Off “Message” – Biblical principles and social media – Eugene Petersen test case

Many are aware that about a week ago Eugene Petersen was “put on the spot” by the question of whether he would perform a same sex marriage.  Eugene answered in the affirmative and thus ensued 24 hours of social media backlash against this oft revered pastor.  So, as is so often the case these days with politicians, reporters, entertainment or sports figures, Eugene walked back his comments saying “on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that”.  The fact that Eugene “saw the error of his ways” garners little respect from me since it took an almost overwhelming flood of reaction to cause his eyes to be open to what is already clearly pronounced in “The Message” (with full double meaning!)

This, unfortunately, is just another example of how social pressure is dictating church policy and practice in a modern world controlled by the click of a mouse or the posting of a poignant mem.  The church is losing respect and participants in droves today and it’s not for the reasons one might think.  Society is not impressed when Christians “get on the right side of history” by acquiescing to rapidly changing social practices any more then ISIS is impressed with efforts to appease their message of hate.  Giving in like this makes us (the church) look like spineless milquetoast minions with no guiding principles – and who wants to be a part of that?

I believe principled people who practice their beliefs with grace and kindness will be the ones looked to for guidance and wisdom for the seismic challenges in the years to come as well as being pleasing to the Lord  – if that even matters anymore!

https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/eugene-petersen-affirms-traditional-marriage/

If you aim at nothing that’s what you’ll get – Nothing!

There is a famous quote from John Lydgate which says “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.  There is a serious problem in trying to please more and more people more of the time.  The value or significance of the pleasing “thing” is continually diminished in substance and scope.  It’s like trying to find a drink that everyone will enjoy.  You might love soda, tea, coffee or a nice glass of wine.  But you will not find a consensus with everybody so you start diluting the offering more and more until you have nothing left but water and you still won’t make everybody happy.

It was announced last week that Target will change the toy and bedding department in their stores to be “gender neutral”.  If they had done this with no fanfare we would probably never be the wiser.  But they didn’t!  They made the point they are no longer going to label toys or isles as being for boys or girls, effectively choosing gender neutrality.  This marketing plan appears to cater to those who, although being only a small fraction of a percentage of the population, are militant, loud and influential and who identify as gender neutral.

What about the other 99+% of the population who still identify as male or female.  Have we become merely “chopped liver” in the presence of right side of history activism and politically correct mantras?  A full 22% of our population identifies as Catholic.  Would Target ever stop selling contraceptives to cater to this less loud or less militantly active group?  Of course not!

I received my annual Consumer Reports survey this week.  It was interesting to find out they too have blurred their aim when addressing gender and social statuses.  At the beginning of the survey I could choose male, female or other.  Later on in the survey when asking who drove the 2nd car, I was only offered “significant other” instead of spouse.  Really, my wife of 34 years was reduced to nothing more than “other” status.

For the record, I don’t plan to boycott Consumer Reports or Target at this point.  The fact is I’m hedging my bets because, in the not too distant future as our entire society goes down this road, our idealism expressed through boycotts will leave us starving and with no place to shop.  We must understand these actions are the result of a mental disease which is at near epidemic levels today.  I call this disease nothingness.  And it produces just that in those infected by it – nothing.  Nothing to stand for, nothing to do with religion, nothing to value, nothing to fight for and most importantly nothing in anyway related to a Creator God.

One of my favorite movie lines come from the Patriot when Mel Gibson and his younger sons are going to rescue his oldest son from an unjust arrest and execution.  They are hiding behind a log above the road where the soldiers are coming and he ask his sons “what did I teach you about shooting”?  His boys reply “aim small, miss small”.  The full clip is below and if you would rather not watch the bloody part you should stop at the 2:00 mark.

Aim small, miss small!  How profound that line.  How effective purposeful targeting like that can be.  They were after something valuable.  Their father and their lives had prepared them to handle this moment.  And because they held their ground, fought hard, took intentional and careful “aim” they succeeded in their goal.

