19 Sep

Yes, Indeed, God Loves “Gays”

“Why doesn’t God love gays?”  That was the question a teenager asked on a recent Wednesday during our youth ministry time.  To be honest, the question was sort of out of the blue since the discussion was on the return of Jesus, but clearly it was on the heart of at least one, if not many, of the teens there that night.  I appreciate this teenager’s boldness to ask!

This question is one this generation has had to wrestle with that previous generations did not.  In fact, the speed with which the topic of homosexuality has come to dominate the social and political conversation is staggering, aided along by what pastor Voddie Baucham calls, “a coordinated, well-funded, well-connected propaganda strategy,” (“Gay Is Not the New Black,” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/19/gay-is-not-the-new-black, July 19 2012).  The entire movement has become like a snowflake that turns into an avalanche, demolishing any opposition in the public arena, and it’s still growing larger.

Gay Pride HeartWithout a doubt, many of our young people are confused on the subject.  They are hearing in pop culture and maybe even in their schools that homosexuality is a perfectly legitimate lifestyle and should not only be tolerated, but even celebrated and explored.  However, they then hear from faith communities (and not just Christian ones) that homosexuality is sinful.  The mixed messages cause a great deal of confusion in many people’s minds, especially in our young people, leading some to ask, “Why doesn’t God love gays?” with the implied addendum “when so many others do.”  It’s a question we will increasingly have to answer regardless of one’s stance on homosexuality.

The question itself—”Why doesn’t God love gays?”—presupposes that God does not love people who would label themselves “gay.”  Therefore, the initial response must be, “What makes you think that God doesn’t love people who label themselves ‘gay’?”  The truth of the matter is that God does indeed love those who label themselves “gay,” but He loves them in a way that is culturally strange to us at this point.

If we would press the person asking “Why doesn’t God love gays?” to tell us what makes them think He doesn’t, most likely the response would “because He doesn’t think their homosexuality is okay.  If God loved gays, He’d affirm their homosexuality because that makes them happy.”  Indeed, that is the popular definition of love in contemporary culture.  Love is seen as affirming people in whatever makes them happy.  Many have just enough Christian influence to know that the Bible tells us we are to treat others the way we want to be treated, and so they reason, “I would want others to love me by affirming me in what makes me happy.  So, I am going to love others by being in favor of whatever makes them happy.”  That’s fair logic, but is that love?

Is it loving to affirm others in whatever makes them happy?  Let’s see.  Little Rachel wants nothing more than to play in the middle of the interstate.  In fact, she tried it one time for just a few seconds and is convinced that her happiness depends on playing regularly smack dab on the dotted line between the driving lane and the passing lane.  Would it be loving to affirm little Rachel in her desire?  No?  But she really believes it’ll make her happy.

Bobby loves to shoot heroin.  Nothing in the world compares to the high he gets when that needle enters the vein and pushes liquid happiness into his body.  He’s certain that heroin is the key to his happiness and wants more all the time.  Would it be loving to affirm Bobby in his desire?  No?  But he really believes it’ll make him happy.

Sandra loves 12-year-old boys.  That would probably be fine if she was around 12-years-old herself, but she is 42.  Nevertheless, she is convinced that if she doesn’t find a romantic relationship with a 12-year-old boy, she will not be happy.  Would it be loving to affirm Sandra in her desire?  No?  But she really believes it’ll make her happy.

Further examples are abundant, but the ones provided suffice to clearly demonstrate that we have to be careful in affirming whatever makes a person happy because in this fallen world, that which a person believes will make them happy is often hurtful to themselves and others.  Someone may quickly rebut that homosexuality harms nobody, but that is counterfactual.  Medically, homosexuality is harmful, especially to men who practice homosexuality.  Socially, homosexuality is harmful in that it cannot provide what the opposite sex brings to a romantic relationship, including but certainly not limited to the potential of procreation and then the presence of a mother and a father in that child’s life.  However, most harmful is the spiritual harm that homosexuality brings.

The Bible is clear that practicing homosexuality brings great spiritual harm.  In fact, Romans 1:18-27 declares that the increasing presence of homosexuality in a society signals that God is bringing about judgment on that society due to idolatry.  God, as a function of His wrath against sin, simply withdraws His restraining grace from those who rebelliously pursue sin, giving them over to degrading passions such as homosexuality and all sorts of other destructive devices.

