A recent article in the Layman (http://www.layman.org/covenant-network-bisexuality-basics-honoring-the-bi-in-pres-bi-terian/) has prompted this new blog post. We are all acquainted with the computer based spell check programs that, on occasion, change the word we spell to something else. I recently received a note where the word “seem” came across as “Sean.” Quite likely the author typed something like “sem” and the auto check corrected it to what it thought the author intended. In this case one would have to force the spelling of “Presbyterian” to “Pres-bi-terian.”
In the run up to elections we are often confronted with someone who wants to “fact check” the information being put out by their opponent and inevitably they are able to see their way to a completely different set of facts. And so it goes with the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer) element of the PC(USA).
In the Layman article linked above Rev. Layton E. Williams (self identifying as a “bisexual/queer feminist” http://reverendfem.com/about/) plumbs the depth of perversion and “queer spirituality” embraced by so many today in the Presbyterian Church (USA). It seems to almost approach the abomination that causes desolation referenced in Matthew 24:15 as occurring in Daniel 12:11.
There are so many references to sexual perversion in the Bible that one wonders how one can read the texts so differently.
Romans 1:18-32 is, perhaps, the most explicit. Those refuting as normative, a heterosexual monogamous sexuality often refer to this as “the clobber text.”
“18For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
On the fact-checking side of things, Layton’s comments hardly stand the test of Biblical truth.
But it was the spell-check side that really got to me. Layton uses “Pres-bi-terian” in her workshop title, specifically “Bisexuality Basics: Honoring the ‘Bi’ in Pres-Bi-Terian.” The first thing that came to mind was why not “Perverse-terian” or “Perver-terian?” If we are going to change the spelling why not honor both the deceitful aspect and the spelling aspect and at least be honest about what we are doing. But then I remembered that honesty in this post Christian context is relative – that is, that honesty is viewed as whatever advances the individual’s own personal desires and interests.
And so many are asking why I stay in the Presbyterian Church (USA). While I admit it is getting more and more difficult to do so, I still believe that there is a prophetic role to play – to call out the unbelievers, those who pervert true justice/God’s justice – that those who “not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” will be subject to the justice of God which establishes God’s righteous decree that “those who do such deserve death.” Now I am not advocating that we as the church take that into our hands, just that we recognize what God’s righteous decrees declares on such matters. And we know that true justice (not our perverted human interpretation of that) will eventually come. Certainly God’s grace wins the day but that is for those who have been called according to his purpose and a perverted sexual ethic is NOT according to his purpose.
And so I stay and say, “Repent!” “Turn!” In the spirit of Mark 1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
I imagine the day may come when the “big tent” in which I pastor and preach will find it’s not big enough to encompass those such as I, but until such time and even afterward I will declare to those so lost in the cultural abyss of perverted sexuality – Repent!
For those in the Presbyterian Church (USA) seeking a way out and for those seeking to minister effectively within the denomination I suggest checking out: http://www.oneby1.org/.
Contemplating a comeback!
I will stay active on FB with some folks but will be letting this blog go the way of others…
A letter mailed to the congregation we currently serve…
August 6, 2014
Dear Beloved in Christ,
It is with mixed feelings of joy and sadness that I write to inform you that I have accepted a call to a church in North Carolina. I realize that I leave behind friends, family, unfinished work and unresolved tensions. But having given this situation much prayerful thought, Carol and I are in agreement that the time has come.
We leave a church that has grown in its commitment, in its financial health and in its desire to live a life of faith. We have laughed, we have prayed, we have studied and we have grown together. You took us in as we returned from overseas mission and helped us to find a home in a country we hardly understood. For that we are truly thankful.
We go to a church that will allow us to advance an already successful ministry and just as importantly to be close to Carol’s parents. We have never lived closer than six hours away and much of that has been oversees. As they age we want to be able to be close and to help provide the care they need. This position allows us the best of both worlds.
We know that there will be some concerns and to that end we invite you to a time of fellowship following the worship service on August 17th. We’ll meet downstairs and discuss the future of FPC and the Halleads. I’ll do my best to help you understand what lies ahead and answer any and all questions you may have.
I respectfully ask that you keep the Halleads and FPC in your prayers during this time of transition. We anticipate September 7th being our last Sunday with you. It should be assumed that the Session will call for a congregational meeting on August 31st. In the interim, I will try to make myself available to anyone who wishes to meet to discuss this move.
In gratitude for the years of service together,
Some words you may be familiar with…
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…
…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. (U. S. Constitution)
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure…
…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Gettysburg Address)
And one I received just this week
…There is a great decision that every denomination has to make sometime in the development of its history. Every church also has to make it either at its beginning or a little later—usually a little later. Eventually every board is faced with the decision and has to keep making it, not by one great decision made once for all, but by a series of little decisions adding up to one great big one. Every pastor has to face it and keep renewing his decision on his knees before God. Finally, every church member, every evangelist, every Christian has to make this decision. It is a matter of judgment upon that denomination, that church, that board, that pastor, that leader and upon their descendants and spiritual children.