But to look at the US and the world is to watch an increasing percentage of the population headed into the void of nothingness.  Male, female doesn’t matter, husband and wife doesn’t matter, religion is seen as harmful and judgmental and to have strong opinions or convictions is viewed as anti-social and hateful.  But no matter how hard they try and improve the world by diluting humanity down in gender, social and religious identities they will, in the process, loose everything and be left, in the end, with nothing.

As Christians, we have something to offer.  But all too often we make the mistake of cramming instead of offering.  I love the quote which is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words when necessary”.  What we have to offer is in no way neutral or nothingness.  It is in fact polarizing, challenging and confrontive.  It doesn’t look like Joel Osteen with his I’m ok, you’re ok and everybody’s ok milquetoast “Koolaid”.  Nor does it look like hateful Westboro’s, “convert or die” congregants.  But somewhere in the middle, guided by the loving and convicting power of the Holy Spirit is the heart of God crying out for holiness, a laying down of one’s life in servanthood and a returning to the rock of our salvation – Jesus, who considered Himself as nothing so we could be, eternally, something.

What’s in a headline?

I am no tabloid reader, in fact I loathe them.  Love child this, the other woman that, mutant baby this etc. etc.  One is often challenged to ask the question, “who makes this stuff up”?  Yes I know there is horrible and weird stuff that goes on but I have always chalked most of this up to fringe, one off exceptions to the norm.

But the song “the times they are a changin” came quickly to mind a couple of days ago when scanning the top headlines of the day as I do each morning to try and keep up with the pulse of what is going on in the world.

The top stories that morning started with the bachelorette reality star explaining the reason she had sex so early on in the show was “because that’s how I felt in the moment”, followed by the news flash revelation that Bruce Jenner would soon be on the cover of Vanity Fair in the role of his/her new personality as a woman???  Next was a story about a UN “peace” keeping force in Africa trading food for sexual favors from children right next to a story about former speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert, likely facing charges for lying to the FBI as to the reason for withdrawing almost 3.5 million dollars.  Turns out it was hush money paid to a youthful male victim of his sexual advances while Hastert was a wrestling coach many years earlier.  Next it was announced that Barnard’s Women’s college will be voting next week on the issue of admitting male transgender students.  With quotes like “History is moving very quickly on this issue”, “We really want to do the right thing, We just have to figure out what the right thing is”, “these issues are changing the game” and “WE DON’T WANT TO BE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY” it’s clear even they are confused and in fear of the political pressure brought by those who fight so militantly for these fringe issues.  The final headline “Father and adopted son dissolve adoption in order to marry” was the tipping point to prompt this blog.

Those lines from Dylan’s song written in 1964 come rushing back in now 50 years later as being just as true today as they were then, perhaps on a grander and more fringe scale.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

I have no intention of trying to send some correction to secular society.  But what & where is the church’s responsibility to the inevitable moral slide of society.  And just to be clear, unless God changes His mind – which He of course can do, this moral slide is not only inevitable but clearly prophesied to happen in the last days.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

And back to discuss the church’s role in all this is very challenging.  We must pray, seek and embrace holiness and be prepared with the Gospel.  Those 3 things seem rather obvious but I suspect are less practiced than promoted.  It is imperative for our own salvation and the salvation of many that we not allow the “little foxes” of life to distract, water down or discredit the witness of Christ in our lives and in the church.

I have no interest in “being on the right side of history”!  I pray my goal is to be at God’s right hand, running the race, anchored firmly in His laws of justice and grace and not caving to the pressures of the declining secular society who are going to hate us either way.  Lest we forget, just 100 years ago divorce was very rare in Christian society, 50 years ago being a virgin was still a virtue instead of the exception and 25 years ago to have a homosexual pastor was unheard of.  Even still some might dismiss this exhortation saying “the church won’t go down that road”.  But the truth is instead of being united leaders away from this moral decline, many churches are already down that road, albeit some miles back, of societies steady decent.

So I choose to cling to the unchanging God, creator, savior and my friend – for to bow to social pressure and change is to deny the work of Christ on the cross – and I just can’t go there.

Rules be damned?

