- Reference: James 2:12-13
- Date: 14 April 2013
- Description: Are you the kind of person who holds on to problems, fights, hurt feelings for a long time or do you let go of these things pretty quickly? Do you find that with some people you are quick to forgive but with others it’s a slow process?
- Truthcasting: Watch The Video
- Study Notes: Coming Soon
- [New King James Version(NKJV)]
As with many things in my life, I am often the last to find out.
One of the members of our congregation put together a slideshow set to music on Youtube. Here it is, really cool!
God is Great!
With all the talk today about same-sex marriage, I thought the following might be helpful.
Here’s a hypothetical conversation I’d have with someone who doesn’t understand why Evangelical Christians don’t support same-sex marriage.
Person: Why are you against same-sex marriage?
Me: Let me answer that this way. If we were talking about this 30 years ago, what do you think my answer would be? In fact, 30 years ago, what was YOUR view of same-sex marriage, and why? See-30 years ago, most people considered homosexuality a sin. And they considered it so because that’s what the Bible calls it.
Person: Yeah, but people change and we don’t see it that way anymore.
Me: Agreed. But the Bible hasn’t changed. So people who say they believe it , if they aren’t going to be the hypocrites they are so often accused of being, have to continue to hold to the same morality they did 30, 40 500 years ago – right?
Person: Well, isn’t denying marriage to same-sex couples like denying citizenship to blacks or voting to women? Isn’t marriage a civil right?
Me: Civil rights are matters of legal definition, not universal rights. The law of the land decides civil rights. And same-sex couples aren’t to be equated with blacks and women. Being a woman and being black aren’t issues of choice. People are born that way. Homosexuals aren’t born that way.
Person: YES they are!!!
Me: As a matter of fact, while that’s a popular belief, there’s no scientific evidence to support it. On the contrary, the research has discovered that homosexuality has far more to do with one’s nurture base, their family dynamic; and early childhood imprinting that comes through abuse, than anything else. It’s true that a person may not have CHOSEN to be gay, but the behavior to act out same sex attraction IS A CHOICE. So you can’t equate being gay with being black or being a woman.
Person: But if a person has same-sex attraction, why shouldn’t they be able to express it? What’s wrong with that?
Me: We’re back to our original point; the Bible says it’s sin and sin always has negative consequences. It doesn’t promote human flourishing which is what God & the Bible always aim for. Besides, once we open the door to saying that a lifestyle that is immoral is now acceptable, where do we stop? Why will it be okay for homosexuals to engage in homosexuality but not pedophiles engage in sex with children? Or people who like their pets to have sex with them.
Person: That’s absurd. That will never happen.
Me: I agree – problem is, it’s already being advocated by certain elites. Years ago, homosexual advocates were in precisely the same place; advancing a cause people said would never find acceptance. Yet here we are. And now the line’s been back even further, encouraging the perverts to start their assault on moral norms.
Person: Well, they’ll never find acceptance of their perversion!
Me: And THAT is exactly what people said 30 years ago when homosexuals began their assault on morality. So – you see, because I believe and want to live what the Bible says, while I love homosexuals as persons, I simply CAN’T accept the idea of same-sex marriage or even to recognize them as a distinct social group, any more than I can accept adulterers as a unique social group. It’s all sexual sin and not proper for assigning civil rights.
I have the honor several each year to hold an infant or young child in my arms and dedicate him/her to the Lord during our Sunday services. I’m nearly always moved at just how precious that child I’m holding is. It’s not mere sentimentalism. What moves me is the incredible potential that child possesses. As I look at that little one, what I see is someone utterly unique. There’s not another person in all the world like him or her.
The moment that child was conceived, God placed within him/her a unique spirit. In His infinite, all-wise plan, God called that little man or woman into existence to be a revelation of Him in some way no one else in all history is able to accomplish. That’s the great potential of every human being.
God is infinite; His love, power and perfection, without limit. Every human being, because we bear the image of God, has the potential of making visible to the rest of creation something unique about God. This is why Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that we are God’s workmanship – created in Christ Jesus for good works. That word “workmanship” is the Greek word poema – from which we get our word poem. It speaks of a finely crafted work of art.