The question is this: Shall we modify the truth in doctrine or practice to gain more adherents? Or shall we preserve the truth in doctrine and practice and take the consequences? (A.W.Tozer)
Great proclamations of people who cared more for righteousness that friendliness, more for holiness than for peace, more for sacrifice than for popularity…
Today’s passage talks about not the implications of independence from England, not about the importance of Federal control over the state governments’ decisions on matters of great significance, but about the decisions you and I make today, decisions which each of our spiritual ancestors have had to make, decisions which members, pastors, boards, and denominations must make to ensure that the Son of God who is the Truth and the Word of God which is the truth is never compromised for the sake of ease, friendliness, or numerical strength but that the Light of Truth forever brightens the darkest recesses of sin in which we constantly find ourselves.
This congregation, your pastor, your Session, your denomination is embroiled in a great controversy between social expediency and Biblical truthfulness, between social justice and God’s righteousness, between social relevance and eternal salvation. In short we are in a battle for the very soul of the church and each and every one of us will need to decide for ourselves and with one another the direction we should go – to speak the truth in love, in our anger not to sin, and to seek faithfulness above success.
The truth is the world needs born again, dedicated, fanatical, Christians who refuse to compromise on the Word of God, for there is no other word, no other name, and no other means by which men can be saved.
Jesus uses the parable of one who has planted poisonous seed in another man’s field, Bearded Darnel a wheat look-a-like which entangles its roots and grows up almost identical to wheat. Its seeds though are black. Its seeds are poisonous. Its seeds can cause dizziness, vomiting and even death. It still appears in wheat fields today but is sorted through by more expedient methods of sieving and fanning.
Jesus explains the parable. The seed is the Word of God, that which you can hold in your hand today. The very Word of God. Not a word from God. Not a human word in which you might someday find a word from God. But THE Word of God wrote. The One who sowed the good seed is Jesus. This is His word, the Living Word of God. Jesus is also the one who will judge in the ends times as to whether those in the world, the harvest, you, me and every single person who has ever lived, even the embryo’s we cast off for convenience, will be judged to be wheat or tares. Jesus doesn’t pray that we, the wheat, the members of the Kingdom be taken out or saved from the world but that we exist alongside the Bearded Darnel. Wonder why there is such evil in the world, because according to the word of the Lord, it’s a part of his plan. Oh there will be a harvest and there is a place where the black and poisonous seeds and the tares will be burned. And a place where the righteous will shine like the sun! Hallelujah.
The news headlines bring little in the way of relief…
Hearts are hardened:
Christians in Mosul, Iraq, have been told that they must leave, convert to Islam or accept dhimmitude (that is to be subject to Islamic rule), or die. A communique from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) gave Christians a deadline of June 19, saying that if they do not leave or accept Islamic rule, “their destiny is the sword.”
A dozen new wildfires have started in Oregon and six have started in Washington over the past 48 hours — covering more than 68,000 acres.
That adds to an already fierce wildfire season in the Northwest, with 25 large, uncontained fires, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The number of fires classified as “large” has increased by five since yesterday….
Following the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash Thursday — which killed all 298 on board — many questions remain.
Merian Ibrahim, a Christian sentenced to death for apostasy and then cleared, was rearrested June 24 as she tried to leave the country. She is now in the hands of Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.
In Sri Lanka, a pastor and his family were attacked in their home by a village mob while they waited for police to show up for a prearranged meeting.
We don’t stop preaching because of the hardened hearts of those who mock the word of God, but in fact preach more fervently that in the hopes that their hearts will break before God. We don’t try to weed out the unbelievers, the naysayers; those who trust in might rather than right as our roots are entangled. But we must realize in the words of the Disney/Pixar Prophet Woody – “Somebody’s poisoned the water hole.” We laugh but to be honest the world is in a mess. We abort our children for economic reasons, leaving them to back to death in our cars. We exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural ones committing shameful acts and received in ourselves the due penalty for our error.
But the truth of God’s word still reigns and the grace of God is still available for those who would yet open their ears to hear, their eyes to see and their hearts to believe. God has a better plan.
Romans 12 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God has a way. God has a means. God has a desire to actually change some of the Bearded Darnel into the glorious gold of wheat. And we are his plan of getting that news out. We don’t uproot. We don’t spray “round up.” We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Rather, we feed on the Word of God, the faith “that was once… and for all… entrusted to God’s holy people.
