Yes, I Do See Skin Color — To the Glory of God

I never grow tired of reading good bumper stickers. Some are quite funny. Some are thought-provoking. And of course, some are rude and crude, which I don’t enjoy. However, the one I read the other day caught me off guard for some reason. Actually, it was two bumper stickers on the same car.

The first one read these words: “Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.” The statement appears to be a paraphrase of several Theodore Roosevelt quotes from speeches that he made after his presidency on the issue of immigration and assimilation.

quote-we-can-have-no-50-50-allegiance-in-this-country-either-a-man-is-an-american-and-nothing-else-or-theodore-roosevelt-158093

This quote appears to be innocuous enough, but you could see the direction this was going when it was accompanied by the other bumper sticker on the vehicle that read something like this: “Bienvenido a América, ahora habla inglés,” which is roughly translated to: Welcome to America, now speak English.

I’m not sure why those bumper stickers got me so hot under the collar. I’ve heard these sentiments before. I’ve seen them on other bumper stickers or t-shirts or on Facebook. We certainly heard enough of that type of language last year during the presidential election.

But reading those got me going on a tirade that only my wife was privileged enough to endure; until now. I’ll see if I can put my thoughts together in a more meaningful way than when she got to hear them unfiltered and without a thesaurus.

  1. I get it. People who move to America should learn the language. It would be easier for us and it would be easier for them. But try this on for a size: I’d love to see anyone from America over the age of 30 be helicoptered into down-town Beijing and dropped off in the middle of town. And now you’re going to live in Beijing for presumably the rest of your life. Let’s see how you would handle: a. Providing for you and your family. b. Getting a job. c. Putting food on your table. d. Learning a foreign language when all you’ve known for your whole life is English.

I don’t think it would be that easy. Dare I say, nearly impossible. But that is exactly what we expect from the people who move here. Now, add to that the fact that most of the immigrants do not come here so they can go to Disney World whenever they want. The move here because of immense hardship. Financial difficulty. Extreme poverty. A war in their home country. Or because they still believe that America is the place of dreams. And if they can just get here then everything will be better. I would bet that there are immigrants all over this country who would love to go home, speak their language, and never have to hear from an arrogant American for the rest of their lives. But they don’t have that luxury.

The ironic thing is that in my made-up scenario of being dropped off in down-town Beijing, chances are you wouldn’t have to look too long before you found someone who spoke English. In fact most of the industrialized world speaks at least a little English.  Americans are largely the only ones who not only want everyone in American to speak their language, but they expect the entire world to speak it as well.

  1. Nearly every aspect of American society has been a gift from another country and culture. I can think of a handful of things that can trace their origins to America: baseball (get out of here with all the “rounders” talk), football, Nascar, hip-hop music, rap music, graffiti as art, etc. Obviously, there are plenty more examples. But let’s think about this for a second, most of the things we enjoy have been around a lot longer than America has.

The word America probably gets its origin from a 15th century Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, for goodness sake! The truck that had those ridiculous bumper stickers on it was from Florida, which is a Spanish word for “covered with flowers.” Perhaps we should change the name of our country and our states lest we be too foreign sounding.

Hot dogs, hamburgers, apple pie, blue jeans, even COWBOYS all came from other countries. When I picture America, I think of a cowboy wearing blue jeans eating a hot dog while grilling hamburgers and chasing it down with a slice of apple pie. But when you do that, you aren’t really being American.

Or are you? In reality, isn’t part of what it is to be American having the luxury to take, sadly, sometimes by force, what is the best of other culture and make it our very own. The fact of the matter is America would be a very boring and bland place without all the food, music, architecture, polity (ever heard of democracy? – not originally American!) and even names of states and cities that we have borrowed from other countries and cultures.

Not only that, the English that you are speaking, isn’t really English. I don’t pretend to be a lingustic or language nerd, but I do know that the majority of our English words come from other languages known as the Romantic Languages. They are Latin, French, Spanish and Italian. That’s why so many Spanish words sound like English words. They come from the same root language.

