turning to Enlightenment philosophy instead of grounding themselves in Judeo-Christian ethics.  The new president of Yale, Timothy Dwight, understood what was happening and decided to preach a sermon attacking the cynics and deists, especially of the French variety, with biting rhetoric to try to shake people into their senses.  He said:

“Contempt is the spirit and ridicule the weapon, with which Christianity has long been principally opposed.  The cause which needs these weapons cannot be just; the doctrine which cannot be supported without them must be false.  You will dread to become the objects of scorn, and to be wounded by the shafts of derision, you will be afraid to declare yourselves friends to a cause which has been the standing jest of so many men of wit, and which has been so often and so publically held up to a systematized contempt, to which insult is merit, and mockery fashion.” – Timothy Dwight[1]

Dwight recognized the hyper-criticism of Christianity was unjustified.  He saw how people, not wanting to be ridiculed, would forsake or hide their Christian faith so that they would be accepted by the majority (sound familiar?).  And so Dwight pointed out that if a movement and its people have to resort to ridicule and name calling to suppress the Christian voice, then that movement and their technique of silencing the opposition should be questioned.

Fast-forward to our day, it is interesting that the IRS and FBI have both been involved in using delay tactics to silence certain Conservative groups while filing for non-profit tax status.  Is there someone in government who feels threatened by the truth of these groups and feels then need to resort to cheating in order to silence those they oppose? What does this say about their philosophy and ethics?

Why is it Christians, especially, are targets of our media? We are labeled and cornered and belittled, especially in the college classroom by professors.  What does this say about the philosophy or religion of the college professors?  

Dwight made his point 220 years ago on the Yale University campus and people listened and a campus wide spiritual awakening broke out.  There was confession, repentance, increased prayer, increased Bible study, and a transformation of people’s lives that was carried beyond the boundaries of that campus.  If it could happen then, it can happen again today.

Revivals are cyclical: a generation turns from the church because they see dead orthodoxy; in turn people start living hypocritically; societal brokenness and problems increase; and then a person or a group of people see the brokenness and start praying and trying to turn the hearts of people back toward God.

We read about this cycle of revival in the Old Testament.  We read about this even in the New Testament and church history.  This cycle is what America has been going through since the Pilgrims came to our continent, we just happen to be in a downward part of the cycle.  We may be pessimistic if “revival” can happen again today.  I believe it can, right here in Seattle.  We just need people who desire to pray and seek the Lord in how to turn hearts toward Him.  Could this be you? Do you desire for a Holy Spirit fire to be lit under you, which increases your spiritual vitality and causes you to pant after God? Causes you to desire to know Him through His Word? Causes you cry out to God in worship?

We don’t need more “deeds of righteousness” to turn things around, we need a spiritual awakening of the heart, a new birth or a revived spirit in believers, which ends the downward trend of our culture.

I believe we are on the cusp of revival, but it may require a few more tragedies for our country to truly begin to seek again for His hand to touch our hearts.  Will you pray with me that our country would turn? Will you commit to prayer daily for your own heart’s revival, for the hearts of our leaders at Grace Church, for the hearts of the leaders of churches in general, and for the hearts of the leaders of our country?

GODSPEED

Birth Control & Scripture

This last Sunday I preached a sermon on marriage, divorce, children, etc.  I preached from Matthew 19:1-15, Jesus’ words on the subject of our contemporary debate.  In verses 4-6 Jesus is making the point that marriage is the first covenant community, established by God going back to the beginning of human history.  This covenant community consists of a male and a female leaving their parents and cleaving in allegiance to their spouse and becoming one flesh, thus becoming a family. 

What Jesus was emphasizing in vv. 4-6 is the marriage covenant, from the beginning, is between a husband and wife; Jesus is saying this order of creation transcends time.  Jesus was also saying there should be allegiance between husband and wife, and that divorce and adultery are not an option.  Jesus said there is a one flesh physical and spiritual union between husband and wife that should not be broken and which results in children.  At this point in my sermon I failed to fully explain a point I was trying to make –

What I said was:

“The idea of ‘One Flesh’ is that sex produces children…therefore, if you are not ready to have children, you should not be having sex…”

What I meant was:

“The idea of ‘One Flesh’ is that sex produces children…therefore, if you are not ready for the possibility of having children, you should not be having sex…”

My point was to say that you should not be having sex before marriage or outside of marriage.  Why? Because a child born outside of the marriage covenant will not be raised in the ideal community, which God intended for them to be raised in (i.e., the covenant community of family – a mom and a dad raising their children together in a loving environment – this is an ideal community because raising children alone or in step-families is way more difficult than raising a child in one home with both biological parents.  Having sex outside of a committed relationship can result in having children and result in brokenness, pain, and creates a burden financially and educationally for the state and for those in relationship with the person trying to raise children outside of the marriage covenant – think of welfare, lack of stability, lack of really knowing at least one parent, lack of help doing homework, lack of understanding of unconditional love and discipline of remaining in a relationship even when it is difficult, etc., etc.). 

