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The Hypothetical is Now a Reality: Are We Ready?

The Hypothetical is Now a Reality: Are We Ready?

October 14, 2014.

Will that be a date that is remembered and taught to future generations? It very well may be for evangelical, Bible-believing and practicing Christians. On this date the mayor of Houston, Texas (that’s right, Houston…not New York, D.C., San Francisco, or L.A. but Bible belt, home of thousands of churches…Houston) ordered pastors of that city to turn in “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” ‘HERO’ is Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance and has provided an ambitious mayor and city council a bully pulpit of intimidation and discrimination against people who disagree with either the ordinance’s content or implications (i.e. religious conservatives).

This kind of event has been discussed by evangelical Christians with much more frequency over the past few years, as the homosexual agenda and the push for same-sex marriage has made incredible strides of acceptance in general society. Some evangelicals predicted this very thing as they told us ‘the sky was falling,’ and it was a sign of God’s judgment on our nation. They got their prediction right, but the sky is never falling if Jesus is still on the throne. The other side of the spectrum told us not to worry. Nothing would come from the aggressive pushing of the homosexual agenda. Marriage would not be redefined, and even if it were, it would not affect Christian churches and ministers. While optimistic, this position was wrong, as well, and seemed to drastically minimize the potential of fallen man.

The title’s question of ‘are we ready?’ is not a question of are we ready to mount protests, legal challenges, petitions, and the like to stand up for biblical principles, rights of conscience, and our First Amendment rights. All of those actions may be done and may need to be done, and I am grateful to God for organizations that help with those types of things (ADF, Becket Foundation, CLS, etc.). But the question of ‘are we ready’ actually is much deeper and more foundational than outward actions. Are we ready to stand firm on what the Bible says about this issue (and all issues) now that we know, without a shadow of a doubt, what is the endgame is for those who disagree with us? Are we ready and willing to not only take a stand but to take the consequences as well? Are we ready to stand on God’s Word, not because we have a First Amendment that allows it (which we absolutely and emphatically do) but because it is the right thing to do regardless of our geographic location? Are we ready to follow what the Scripture teaches in both our beliefs and in how we communicate them? It would be incredibly easy at this point to see the leaders of Houston, those trying to redefine marriage, and those who seem to be flaunting their sexual rebellion as enemies, and design our efforts in that way. But this is not the case, and it would be wrong for us to make decisions in this way.

Here are few reminders as we go forward:

  • Houston is the first domino to fall. In the name of political correctness, this trend will continue and probably intensify.
  • We may not know everything that needs to be done, but we certainly know what cannot be done, and that is abandoning the authority of Scripture. Compromise will not earn us a better seat at the table but will prove us faithless and fearful.
  • Stop being surprised. The writing has been on the wall since Genesis 3. The Gospel is not about making good people better or nice people nicer. It is about reconciling enemies and giving dead people life.
  • God is sovereign and in control. He was not surprised, frustrated, or shaken in the least by the decision of the Houston mayor.
  • The answer is still the Gospel.
  • In an act of gratitude to both God and those who have gone before us, we have every responsibility to take full advantage and use of all the means provided us by being citizens of the U.S. We are protected by the First Amendment; we can ask for a hearing; and we can try to effect change through the ballot box, legislation and people recognizing government as a legitimate vocation.
  • Civil disobedience may be the right and unavoidable course of action for some. I believe this is to be done as a last resort and never in a way that dishonors the name of Christ but follows the godly example of the apostles in the book of Acts.
Book Review: Crazy Busy

Book Review: Crazy Busy

I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I struggle with time. I don’t always use it wisely. I often feel like I need to be doing more, and I am terrible about trying to fit too many things into my schedule.

I also have found that a lot of time management and organization books are truly unhelpful. They are written by ‘uber-organized’ people, and I leave them with an overwhelming amount of time management tips and tricks.

That’s why Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung is so refreshingly different. It’s not a ‘how-to’ book but a ‘why’ book. DeYoung’s intention is not to help us get organized, so we can be as effective as possible every minute of the day. Rather, he takes us on a practical journey of self-examination to learn why we are so busy, and even more importantly, why we want to be so busy in the first place.

