Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dangerous, Unsettling Times

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1 [KJV])

There is no doubt that we are in dangerous, unsettling times. The earth is nearly shaking on its axis. Previous generations were spared dealing with concepts such as Sharia Law, Islamic Caliphates, nuclear centrifuges in rogue hands, chemical weapons, NSA spying, IRS lawlessness, border invasions, and corruption and serial lying at the highest levels of government.

Even nature is out of control. And today's church is compromising so there aren't many shelters any longer.

If you dwell on headlines too long, you would think that Armageddon is on our door step. And maybe it is. If you listen carefully, you just might hear the footsteps of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the distance. Has their journey begun?

A Coalition of Comfort
Every year, thousands travel to various Bible and prophecy conferences so they can compare notes with like-minded believers and comfort one another. They want to encourage one another (Hebrews 10). They want to be a "coalition of comfort" to one another. They also want assurance that their perspective on the world and church is on target.

His Return Trumps Dark Times
Even though many believers today know that the news is bad, and the headlines are dark, you will not find a feeling of depression among them. No ones giving up because we (believers) have the hope of Christ's imminent return.

That trumps dark news, slanted stories, the glorification of evil, the threats coming from Washington, and the hypocrisy from people in high places.

Many churches and pastors today are telling their members to keep things light and even major in minors. But the child of God cannot do that, even when it feels like we are an island even among other family members.

We need one another. We are instructed to join together and worship and share and build up each other in Christian love. And we need commonality. We need people who can relate to the crisis of the day, or the hassles of the job, or the latest news headlines, or the sorrows of pain and loss. We need people who can help us discern doctrine. We are brought together by God for that purpose. God knows who we need and He brings us together."

So Why Is the Church Silent?
Most churches today are silent on all of the important issues of the day, and particularly silent on the theology of the Lord's return.

Church members are being told that such topics don't promote church growth. Here are some things that I hear when I speak of prophecy:
This subject matter is "controversial." (Really???)
Bible prophecy makes some people uncomfortable. So?
Just what do all those bowls, vials, and seals really mean??

One thing that I have found, on one hand, is that some pastors have not been trained in eschatology and they don't want to risk preaching it. On the other hand, some pastors has been taught all the varying prophecies and they are unsure which one is sound.

And then you have the problem of date-setters who have given the topic a black eye!

And Than You Have Those Who Say, Come, Lord Jesus, But Not Too Soon!
This seems to be the consenses when dealing with the younger generation and current issues. Most responses were the same: Younger folks want to live out their lives on this aching planet and THEN enjoy Eternity. In other words, come, Lord Jesus, but not too soon!

There are some young people who are an exception to that but not many. Most younger folks really want to enjoy life even with today's struggles. They want to see kids grow and get married. Eternal issues can wait.

But I have seen some in the younger generation who want to "pass this torch." They want to pass on the information, and the urgency of our times, to their generation!  Rare, perhaps, but such occurrences happen to let us know we should not give up hope. You never know who you are affecting! I have found that not all are focused on the now and self.

As I tell prospective teacher in training, "keep the maim thing the main thing."

Friday, July 18, 2014

God And The Homosexual

As Christians, we cannot hide from this issue, but, we must stand firm on God's Word, and what He says. And we need to stop trying to "fit" God's Word to our beliefs, and accept it for what the Word says.

After triumphing in virtually every institution in America, the homosexual movement has now marched its way into the church. Battle after battle is being fought over gay clergy, same sex marriage and the meaning of the Bible’s handful of passages mentioning homosexuality.

A more recent controversy has to do with the difference between a same sex orientation and engaging in homosexual acts, especially as related to those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Can a Christian struggle with same sex desire and still inherit the kingdom of God if he* does not participate in same sex activities?

Note *This article will use the pronoun “he” throughout, rather than the more cumbersome “he or she.” However, the arguments used in this article will apply equally to male and female.

This is a question of eternal significance. Paul says, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Depths of depraved nature
The mental health profession denies the possibility of changing sexual orientation, even while readily admitting it does not understand the dynamics of homosexuality. For example, the website of the American Psychiatric Association says: “No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.”

How can those who claim that no one knows what causes homosexuality insist that such a sexual orientation cannot be changed?

On the other hand, perhaps the APA is on to something. Perhaps they understand just how difficult it is to change the “inner man.”

Biblically speaking, this internal stubbornness does not apply only to a homosexual orientation. Scripture makes clear that unregenerate human nature cannot be changed by human effort. As Jesus said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

Does this mean that a gay person can’t help what he is? Yes. But this does not mean that the homosexual is not guilty before a holy God. In fact, we are all guilty before God because none of us can help what we are in our fallen condition.