This challenge we face is nothing new. Listen to the report of Jude, the brother of James and of Jesus himself as it comes to us from his letter addressed to the most general of audiences in the earliest days of the church… an eye witness account, not the deconstructive pontifications of a latter day scholar…and God’s word to us, each and every one of us gathered here today, those who listen over the radio and those who will listen to the podcast…
“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
“To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
“Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
“Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
“In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
“Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
“These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Let those with eyes to see, see and those with ears to hear, hear. Come Holy Spirit. Come. Come as the wind and blow. Come as the rain and cleanse. Come as the fire and burn. Convict us. Convert us. Consecrate us, until we are wholly Thine. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others…Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.“ (2 Corinthians 2:1-2,15)
The Women’s Bible Study I resource and lead has begun an 11 week Bible Study on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. And I am elated. I get a charge out of Sunday School classes and Bible Studies which actually focus on the scriptures rather than the latest NY Times best seller, because the church is all too often faced with decisions which require a well-formed and mature, Biblically grounded faith. A children’s level Sunday School education is not enough in these matters. And reading what others say about the Bible should never serve as a prelude to or a replacement for actually reading the Bible. Deconstructive theologies, post-modern approaches, and gender specific hermeneutics fail us. “Cliff notes” don’t hack it in serious study circles.
Church statisticians remind us that Biblical ignorance is at an all-time high with too many adults considering Sunday School and Bible Studies to be the realm of women and children – limiting themselves to an infantile understanding of the greatest source of knowledge we have about God and God’s will for us His children. Few adults are able to name the Ten Commandments, the twelve disciples or how many books actually make up our Scripture, much less comment meaningfully on the more complex matters of differentiating between counsel and command in the Bible. Too many look to the words of Jesus in the scriptures as having more authority than the other words, not understanding the specifically stated view of scripture that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Few realize that the N.T. understanding of O.T. sin is not that sin is no longer sin, but that many of those O.T. standards were to set Israel apart from its neighbors and as a means to help us understand that we are incapable of fulfilling the Law on our own accord. Not that the Law is inappropriate but that we can’t fulfill it. There is even confusion between God’s Law and the Mosaic Law. The truth is, and always has been, that we all need a Savior to deliver us from our inherent fallen state of sin. Denying that sin is sin can’t do that.
It is too often the case that people inside and outside of church circles quote scripture without looking at the background. Many would be surprised to discover Paul’s use of such phrases as “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1Cor7:12), or “Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion” (1 Cor7:25).
The reality is that too many of us THINK we know what scripture says without understanding the complete counsel of scripture on matters of great importance. We pick and choose the sections of scripture that seem to support our preconceived notion of what we already consider to be right – a slippery, ever-changing standard determined more by the culture in which we live than the faith which is true and which is able to determine what is acceptable socially and what is not. We survive on a spiritual diet like unto eating bacon fat and french fries rather than Kale, lean meat, and fresh fruit.
Today our own minority-western culture and a few minor segments of the church within that particular culture, are embroiled in a great controversy regarding the institution of marriage. The question has become whether the prevailing cultural consensus will determine what we believe or whether God’s clearly revealed will in this matter are to make that determination for us.
In this discussion I often hear an appeal to the issue of women in leadership (an organizational stipulation more than a question of equality or suitability). I also often hear an appeal to issue of slavery (which by the way is neither commended nor condemned in scripture). We hear talk of how the church has changed its mind on these and other matters as if change was inevitable and that society is the conscience of the church or that the church, like our nation, should be ruled by the majority. The will of God is clear to those who will take the time to read, to pray, to study and to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit. The vast majority of the Christian faith throughout the world is of one mind on this matter.
Rejecting homosexual marriage, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is not exclusive. It is not self-righteous. It is not arrogant, ignorant, unkind, unloving, homophobic, elitist or bigoted. It is the simple recognition that God’s design for human interactions on that level is one reserved exclusively for a man and a woman. Even though long term monogamous homosexual relationships were known in “Biblical times” they were rejected by God and that message was conveyed to us through the prophets, martyrs and others who so eloquently and accurately conveyed God’s will to us. Even the thought that homosexuals were “this way from birth” was evidenced in the broader culture and known to the church of the day.
Still the Christian church believed and taught then and still does today that the church exists to correct such misguided social standards, based on the clearly revealed will of God, not psychology, not biology, and not social consensus; not in a hate-filled but in a hope-filled manner. Not that we judge one another but that the Lord Jesus Christ judges each of us and that this is revealed in scripture for the sake of the Kingdom.
There are so many questions like this with which the church of Jesus Christ will be faced in the coming years – but none of them are new. Is there salvation apart from Jesus Christ? Does one need to be “born again?” Is polygamy, divorce, abortion, drunkenness, gossip, or lying wrong? Our answer to these important questions must always be based on God’s professed will in scripture.
How we deal with ourselves and others caught up in these sins is a different question. Whether or not we offer a way out, the way of redemption, the way of the cross is equally as important a question. To deny sin is to deny the opportunity for repentance. It is to deny the opportunity to yet turn and be saved from that sin. Salvation is good news. Good news that God loves each of us too much to want us to wallow in our sin, but to be saved from it. To be increasingly “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
And in Jesus Christ each and every one of us has that possibility. Thanks be to God.
Truth be told, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly has clearly erred in its own deliberations on this matter and that is to be grieved and to be repented of. However, thanks be to God, there is yet hope… in Jesus Christ. And to that end, I pray. Maranatha