However, the spiritual harm in this life pales in comparison to the spiritual harm that homosexuality brings in the age to come for those who practice it in this present age.  The Bible is emphatic that practicing homosexuality will bar a person from heaven.  God tells us so in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”  It’s important to note here that homosexuality is not the only sin listed.  It’s right there with adultery and drunkenness and many others.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  Nevertheless, God is communicating to us that those who continue in sin, including homosexuality, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In other words, they will be barred from Heaven and will experience Hell forevermore.  There is no worse consequence imaginable.

So, let’s play this truth out in a scenario.  Don is a man in his early 20s who has experienced same-sex attraction for years now and has finally given into the temptation.  He has been for several months seeking out homosexual partners, and it has been absolutely exhilarating to him.  He hopes to one day settle down with the man of his dreams but is just having too much fun right now.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he is convinced that his happiness hinges on living a homosexual lifestyle.  Given the harm practicing homosexuality has been demonstrated to bring, is it loving to affirm Don in his desires?  Absolutely not!  In fact, the opposite is true.  To affirm Don in his homosexuality would be as loving as affirming little Rachel in her playing on the interstate or Bobby in his heroin addiction or Sandra in her pedophilia, which is to say that it wouldn’t be loving at all.  All of these not only harm the individuals with the desires, but others as well, and to affirm them would be unquestionably unloving.

If a person’s definition of love is affirming whatever makes someone happy, then a redefinition is needed because that’s not love.  Love doesn’t just affirm whatever makes a person happy.  It seeks the well-being of its objects.  That’s why God indeed does love “gays” and at the same time doesn’t affirm them in their homosexuality.  Instead of unlovingly affirming them in an eternally harmful lifestyle, God lovingly calls them out through the gospel of Jesus Christ just like He does all sinners.  And yeah, we were born that way (sinners, that is)!  God lovingly says to all sinners, including the homosexual sinner, turn from your sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be forgiven, made righteous, increasingly freed from sin itself, and inherit everlasting life in Heaven.  Now that’s love!

“Why doesn’t God love gays?”  My dear friend, He does love “gays.”  In fact, God loves them so much that He calls them out of homosexuality and into Christ!

17 Dec

Hope of the Nations – Love

Advent - Love

This week we continue the season of Advent, which is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas.  Our theme this year is “Hope of the Nations,” and we are thinking on the world-wide hope found in Jesus Christ.  We’re meditating on the ideas of light, life, liberty, love, and Lord.

Our focus this week is on love.  We read in Ephesians 2:1-7:

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

Reflection

This week we light the CANDLE OF LOVE.  It’s clear from Scripture that we are unlovely.  We’re by nature and by action death-ridden rebels chasing our worldly appetites around.  We’re wretches deserving of wrath, but something greater than our wretchedness forestalls God’s wrath, namely God’s love.  We’re unlovely, but God is love, and He has set His affection on us!

It’s love that saw our death and depravity and worked to make us alive and righteous.  It’s love that pursued rebel hearts and won them to adoration and obedience.  It’s love that changes our destination from the pits of hell to the very thrown room of God where Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand.  God’s love for humanity is a powerful force!

It was love that caused the Father to give the Son to the world, and it was love that motivated the Son to voluntarily take on flesh and dwell among us until His death, resurrection, and ascension.  The cross is a sure sign of God’s love, but so is the manger.  This Christmas season, may you marvel at the depth and intensity of God’s love!

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song

24 May

Homosexuality and the Golden Rule

God tells us through Paul, as translated in the KJV, to rightly divide Word of God, the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15).  “Rightly divide” comes from the Greek verb orthotomeo and literally means to cut straight.  As reflected in newer translations, God means that we should strive to correctly/accurately/rightly handle or teach Scripture.  We should make every effort to understand it as God intended for us to understand it.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  People like to take the Scripture—especially the words of Jesus—and fill them with a different meaning than intended by God.  Whether intentionally or not, many twist the Bible to support their own viewpoint.  Recently, President Obama did just that on May 9, 2012 when he announced in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he now supports the legalization of homosexual marriage.