We are God’s finely crafted work of art.His work begins with our conception, continues through our time in the womb, reaches a critical moment of revelation in birth, proceeds through our childhood, adolescence, teen years and into adulthood. The whole time, He’s at work shaping and molding us to reveal something of Himself to the rest of creation.
In 1 Peter 1:12 we discover the angels are intently watching us; not because we’re so interesting – after all, they behold the glory of God. What does interest them so, is how God is revealing Himself in and through us.
The Pro-life movement is based on this principle of the sanctity, the special-ness of human life. This is the foundation upon which the whole Pro-life worldview rests; that there’s intrinsic value to each and every human being because each of us bears the image of God, and we bear it in a unique, individual, and God-planned way.
Those are familiar with the Pro-life worldview know how often our cause is likened to the Abolitionist Movement of the 19th Century. There are many notable parallels. We point out that Laws making slaves nothing more than the property of their owners were immoral and wrong. No one today argues with that because it’s a self-evident truth. It’s difficult for us to conceive of a time when some men considered other men, not as human beings, but as property to be bought and sold; as tools to be used in the creation of wealth. Yet that is precisely the way it was and the Law enforced it. Now we know those laws were wrong and needed to be changed.
One of the main arguments in support of abortion today is that it’s the Law, it’s legal. A woman’s right to privacy has been stretched to include a right to terminate her pregnancy. Just as the laws permitting slavery were wrong 150 years ago, the law permitting abortion today is wrong, and the day will come when some future generation will look back on ours with the same confusion and bewilderment we look back on those who supported the right to own slaves, just because that man or woman was a different color. That future generation will look back on this with shame and regret that some supported a woman’s right to kill her boy or girl just because it hadn’t been born yet.
Slavery came to an end because those who believed in the sanctity of all human life, regardless of color, or age, or social status, demanded that all be treated with dignity and respect. At first, their numbers were few, but by the persuasive force of reason and logic, they were able to convince a few others. That few persuaded still more. There were many long years when it seemed to the Abolitionists nothing would change; the status quo was too entrenched and would never yield. Abolitionists lost members as the years dragged on with no real victories to show for their cause, just a lot of bad press that painted them as radicals.
But those who were driven by the principle of the sanctity of human life remained true to the cause, and slowly but surely, the mindset of the common man began to change. There was something irresistible about the logic of the Abolitionist’s argument. Every man, woman and child knew that deep in their heart they wanted others to treat them with respect and to recognize their dignity as a human being. It wasn’t difficult to see in the face of a passing slave the same humanity and to realize they too held the very same desire! Eventually, the lies that supported slavery came tumbling down and the evil institution ended.
It’s crucial that we do not stop proclaiming the foundational truth and premise of the Pro-Life cause; that human life is sacred, special, and held valuable by God. Our cause too has the weight of reason and logic behind it. And though it seems to have stuttered a bit in the last few years, losing some of its supporters because of discouragement that we’ve not been able to accomplish more in terms of ending abortion, we must not grow weak or faint-hearted. The common man is waking up to the fact that our message is true. They feel it: Life is sacred. They desire to be treated with dignity and respect. Every time they see a pregnant woman, they’re reminded there’s a whole class of people today to whom that dignity and respect is being denied; the unborn.
The lies that support abortion are tumbling down and one day, that evil institution will end. It must.
One of the primary ways we can demonstrate our conviction about the sanctity of human life is through the vital ministry of local pro-life pregnancy centers. This is the most effective way for us to prove we are not merely engaged in some kind of social or political agenda. This isn’t about politics at all, though that seems to be the only way the pro-abortion camp thinks of things. They don’t understand that we see this, not as a political issue, but as a moral imperative. They frame the issue as a civil right; we see it as something much more important. It’s the heart and soul of an entire civilization; for a civilization is judged on the basis of how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable in its midst.
The pregnancy center is a place where we demonstrate to a woman with a crisis pregnancy that WE REALLY DO BELIEVE in the sanctity, not just of human life as a general principle, but of her and THAT specific life inside her womb. Pregnancy centers are a ministry we must support, because it’s the front line in the battle for the sanctity of human life in our culture.