Having lived just a couple hundred yards from the River Parks for over 30 years has brought with it many benefits not the least of which is enjoying countless bike rides there.  There have been regular improvements to the trails over the years from dirt paths, to gravel trails, to paving and now separate lanes for walkers and bikers.  This most recent improvement of separate lanes has been a huge plus as traffic has increased over the years.  It has also brought with it frustration and perhaps my biggest pet peeve in life (right behind those who come to a complete stop in merge lanes instead of speeding up to actually merge).

On a bike ride earlier this week I came across 3 people walking shoulder to shoulder across the entire bike side of the trail totally blocking all bicyclists.  As I went off the trail to pass I politely mentioned they might consider moving to the walking side instead of being on the bike side.  For the record, this was just the most recent of literally hundreds of such encounters.  That particular group was polite in their response and moved to the walking path.  Just as common has been those with snide remarks like “#@** who died and made you king/boss/god/etc.”.  After crossing to the other side of the river I came upon a lady who had set up her lawn chair covering half of the bike side and her son was playing in front of her with their dog on one of those extendable leashes which had much more than the entire bike side blocked.  As I slowly passed mentioning they might move to the other side the mom retorted “sorry, my son wasn’t paying attention”.  Truth be told, her son was paying attention to how her mom was “breaking the rules” and he was, understandably, simply doing likewise.

shoulder

Yes, circumstances like these are frustrating to me, but I truly don’t lose sleep over them.  But as I have witnessed these “rule breakers” over the years I have come to the realization that many of us, including myself at times, are guilty of similar actions and attitudes in the church.  A friend posted an article earlier this week on facebook in which the writer’s point was that we need to mind our own business in the church citing the rebuke of looking at the speck in the other person’s eye and the need, instead, to get the beam out of your own eye.  I totally agree that we must first and always be aware of our own weaknesses and watch out for sin in my life.  This philosophy/theology is quickly becoming the prevalent school of thought when it comes to accountability and confronting within the church – MYOB!

We are most certainly not to judge, that lofty role is the sole realm of God and His alone.  But here is where I believe we are shooting ourselves in the foot, check that, in the heart when it comes to accountability and discipleship within the church.  The point of that verse in Luke 6:42 is exhorting us to be careful and humble regarding holiness in our own lives first in order to then “see clearly to remove the piece of sawdust from another believer’s eye”.

head stand

It is only recently that the PC mantra of MYOB has garnered traction in the church.  Historically this has not only never been the case, it is simply not scriptural.  In fact, our charge to speak to/confront/challenge (insert whatever word works for you), an errant brother or sister goes so far in more than a couple of places to hold us responsible for their death if we do not confront sin – Ez. 3:16 is one example.  And by the way, I embrace the same general list of sins listed in scripture and identified by the church for the better part of 1950 years, not the abridged list found to be more popular today in many churches.

So back to the River Trails, why make two paths with the designation of one being walking and one being for bikes.  Just for fun?  To be mean and controlling?  Just because they can?  No, but because after decades of experience they realized how many accidents could be prevented by having separate paths.  I can attest to this having been a significant problem historically.  Take the lady in the lawn chair and her son and dog.  Had that been a group of much faster road bike riders coming over the rise and not having enough time to stop or dive off into the grass it could have been disastrous for all involved.  Rules are there to help us, protect us and in the case of biblical rules, to save us from hell.  God knows that sin hurts us, damages us and separates us from Himself, so in His gracious goodness he gave us laws to live by to save us from damnation.  Damning “the rules” hurts us, perhaps others and ultimately brings it back on ourselves.

wrongway1wrongway2

Dog whistles and the emperor’s new clothes

In honor of a great servant of God, Lance Lambert (who completed his race this week), I recall his take on prophecy & prophets.  I remember it like it was yesterday, although probably 1978 at the Finish School in Jerusalem, – “prophecy & prophets (with those distinguished rolled r’s) are not that big of a deal, a jackass did it once and a lot of them have done it since”.