If you want to be technical, none of us Americans would understand true Old English. To prove my point, here is an excerpt of a homily of St. Gregory the Great written in Old English around the year 1000 BC:

“Eft he axode, hu ðære ðeode nama wære þe hi of comon. Him wæs geandwyrd, þæt hi Angle genemnode wæron. Þa cwæð he, “Rihtlice hi sind Angle gehatene, for ðan ðe hi engla wlite habbað, and swilcum gedafenað þæt hi on heofonum engla geferan beon.”

Perhaps we both need to brush up on our English.

  1. It won’t be very long from now that America’s majority demographic will be Hispanic people. Some say as soon as the 2040s. Now, I know that sounds like forever away, but I plan on living AT LEAST another 25-30 years and certainly my children and grandchildren will be alive then.

It not only seems wrong to have ill feelings toward people from other nationalities who do not assimilate into our white American lifestyle, but in a few years, white American will be the minorities. That just seems a little counter-productive to plant the roots of xenophobia and polite racism now when we will reap what we have sown in a few short years.

  1. What we were taught is not always true. I vividly remember the lessons I was taught by my grandfather and grandmother. Both were born in the south during the 1920s (Georgia and Alabama, respectively). They didn’t have to sit me down and lecture me on how they felt about minorities (though they did,) I could tell by the way they spoke about them and treated them.

I get it, that’s how they were taught. Well, they were taught wrong. And what they taught me was wrong. And what we’re teaching our kids is wrong if we are teaching them that Americans only talk, dress and act a certain way.

  1. I am certainly not in favor of people going to any country illegally. You should abide by Caesar’s rules as long as they do not contradict Scripture. But, as far as I know, it is not illegal to not know English to live in America.
  1. We should always err on the side of inclusiveness rather than exclusivity. The poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty says these lines: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Sounds a whole lot like another line that I like a lot. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” In case you didn’t know, Jesus said that last part. You know, the Guy who went to parties with prostitutes, pimps and pot heads. The One who has people different than Him in His family tree (at least three gentile WOMEN listed!) The One who always turns our comfortable little world on its head.

  1. For Christians, it is a whole other story. Christians should view the world differently, non-English speaking minorities and refugees included. The gospel changes the prism in which we see people.
  • We believe that ALL people are created in the image of God. Therefore, ALL people have value, just the way they are. If God wanted everyone to be a white American, He would have made them that way. But instead He created every person precisely the way He wanted. That includes brown and black and whatever hue in between. That includes people who know how to speak English and not.
  • We are commanded to reach the nations. The Great Commission is one those verses that should hit home with every Christian. We are commanded to go out into the world and reach the nations. Well guess what. The nations are coming to us.
  • Every refugee and immigrant that comes to America is like God saying, “Here you go. I’ll make it easier on you. You don’t have to get on a plane or a boat to go to them. I’ll bring them to you.” We have the ability to make a global impact on the nations without leaving our city or state.
  • Guess what Heaven will look like? It will consist of people from every tribe, nation and language. If you think that Heaven will be populated by mostly white, English-speaking Americans, you are going to be sorely mistaken. It will be a shock for some people in the American church to consider that the majority of people in Heaven may have never even heard of America, much less had the opportunity to learn English.

I had a friend tell me not too long ago that he doesn’t see color, he just sees people. And I get what he is saying, that color or creed or background doesn’t determine how he will treat people. He will treat everyone with the same amount of dignity and respect and kindness. And I agree.

But I disagree with not seeing color. I do see color. Because God made color. He made ethnicities. He made tribes and languages and tongues. And He made them all a little bit different. And each color contributes to the tapestry of truth that humanity in all its various shades and colors and languages and cultures represent and glorify the image of God.

I am thankful that God didn’t make everyone white Americans. And as thankful as I am of being a pretty privileged and blessed white American, I am even more thankful that when I get to Heaven, it really won’t matter what language I speak the color of my skin.

P.S. If you need any other reason not to think this way, you certainly don’t want to sound like this guy: (Language warning at 9:26)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marks of a Church Needing Revitalization

cover112207-medium

I am really enjoying Pastor Andy Davis’ new book “Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again.”

In it, he lists eleven marks of a dying or a dead church. I tend to agree with him. They are:

Low view of Scripture. The church question both the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture and get a steady diet of man-centered, topical messages or the congregation rejects and drives away pastors who preach God’s Word faithfully.