DeYoung correctly surmises that the problem is not simply cultural for the times we live in but, rather, a product of our own sin. We are too busy because we want to be too busy even if we don’t realize it. DeYoung exposes that our own pride is often the reason we have such frazzled, unmanaged, and stressful schedules. This is important for us to know because it moves the issue from being a schedule problem to a ‘me’ problem…a much harder fix.

In a brief tour of the book, DeYoung leads us to begin our examination with our own hearts and then moves to dealing with the expectations of others, setting Biblical priorities, evaluating how we raise children, and tackling our ‘addictions’ to our personal technology. In one of the closing chapters he offers a very helpful and needed balance to understanding our crazy schedules. We are too busy, most of us anyway, but the remedy to that is not to become lazy and selfish. Rather, we must learn that we will be busy and strive to become a better kind of busy – a busy for the right reasons.

Crazy Busy is a short book (only about 120 pages) and an easy read with endorsements from the likes of Rick Warren, Trip Lee, Marvin Olasky, Shai Linne, and Al Mohler. One of the greatest benefits of this book is not only its helpfulness in examining our busyness but also the practical advice it offers for marriage, parenting, and work.

Take some time out of your normal busy schedule and read this book. You might find that you don’t have to be “Crazy Busy.”

Wait No More

Wait No More

I have recently begun to figure something out about myself. Usually that is good thing but not so much this time.

I have learned that I have a really good theology of the Bible. I believe it is inerrant, inspired, sufficient, and true. I believe it is God’s Word from creation of this world to the creation of the next. I also have learned that I might not have as good of a theology of obedience.

I have been thinking about this more and more the last couple of months in preparation for the ‘Wait No More’ conference that was at Crossings Church, in Oklahoma City, Oct. 26. This conference was sponsored by Focus on the Family and had as its goal to find homes for the more than 300 children in DHS custody who are currently adoptable and without families.

While both domestic and international adoption is gaining popularity within the church, the adoption of older kids, often with incredible histories of abuse is still a glaring need.

Who better to meet this need than the Church of Jesus Christ? More than 300 kids who need a mother and father, who need love, who need to experience what the rest of us experience every day and often take for granted. This is not easy. It is hard work, very hard work.

The call of Christians to adopt is rooted in the fact that we were all adopted by our Heavenly Father. And redemption was hard work for Christ. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that ‘for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross…’ That was hard work.

Things that are important to God should be important to us as well. The scriptures are full of evidence that adoption and orphans are important to God. Maybe the most well-known is James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

This is God’s heart for the orphan. One of the questions that was asked at the conference was “If not you, then who, and if not now, then when?” How would we as individual believers answer those questions? How would our churches?

Proverbs 24:10-12 offers an interesting perspective for us to consider. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”

What an opportunity for Christians and churches to demonstrate the gospel by providing ‘forever families’ to over 300 children who are in such a need for the most basic and important relationships.

What role will you and your church play in helping them ‘wait no more?’

Finally…The Heart of the Abortion Debate is Made Clear

Finally…The Heart of the Abortion Debate is Made Clear

It has been an interesting few weeks surrounding the Texas legislature. The Texas House of Representatives passed a sweeping anti-abortion law several weeks ago only to see it fail to move forward because of a highly publicized Senate filibuster and the end of the legislative session. Thankfully, pro-life governor Rick Perry brought the legislature back for a special session that allowed a pro-life bill to once again be given a chance to advance. The pro-life bill has currently passed through the House and its fate once again depends on the Texas Senate.

 As would be expected, supporters and opponents of the bill descended to the Texas state capitol in droves expressing their opinions about the issue in a variety of ways. The manner in which these opinions and arguments were made, however, was drastically different. The issue is one that understandably generates intense passion on both sides but how arguments are made and the content of the arguments are telling.

Pro-lifers from around the country came to Texas and protested and rallied in Austin and I am sure that not all that was said and done by pro-lifers was above board. It is interesting, however, to reflect on behavior that is documented. As pro-choice advocates filled the legislature, legislators, on-lookers, and others were greeted with chants of “Hail Satan.” Interesting. The pro-life advocates responded by singing “Amazing Grace.” Later, during a rally to support the bill that was attended by thousands of pro-life supporters including many churches and Christians, bill opponents decided that a useful response chant would be “—- the church.” Telling.