While we wait for abortion laws to be changed, the local pro-life pregnancy center is today’s Underground Railroad, seeing little men and women who would be destined for destruction, brought to birth, and the women enslaved to the abortion lie, set free by a gracious and gentle demonstration of the truth.
May God bless the ministry of the pregnancy center, it’s staff and volunteers and all those who support it.
Many of the people of Calvary Chapel Oxnard keep a close eye on developments in the Middle East, especially Iran and that nation’s nuclear ambitions. We see it as prime trigger for the unfolding on what the prophet Ezekiel describes in ch. 38 and 39 of the Book in the Bible named after him. Those chapters describe an aborted invasion of Israel in the end times of an Iranian-Russian led coalition of Middle East and North Africa nations; geographic regions which today are predominantly Islamist. We’ve long speculated that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities could precipitate an Iranian counter-attack that would fulfill Ezekiel prophecy.
It has been with intense interest we’ve watched the news of sanctions and rhetoric alternately calling for more stringent action against Iran or more times for sanctions to effect a regime change. While Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has announced a “red line” beyond which the Israelis feel they cannot let Iran go in developing a nuclear capacity without taking military action, the US administration has taken a far more restrained approach, preferring sanctions with a seeming reticence to even speak of a military action.
As a distant observer of all this, I’ve wondered for some time now why there has not been real progress in dealing with Iran and a more visible preparation for a military intervention on the part of BOTH the US & Israel. At the same time, reports have leaked out of Iran that several of her nuclear facilities have suffered “set-backs.” This looks to be the work of sabotage. It makes sense if the US and Israel were trusting to such sabotage to curtail Iran’s nuclear progress, they would not be compel;led to urge or pursue the military option.
But last week, that changed . . .
New reports out of Iran suggest Iran has at least two, until now, highly secret facilities that have progressed much further than was known and Iran may be closer to a bomb than was assumed. Iran’s close affiliation with North Korea is also troubling since they recently performed a nuclear test at which prominent Iranian officials and scientists were in attendance.
It’s this report that may jog the Israelis into taking the military action they’ve long warned of. Moves in Israel over the last week seem to be positioning the nation for such an attack. And the latest rumbling from our politicians and military leaders are also getting more heated.
Take a look at Joel Rosenberg’s link for more specific details – Article
What follows explains why Calvary Oxnard will be asking it’s members to sign a petition to the Boy Scouts of America on Sunday, Feb. 17, asking them not to alter their policy regarding allowing the gay-rights agenda to influence their organization. But first, a little background . . .
One of the ways public discourse is shut down is by labeling an issue as “political” then banning certain groups from contributing their views to political issues. A problem arises when that issue is profoundly moral and the banned group is compelled by its ethic to take a moral stand.
Slavery was an intensely charged subject in this country in the mid-19th century. It was THE defining political issue. It was also essentially moral. In truth, it was so politically charged precisely because it was regarded by a great many as evil. Imagine a Northern abolitionist pastor being told he was not allowed to speak on the subject of slavery because it was a “political issue.” Imagine Christians at large being told they were not allowed to weigh in on the topic that dominated so many discussions of the day because as “religious people” their view wasn’t tolerated.
That’s the situation many evangelicals and churches face today with same-sex marriage and gay-rights. Certainly this is a highly charged political issue. It’s also essentially a deeply moral issue. If it weren’t, it would have been settled long ago. While some want to make gay-rights merely a civil rights issue, Evangelical Christians see it as a non-negotiable moral issue. It’s non-negotiable because the Bible is clear that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Hold on! Let me explain.
Yes, homosexual acts are sin, as are immoral heterosexual acts like adultery, fornication and the lustful consumption of pornography. They’re sin because the Bible says they are, not because some group of moralists have made up a set of do’s and don’ts.
A common complaint voiced about Christians is that “they’re all a bunch of hypocrites.” Yet when they do adhere to a Biblical standard they’re labeled as “intolerant”. Christians aren’t allowed to pick and choose what they believe about such things as God and morality. They may field all kinds of opinions about music, art, and who has the best burger, but the Bible is the authoritative standard that shapes their theology and ethics.