Man-centered rather than God centered. The church lives for its own glory, reputation, agenda or ideals more than for the glory of God.

Lax shepherding of members and no church discipline. The church has low standards regarding who joins the church and has a bloated membership roll full of unregenerate and non-attending members.

Little evangelistic fruit resulting in dwindling numbers. The church has little connection to the surrounding neighbors, and if they do, it is in a pattern of worldly “good works” with no real connection to the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.

Disunity and bitter factions. The church bites and devours one another (Galatians 5:15) rather than showing the love of Christ. The seeds of discord run deep in this church.

Disrespect for godly leaders, resulting in short pastorates. The church almost always fights godly leadership, refusing to submit to its authority (Heb. 13:17).

Disorderly polity. Instead of following the pattern of plural elders and deacons who meet the filtering criteria of 1 Timothy 3, they establish extra-biblical structures (like “church council” or “personnel committee”) to suit their own ideas.

Clinging to traditions, stubbornly unwilling to change. Clinging to “Heritage Days” or traditions, the church tends to be stuck remembering their old glory days.

Selfish spending patterns. These churches spend little on evangelism, missions, or relief of the poor.

Little zeal for corporate prayer. The things prayed for in public tend to be worldly or connected only with the physical health of dying members. Almost no emphasis on the lost or missions.

Increasingly worldly doctrines and behaviors. They especially stagger at controversial teachings in the Bible, namely, God’s sovereignty in salvation, the exclusivity of Christ, personal holiness, divorce/remarriage, homosexuality, abortion, et al.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What is a Baptist (Really?) My Thoughts on Dr. Rainer’s Social Media Poll

PREFACE

Let me first say that I write this as both a fan of Thom Rainer. I have found Dr. Rainer’s articles, books and resources the be exceedingly helpful to me in my pastoral career and I pray that God continues to use His ministry to bless scores of other pastors and leaders. If there is any sort of tone of criticism towards Dr. Rainer, it is not intended in the least.

I also write this as a Baptist. I’ve been one since I was born (kind-of. I guess technically since I was baptized and joined my church. You’ll see more of this later.) I’ve never been a member of any other type of church, have always attended a Southern Baptist church, and am currently the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. Having said that, there are many flavors of Baptists in the world and our theological and ecclesiological beliefs range all over the board. I write as a confessional Reformed Southern Baptist. You may have to look those terms up if you don’t know what they mean.

DR. RAINER’S SOCIAL MEDIA POLL

Dr. Rainer recently posted online the findings of a question he posted on Twitter a few weeks prior in which he asked, “What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Baptist?’” He notes how this is a unscientific and rather informal poll but nonetheless informative.

Here are the top 15 responses in order of frequency based on Dr. Rainer’s Twitter question “What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Baptist?’:

  1. Legalism
  2. Potluck
  3. Immersion
  4. John the Baptist
  5. Traditional
  6. Bible
  7. Outdated
  8. Southern
  9. Boring
  10. Conservative
  11. Sound theologically
  12. Fundamentalism
  13. Hymns
  14. Suits and ties
  15. Missions

Quite a list, wouldn’t you agree. Again, this is unscientific and informal. This was not done by a professional survey firm over a period of months. This was done by Dr. Rainer and his team on Twitter. But, I bet that if a professional survey company did a similar study over the frame of a few months, the results would be pretty stinkin’ close.

USE OF THE NAME “BAPTIST”

These results caused me to think about this list and the use of the name Baptist. There was a time when I was in the camp of doing away with the name Baptist in the name of a church. Back when I was planning and going through the church planting evaluation process I had anticipated not using the name Baptist in the church that we planted.

I was under the assumption that the word Baptist just brought too much baggage with it. That people think of Westboro Baptist or the crazy Baptist pastor in Jacksonville, FL who burns Qurans. I thought that Baptist left a bad taste in people’s mouth.

This is the same argument that many of the church leaders and pastors I know even in Southwest Florida have used in order to change the name of their churches or plant a church without using the word Baptist. In fact, my area Director of Missions unilaterally began using an unofficial nickname for our association by taking Baptist out of the title and adding “SBC” at the end of the name. SBC is short for Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination in the world. The argument is that people who are looking for a Southern Baptist church or group will automatically recognize SBC, and everyone else won’t be turned off by the word Baptist.