Don’t get me wrong.  President Obama is entitled to his opinion on the subject no matter how much I disagree with him.  You’re entitled as well, but none of us are entitled to use the Scripture to support our opinion if Scripture doesn’t support our opinion.  To do so is to wrongly divide the Word of God.  It’s misguided at best and to lie at worst.

Read what he said and how he used the Bible:

At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that—for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that—I think same-sex couples should be able to get married…In the end, the values that I care most deeply about, and she [Michelle Obama] cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. We’re both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but when we think about our faith the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf but it’s also the Golden Rule – treat others the way you’d want to be treated. [Full Transcript]

President Obama said that his opinion on homosexual marriage is shaped by the Bible, particularly Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, which is widely known as the Golden Rule.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.  In Luke 6:31, He said, Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.  Most of us have not memorized the Golden Rule in those exact words.  You probably know it best as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—at least that’s how I know it best.

It’s easy to see how President Obama and others take the Golden Rule as supporting homosexual marriage and any number of other things.  They reason, “I would want others to let me do what makes me happy.  So, I am going to be in favor of whatever makes them happy.”  Was Jesus the first postmodernist?  Absolutely not!  (pun intended, by the way)  You see, one cannot just take a verse of Scripture, rip it out, and insert your own interpretation.  It must be interpreted by Scripture.

What President Obama and others like him are missing is that Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 are just different ways of saying the second greatest commandment.  Jesus tells us that the first greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37).  He then goes on to tell us the second greatest one, The second is like it, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” (Matthew 22:39).  Now, how do I know that Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 are just different ways of saying Matthew 22:39?  I know this because after telling us the second greatest commandment, Jesus says that on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets, (Matthew 22:40).  That’s exactly what Jesus told us in Matthew 7:12 after stating the Golden Rule, In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.  So, when Jesus says “treat” others or “do unto” others, what He means is “love” others.  The Golden rule would then be better understood as Love others as you would have them love you.

The problem is that President Obama and many others don’t define love biblically.  They define love as supporting me in doing whatever I want to do—“I’m going to support you in doing whatever you want to do because I would want you to support me in whatever I want to do.”  That’s how the world often tries to define of love, but what if the thing a person wants to do is harmful physically, emotionally, or spiritually?  What if they really wanted to jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet without a parachute?  Does “I’m going to support you in doing whatever you want to do because I would want you to support me in whatever I want to do,” sound like love in that situation?  No way!  It would be completely unloving to just say, “Go ahead.”  Common sense says that “I’m going to support you in doing whatever you want to do because I would want you to support me in whatever I want to do,” isn’t love.

It’s certainly not the Bible’s definition of love either.  Here’s how the Bible defines love:  Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).  Love loves truth and righteousness, and love hates falsehood and unrighteousness.  So, to support homosexual marriage—even homosexuality itself—is to actually hate the people struggling with that sin because it is rejoicing in unrighteousness and falsehood.

If you really want to love somebody concerning homosexuality, lovingly tell them the biblical truth, which is:

 

1. Homosexuality is rebellion against God’s design for humanity.

We see God’s design for man and woman in Genesis 2:18-25:

  • Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Common sense screams the truth that homosexuality is rebellion against God’s design in nature, but here we have Scripture’s account of creation.  God made a man and a woman, and then gave the woman to the man for a companion.   Men and women were designed to fit together spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Homosexuality rebels against God’s design, and there is a great price to pay even physically as Romans 1:27 points out, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  Male homosexual acts in particular can do great damage to the body and significantly increase the risk of infectious disease.  Even if the physical toll on the body due to homosexuality is minimized, there is great emotional and spiritual damage done as well.  God designed men to be with women and women to be with men.

 

2.  Homosexuality cannot obey God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

God commands man and woman in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful and multiply:

  • God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God had in mind that a man and woman would marry and have children.  Homosexuality completely flies in the face of this idea.  It’s impossible for two men or two women to have a baby.  You might say, “Now wait a minute!  Lesbian couples have babies all the time through in vitro fertilization or some other medical means.”  But, you forget that it still takes a male sperm donor to fertilize one of the lesbian partner’s eggs.  There’s no way around it:  it takes a man and a woman to procreate.  Therefore, homosexuality cannot obey God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

 

3.  Homosexuality might not be just a choice, but it is still a choice.

There has been a big debate as to the origin of homosexuality.  Some would lead us to believe that homosexual attraction is merely a choice.  Others would have us to believe that homosexual attraction isn’t a choice at all.  Certainly, there are more instances than some would like to admit that homosexual attraction is merely a choice, but perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle.