I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say, but I know this leads to more questions, like: Is it okay to have sex for pleasure? Is it okay to use birth control?

First, it is okay to have sex for pleasure – WITH YOUR HUSBAND or WIFE – but DO NOT go outside of the marriage covenant.  Do not have sex before marriage.  The Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 7 that for those who are tempted sexually and do not think they can control themselves, they should get married and enjoy a sexual relationship with their God ordained spouse.  But sex outside the marriage covenant is prohibited – “Flee sexual immorality…” (1 Cor. 6:18).

Second, related to birth control the Catholics would say no.  But Scripture says nothing about birth control.  But Scripture does prohibit abortion [God knits together a child in the womb – cf. Psalm 139:13, and we are not to kill another human being created in the image of God – cf. Genesis 9:6 & Exodus 20:13], therefore it seems logical that if birth control is not prohibited by Scripture it is okay to use as long as the method is not abortive.

What method of birth control is abortive? Any type of pill or device that kills an embryo or does not allow an embryo to attach itself to the uterine wall – this is a form of abortion.

What methods of birth control are okay? Any method of birth control that prevents the sperm from meeting the egg seems to be okay (i.e., Scripture is silent on this issue with the exception of Onan’s sin in Genesis 38:6-11 – which is a complicated story and may not have to do with birth control, but with selfishness on behalf of Onan because he knew Tamar’s offspring would not be his own – look up “Levirate Marriage” to understand what was happening in this passage and write me a question if the story doesn’t make sense).

In summary:

  1. Marriage was designed by God to be between a husband and wife (Genesis 1:27 & 2:24).
  2. This marriage covenant involves “leaving and cleaving” and “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
  3. It is biblical to have sex for pleasure in a God ordained marriage between a husband and his wife (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
  4.  It is biblical to only have sex in a heterosexual marriage (1 Corinthians 6:18-7:2 & Hebrews 13:4).
  5. Scripture is silent about birth control (with one possible exception).
  6. Scripture does say a child is knit together in the womb and is therefore human (Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; & Job 10:11).
  7. Scripture does say murder is wrong (Genesis 9:6 & Exodus 20:13).

May you follow God’s design and be blessed by Him as you follow it!

GODSPEED

The difference between ethics and morals

Is there a difference between ethics and morals?

I was conversing with a very good friend of mine on Sunday after church and we were discussing the difference between ethics and morals (bet you didn’t know there was a difference):

Ethics – is what ought to be.

Morals – is what people are actually doing.

 Throughout the Bible there are ethical standards such as:

“Thou shalt not murder…”

“Thou shalt not commit adultery…”

“Thou shalt not steal…”

“Thou shalt not covet…”

When a person murders someone, he is falling short of an ethical standard established by God and by the State.  When a man commits adultery, he is not living up to the ethics established in his wedding vows of faithfulness “till death do us part.”  When a man like Ariel Castro abducts teenagers and keeps them as sex slaves, he is violating multiple ethical standards of God and our government and he must be held accountable.

Our country has been at a crossroads in defining ethics for the last 70 years.  The majority in our country once agreed with the Judeo-Christian standards of ethics as spelled out in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus (see for example the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7). 

Now the majority in our country are defining ethics based on what is actually happening.  In other words the standard is shifting based on what is acceptable and not based on a fixed standard. 

Is this safe and right? What will be the consequences for basing ethics on what people are doing?

I first began to understand the difference between ethics and morals when I had a discussion with one of my aunts who was a school counselor when I was 13 years old.  She was asking me about what I was learning in school.  I explained we were learning about sex education and I made the point that we should not be taught about all the different ways of having “safe” sex, rather that we should be taught to wait to have sex on our wedding night.

She retorted, “Why would you wait, they’re not going to listen to you anyway…since they’re gonna experiment and start having sex when they reach puberty in late elementary school we should be teaching them about how to do it safely so they don’t make mistakes like get an STD or get pregnant and then have to get an abortion.”

I commented, “But most kids are introduced to methods and ides and ways of having sex during sex education…so if you want to prevent kids from getting STDs and getting pregnant…the best way is not to show them how to do various different sex acts…but to explain to them the ethical standard of waiting for your wife or husband.  Some will still likely ignore you and ‘make mistakes’…but if you’re not teaching them how, but rather teaching them that they shouldn’t be having sex until they are ready to have children and that the best environment to raise kids is in a stable marriage…then it is likely that less kids will be having sex before marriage and thus less ‘mistakes’ will be made.”

We went round-and-round and I am sure my logic was not quite as refined, but the point I make above is the point I was trying to make then.

So what’s the point?

The Creator God has ethical standards – as the Creator, God designed us to live and function a certain way and not to live and function contrary to God’s ethical standards. 