Well, apparently, he might be correct. It appears that the first thing people think of when they hear the word Baptist is legalism followed by potlucks. People, probably both inside and outside the church, do not think of evangelism or inerrancy or cooperation when they think of Baptists. They think of hell-fire and brimstone and, of course, fried chicken.

ARE WE REALLY THAT?

Let’s be fair, shall we? We’ve done this to ourselves. I’m a Baptist so I’m allowed to say this: we are legalistic chicken graveyards. Too many Baptist preach and teach about all the “Thou shall nots” of the Bible and too many Baptist eat all the casseroles at the church potluck.

But is this really who Baptists are? Are we really just a bunch of boring (#9,) traditional (#5,) fundamental (#12,) stiffs wearing suits and ties (#14) who sing outdated (#7) hymns (#13) in the southern states (#8)? I don’t think so. I mean, sure, some of us are. And some of us are proud to be that. There is a Baptist church 5 minutes from my house with a sign on the front of the church that proudly displays the fact that they are independent, fundamental King James-only, friend chicken lovers. Okay, maybe not the fried chicken part, but I’m sure that is implied along with the legalism and the suits and ties.

So, yes, to some degree we are those things. Baptists have a traditionally been legalistic in the areas of cards, movies, dancing and alcohol (all secondary and tertiary issues.) And yes, even my church has a monthly potluck meal (or is it pot-blessings since luck is an unbiblical idea?).

But there are plenty of Baptists who don’t wear suit and ties (even though I usually do), who don’t sing hymns (even though they should), and who aren’t in the south (though most of them are!)

WHAT SHOULD WE BE?

But what about the other words. Take out John the Baptist. He has nothing to do with what we know as Baptist today. What about immersion (#3), Bible (#6), sound theologically (#11) and missions (#15). Those are the words that I like to hear because those are the words that I think about when I think about what a real Baptist is.

BIBLICALLY SOUND THEOLOGY

Let’s start with the Bible and sound theology. These two go hand-in-hand. Baptists have long been considered people of the Book. We love the Bible and dive deep into the treasure trove of the infallible, inerrant and completely sufficient Word of God. The result: sound theology. Now, again, we have theological differences in the Baptist camp, but by in large most Baptists agree on the central tenants of the orthodox Christian faith. To quote Tom Hicks, “Baptists, along with all orthodox Christians, believe in the Trinity, that God is one in essence and three in person. We also believe in biblical Christology, that the incarnate Christ is two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, united in one person. We believe that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners through His death and resurrection. This means that it’s impossible for liberal theologians, who deny the deity of Christ but affirm the immersion of believers, to be considered Baptists. Orthodoxy has been an indispensably interconnected part of Baptist identity from the beginning.” (Hicks 2016)

In other words, Baptists usually believe what Baptists have always believed; and this comes from a robust understanding of sound doctrine and theology.

IMMERSION AND MISSIONS

This leads directly to the other two words that I think of when I heard the word Baptist; immersion and missions. Immersion is related to what we call credo- or believer’s baptism. This is following the teaching that baptism is reserved only for those who make a credible testimony of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and are then baptized by immersion. It is in opposition to what is called paedo- or infant baptism. Christians who practice infant baptism do so because they understand infant baptism as the new covenant equivalent of circumcision. In this view, just as circumcision joined a Hebrew to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, so baptism joined a person to the New Covenant of salvation through Jesus Christ.

I am not here to defend my position on baptism. If you want to look up some resources, the internet has plenty of them.

What this belief in credo-baptism does is separates Baptists from other orthodox, Bible-loving, Jesus-honoring Christians like Methodists and Presbyterians, among others. This belief shapes our ecclesiology and how we view our church membership, church government and even church discipline.

If only people who can faithfully attest to the gospel of Jesus Christ with any sort of certainty can be baptized, then only regenerate Christians can be baptized and thus become true church members. If the members of the church are truly regenerated and converted, then they posses the Holy Spirit and have the spiritual capability to vote on important matters of the church such as leadership, membership and discipline.

True converted church members possess the keys to the kingdom given to us by Christ to bind and loosen the gates in order to accept members into the local church based on their testimony and witness and also discipline sinning members who are living in unrepentant, habitual sin (see Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5.)