For those of us who are Bible-believing Christians, we know full well the impact that sin has had on humanity.  It has totally marred every aspect of a human being:  our intellect, our will, our emotions, our spirit, our biology, and everything else.  There is no part of a human being that sin has not touched.  We are born sinners.  Ephesians 2:1-3 make this ever clear:

  • And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

We are born sinners, and homosexuality is without a doubt an outworking of being born a sinner.  It very well might be that the damage of sin leaves some people inclined to homosexual temptation.  Others by their very temperament are prone to sinful anger, it seems that most men are prone to sexual lust, and it seems that we’re all prone to be liars.  Just let a preschooler get into trouble, and you’ll see virtually every one of them display what good liars we sinners are prone to be.  So, I have no problem saying that homosexuality might not be just a choice.  We often don’t choose our temptations.

However, while we might not choose our temptations, we every time choose our sins.  It’s not a sin to be tempted.  If so, then Jesus sinned in the wilderness when the devil tempted Him, but we know that Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15).  Temptation is not a sin, but to give in to that temptation is sin, and that is always a choice we make.  Nothing outside or inside a person causes them to engage in homosexual lust and action.  The one who does so is completely responsible for their sin because sin is always a choice.  They did what they wanted to do.  So, while homosexuality might not be just a choice, it is a choice nonetheless, and the person engaging in homosexual acts will be held accountable for disobedience to God.

 

4.  Continuing in homosexual lust and activity signals that God is bringing a curse on that person.

Read carefully how continuing in homosexual activity is an outworking of God’s wrath on a person.

  • Romans 1:18-27, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

As a result of men and women suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness, God “gave them over to degrading passions.”  That’s another way of saying that God cursed them with degrading passions, which are further explained as homosexuality.  Now, that doesn’t mean that God made them commit homosexual acts.  It simply means that God, as a function of His wrath, withdrew His restraining grace from them.

The same is true today.  Continuing in homosexual lust and activity signals that God is bringing a curse on that person.

 

5.  Continuing in homosexuality will bar a person from Heaven.

There are many who are deceived into thinking that they can continue in homosexuality and be absolutely fine with God on the Day of Judgment.  That’s simply not true.  God is very clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

  • Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s important to note here that homosexuality is not the only sin.  It’s right there with adultery and drunkenness and many others.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  Nevertheless, God is communicating to us that those who continue in sin, including homosexuality, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In other words, they will be barred from Heaven.

Some who continue in homosexuality will say, “But I’ve trusted in Jesus Christ!”  The fruit of your life says the opposite (Matthew 7:15-19).  No one who is a true follower of Jesus Christ embraces sin.  To embrace sin is to reject Jesus.  Therefore, it’s not enough to simply claim forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus. There must also be repentance leading to transformation. This transformation is not what saves us but is proof that we’ve been truly forgiven and saved.  Those who continue in homosexuality prove they have not been forgiven or saved and will be barred from Heaven.

 

6.  Homosexuality can be overcome by the transforming power of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is great hope for the one struggling in homosexuality!  There is victory over it by the transforming power of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We just read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which is terrible news, but God doesn’t stop there.  He continues on to tell us in 1 Corinthians 6:11, Such were some of you; 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.

I love the past tense of the verb “to be” in the beginning of the sentence:  such were some of you.  God is saying that in the Corinthian church, there were individuals who used to be homosexuals, but they had been transformed.  They had been washed, sanctified, and justified through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  There’s hope for victory over sin, even homosexuality, for all who will come to Jesus!

One of the greatest lies in the discussion over homosexuality is “You can’t change.  It’s just who you are.”  That’s a lie!  While it’s true that homosexuality is a gripping, sinful lifestyle and that you can’t change by your own power, you most certainly can change through the power of God.  Indeed, He wants to change you!