Our moral responsibility as humans is to stop looking at what people are doing to try to create man-made ethical standards based on the morality of the majority; rather we should look up to the God of Heaven and say, “Lord Jesus, teach us your ways and provide help for us to live, in reality, how you designed us to live.”  Pray this prayer and the Lord will send His helper, the Holy Spirit, to enable you to morally live by His ethics as outlined by Jesus in the Gospels.

GODSPEED

We Are All Equal

All human beings are created equal “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

I have a friend who as recently as today is looked down upon, questioned, and constantly made to feel that racism still exists in this world.  This is wrong!!! In Christ, there is no distinction made along these lines.  All are equal in God’s sight and God expects all human beings to treat each other with love and dignity.  May we especially in the church treat each other in this way.

GODSPEED

 

“Be yourself. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are different.”

NBA player Jason Collins says he’s gay and says he’s a Christian.  Is this possible? ESPN analyst Chris Broussard said no it is not, and now he is being labeled a bigot.  Is this right of the news media to label him this way?

First, let us look at what Chris Broussard said.  Second, let us look at what the Bible says.  Third, let’s discern if Jason is really a Christian based on what Scripture says.  And finally, let’s look at the definition of “bigot” and discern if Chris is being one or if something else is going on.

Chris Broussard said in a clarifying statement:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.

What does the Bible say?

First the Old Testament [for Israel]:

Leviticus 18:22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”  [Leviticus 18 is about sex – who the people of Israel are not allowed to have sex with – for example, animals, children, relatives, etc.]

Second, the New Testament [for all Christians]:

Matthew 19:4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Jesus is saying sex can happen between a married man and woman – Jesus is saying this is the design of marriage from the beginning – see Genesis 1-2].

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.   [The “marriage bed” = koite in Greek, which is sex between a married man and his wife; “adultery” = sex outside of marriage while being married; “sexual immorality” = pornia in Greek, which means all sex before or outside of marriage between a man and his wife (“sexuality immorality”  summarizes unlawful sex explained in Leviticus 18).  The command here in Hebrews 13:4 is no sex outside of marriage between a man and his wife.  This includes no sex before the wedding.]

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  [The words “men who have sex with men” are two words in Greek – the first is “malakos” = the passive partner in homosexual sex; and the second is “arsenkoites” = the active partner in male homosexual sex.  Notice in these verses that certain sinful lifestyles are being condemned, not just homosexuality – but 1 Corinthians goes on to say in v. 11].  11 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.  [In other words, in Jesus Christ your lifestyle needs to change].

Based on the above Scriptures it seems clear that Jason needs to be transformed by Jesus Christ.  Whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God is not for me to decide; God is just and will make a righteous decision.  What I do know (as Chris Broussard pointed out – “you will know them by their fruits” – Matthew 7:19-20), is Jason is wrong to claim he is Christian and live an active homosexual lifestyle – and so he needs to make a choice: (1) Jesus and obedience to God’s word; or (2) a lifestyle contrary to God’s word resulting in consequences brought on him by the Lord.

Finally, let’s look at the definition of “bigotry” – 

“n. 1. extreme intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.  2. the actions, prejudices, etc. of a bigot.” – Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

What does “extreme intolerance” mean? Does this mean saying you hate someone because your beliefs differ? If so, is Chris Broussard saying he hates Jason Collins because he is gay? No!

Does “extreme intolerance” mean pointing out a contradiction? If yes, then we have a lot of bigots in our news media.

Does “extreme intolerance” mean aggressively going after someone to make them change their public statement? If so, was Chris “aggressively” going after Jason to make him change his lifestyle? Is the news media “aggressively” going after Chris to make him apologize?

Who is being the bigot? I just want us to really think about this.

The news media, politicians, and schools seem to be pressuring everyone to say homosexuality is okay, and if you disagree you’re a hateful bigot.  No one wants to be labeled as “hateful” and no one wants to be known as a “bigot” and so hardly anyone will speak up.

Let’s be honest, was Chris Broussard being hateful? That’s what the news media would have you believe about Chris based on how things are being spun.  One article about this story is titled – “Why ESPN’s Chris Broussard Came Out As a Bigot.”  Who would want to speak up about such an important topic when they will be labeled like this? Is the news media becoming the new bully pulpit to push Christians around? Seems like they’re trying to force people to believe a certain way.

I’m just asking, is this right? In you’re heart of hearts, does it feel right what the news media is doing?

Prediction: if Chris Broussard doesn’t apologize, he might be fired.  If he get’s fired, does this mean ESPN is bigoted?

When I was educated in the public school system in the 1980’s and 90’s, the number one value that I heard over and over again is “Be yourself.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are different.”  Because of that philosophy I dared to be different and take on my new found faith (which I didn’t grow up with) and not let anyone pressure me into not being a Christian.  I think it’s interesting now days that our culture affirms people who “dare to be different” unless you’re a Christian.

GODSPEED