The pro-life argument, while not uniform by any stretch, usually comes together in agreement in that we believe in the dignity of all human life from conception and that all humanity has the right to this life even and especially those who do not have the voice to speak for it. We are absolutely for the freedom to make individual choices but we also believe those choices have consequences and we are to live with the consequences of the choices we make. We would also strongly hold that our freedom of choice is not more important than the freedom of others including the unborn. We believe that abortion unequivocally harms the unborn, but that it is not good for the women who choose this (and especially not for those women in the womb).

Normally, we hear from the pro-abortion side that it is all about women’s rights and a woman’s ability to make decisions regarding her body without the intrusion of government. But recently on a website called Burnt Orange Report (a progressive Texas politics blog) I came across a little more honest assessment of the pro-abortion position. The author of the blog post, Ben Sherman, is adamantly against the House bill and instead argues for what he calls ‘Bro-choice.’ ‘Bro-choice’ is Sherman’s plea for men to be against the bill and by extension staunchly pro-abortion, not for the rights of women, but rather for the inconveniences a pro-life bill would cause to men if the option of abortion was taken off the table. Sherman outlines four primary reasons he believes the bill is a bad one including that it would cause a dangerous black market abortion industry, men would lose their freedom to make sexual decisions, and individuals would lose the freedom to determine when they choose to have kids. These three arguments are foolish enough in their own right but it is Sherman’s fourth reason that is unbelievable to sensible people. He writes,

Your sex life is at stake. Can you think of anything that kills the vibe faster than a woman fearing a back-alley abortion? Making abortion essentially inaccessible in Texas will add an anxiety to sex that will drastically undercut its joys. And don’t be surprised if casual sex outside of relationships becomes far more difficult to come by.”

Classy, but refreshingly honest. Sherman expresses much of the heart of the pro-abortion argument: self-interest.  It is the desire to live free lives without consequence or inconvenience.

As believers there are a couple of things to learn from this. First, it is so clear by their chants and the attitudes demonstrated that this is an intensely spiritual battle. This is bigger than pro-life and pro-abortion. Secondly, we need to be thankful for the step that has been taken in Texas. This is a good law. No abortions after 20 weeks and holding abortion clinics to surgical standards.

We should be praying that bills like this would be passed in every state…but we should be ready for classy chants and selfish arguments from the open-minded pro-aborts.

Heading Back to Egypt: The Seduction of Evangelical Capitulation

Heading Back to Egypt: The Seduction of Evangelical Capitulation

No one wants to be left out. Everyone likes a winner and everyone loves to be a winner. To be on the right side of a massive culture shift is very enticing even to those who should be leery of these cultural phenomenon’s. This is exactly what we are seeing to take place before our very eyes. The past two months have not been especially encouraging to evangelical conservatives standing on the truth of the scripture in regards to the marriage issue. The first major assault began with the Boy Scouts and their decision that seems to not only allow homosexual members but will assuredly open the door for homosexual leaders in the near future. The Supreme Court, led by justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, struck down key components of DOMA and opened the door of precedent for not only gay marriage but possible serious repercussion for those who oppose this definition of what marriage actually is. As the dominoes continued to fall, Exodus International, a leading ministry offering healing and change from homosexual practice and lifestyle suddenly closed their doors with a shocking announcement and apology for all the damage they had caused over the past 30 years. What was the damage? Appealing to the Gospel as a change agent for all sin including homosexuality.

Unfortunately, this seems to be more and more of a common practice. Popular culture’s capitulation on this issue was a given. Following that, it was not difficult to predict that our politicians and government leaders would follow suit. The court has now weighed in and the line in the sand has been drawn. The only question that remains is what will the church do? Here are some ideas of what we can do…

  1. Remember, the light shines brightest in darkness. As the culture gets darker, the more faithful we live the more we will stand out.
  2. Hateful and fearful language does not represent Christ well. We do not hate homosexuals and we are not afraid of them. We are to love them and seek to minister to them with the power of the Gospel.
  3. Capitulation (lowering the biblical standard) does not solve anything. Living a life that truly loves people, even those we disagree with, will have more influence that walking away from our convictions and God’s Word.
  4. God is sovereign and powerful and is not on the run from the Boy Scouts, the Supreme Court, or Exodus International. We shouldn’t be either.
  5. We are all missionaries. All of us. This means taking the Gospel to difficult and dark places is normal and expected.
  6. The Gospel is the road to freedom in Christ. Capitulation is the road that allows people back to the bondage that sin always employs.

What will the church do?