So many who struggle with homosexuality have just given up and given in.  Don’t surrender to your homosexuality.  Surrender to Christ.  He calls you to Himself just as you are but desires to transform you into just as He is—holy, pure, without the blemish of sin.  May it be said of every one of us, “Such were some of you!”

____________________

So, in light of a full understanding of the Golden Rule:  Promote righteousness, which includes denouncing homosexuality, in other people’s lives as you should have them do so in yours.  If you really love the person struggling with this sin, lovingly stand for them by standing against this sin and all sin while offering them certain hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

26 Dec

How Long, O Lord? – Christ

 

This week we continue the season of Advent by lighting the 5th and final candle, the Christ candle.  Our 2011 Advent theme is “How Long, O Lord?” and each week we’ll be looking at a passage of Scripture that focuses on the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text this week comes from Revelation 22:6-7:

  • And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

This week we light the Christ candle.  What a perfect morning to talk about Jesus Christ coming again on the morning when we celebrate Jesus Christ coming the first time.  The first time there was no room in the inn.  The first time He was born a babe.  The first time He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  In all lowliness Jesus came the first time.  But, when Jesus Christ comes again, it will not be in lowliness.  He will come in might and justice and power.  The first He came bringing peace to all who will call on the name of the Lord.  But, when Christ comes again, He will be bringing destruction to all who love their sin more than God, to all refuse to call on the name of the Lord.

Friend, this Christmas week, would you receive the gift of Jesus Christ?  He was long-awaited the first time, and He’s long-awaited now.  Just as Mary was pregnant with child until the time was full for Jesus to appear the first time, Jesus Christ is now waiting until the fullness of time to appear again.  And He tells us in Revelation 22:7, And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.  To the believer and follower of Jesus Christ, this is great news.  To the unbeliever and rejecter of Jesus Christ, this is a warning.  How long, O Lord?  “Quickly!” He says.

May all believe on Jesus so that they will be ready when Jesus comes again!  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

19 Dec

How Long, O Lord? – Love

This week we continue the season of Advent by lighting the 4th candle, the candle of love.  Our 2011 Advent theme is “How Long, O Lord?” and each week we’ll be looking at a passage of Scripture that focuses on the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text this week comes from Revelation 19:11-21:

  • 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
  • 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
  • 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
  • 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
  • 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
  • 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
  • 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
  • 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
  • 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
  • 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
  • 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

This week we light the Candle of Love.  You might say, “What does that text have to do with love?  Isn’t that about judgment?”  Well, this text depicting the return of Jesus is certainly one of judgment and wrath, but when looked at from the proper perspective, it’s most-loving as well because it warns us about the real and imminent danger ahead for those who do not belong to Jesus Christ when He returns.  Warning someone of bad consequences is always most-loving.

Parents telling their children to stay away from the street because they might get run over by a car is most-loving.  Government telling its citizens to not steal because it will result in a jail sentence is most-loving.  Hairdryer manufacturers telling its customers on the safety tag to keep the hairdryer away from water because it will result in an electric shock is most-loving.  Therefore, God telling humanity that they will suffer destruction if they do not belong to Jesus when He returns is most loving.

Friends, Jesus Christ came the first time full of lowliness and sacrifice.  When He comes the second time, He will come full of almighty power and righteous judgment.  For those of you who have not yet trusted Christ, may you heed Jesus’ loving warning of the danger that looms for you and know that Jesus has made a way for you to be saved from destruction by trusting Jesus today!  And, for those who have already trusted Christ, may you thank God for the amazing love that He has shown you through Jesus Christ who has forevermore saved you from God’s wrath by grace through faith in Jesus.

21 Jul

Jesus or Your Children?

A few nights ago I was up late going through some mp3 songs to put on my phone. I’m sure you know how songs so easily take you down Memory Lane. I was well on my way when I ran across Phil Vassar’s song from back in 2000 called “Just Another Day in Paradise.” The song is all about how crazy life can be with a spouse and some kids, bills piling up, things breaking, schedules calling, juggling work and home, sour milk, but then the chorus kicks in with the following words that share the truth that although life is frustrating and crazy at times, it’s blessed:

Well, it’s ok; It’s so nice
It’s just another day in paradise
Well, there’s no place that I’d rather be
Well, it’s two hearts and one dream
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
And I ask the Lord every night
For just another day in paradise

At that point, I went from Memory Lane to rejoicing. The song just hit home in my heart because it was like Vassar was singing about my life. Life is crazy right now with three young’uns and one on the way, but man, am I blessed! I began to thank God for my wife and kids and eventually went to bed, but as I was lying there, this question came to my mind: Ben, do you love Jesus more than your children?