A homosexual might even say, “I don’t want to be this way,” but that doesn’t help him change. Without the intervention of God, the broken stay broken, especially when it comes to our sinful nature. While we might make surface corrections, our core nature remains fallen. We are all prisoners of sin, according to Galatians 3:22.

The problem is that most of us – even many Christians – never really saw our “lostness” in a biblical way. We think back, and many of us believe that we were, by and large, pretty good people who needed a little cleaning up around the edges, like a guy going to the barbershop wanting just a trim.

That’s not at all how the Bible portrays us: people completely lost and ruined, alienated from God, cut off from His life, stubborn sinners, idolaters, enemies.

Repenting of being me
Part of the Great Commission is “that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47).

The Bible makes clear that homosexual acts are sinful. Yet what about a same sex orientation apart from sexual activity? Is it also sinful?

The answer appears to be yes, just as a desire to fornicate is a sin. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul speaks of the homosexual’s “degrading passions” or desires themselves. He also mentions that they “burned in their desire toward one another” and then committed “indecent acts.”

These sinful homosexual acts were rooted in same sex lusts. But what are these desires rooted in? Lust is simply the unleashing of the attraction. All three – orientation, lust and act – appear to be located on the same sinful continuum.

However, this is not descriptive of the homosexual condition alone. All of unregenerate human nature is sinful. This means we are literally called to repent of who we are. Paul says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18).

The homosexual is called to repent of his sexual orientation – to admit before God that its very existence is a manifestation of a corrupted sexuality. Every person is called to repent on this level. Perhaps it is not a broken sexual nature, but something else altogether. When Paul says “nothing good” exists in the unregenerate nature, he means precisely that.

Grace, grace, grace
Perhaps the person born blind will cry out to the Lord for a miracle, and sometimes God answers and heals. But if we are honest, most of the time God does not seem inclined – whatever the reason – to perform that miracle.

Likewise, countless people who self-identify as homosexual claim to have prayed endlessly for God to remove their same sex attractions – to no avail.

This is not the whole story, of course. Despite the media’s refusal to consider the reality of “ex-gay” people, there are clearly many who have left the lifestyle. While temptation remains, they have – by God’s grace – reoriented their affections to the opposite sex.

For the Christian, the Scripture is even more explicit. Paul declares of the Corinthian Christians that they had formerly been sinners of all sorts – including homosexuals. Then he adds, “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

It doesn’t matter what the American Psychiatric Association says. Paul’s statement, “Such were some of you,” is proof that God does heal penitent sinners of all sorts of sinful “orientations.” Homosexuals are not excluded from that hope.

A difficult road
On the other hand, like the blind or paralyzed person who cries out to God for physical healing but does not receive it, Christians who still struggle with same sex attraction may find themselves similarly frustrated.

For some reason, God often responds to prayer requests as He did with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The battle goes on. The Christian must fight against his fallen nature as the Israelites fought against the continual encroachments of the Philistines.

What, then, do we say to the gay man and the lesbian? What are they to do with their brokenness? First, if they remain defiant in it, they will eternally perish. Yet this is no different than the drunkard or the fornicator or the liar or the idolater. All who remain in their rebellion are damned.

We say to the homosexual as we would say – or should say – to everyone else who is mere flesh: Law can’t save you. Religion can’t deliver you. All your righteous deeds are as filthy rags. There is none good, no, not one. Humble yourself before God, repent of who you are at your deepest level – and all that flows out of that polluted spring – and trust in Christ. Let God conform you to the image of His Son.

So, can a person be a gay Christian? The question itself smacks of politics and spiritual compromise. In the world there exist (1) non-Christians and (2) Christians. The former live in the flesh; the latter do not. The Christian has one object in his sight – Jesus Christ. God’s people desire to be like His Son, and everything else must go.

How does a person embrace an orientation that he disdains? Can a person be a Christian adulterer or Christian fornicator? If I come to Christ in defiance and, contra Paul in Romans 7:18, insist that there is some good in my flesh after all, true repentance has not occurred.

Can a person be a Christian and still struggle against same sex attractions? Yes. When we become followers of Christ, we continue to battle the flesh in all its permutations (Galatians 5:16-17). But we have the power of Christ on our side, and we are called to gain mastery over the impulses that have plagued us, even if the impulses themselves remain. Christ will lead us in victory if we will receive His grace daily and obey Him.

In His interaction with the rich young ruler, Jesus made clear that idolatry in the heart could keep a person from entering the kingdom. The disciples were very astonished to hear this, and one can sense the hopelessness behind their subsequent question, “Then who can be saved?”

To His followers and to every other human being who peers up at the mountain that is their sinful and fallen nature, Jesus says the same thing: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:25-26). This is what the gospel declares. The church must be the first to say so.

This article taken from AFA Journal