Scripture is clear; all sex outside of marriage is sin. All of it, hetero- and homosexual.
One pastor has said it well: Homosexuality won’t send someone to hell any more than heterosexuality will send them to heaven. There will be people who’ve had same-sex attraction in heaven and oodles of heterosexuals in hell. A person’s sexuality doesn’t determine their destiny. What DOES is their faith in Jesus Christ. And the history of the Church is one of a long list of morally wretched derelicts who’ve been radically transformed by the power of Christ.
Being a follower of Jesus means acknowledgment and acceptance of the Gospel as made clear in the New Testament. Jesus saves us FROM something; that something is SIN. It’s God who defines what sin is. Man does not have the authority to edit morality. His duty is to comply. So Evangelical Christians understand homosexual behavior to be sin because God’s Word says so. No amount of social tinkering changes that. Sin, in all its forms, harms humans. It does not contribute to human flourishing. God wants the race to flourish, so His people are obligated to promote that which contributes to it’s flourishing and oppose that which works contrary to it. Even when the larger society in which they live is of a divergent opinion.
The gay-rights movement in collusion with major media have done an effective job of casting their agenda as a civil-rights issue. According to recent polls, it seems that public opinion will soon swing to a majority in favor of gay-rights and same-sex marriage. This change has come about because the issue has been untethered from its moral connection and made a political issue. Gay rights advocates try to link their movement to the Civil rights movement of the 60’s. As many have made clear; they are not the same. Being black isn’t a sin. Practicing homosexuality is.
Evangelical Christians simply cannot promote, condone, or stand silently along the sidelines when there is a movement to normalize sin, which is what the gay—rights movement aims to do. They’ve pressed hard to see same-sex marriages legalized and now they are pressing into traditional institutions that have purposefully taken a stand against their inclusion. Today we see that with the Boys Scouts.
Sadly, Evangelicals have at times dealt poorly with homosexuality. Having its own agenda, the press has jumped on some of those sad moments and used them to caricature the Evangelical position toward homosexuals as bigoted, intolerant, hateful and/or homophobic. Yet all of those things are 180 degrees out of phase with what it means to follow Jesus. Christian don’t hate gays, nor are they afraid of them. Truth is, there are many in evangelical churches who experience same-sex attraction but who are also born again, and just like their heterosexual friends, struggle to keep sexual temptation at bay, choosing instead to be holy and discover God’s plan for their lives. What Evangelicals must learn to do is to love consistently enough that we promote what makes for human flourishing while tactfully opposing what diminishes that flourishing.
Now, to the issue of gay rights and the Boy Scouts . . .
The Scout oath includes the promise to remain, “. . . morally straight.” And now, because they’ve been targeted by proponents of gay-rights, they face a crisis of redefining what that oath means. The “straight” of the oath doesn’t mean merely heterosexual, as in “gay versus straight.” It speaks to a moral standard derived from the fixed and unchanging certainty of a Biblically consistent worldview. Part of the Scouting ethic is loyal adherence to traditions that embody solid and substantial content; content that strives for virtue. Now they’re being pressed to cut themselves loose from the very virtues that scouting has been dedicated to fostering.
As Biblically-consistent Evangelical Christians we must exercise our identity as spiritual salt and light. WE have a golden opportunity to do so by sending to the National Organization of the Boy Scouts of America our strong insistence they do not capitulate to those who do not have the best interests of the Scouts in mind but only an agenda to promote, and agenda that which betrays what Scouting stands for. Those leaders took an oath to be loyal and morally straight. Will they keep that oath?
We need to encourage them to do so.
I don’t know about you, but music is a major driving force in my life. Music draws me closer to the Lord and really helps me experience Him in a more profound way. I often find myself searching for strong and powerful songs with a message that hits me in the face with a sledgehammer. A couple songs I have been listening to recently have really caught my attention, not just because of the music, but the words.