That’s just how the Holy Spirit works, isn’t it? And immediately the following true story from the 1999 book by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs called Jesus Freaks came to mind.  I had read it years ago and had really been impacted by it, and the Lord there in my bed brought it back to mind.

The story comes from North Korea in the 1950s and is called “More Love to Thee.”

For years, Pastor Kim and 27 of his flock of Korean saints had hand-dug tunnels beneath the earth. Then, as the Communists were building a road, they discovered the Christians living underground.

The officials brought them out before a crowd of 30,000 in the village of Gok San for a public trial and execution. They were told, “Deny Christ, or you will die.” But they refused.

At this point the head Communist officer ordered four children from the group seized and had them prepared for hanging. With ropes tied around their small necks, the officer again commanded the parents to deny Christ.

Not one of the believers would deny their faith. They told the children, “We will soon see you in heaven.” The children died quietly.

The officer then called for a steamroller to be brought in. He forced the Christians to lie on the ground in its path. As its engine revved, they were given one last chance to recant their faith in Jesus. Again they refused.

As the steamroller began to inch forward, the Christians began to sing a song they had often sung together. As their bones and bodies were crushed under the pressure of the massive rollers, their lips utter the words:

“More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee
Thee alone I seek, more love to Thee
Let sorrow do its work, more love to Thee
Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
More love, O Christ, to Thee,” (p124-5).

What an astounding and radical demonstration of love for Jesus! Do I love Jesus more than my children? Do you? Would I, in order to save their lives from persecutors, deny my Savior and Lord? Would you?

Jesus’ words ring so clearly in my ears, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it,” (Matthew 10:37-39).

So, will it be Jesus or your children? Oh how I pray that you or I would never be put in the situation to choose like those Korean Christians had to choose, but if it were to come to be, I pray my answer would be “Jesus.” I pray the same for you as well.

But dear one, let me go a step further. The choice is really not between loving Jesus or loving your children. The truth is that you can do both. You see, in these Korean Christians choosing to love Jesus more than their children, they were actually doing the most loving thing they could for their children. They demonstrated to their children by their choice of faithfulness to Jesus that Jesus is more prized than anything else. That is the most loving thing a father or a mother can do for their children. So, it’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and. Love your children by loving Jesus more!

And more importantly, this truth is not just relevant to life and death situations. It’s relevant to every aspect of your parenting life. In all phases of your children’s lives and in all interactions, be most loving to your children by loving Jesus more than you love them.

I thank the Lord so much for my children. What blessings they are to me! But if I am to love them properly, I must love Jesus more than I love them. More love to Thee, O Christ!

03 Jan

Help Children Love Those Who Are Different

It’s inevitable.  One day your young child as he or she developmentally matures will have their eyes opened to fact that people are different.  People come in many shapes, sizes, portions, abilities, tones, traits, and trappings, and up to a certain age, your little one will innocently be blind to all of this.  But that will change.  One day they’ll begin to notice differences among people.

I’ll hope to never forget the moment when my little Zachariah, who was nearing four-years-old at the time, commented in 2009 while watching President Obama on TV, “Barack Obama has a brown face.”  He was just making observations, but it was at that moment when I knew that a switch had been flipped in him because his comment was born out of the reality that Obama’s skin tone was different from Zachariah and his family’s.  He was beginning to see differences.

As you well know from both giving and receiving, sinful humanity often sees differences and then makes these differences an opportunity to make fun or oppress.  Just watch a school playground during recess for while to see what I’m talking about.  Really, it’s a depraved coping mechanism we run to when faced with something not like ourselves.  In order to make ourselves feel superior, we verbally, physically, or systematically attack those who are different.  So much strife and hurt have been produced from this sort of action.

