Friday, July 1, 2016

"We Will Not Bow": A Sermon Preached by John MacArthur

This week marks the one year anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that unilaterally legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. In light of that historic decision, this week I am reposting old articles on the subject of homosexuality and the gospel.

All Around the Web - July 1, 2016

Eric Metaxas - A License to Discriminate: California’s Assault on Christian Colleges

Opposing Views - Pew Study: How Different Religious Groups View Abortion

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about the Christian's Responsibility to Human Government

Reformation21 - The Trinitarian Debate: Some Reflections and Cautions

NBC News - Conservative Columnist George Will Leaves Republican Party Over Trump

New York Times - Edgar Feuchtwanger Bore Witness, Horribly Close to Hitler

The New Yorker - Clash of Clans Proves That Our Impatience Is Worth Billions

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor" by Glenn Stanton: A Review

This week marks the one year anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that unilaterally legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. In light of that historic decision, this week I am reposting old articles on the subject of homosexuality and the gospel.

Being universal, they most certainly apply to the topic we are exploring here and the people it involves on all sides of the issue. These six truths are:
  1. Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  2. Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions
  3. Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  4. Unfortunately everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  5. All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God's boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  6. Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing, and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions. (15-16, italics original)
The rise of the LGBT (and its endless other abbreviations) has forced Christians to ask questions they had not considered possible for hundreds of years. One is hard press to imagine Christians considering the challenges we face today in the history of Christianity since Rome itself. As such, Christians must think again, practically, how to navigate through the world in which we live.

Scripture is clear we are called to love both our Maker and our neighbor. What that looks like has always been a matter of conversation, now more than ever. Given the sexual revolution and its confusion over gender, sexuality, and the rest, Christians are wanting to know what it means practically to love our LGBT neighbor. Thankfully, Glenn Stanton has written such a book appropriately titled Loving my (LGBT) neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.

The parenthesis in the title is important. On the one hand, the book is simple: loving our LGBT neighbor, though a unique challenge, is no different than the age-old commission to love one's neighbor.

Though perhaps oversimplified, the book has two main divisions. The first is explanation, the second is application. In the explanation section, the author walks the reader through the issues. Stanton explores questions of orientation, the history of the movement, sexual and gender identity, etc. Such a section is not unusual in books like this, but I particularly enjoyed Stanton's tone and honesty.

Take for example his discussion of bigotry and perversion. Stanton calls on the reader to move beyond these inaccurate and unhelpful terms. Many in the religious community are quick to label LGBT as perverted or sex-crazed while many in the LGBT community are quick to label every person of faith as bigoted and phobic. He writes:
Only the other side, a widely held misperception - even by many evangelicals themselves - is that Christians who oppose same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting and such are motivated by bigotry and so-called homophobia. Major state and federal court decisions have said as much in support of their decisions, based purely on assumption. it has become a truism that those who oppose these things are haters, simply for the convictions they hold rather than any actual bigoted or hateful actions or words. Most cultural elites have uncritically accepted and contributed to this stereotyped script simply because they can imagine it being true based on Christians they have never met. Just like we can assume the child-molester charge about same-sex-attracted people we've never met. (79)
Later, Stanton adds:
Both sides on this issue have been guilty of uncivil and just plain mean behavior. But to be honest, as one who has paid very close attention to and participated in this issue for more than a decade. I am glad to say that there has been more calling out one's peers for correction and denunciation within the evangelical community than there has been within the LGBT community. That's just a fact that should be noted. (80)
I agree. Christians are certainly guilty of vile rhetoric and unloving actions, but no doubt the dominate anger and animosity, and dare I say "bigotry" is not from people of faith but from those who are actively pitting erotic liberty against religious liberty.

From there, Stanton deals with practical matters. I suspect this is the section that will garner the most attention. Stanton seeks to deal with the questions of attending a same-sex wedding ceremony, how do I live faithfully without being offensive, what about my gay child, what if my gay child invites their partner over, how should society handle the bathroom issue with transgenders, what about homosexuals in our congregations, etc.

One might be surprised by Stanton's answer regarding attending a same-sex wedding. Though he concludes that he would not attend under most circumstances, he does confess that there are a few instances in which he might. I would direct the reader to Stanton's reasoning before they offer any criticism.

Overall, I believe Stanton has offered a very helpful and timely book that is an invaluable tool for pastors and Christians alike. As a pastor, I have been asked many of the questions raised in this book and I am grateful for Stanton's voice and for this volume.

This book was given to me for free for the purpose of this review.

All Around the Web - June 30, 2016

Denny Burk - I’m a single-issue voter on multiple issues, and so are you.

Ed Stetzer - California's Religious Liberty Moment—Coming to a State Near You

Evangelical History - When Did Churches Start Celebrating the Fourth of July?

