Month: June 2015

Good Perspective on SS Marriage from Canada

Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian

On Friday, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can now marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond.

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post.

The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing.

I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same sex-marriage has been the law of the land for a decade.

That does not mean I hold any uniquely deep wisdom, but it does mean we’ve had a decade to process and pray over the issue.

I hope what I offer can help. It’s my perspective. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

There will be many who disagree with me, I’m sure, but I hope it pulls debate away from the “sky is falling/this is the best thing ever” dichotomy that seems to characterize much of the dialogue so far.

The purpose of this post is not to take a position or define matters theologically (for there is so much debate around that). Rather, the purpose of this post is to think through how to respond as a church when the law of the land changes as fundamentally as it’s changing on same-sex marriage and many other issues.

Here are 5 perspectives I hope are helpful as church leaders of various positions on the subject think and pray through a way forward.

gay marriage church christianity

1. The church has always been counter-cultural

Most of us reading this post have been born into a unique season in history in which our culture is moving from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture before our eyes.

Whatever you think about history, theology or exactly when this shift happened, it’s clear for all of us that the world into which we were born no longer exists.

Viewpoints that were widely embraced by culture just decades ago are no longer embraced. For some this seems like progress. For others, it seems like we’re losing something. Regardless, things have changed fundamentally.

But is that really such a big deal? For most of the last 2000 years, the authentic church has been counter-cultural. The church was certainly counter-cultural in the first century.

Even at the height of ‘Christendom’ (whenever that was), the most conservative historians would agree that Christianity as embraced by the state was different than the authentic Christianity we read about in scripture or that was practiced by many devout followers of Jesus.

Being counter-cultural usually helps the church more than hurts it.

If you think about it, regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian are counter-cultural and always will be. If your views are cultural, you’re probably not reading the scriptures closely enough.

We’re at our best when we offer an alternative, not just a reflection of a diluted or hijacked spirituality.

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values

As the Barna Group has pointed out, a growing number of people in America are best described as post-Christian. The majority of Canadians would certainly qualify as having a post-Christian worldview.

The question Christians in a post-Christian culture have to ask themselves is this:

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?

If you believe sex is a gift given by God to be experienced between a man and a woman within marriage, why would you expect people who don’t follow Christ to embrace that?

 Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Stop smoking weed?

Be faithful to one person for life?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

Most people today are not pretending to be Christians. So why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

First, non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than you do.

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Think about that.

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time

If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage.

Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).

I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality.

Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust and a long list of other dysfunctions.

If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context.

You don’t need to treat it any differently.

By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.

And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it. (I wrote more here about how to get the hypocrisy out of our sex talk in church.)

At least be consistent…humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage.

The dialogue is possible. (Andy Stanley offers a great rationale for sex staying inside marriage here.)

We have that dialogue all the time at our church.

And people are grateful for it.

We also talk about our greed, our gluttony, our jealousy and our hypocrisy as Christians. It’s amazing. Jesus brings healing to all these areas of life, including our sex lives.

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance

Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company—the company of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.

The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.

He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them. 

Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, didn’t look to them for change.

Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, he wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.

Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the US, our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.

We honestly don’t have it that hard.

Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.

Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus.

That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.

Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship

Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

People don’t line up to be judged.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

Judging outsiders is un-Christian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church.

Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

Take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. Your sins are simply different than many others. And honestly, in many respects, they are the same.

People don’t line up to be judged. But they might line up to be loved.

So love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

 Those are a few of the things I’ve learned and I’m struggling with.

The dialogue is not easy when culture is changing and people who sincerely love Jesus sincerely disagree.

I think there’s more hope than there is despair for the future. The radical ethic of grace and truth found in Jesus is more desperately needed in our world today than ever before.

Is the path crystal clear? No.

But rather than being a set back, perhaps this can move the church yet another step closer to realizing its true mission.

I was tempted to close comments off on this post, but I will leave them open just to see if we can continue the discussion constructively and humbly.

Rants and abusive viewpoints (on either side) will be deleted.

Show grace.

Respect those with whom you disagree.

If you want to leave a comment that helps, please do so.

But please spend at least as much time praying for the situation and for people you know who have been hurt by this dialogue as you do commenting on this post, on others like it or on your social media channels.

Maybe spend more time praying, actually.

That’s what we all really need. And that’s what will move the mission of the church forward.