Jonathan Leeman says there are six job responsibilities for every church member: help preserve the gospel message, help affirm gospel citizens, attend member’s meetings (where presumably members will be voted on), disciple other church members, share the gospel with outsiders and follow your leaders. (Leeman 2016)

This belief also leads us to a robust theology of missions. It is not coincidence that Baptist (the Southern Baptist Convention, more specifically) has the largest missions force in the world. The approximately 47,000 SBC churches care for almost 3,000 international missionaries and their families and nearly 6,000 missionaries in North America in many different contexts and categories. Now, obviously, with nearly 47,000 churches and 15 million people on our church rolls (though only about 5 million show up to church any given Sunday) those numbers should be higher. But, nevertheless, Baptists are missions-minded, Great Commission-focused people.

We believe that the church always has been and always will be God’s “Plan A” to reach the nations and there is no “Plan B.” We take the Great Commission seriously: we go to all nations and make disciples. And yes, we baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And, hopefully, we are teaching the converts to obey all that Christ has commanded us through His Scriptures with the promise of Jesus’ presence until the end of time.

BEING A BAPTIST

So, yes, Baptists eat too many potlucks. And yes, some have a tendency to be stuffy and Pharisaical. But a true Baptist loves God and His Word, loves people enough to tell them about Jesus and protect and defend their gospel witness, and loves the world enough to go and send missionaries to every corner of the globe for the sake of the gospel.

If that is what a Baptist is, then count me in.

References

Hicks, Tom. What is a Baptist. June 23, 2016. http://founders.org/2016/06/23/what-is-a-baptist/ (accessed January 11, 2017).

Leeman, Jonathan. Don’t Fire Your Church Members. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Add a Catechism to Our Worship Service?

The numbers are in; self-professing Christians don’t really believe what Christians have always believed. If that sentence doesn’t make any sense to you, it shouldn’t. Christians have believed certain foundational truths throughout church history, and yet today, we see more and more Christians know less and less about God, Jesus, the Bible and salvation.

Part of the blame is to fall on individual Christians, but corporate church bodies are not innocent in this digression of Biblical truth in our world today. Churches have steered clear of doctrine, theology and Biblical, expositional preaching for many years in the 20th and 21st centuries. And now we are reaping what we have sown.

This is part of the reason why we are introducing a new element to our Sunday morning worship services. Starting this Sunday (January 1, 2017) we will be adding a time of catechesis to our worship liturgy. A catechism is simply a way of teaching truth in a question and answer form. Catechisms have been around for hundreds of years and have been used by thousands of Christian brothers and sisters throughout history. It has only been recently when Protestant churches began to move away from times of corporate catechism programs.new-city-catechism

The catechism we will be using is called the New City Catechism. It was produced by The Gospel Coalition (which our church has partnered with) and developed and adapted by Timothy Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation-period catechisms. It comprises 52 questions and answers—therefore there is only one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into church calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules.

Because parents who teach their kids a children’s catechism, and then try to learn an adult one for themselves often find the process confusing (the children are learning one set of questions and answers and the parents are learning another completely different set), New City Catechism is a joint adult and children’s catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children’s answer is always part of the adult answer.

Each service we will read the question, answer and accompanying Bible verse for that week. There are many online resources available for families to learn the question and answers during the week and thereby have a rich time of discipleship that takes no more than 5 minutes a day.

You can download family resources at: www.newcitycatechism.com

Here are several ways to access the New City Catechism:

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good riddance 2016! Really?!

I get it! 2016 has kind of sucked. Really. Tragedy after tragedy. Death after death. Casualty after casualty. Despair, destruction and depravity run amok. I cannot even begin to list all of the headline making news because I’m sure I would forget something. Too many people have died. Too many tragedies have occurred. Too much! Good bye 2016! Hello 2017!

2016

But, let me pause. Take a breath. Hang on a second. I agree that 2016 was hard. But here is the foundational truth that Bible-believing Christians should remember: God was indeed sovereign over 2016.  Jesus never left the throne in 2016. The Holy Spirit did not take a nap in 2016. All of that stuff happened on God’s watch. And not only did it happen while He was watching, He was actually actively involved in the day-to-day activities of 2016.