But that’s how those who live in the flesh respond.  We as Christians are not to be ruled by our flesh but by the Spirit of God.  Therefore, when we see differences, love is our response instead of ridicule.  However, given the natural gravity of our depravity, love has to be learned.  Parents must teach their children to love those who are different from them.

It’s for that reason that I appreciate so much John Piper’s sermon from January 17, 2010.  His aim is to equip parents to train children to love those who are different.  He provides eight ways for you to do this:

1)  Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in creating them with the body that they have.

2)  Help the children believe in God’s sovereign wisdom and goodness in making other people with the body that they have.

3)  Help the children believe that they and all other children and adults are made in God’s image.

4)  Teach the children that God tells us to do to others as we would like others to do to us.

5)  Teach the children and model for them that their own sin is uglier than anybody they think is physically unattractive.

6)  Teach the children that God loves them in spite of the ugliness of their sin and that he proved this by sending his Son to die for our sins and give forgiveness to all who would trust him.

7)  Teach the children that because Jesus died for them and rose again, he becomes for them an all-satisfying Friend and Treasure.

8)  Teach the children to love others who are different from them, not in order to be accepted by God, but because they already are accepted by God because of Jesus.

I would strongly encourage you to read the manuscript or watch the video of this message to get the full teaching behind these eight ways.  It’s really good stuff!

I pray that God by the power of the Holy Spirit will work mightily in our own hearts love for those who are different.  Then, may we pass this Christlike trait onto our little ones so that they’ll be encouraged to honor God in the midst of a glorious variety of people.  Love those who are different in spite of their differences because God has loved you in spite of your sin!

30 Dec

Grow Love


Do you ever find yourself faking kindness or love to somebody?  Maybe it’s that person that sort of gets under your skin.  Maybe it’s that person who hurt you in the past.  Maybe it’s that person that you just don’t like or have a bad feeling about.  What if that person is in your church?  Should you just continue to fake it?

Well, Scripture clearly says that you should stop faking it.  Listen to Romans 12:9, Let love be without hypocrisy. Without a doubt, your “faking it” is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is terribly woeful in God’s eyes.  Just read Matthew 23:13-33 if you don’t believe me.  Hypocrisy happens when your actions don’t match your words or your true feelings.  In this instance, you are acting kindly and lovingly when you’d really rather not because you really don’t love them.  That’s hypocrisy, and God says to stop it!

But why are you faking kindness or love to that person in the first place?  Obviously, the fact that you are faking it means that you know you should love them and that others expect you to as well.  You know that loving others is the 2nd great commandment (Matthew 22:39).  Your neighbor, as you well know, is humanity in general evidenced by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  You’re to love all people.

More importantly though, God calls us to an even greater love for those within the church.  God tells us through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.  God’s indwelling Holy Spirit exclaims in our hearts, “Love your brothers and sisters in the church!”  Galatians 6:10 demonstrates that we should do good and be loving to all people, but our priority is with those in our church family.  You know all of these expectations.  The Holy Spirit and your teachers have taught you these things.  That’s why you are outwardly conforming to God’s expectations while inwardly rebelling.  You are carrying on with your hypocrisy by faking your love to them when you don’t really love them, and God says to stop being a hypocrite.

The question is how you should go about stopping the hypocrisy.  You have two options:

  1. Stop acting like you love them because you don’t anyway so that your actions will match your attitude.
  2. Start actually loving them because you should so that your actions will match your attitude.

Which option operates under the authority of the flesh, and which one operates under the authority of the Spirit?  In other words, which one is the biblical option?  In all honesty, option 1 is very attractive because that would be easiest and most satisfying to our flesh.  We would love to just blow them off or tell them off and be done with them, but you know that’s not right.  Haven’t you found that the biblical thing to do is often the harder of the two and causes our flesh to shriek in opposition?  Obviously, option 2 is the biblical one.  In order to erase our hypocrisy, we must bring our attitude in line with our actions.  Our acts of love must be done out of genuine feelings of love.  Then and only then will our love be without hypocrisy.

You might be saying, “I know I should show love and feel love for that person, but it’s so hard.  How do I do it?”  Let me give you five ways to increase your feelings of brotherly love for that hard to love person.