I did not feel the shaking

There is no rain

Why is there flooding

The storms do not cease

We need to buy our water to drink

The fields are so dry

We dance and sing

It’s time to celebrate

We do not feel the earth begin to shake

We hear a noise

Is it an army or another party

House next to house

There is no room

So many people

God has left because there is no room

We blame God but we force Him to leave

Celebrate

Celebrate more

Our food has spoiled

Our water is sour

We are too drunk to notice

The earth is shaking

But it is not from music

Sit and be still

You may still have time to hear

Do you want to hear

Arrogance

The water is moving out from land

We stand and watch

Not realizing that it is returning

With vengence

Isaiah 5, Lamentations 5

wave

3 threats facing America

I can’t agree with this more.  Please take a minute to read.

Archive for March 12th, 2015|Daily archive page

Three existential threats facing America. (My address to the National Religious Broadcasters convention.)

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2015 at 5:46 am

Addressing the NRB Convention.

(Tucson, Arizona) — Last month, I addressed the closing dinner of the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. Last night, I addressed a conference of pastors and ministry leaders here in Tucson. The message here was nearly the same as at NRB. People have been asking me to share my notes because of the urgency of the subjects I discussed. So I am posting them here tonight.

The following is the formal message I prepared for the NRB Convention. While I did not deliver the speech verbatim, you will get the essential points I made that night.

WHEN YOU SEE A SWORD COMING:Three Existential Threats Facing America

  • Joel C. Rosenberg
  • Address to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • February 26, 2015

My text tonight is Ezekiel chapter 33, verses one through nine. It is a famous passage — one that you all know — about the role of the “Watchman on the Wall.” I believe it is deeply relevant to our times.

33 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’

“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.

More than 2,500 years ago, the Lord spoke these words to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel.

  • A man of God
  • Born in Israel
  • Exiled and living in Iraq
  • Amidst grave dangers rising

What was Ezekiel commanded to do? The text is clear.

  • Listen to God
  • Watch for threats
  • Warn the people, come what may

This was a divine calling – an enormous responsibility. And God was clear. Some would listen to Ezekiel’s warnings. Some would not. Ezekiel was not going to be held responsible for the decision others made to obey the Lord or not. He would be held responsible for obeying the Lord, teaching people the Word of God and warning the people when God told him to speak. Fortunately, Ezekiel was faithful to the task.

As followers of Jesus Christ — and as pastors and ministry leaders and religious broadcasters — each of you are, in our modern times, also watchmen on the walls. In many ways, you have the same calling. The same responsibility.

  • To listen to the Word of God, found in the Bible
  • To speak the Word of God — to tell people the bad news and the good news according to the Scriptures
  • To warn people of threats that are rising
  • To speak the truth in love, come what may

God warned Ezekiel — as He warns us today — that if He speaks and we don’t share His Word with others, we will be held to account. What’s more, if we see threats rising, and we do not warn people, we will be held to account.

Tonight, as I look out America, I see three existential threats.

  • Threat #1 — What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?
  • Threat #2 — What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?
  • Threat #3 — What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel but heading towards total abandonment of the Jewish State?

Read More:

https://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/

Christian Scum

You have just enjoyed a nice hot shower and you’re off to work.  Little do you know that a nasty reminder of that shower is lingering on your shower walls and will remain there until it is cleaned off.  Over time, that reminder will build up a nasty film called soap scum and will make your shower look awful and may even help to attract mildew, mold and bacteria.   You may not shutter to step back into your own scum covered shower but you probably don’t want to enter another person’s scum.  Right?  If you go to a hotel and the shower is covered in soap scum, you probably wouldn’t get in.  Even if it doesn’t hurt you, it’s nasty.

Funny thing about soap scum . . it’s left over soap – the exact same stuff that you clean yourself with.  The other thing is, you need to clean it off with more soap!  Very odd.

Christians are often the same.  We worship, sing, dance and experience revival.  We walk away refreshed and feeling clean.  The next time we need renewal we often return to that same “shower”.  What we think is a wonderful shower is now left over soap scum – we may not acknowledge it but others are certainly turned off by it.

The old hymns – they still bring life to some but you really need to learn to appreciate them and how to sing them properly.  Try explaining to a young urban youth how hymns relate to their lives and they may only see soap scum.

I grew up with Jesus Music, long hair, torn jeans and concerts.  This may appeal to some “wanna be hippies” but doesn’t really hold current for the new generations.  I love Larry Norman but his songs still talk about communists coming and the Vietnam War.

Listen to some worship music from the 80’s or 90’s and you may just quickly turn it off.

None of these worship styles are wrong.  But they may be lingering by Christians that were once blessed by them and they keep re-using them over and over again because they brought life at one point.  It’s not just music.  It’s our church buildings.  Style of teaching.  Leadership.  Programs.  We take a life giving “spiritual shower” and let it build into “scum” for generations to come.