The first song is David Crowder “Shadows” featuring Lecrae. This was a live recording and made it on a compilation CD a while back. The song is not new, but this version is. Lecrae is a Christian rapper and quite well known for his straight forward lyrics. During Crowder’s song, Lecrae delivers a verse from his song “Boasting”, which is just simply wonderful.
With every breath I take, with every heart beat, Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street. Every glance, every dance, every note of a song. It’s all a gift undeserved that I shouldn’t have known. Every day that I lie, every moment I covet I’m deserving to die, I’m just earning your judgment. I, without the cross there’s only condemnation. If Jesus wasn’t executed there’s no celebration. So in times that are good, in times that are bad, For any times that I’ve had it all I will be glad. And I will boast in the cross. I boast in my pains. I will boast in the sunshine, boast in his reign. What’s my life if it’s not praising you. Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit. I do not count my life as any value or precious at all. Let me finish my race, let me answer my call.
The second song is by Plumb “How Many Times”. It did well in the charts in 2012, so you have no doubt heard it before. This song simply reminds me to stay comforted in the place Christ has me and put aside all distractions. When I fail in obedience, Don’t get bogged down in the guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are an inevitable responses to sin, but the only reason that they even have the ability to stay wedged in our lives is because we choose to stay in the sin and not repent. If we repent, there is no room for guilt and shame, for God is not accusing us, the powers of Hell and Satan are.
How often have you felt the words in the song’s chorus…
How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh, I need you
God, I need you now.
Last on my list is Audio Adrenaline “Kings & Queens”. Oh how this song has been speaking to the place God has me right now.
Over the holidays, God was working on my heart in a few areas, most profoundly in the realm of my heart towards the down, destitude and poor as well as sharing Christ with others. This song is a summary of what God is speaking to me recently. I especially love the chrous:
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these
Interesting article about tracking people via RFID’s.
WND, the site where this article was posted, can be a bit extreme and their opinion-articles polemic, but this simple news report is alarming.
The conclusion that wearing an RFID equates to the Mark of the Beast is an over-reach. But the trend here to enforce students wearing a chip trends toward the Transhumanist agenda we’ve been watching for a while now.
Read the article. How long before school districts across the country find innovative new ways to use such devices on students? How long before corporations find ways to make such technology was way to track hours, labor, security? It’s not a question of “If” – only “When”?
A friend of mine sent this to me this week. I found it an excellent read since I lead a bible study too. I thought you might like it, so here you go. Enjoy.
I started leading small groups when I was 16. There I was, barely old enough to drive a car, and I was supposed to lead my group of thirteen-year-old boys on some kind of spiritual journey. Right. I felt good if we got through the meeting without someone making a fart joke.
Since that time, I’ve led small groups for people aged 10 to 40. (High school small groups are my favorite. It’s not even close.) Along the way, I’ve learned a few things. Not as many as I’d like. There’s still a lot about leading small groups well that remains a complete mystery to me. But I have learned. And, reflecting back across the years, here are some things that I really wish I had known when I first started.
1. Ground it in the gospel
For a long time, my small groups were like 12-step programs for believers. Want to grow mature Christians? It’s simple: meet regularly, read the Bible, pray, laugh, eat lots of food, and make sure that you hold each other “accountable” so that you all keep working at it. Do that long enough and something is bound to happen.
What I was missing was any meaningful understanding of how the gospel relates to discipleship. None of these are bad things in themselves. But, if they’re not grounded in grace and empowered by the spirit, then it isn’t discipleship. I’d love to go back and help my younger self catch a vision for a small group of Christians as God’s image bearers in the world, redeemed through Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Spirit, and commissioned as ambassadors of the Kingdom. I’d love to see me helping others understand God’s grace and the transforming power of the gospel. In short, I’d love to convince myself that a small group should be so much more than a support group.
2. Have a clear mission
This flows from the first. Why does my small group exist? What should it accomplish? What is its purpose? These are pretty basic questions. Yet I never asked them. I think I just thought I knew the answers. I didn’t.
Without a clear purpose, your small group will flounder. I promise. The group will naturally gravitate toward what people do best – nothing. Small groups are great at treading water. They’ll meet every week, eat the same snacks, share the same stories, and ask the same questions, never going anywhere.