1)  Get the right perspective.
Your hypocrisy is a sin against God.  God said to show love and to feel love for that person.  You must get your relationship with God right before you can ever get your heart right with that person.  The 1st and 2nd greatest commandments are connected (Matthew 22:36-40).  You cannot rightly love God if you do not rightly love man.  Get the right perspective on your lack of love as an offense to God, and come to God repenting of your sin.

2)  Pray for yourself.
What you are actually engaged in is spiritual warfare.  Therefore, you must fight spiritual conditions with spiritual weapons.  Beg God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that love may grow in your heart for the person you are struggling to feel love for.  Ask God to keep empowering you to win against your flesh.  Seek God’s leadership in how to go forward with this person.  Commit yourself to follow Jesus in all things, especially in loving this person.

3)  Pray for them.
Undoubtedly, certain people are harder to love.  They have certain temperaments, besetting sins, mannerisms, or opinions that can be difficult to handle and may be unChristlike.  However, you cannot change them.  Only God can.  Therefore, you must pray to God that He would change them, conforming them to Jesus Christ.  Again, this battle is of a spiritual nature.  Therefore, wage war with spiritual weapons.  Furthermore, it’s just a spiritual law:  your love grows for those for whom you pray.  Get on your knees, and intercede for them so that you’re love may grow!

4)  If they have hurt you in the past, deal with that past.
It really doesn’t matter if you were the perpetrator or the victim.  Either way, you have an obligiation to the other person to make things right between you.  Yes, whatever happened is in the past, but undoubtedly the past is still causing problems in the present.  Therefore, it must be dealt with.  Yes, this is incredibly hard, especially for those like me who tend to want to sweep things under the rug to keep down conflict, but it must be dealt with.

Listen to what Jesus teaches us in the book of Matthew.  First, listen in Matthew 5:23-24, Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. This text is speaking to the perpetrator.  If you know that you have offended or hurt somebody, you are obligated by God to go and reconcile with that person.  Second, listen in Matthew 18:15, If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. This text is speaking to the victim.  If somebody has offended or hurt you, you are obligated by God to go and reconcile with that person.  The past must be dealt with so that you can rightly love the other person and stop just acting like you do.

5)  Increase your kind and loving acts toward them.
Probably, if you are having trouble actually loving somebody, you are doing the bare minimum to get by in your actions.  Therefore, if you desire to grow your feelings of love for that person, intentionally increase the amount of acts of kindness and love directed toward them.  In doing so, your heart will hopefully follow your actions.

Conclusion
May Paul’s command come to pass in your life:  Let love be without hypocrisy.  May your hypocrisy cease as your feelings of love are brought into line with your acts of love.  May you show love and actually feel love for people, especially that brother or sister in Christ!

24 Dec

The Songs of Christmas – Love

simeon_and_jesusThis week we continue the season of Advent by focusing on love.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 2:29-32.  This is Simeon’s song, which he sang the day he held baby Jesus in his arms in the temple:

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

This week we focus on the love of Christ.  Simeon was most likely elderly.  He had served the Lord well over the years.  In fact, the Bible calls him righteous and devout.  He seems to have been a simple man, and in his later years, he had single-mindedness that drove him on.  You see, the Holy Spirit was heavy upon him and had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  You can bet that with each passing day, Simeon grew more and more excited because he knew that his own life was getting shorter.  Therefore, the sight of the Messiah had to be right around the corner.

As was the custom, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple eight days after he was born to be circumcised and named.  That same day, Simeon came into the temple in the Spirit of the Lord, and behold, there indeed was the Messiah.  Who knows what Simeon had expected to see?  Was he surprised when he saw that the Messiah was only a baby at this point?  Maybe, but he didn’t pass up the opportunity to take Jesus into his arms—holding him, hugging him, and continuously giving thanks to God.

In his arms was the manifest love of God.  We know from John 3:16 that God displays His love to the world by giving it His only-begotten Son Jesus.  Simeon was holding God’s love!  In Jesus is salvation for the Jew and the Gentile alike, for all who will believe on Him.  It’s not a love that’s here today and gone tomorrow.  For all who will believe on Jesus, it is a love that began before creation, climaxes at the cross, and stretches forever into the future.

As we behold Jesus, may we with Simeon say, “My eyes have seen Your salvation,” and then embrace Jesus.