If you were a current teenager or just say a “non church goer” would you enter your church building and relate to the program and teachings?  Would you find life or “scum residue”?  Are you trying to minister in 1980 terms?  1915 terms?  Even 2010 terms?  Culture is changing rapidly everyday but we continue to use old methods.

The Gospel of Jesus never changes but language and culture does.  Imagine running a church by Pilgrim standards today!

If you want to sing hymns or old Bible Camp songs – that’s fine.  Sing your heart out.  But don’t expect your neighbors to join in.  They may not be interested in your . . . well you get it.

Matthew 9:16-18 (NIV)

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

soapscum

Working for the Lord

What is the worst career in your mind?

Think about it.

Has it changed over the years?  Was there a career that you wanted as a child and now wonder what you were thinking?

My answer: One of the top 10 is a toll booth person.  To me that just seems like torture.  How about pumping out septic tanks? Dentist would also be in that field.

Remember the career aptitude tests in school:  Do you like to be with people or work with objects?  Do you like to be outside or indoors?  Do you like to work with your hands or do mental work?

My results came out to forest ranger.  I could envision that then and now although I never did it.

Over 50 years of life my idea of the “perfect job” has changed dramatically.  Some of that change comes with age (our bodies cannot do the same manual work as we get older).  Some comes with technology changes (there were no computer jobs when I graduated high school).  Some come with experience – I learned that I didn’t want to work outside in all kinds of weather very quickly.  Some change because of family or life situations.

I like my job although I’ve tried to get out of it for 35 years!  Why?  Too many reasons to list here!

All jobs have negative factors.  Most have positives (I’m not sure about the toll booth operator or septic person).  All of them cause bad days and days that we want to change what we are doing.   Regardless, we should be content in all situations.  We should rejoice that we have a job.  We should be grateful for our employer or customers.

Instead of focusing on “what you want to do”, focus on “doing everything with a cheerful heart”.

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Colossians 3:23 New International Version (NIV)

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

Scars

I was recently watching the movie “Jaws” and was amused when the three men were showing their scars and bragging about their adventures.  I have many scars and I can remember when most of them happened.  There is a round spot on my hand where I scraped it putting in a furnace 25 years ago;  a spot on the palm of my hand where a class mate shoved a pencil into my hand in 8th grade;  a scrape on my knee when I wiped out on my mini bike at at 10; and a lump on arm where I received a vaccination when I was a young child.

Most of us don’t want scars (especially women).  It seems like they don’t fade away as I get older but then again all the ones I just mentioned are from a long time ago.  Does our body keep scars so that we remember our wounds?    I don’t know.  But they do serve their purpose when a group gets together and wants to tell stories.

Scars are not just physical.  Some are mental.  I remember feeling abandoned as a child (parents didn’t face arrest in the 60’s for leaving their children alone in the car).  I remember being hurt by friends.  I remember being fired from a job.

Here’s the thing – physical scars normally don’t hurt.  They are visible but they rarely hurt.  Mental scars are often not visible but they often hurt.  I have sat with friends that reflect on wounds and quickly come to tears even though the scar is 30, 40 or 50 years old.  Time doesn’t always matter – the scars still hurt.  Some throb every moment of every day.

What are your scars?  Have they faded or do they still show bright and red?  Have they helped you to remember what you did or bring up bitterness for what was done to you?  Are you allowing them to heal or do you keep ripping them open?  Can you forgive and allow them to heal?

Galatians 6:17 Living Bible (TLB)

17 From now on please don’t argue with me about these things, for I carry on my body the scars of the whippings and wounds from Jesus’ enemies that mark me as his slave.

jaws

Mystery

Two young children were abandoned on an uninhabited island.  Miraculously, they lived and found a way to survive.  They grew to become adults and had children of their own.  They had no knowledge of the rest of the world.  They had no education.  Everything they did was self learned.  Time went on and generations came and went – still with no contact with other humans.  The inhabitants only knew their traditions and experience that was passed from generation to generation.  What they believed to be true was based on what they were taught and experienced.   They certainly had no knowledge of other civilizations yet alone space and the universe.

Anything outside of the island was a mystery.

We believe that we know so much.  Science.  Medicine.  Politics.  Religion.  What if WE are the ones living on a tiny island and only know what has been taught to us through tradition and experience?  What if the universe and everything else is far beyond our scope of imagination?  What if we are totally ignorant to the truth’s of life?  What if there is mystery out there that we can’t fathom?

Cynics bash God.  The religious claim to know Him.  What if both are totally wrong?

Can we take the risk to get off the island and see what is out there?  It could be worse.  It could be better.  It could be a mystery.

Colossians 2:1-3 (NIV)

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

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