A new survey came out this week that puts those identifying themselves as agnostic or atheist at a greater percentage than Catholics for the first time in US history.  The same survey indicated Protestants at below 50% for the first time in the US at just over 46%.  Those identifying as atheist or agnostic have almost doubled over the same 7 years.

All of this downturn in the percentage of Christians in America has occurred in spite of the fact the church is increasing its efforts to soft sell the Gospel and the doctrine of sin combined with an increasing acceptance (or ignoring) of practices that deviate from scripture.  This is occurring within the very walls of the church and includes divorce, fornication, co-habitation, immodest dress, gossip and homosexuality.

If you have ever watch MMA or boxing, once an opponent starts to show signs of weakness there is an almost immediate flurry of kicks and punches to try and take advantage of the “weak” one.  And of course once someone starts to show signs of weakness, the crowd turns and starts cheering for the “stronger” one because no one likes a looser.  I suggest this is exactly what is occurring in the church.  In the battle of the heavenlies, the church is not the weak one, but we act like it inviting the world to pounce.

In spite of what may seem trending today, the world does not actually appreciate milquetoast assimilation.  All you have to do is to watch the enormous gains radical Islam has made in the past couple of decades since they have been able to export their hard line Sharia influence.  Both “weak” and “strong” find the unwavering conviction of Islam as admirable and desirous to be a part of even, if misguided and ruthless.  And for the doubters out there, the same Pew survey that had Christianity down almost 8% over the past 7 years also had the percentage of those identifying with Islam more than double in the same time period.  Additionally, conservative evangelical churches saw almost no decline in identification while almost all the down turn came in mainstream protestant and Catholic churches – in other words, those churches making the biggest moves away from holding “harder” lines of scripture.

Do I suggest the church will surge in attendance if we return to our roots of holiness and a conservative doctrine of sin?  No, not so much!  I believe, as scripture indicates will happen, the time is perhaps fast approaching when “they will hand you over to those who will torture and kill you.  All nations will hate you because you are committed to me.  Then many will lose faith. They will betray and hate each other.  Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  And because there will be more and more lawlessness, most people’s love will grow cold.  But the person who endures to the end will be saved – Matt. 24:9-13.

Jesus’ own prophetic words give a foretelling picture not too dissimilar to what we see today.  Just take modesty as one very “in your face” example.  Scripture does not speak in detail about modesty very much.  But we can glean some idea of God’s idea of modesty when He prescribes the dress for those who minister before the Lord.  In addition to floor length multi layered robes, they were to wear what would best be describe as pajama bottoms underneath the robes to prevent the chance of any overexposure when they are climbing the stairs to the altar.  These are God’s standards, not ones I came up with.  But you can see almost anything in church today to include on the platform in those “ministering before the Lord”.  What was once considered sexy is embraced today as the new “cute” to include shorter, lower and tighter form fitting outfits worn by both men and women.  Thus the reference of the emperor’s new clothes as the latest pop culture styles are all too quickly embraced among Christians while ignoring what may well be immodest in God’s eyes.

“Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! Luke 17:1

So was Bath Sheba to blame for bathing naked on the rooftop or David for being out there scanning the rooftops instead of on the battle front with his men.  Both!!!  Women cannot blame men for looking as higher, tighter and “cuter” is designed to get them to do just that and men cannot use that for an excuse and we have Job as our example who because he had “made a covenant (before God) with his eyes made the choice not to gaze (at length) at women”.

Most of the points I make here can be found in part in other blogs I have penned.  I tend to be pretty stubborn in my views and how I express them, perhaps much like that stubborn mule of Balham.  But like a dog whistle, I get the feeling only a few hear it as valid preferring rather to be on the “right side of history”.  I am enough of a student of biblical history to keep putting my blog out there even if to many it only sounds like the braying of a donkey.

Open season on Christians, just Christians!

This will be short and to the point.  We have a reprised uproar over Christians being allowed to be consistent with their strongly held religious convictions in the work place in addition to their personal lives.  Indiana’s new law being call a restoration of religious freedom has garnered a huge outcry because it is being construed as allowing Christians to discriminate against gay couples in their baking, bed & breakfast lodging or photography businesses.  And yes the law should protect those religious convictions.