That is crazy to think about, I admit. But if you believe in the total sovereignty of God, then it must be true. If Romans 8:28 and Psalm 115:3 and Proverbs 16:9 and Genesis 50:20 and scores of other verses are true, then God’s absolute sovereignty over 2016 must be true as well.

Therefore, and read this carefully and know I say this with all the best intentions, when we complain about 2016, we are complaining against God. When we say good riddance to 2016 we are actually saying that we wish to rid the world of God’s plans for the past 12 months. And I don’t think we really intend on doing that, but when the sentiment is followed through to the final conclusion, that is ultimately what we are saying.

As Christians we must be armed with this truth when we are in answering our non-Christian friend’s and neighbor’s questions about the past year. We must have a robust understanding of God’s goodness as well as man’s depravity and the reality of the cloud of sin we currently live in. That God intends for harmony and peace and beauty and tranquility and a flourishing, productive, God-honoring society, and has actually promised one in the future. But right now, for the past however-many-thousand years, God’s plans are still the best plans. 2o16 was literally “Your Best Life Now” because it was God’s year and He doesn’t get any better.

I do look back at 2016 and wonder, “Why this, God?” But then I remember that no plan of God will ever be thwarted (Job 42:2.) So I look forward to 2017, with all the ups and downs, ins and outs, peaks and valleys, and trust that God is still in control.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How do I treat my gay friend/family member this Christmas?

First, you should know that I am a Christian and believe that the LGBTQ lifestyle is opposed to the teaching of the Christian Scriptures. That is my starting point; so you may already disagree with me.

Secondly, I am writing as a pastor of a small congregation who has been forced to deal with issue of culture drastically changing at high velocity right before their eyes. Let’s face it, the world is different today than it was five years ago. I would argue that most Christians are not equipped emotionally and some spiritually for the rapid change in our culture. Many people in my own congregation are having to deal with these sensitive issues in their own families and social circles. And it has not been easy on them.

So the question is this: how do I treat my “LGBTQ” family member or friend this Christmas season? Do I buy them and their spouse/significant other a present? Do I invite them over for Christmas meal? Do I let them stay at my house when they visit for a few days? Do I simply ignore them?

Let me say this: I get it. I get the feelings of anxiety and the hopelessness that you may be feeling when you find out a loved one is living in a lifestyle that you do not agree with. This is not easy for you to understand and I get that you don’t know what to do next.

But, you and I both need to understand that your loved one has had similar feelings. They likely did not come to this decision very easily. There was heartache. There was struggle. There was probably torment, especially if they are coming from a Christian background, whatever the degree of spirituality they have experienced.

It is important for us to open our hearts and show a little empathy for our loved one. This new lifestyle has been hard on them as well. So as much grief and anguish you are feeling, times that by a couple million, and that is likely the feeling your friend or family member felt at one point during their decision-making process.

I think the answer to your question comes down to answering these two questions: 1. How much do you love this person? 2. How much does God say we should love this person?

Chances are if you are a person who finds yourself coming from an older generation where “sex” was a four-lettered word and not to be talked about in polite company and  are coming from a Christian background that believes that homosexuality is an abomination, then you are having a very difficult time loving that person.

Again, I get it. But here’s the deal: we are called to love. Love God above all else (thereby love his Holy Scriptures and keep them) and love others as much as we love ourselves (that includes every flavor of sinner). Those two commands are not at odds. Jesus said them in the same breath and declared that the two commands combined make the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:34-40). We can love God perfectly and His word as well as love our neighbors as we love ourselves without negating one or the other.

The problem is that this new lifestyle has come into society so rapidly that it has caught many of us off guard. In our minds it is unusual, perverse and just downright “icky.” And we don’t know how to handle it. And that’s the problem. We don’t know how to handle it when a sinner sins in a fashion that we’re totally not comfortable with. The fact of the matter is we should be just as “disgusted” with our friends and family who choose to live in sexually pervasive heterosexual relationships. Or our loved ones who choose to cheat on their wives, fudge their income tax sheet, watch porn at night when no one is looking, drink too much on Saturday afternoon or are domineering to their children. We are walking a fine line when we distinguish between which sin is less deplorable in our own eyes.