The Point -  An Un-level Playing Field

Thom Rainer - Eight Time Drainers of Pastors and Staff (and Seven Solutions)

Tim Challies - The Bestsellers: Every Man's Battle

Church Leaders - Francis Chan Uncovers the Two Scariest Lies in the World Today

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"We Cannot Be Silent" by Albert Mohler: A Review

This week marks the one year anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that unilaterally legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. In light of that historic decision, this week I am reposting old articles on the subject of homosexuality and the gospel.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land, and its decisions cannot be appealed to a higher court to law. But the Supreme Court, like every human institution and individual, will eventually face two higher courts. The first is the court of history, which will render a judgment that I believe will embarrass this court and reveal its dangerous trajectory. The precedents and arguments set forth in this decision cannot be limited to the right of same-sex couples to marry. If individual autonomy and equal protection mean that same-sex couples cannot be denied what is now defined as a fundamental right of marriage, then others will arrive to make the same argument. This Court will find itself in a trap of its own making, and one that will bring great harm to this nation and its families. The second court we all must face is the court of divine judgment. For centuries, marriage ceremonies in the English-speaking world have included the admonition that what God has put together, no human being – or human court – should tear asunder. That is exactly what the Supreme Court of the United States has now done. (181-182)

Historians will look back, I believe, and note that America changed the minute it officially legalized same-sex marriage. But like most things historically, such a culture-shifting event is more complicated than gay rights and its legalization finds it roots decades prior. The legalization of gay marriage was a "long time coming" and people of faith need to be aware of what it means moving forward.

This is why Dr. Albert Mohler's book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong is so crucial to people of faith in general and Christians in particular.

Mohler does two things well in this book. First, he puts the legalization of gay marriage in its historic perspective. Mohler is clear that people of faith are as responsible for same-sex marriage as gay rights activists. The author sends the reader through an illuminating historical and sociological survey of how we went from an America which assumed traditional values to an America which is quickly criminalizing it.

Mohler shows that same-sex marriage is part of the broader sexual movement which is a cultural revolution that has spread at unprecedented rates in recent decades. He isolates four keys to its spread: "birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation." (17) Without looking at these in detail, consider the implications of these developments. Through them, sex was separated from marriage; children have become optional among romantic couples; marriage is no longer an expectation between two partners; and children can now be born/raised without sexual intercourse. None of this would have been possible a century ago.

Secondly, Mohler puts the legalization of same-sex marriage in its cultural perspective. Secularists might have joked that the sky did not fall the day after the Supreme Court redefined marriage, but Mohler shows that gay marriage is about more than homosexuals marrying. One helpful chapter in this regard regards the threat to religious liberty we are already seeing and which was predictable. It is clear that the secular left prefers erotic liberty over religious liberty and Christians must prepare themselves for that reality.

In short, this book is Mohler at his best. For those familiar with Mohler's work will enjoy each page of this volume. Mohler has been on the front lines of this issue bearing testimony to the Christian gospel and we should be thankful for men like him standing firm in the faith. This book is a reflection of that. It is practical (particularly in the last chapter which is a Q and A format) and informative. Some may be surprised by some of Mohler's conclusions (he affirms sexual orientation and does not object to same-sex couples fostering children). Before one criticizes the author, they should first hear him out.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Mohler is thoughtful, biblical, and gospel-focused. The world has shifted under our feet and it will continue to shift. But we need not fear, the gospel is still mighty to save and to transform even a world like ours.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

All Around the Web - June 29, 2016

Albert Mohler - Character in Leadership — Does it Still Matter?

National Review - One Year after Obergefell

Russell Moore - Signposts: Should Christians Boycott?

Doug Wilson - Atheist Debate War Stories

Jared Wilson - Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?

The Gospel Coalition - The Main Message of Your Bible

Tim Challies - Why I Am Not Dispensational

Ligonier - The People vs. the System of This World

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Caesar Rages Against Christians

This week marks the one year anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that unilaterally legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. In light of that historic decision, this week I am reposting old articles on the subject of homosexuality and the gospel.

In his double volume work simply entitled Apologia ("apology" meaning "defense") early Christian leader and philosopher, Justin Martyr, defends, promotes, and explains Christianity to Caesar himself. In one section that remains with me today is his dumbfoundedness of why Rome persecutes Christians so heavily. He explains to Caesar that Christians faithfully pay taxes, obey all laws, serve the poor, and even risk their lives to save those suffering from plagues. Persecuting, and sometimes executing, Christians for publicly exercising their faith, to Justin, made no sense. Christians were the sort of citizens Caesar needs.

So why did Caesar rage against Christians?

I have said before that Christian history has come full circle. The Apostle Paul, and Justin Martyr a few centuries later, ministered in a society grossly oversexed that eventually became predominately Christian. We now live in what was once a predominately Christian nation that is quickly (and I mean quickly) becoming oversexed.It should not surprise us, therefore, that the question Justin Martyr asked Caesar is increasingly becoming the question we Christians are having to ask today. Why are Christians being punished, ignored, mocked, and constantly derided for publically exercising theri faith? Why is Christianophobia on the rise? Why are Christians constantly called to redefine their faith? Why?

That is to say, why is Caesar, once again, raging against Christians?