Small groups don’t all need to have the same purpose, but they do need one. And it should be communicated clearly and often.
3. Be a pastor
I often hear churches downplaying the role of the small group leader. You’re not really responsible for people’s spiritual growth. You don’t have to be able to answer their questions or know how to deal with their difficult life issues. We just need someone to “host” the group. Tidy the house, put some snacks on the table, run them through the discussion guide, and you’re all set. Nothing more is required.
The church doesn’t need more facilitators; it needs more disciplers. And many churches are in trouble precisely because they have too few of the latter. I think it’s terrifying that many churches now rely almost entirely on small groups for discipling their people (no more Sunday school classes or mid-week services), yet their small groups are led by “facilitators” with little to no training (or vision) for discipleship. I realize it’s intimidating to think that you’re responsible for the spiritual growth of other people. But if you’re leading a small group, you already are. So rise to the challenge and be the best pastor (minister, discipler, whatever) you can.
4. Learn some theology
Small groups are great at two things that we often fail to prepare people for: brutally difficult questions and terrifyingly wrong answers. I’ve heard both.
I remember in one group, a 12-year-old girl asked me if Jesus could truly identify with her weaknesses because Jesus was a boy and never had to go through his first period. What do you say to that? I certainly didn’t know. And that was only one of many. Other times I’ve heard people express opinions in groups that were flat out heretical. And interestingly, no one in the group even noticed. Difficult questions and terrible answers are real challenges for a small group leader.
I think that’s why all small group leaders should strive continually to learn more theology. This won’t mean that you’ll ever reach the point where you know all the answers (a good small group leader should always be willing to say “I don’t know”). But you will have more resources for responding well to difficult questions. And, even more importantly, you’ll be better prepared to recognize when something gets shared in the group that is so wrong it absolutely must be addressed.
5. Plan to multiply
Some will disagree with me here. But I think a purposeful small group should prepare from the very beginning to grow and multiply. It should be a part of the group’s DNA.
Most of my small groups have failed badly here. It’s not that we were against multiplying, we just weren’t intentional about it. So one of two things happened: either we failed to grow or we grew and didn’t know what to do about it. Some groups failed to grow because we never cast a vision for including new people. Instead, we became in-grown and comfortable. Eventually, such groups stagnate and/or die. But other groups grew and still ran into problems. We hadn’t built multiplication into the group’s DNA, so we resisted the idea of starting new ones. No one wanted to break up the family. And such groups usually end up ceasing to exist as “small” groups, or they begin losing people until they’ve shrunk back down to size.
Plan for growth from the beginning. Make it one of the group’s core values. Then people will be excited when it happens, rather than seeing it as something to be mourned.
6. Force authenticity
To be honest, this one falls in the category of things I still don’t do well. For me authenticity is critical, but often elusive. And I think I’ve had a hard time with authenticity for two reasons.
First, I don’t like it. I’m a private person, and I’m perfecting happy keeping my issues to myself. I’m also a proud person, and I don’t like exposing my weaknesses. So I constantly struggle with the temptation to let a small group skim along the surface of artificial engagement. It’s more comfortable for me that way.
Second, I don’t expect it. I tend to think that authenticity must be spontaneous. So we should just hang out together until authenticity happens. That’s bunk. Authenticity doesn’t just “happen.” There’s nothing spontaneous about letting people see who you really are. That takes hard work and commitment. So a group that values authenticity will make it clear from the beginning that it expects authenticity. This isn’t a place to come and hide. This is a place to reveal our weaknesses so we can walk together in the strength that only the gospel provides. That will be awkward, difficult, and painful for many (myself included), but growth usually is.
I would love to go back in time and have a little talk with my younger self. But I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know that time travel never works out well. I’d probably end up being my own grandfather or something. So I think I’ll skip the time travel, and just try to build more of this into my current and future small groups.
[This post was cross-published at Transformed]
Marc Cortez is a Theology Professor and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general. Marc blogs regularly at Transformed and scientia et sapientia.
Funny man Tim Hawkins explains some of the nuances of church culture.