Why no one is answering these critics with questions like “should a Muslim catering business be allowed to decline the business of a church who wants them cater an Easter picnic spread with ham as the main course”?  A devout Muslim would have an equally “strongly held religious conviction” against preparing, serving or eating ham.  Or should the Jewish deli be able to decline an order of crab cake sandwiches for a business’s conference luncheon?  Jews would be likely to have a similar conviction against preparing or serving shell-fish.  Or should the Amish farm restaurant be able to refuse proving video or canned music along with the whole house dinner reservation for some corporate outing because of their convictions against using electricity.  The list of parallels could go on endlessly.  Places of business “discriminate” every day in America with “no shirt, no shoes – no service”, “no smoking”, “no firearms”, “heads and/or arms and legs must be covered to enter”, “coat and tie required for service”, “no bare feet allowed”, “must remove sunglasses & hats” (sorry Bono), etc.  The list goes on and on.

So don’t let anybody try and fool you that this whole outcry is not singly and totally about forcing Christians, and only Christians, to assimilate and cave under pressure from today’s secular progressive society.

Convert or Die – In Reverse

My title may sound like a follow-up to my last blog about the 21 Christian brothers who were beheaded in Libya this past weekend and in a weird twisted way it may.  But no, this is about a 5th column within the church itself which is growing ever stronger advocating the church “get on the right side of history” or become irrelevant and die.

From what were we saved and redeemed?  This may sound like a rhetorical question.  Light was shown on the sin of man by the giving of the laws of God.  This was done in order for him to realize his need for God and the need to be cleansed from the curse of sin.  It’s not like sin is simply some bad habit we should eventually be rid of, but more like some agent of death we must be rescued from lest we be destroyed in hell.

Wow, that last line makes it sound like there is some Holy God out there who will cast us into outer darkness unless we convert to His way of thinking.  Yea, pretty much.  But unless you come to the realization He loved us so much He sacrificed His only Son in order to make it possible for that to not happen, it can be made to sound really intolerant and judgmental.

In 2011, Rob Bell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.  Just a few of years earlier he was named one of the 10 most influential Christian leaders by The Church Report.  For some time Rob has been leaning heavily towards the universalism tenant that there is no eternal physical punishment (i.e. hell) and more recently he has fully embraced same sex marriage.

I am only somewhat familiar with Rob Bell, but there are millions who hang on his words.  So when he says ‘the Church will “continue to be even more irrelevant” if it continues to cite the Bible’s prohibitions on homosexual behavior’ referring to the Bible as some “letters from 2000 years ago”.  I guess there are a goodly number of people who stand up and take notice, especially when he says it shoulder to shoulder with the Big O herself (Oprah).

And here is where it really gets twisted.  In referring to the church’s battle against same sex marriage his wife states that “there are churches who are moving forward and there are churches who are almost regressing and making it more of a battle”.  Rob followed with “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. … You sort of die or you adapt … we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

So, brothers and sisters, 2000 years after “those letters” were written to encourage us to repent of our destructive sinful ways, follow Christ and be saved from eternal punishment, it is now we the church who, Rob Bell claims, must repent of our commitment to that holy living and revert back to a time before those thousands of years when living sinful lives was vogue ——- or die.  In other words, what was considered destructive and sinful living for 2000 years has all of a sudden become not sin and any commitment advocating the avoidance of sinful living has been turned on its head and has now become the destructive thing?

And it’s not just from former “old letter” believers where this is coming.  Just this week a judge in New Jersey declared any counseling for, even requested, conversion therapy to be fraudulent and prosecutable.

So, after what did happen with the 21 CHRISTIANS in Libya this past weekend, you thought your commitment to Christ mite at the worst put the choice before you to convert to Islam or die with the name of Jesus on your lips.  No, brothers and sisters, it’s much, much worse than that.  In order to “get along” in this generation, you will have to deny over 2 thousand years of church history, deny those faded “silly” letters, deny the testimony of the saints, deny your own experience with God and even deny the purposeful sacrifice of Christ.  Or become irrelevant and die.