I think I have an answer but first we must understand the Roman world. Rome was polytheistic (to say the least.) She was also tolerant (in a limited sense). When Rome extended its borders (usually through war) they welcomed the religion and gods of conquered people under the prerequisite that the conquered would also adopt the Roman gods. That was Roman tolerance. So long as Roman religion was not attacked or derided, one was free to worship as they pleased.Today we might call this the "freedom of worship" as opposed to "the freedom of religion." So long as Christians privatized their faith Rome remained "tolerant." However, once Christianity entered the public square or the market place, Caesar intervened.

And today the same policy is gaining in dominance.

This, I believe, explains our world today. America, and the rest of the secular West with her, is not interested in regulating the doctrine of the Trinity or weighing in on baptism; they will, however, intervene when local clerks refuse to marry homosexuals or bakers refuse to just "do their job." "What you say and believe in your pew is perfectly fine," says Caesar, "but you had better put it on the shelf during the rest of the week." The golden statute of "tolerance" demands our allegiance and Caesar is not afraid to use the fire for all dissenters.

Regardless, Christians in Rome openly called for the tearing down Roman gods. Most notable was the gods and goddesses of sex. The gods of today, remain the same.

Recently an exhibit at The National Portrait Gallery celebrating our nation's "Struggle for Justice" (as the exhibit was called) was protested for one simple reason. The exhibit included a bust of Margaret Sanger - the racist, eugenicists who founded Planned Parenthood. The history of Planned Parenthood is anything but progressive and it continues the work of its founder. As one protester noted, had Sanger's vision come to fruition, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks would have never been born.

Neither would have Barack Obama.

The Gallery is shocked at the protest. Sanger's presence in the gallery, and her ongoing popularity, is for one primary reason: her promotion of "contraception" (especially abortion and birth control) is what has fueled the sexual revolution. Modern contraceptives and abortion has severed sex from marriage.

And so we all bow!

Secularism cares more about sex than it does justice. In fact, sexual liberation is the greatest act of justice to the secular mind and Margaret Sanger created a sanctuary for its worship: the abortion clinic. It is behind the fashioned doors of the inner city Planned Parenthood where Eros can be properly worshipped without the interruption of unwanted children.

The recent incarceration of Kim Davis - anything but a violent criminal worthy of a mugshot - proves this thesis further. Elected leaders refusing to enforce the law is nothing new. In his first term, President Barack Obama refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and later refused to enforce his own law: the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Finally, both the current administration and its immediate predecessors have refused to enforce immigration laws deriding anyone concerned with illegal immigration as racists.

Meanwhile, no one bats an eye. In fact, such contempt for the Constitution is lauded as brave, bold, and "on the right side of history."

President Obama is not the only elected official to refuse to enforce the law. In a recent post, the National Review highlights the following examples:
  • In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of California state law. 
  • In 2004, Mayor Jason West of New Paltz directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of New York state law. 
  • In 2010, attorney general Jerry Brown declined to answer legal challenges to California’s marriage law, which, after Proposition 8, was that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.” His job was to represent the state of California in legal matters and defend its laws, including those he didn’t like. 
  • In 2013, D. Bruce Hanes, an official of Montgomery County, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of Pennsylvania state law. The history of the movement to redefine marriage is shot through with defiance of laws that those who broke them sincerely felt were deeply wrong.
They then conclude, "To be consistent, anyone who thinks that Newsom, West, Brown, and Hanes were courageous and principled must now judge Davis by the same standard."

Nevertheless, while such "courageous" civil disobedience by elected officials continues no one bats an eye. In fact, such contempt for the law  is lauded as brave, bold, and "on the right side of history."

But the minute a Kentucky elected official who is also a converted Christian refused to sign marriage licenses because her faith warns her that severing her conscience is a sin, judicial Caesar's bear their fangs and incarcerate her.

Her crime is not simply she refused to marry homosexuals (or anyone for that matter). Her real crime is she refused to synchronize the risen Lord Jesus with America's religion of sex. She can be a Christian, Caesar assures her, just not in her role as an elected official that refuses to celebrate in erotic anarchy.

The solutions to the Kim Davis case are numerous and I do believe she could have handled the situation better. Regardless, Governor Beshear's continues to refuse to deal with the issue as are most elected officials in the state of Kentucky of both parties. The proper response would be to impeach Mrs. Davis, not to arrest her. But why should Caesar take such action? He is not interested in accommodation. He certainly will not negotiate with so-called bigots who refuse to bow Aphrodite.

In the end, the sexual revolution has never been about sex, but about worship and Kim Davis is on the wrong side of that debate.

This is the world we now live in. For Christians reading this you need to be aware of this. Caesar is not your friend and never was. Apart from a miraculous revival of repentance in our nation, Christians will continue to be marginalized. This has always been the spirit of the Beast yet this is is not reason to fear for by standing firm and living out our faith may result in mockery and incarceration from the culture, we have read the end of the story. God works well when Christians are in the minority and being shouted them down while standing firm in the faith.

In the end, let us not forget that Justin's surname was not "Martyr." No mailbox of his contained the name. It is history's badge of honor. He pleaded that Caesar would open his eyes and rule accordingly. Caesar refused and Justin gained a great victory in the end once his head literally began to roll.