As uncomfortable as it makes us, we cannot claim any sort of love for that person if we are not willing to meet them where they are, sin in hand, even if that sin is repulsive to us. All sin is repulsive to God. Their sin. My sin. Your sin.

That is where Christians live; as ambassadors of Christ in a foreign land called Earth. We are missionaries in our own backyard. We no longer live in our version of Mayberry. We no longer have to travel under the shroud of darkness to Las Vegas to visit Sin City. Sin City is your city and Sin City is my city.

If we truly do love that person, we want them in our homes so that they can be exposed to our salt and light. Should there be rules and understanding? Of course. House rules always apply. And if they love you they will comply. If they are combative, calmly ask them to leave. I bet they won’t be, if you truly show them the love of Christ.

We must be willing to, not put aside our Christian beliefs and Biblical standards, but to step outside our safety bubble of Christianity and approach our loved ones as unreached peoples on the mission field of planet earth. And that can be uncomfortable, painful and dirty.

I love this quote by Rosaria Butterfield, “If you want to put the hand of the lost into the hand of the Savior, you need to get close enough to get hurt.”

Ultimately the gospel is at stake in how we treat our friends and family who share views and lifestyles we do not agree with.

This, of course, will take much prayer, much seeking after God, much studying in His Word in order to have Biblical answers to life’s questions. I am not saying it will be easy or fun. Nor do I think that anyone who just isn’t there yet is less of a Christian. We are all being conformed into the image of Christ and some of us aren’t at that point of our conformity yet. But that should be our goal: to love our friends and family the way that Christ loved us. In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)

For more information on how to relate to gay friends and family members, I recommend the following resources:

Watch this video of former atheist lesbian-turned-pastor’s wife Rosaria Butterfield on Understanding and Loving Our Gay and Lesbian Friends

Watch these short videos of same sex-attracted pastor Sam Allberry on Ministering to Gay Family and Friends

Here are some links to some helpful articles:

Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks answers the question “Should Christians disown gay sons and daughters?

John Piper answers the question “How should I relate to a gay family member?”

Got Questions: How should Christians respond if one of their children comes out as gay?

Christianity Today: How do I treat my gay friends? 

Focus on the Family: Responding to a “gay Christian” in the family

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Favorite Books from 2016

I try to keep a healthy reading diet, but I feel that I fail more often than I succeed. I set a lofty goal for the number of books that I wanted to read in 2016, but fell well short. I still read more than I read last year, but I will aim for more next year. books-education-school-literature-48126

Here are a few of the favorite that I read in 2016. Note, they were not necessarily published in 2016, but I read them this past year.

Thoughts For Young Men, JC Ryle: I know, I know, I should have read this a long time ago. It was totally worth it. I really, really liked it.  Short, pithy and convicting. All men should read this book at least once a year. I recommend you buy it for any young man, teenager, graduate or even middle-aged man.

Praying the Bible, Don Whitney:  Another short and easy read but just as powerful. Dr. Whitney gives very practical tips about praying through passages of the Bible and making it a part of your every day prayer life. How many times have you sat at your desk or in your chair to pray and your mind has wandered down every rabbit trail there is. This book will surely help you with this. I would recommend this as a gift as well.

Evangelism, Mack Stiles: Apparently I like short but powerful and convicting books! This book is part of the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series and it is super practical but also super convicting. Man, I wish all churches could get a grasp of the evangelistic culture that Mack talks about in this book. A healthy church is an evangelistic church. And not just having evangelistic services or “revival” services, but rather an ethos and culture of evangelism from the members. I pray this for my own church and the American church as a whole.

The Conviction to Lead, Al Mohler:  Dr. Mohler has quickly become one of my spiritual heroes (you know we were born in the same town in Central Florida, right?) Dr. Mohler speaks with authority and clarity as one of the top leaders in our day. Just a side not, because I respect Dr. Mohler so much, I would have loved to hear some more personal anecdotes about the struggles of reforming SBTS back in the 1990’s. I hope that one day Dr. Mohler publishes his memoirs so that generations to come will know how hard he and so many others fought to keep Biblical Inerrancy alive in the SBC. If you have never seen this short film published in honor of Dr. Mohler’s 20th anniversary at SBTS, you should watch it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment