Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Revealing Clues

From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son...He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature. -- Romans 1:20, Hebrews 1:2a and 3a; HCSB

When I served as an associate pastor one of my responsibilities was ministering to teens. One thing we particularly enjoyed was scavenger hunts. One was very memorable to me. We had a "secret" meeting planned; the "secret" was that the teens had to follow carefully hidden clues placed ALL OVER our neighborhood to find the meeting place. At the meeting place we planned on having a cookout, singing, and hearing a message from a preacher-friend of mine from Africa. The clues were hidden over an eight mile radius; it took days to plan and hide the clues.

The teens partnered with an adult chaperone in groups small enough to ride in the adult's cars. Every team found the meeting place; some faster than others. All agreed that it was fun and hard.

It's funny, when you’re really looking for something that has clues you will find it. It may take some work, but clues are very revealing.

A word to the teen generation reading this...THINK about the things I am about to say. DO NOT be afraid to use your cotton-picking brains! Just so you understand me, ADULTS, you are not off the hook on this either!

One of the most wonderful, worshipful things I can dwell on is the fact that God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. At once it is all together humbling, awe inspiring and encouraging.

As Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20 testify, nature alone is sufficient to reveal the glory and nature of God. It's an awfully funny thing to me that (so called) science often looks at nature and natural things and "discovers" there is no God. I think one of the highest intellectual pursuits is to logically look at nature and there define or realize the wonderfully unified nature of God by His own handiwork. I have often marveled at the hand of our God; by His power He carved mountainous rocks and formed the most genteel flower petal. By His hand He has molded the tusks of elephants and the wings of dragonflies. We only have to observe His creation to know by it He has revealed Himself. As Romans 1:20b asserts, it is so plain to see God in His creation that no person is without excuse

I think modern science's problem is that they not are looking for God. The clues are there!

Furthermore, in God's word we have the testimony of His servants, His prophets, and, most importantly, His Son. Do you want to see the face of God? Seek the person of Jesus. What did He say? What did He do? How did He feel?

If we are willing to seek, we will find. If we are willing to hunt, we will see Jesus. We will see and know God. It is a pursuit of the heart in that we willfully search for the face of God. It is a pursuit of the mind in that we can use our God given skills of THINKING and LEARNING. We can exercise logic. We can ponder. We can meditate. We can take information in and process it.

Here, I believe, is the number one missing ingredient in finding God...we don't seek. We have shut our minds down to intellectual pursuits and turned them over to mindless activities. I think we are sometimes afraid to think! It seems as if we fear we may learn something that will require action. Or, is it that the enemy has so cleverly dangled simple things in front of us that we have been fooled into thinking they are the things of wisdom?

In closing, God has left MANY revealing clues about Himself. The question remains: are we looking? Read the following words from Proverbs 1:20-33. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster" (ESV - emphasis mine).

Look at the clues. See God. Worship Him!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

It Ain't Just THAT

I'm gay (1).


Like most things, that first statement needs to be approached with some education and understanding. I am gay, right now. No, I don't mean definition #4, or #3 for that matter. I'm #1. Not in all things, mind you, but I'm #1 in the definition thing.

I think the shock factor and the emotional-subject factor that homosexuality currently is enjoying blinds us all from the real issue that NEEDS UNDERSTANDING. Namely, MANY types of sexual sin are...well, they, um...are...sin.

Most sexual sin is performed in totally heterosexual ways, and -- let me be clear here: IT. IS. STILL. SIN.

More on that in a bit...

Get prepared...second shocking statement: SEX IS GOOD. (No Merriam-Webster this time.) Instead: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:24-25 ESV)

Let's be mature, thinking people here, okay? Sex is good. God made man. God made woman. God made us different. God intended for those differences to mesh...emotionally, mentally, and, yes, physically. God called His creation "good" and when God added man to creation, He called it "very good" (Genesis 1). God marched all the critters by Adam, and pre-sin-Adam was no slouch; he saw the differences in those animals. He saw everyone had a counterpart. Let's just be frank about this: our sexual bodies are simply part of the created order.

So, then, the question is never whether sex is an abomination or not. It's not an abomination. Okay? Got that?

How then shall we live? Stewardship of our body is a key issue. We've been given our gender-specific body, and it's subject, in some degree, to a fallen world, so the main thing we all need to remember is to lean into God for self-control and seek God for our the ethics of sexuality; definitely NOT the culture!

Remember, I am writing to believers right now. I am writing to the elect. I am writing to people who know the good help of the Holy Spirit, His indwelling and His constant hand of help. The unregenerate heart has little hope of anything other than temporary escape from ANY type of sin. Such a one is in bondage, a prisoner to sin.

For the unbeliever, reading this right now, you may not believe what I'm saying. You may not see it the way I do. I didn't always see it this way either. My mind had to be delivered. My blindness had to be cured. My spirit had to be set free to know God and see His truth. Indeed, I was delivered from the domain of darkness and delivered to become subject to The Light.

I've been set free from the prison of darkness! Thank God that He, in Christ Jesus, had / has a plan to set the captives free! "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

My personal list of sexual struggles need not be listed here for me to convey that I deeply, and with great personal pain, can say I understand the problem of sexual temptation, fall, self-loathing, semi-recovery, temptation, fall, self-loathing, etc. I'm glad to share with anyone, anytime, but I'll leave my list off this public forum in respect to potential unguided-young-readers. Suffice to say, I understand, from theology, philosophy AND experience the difficulty and emotional strain this entire subject causes  all for whom it affects.

However, this post isn't about that either...

It's time we stop bashing homosexuals. That's never right. More so, it's time we started bashing the WHOLE subject of sexual sin (and some other ones, too!).

For the believer, the matter is sort of cut and dry: follow God in purity. There. I said it. That's our calling; plain and simple. We are called to lives of purity. We don't simple avoid being homosexual. We MUST seek the Lord to be pure in every part of sexual sin. That means MANY things; for example, no pre-marital sex, no pornography, no masturbation, no lustful thoughts, no adultery - physical or heart-ti-ful -- no philandery (yes, I made that word up), no flirtations, no perversions (I do not want to spell out what I'm thinking...) -- did I say no pornography? -- no emotional affairs, no lust of the eyes, failure to consider the WHOLE subject of purity! I mean, think about it, Jesus said adultery begins in our hearts and, in the same passage, says lust in our INTENT is where sin IS MATURE (ref: Matthew 5:28).

It ain't just "that" that needs discussion. The discussion is NOT only about homosexuality, but we are letting that ONE THING get the bulk of our attention.

For example, we ought to be out battling the pornography industry, tooth and nail! It's surely battling the life of the church and is that roaring lion that is preying on millions upon millions of men. Read this interesting blog post from "Business Pundit": See, in particular, the comments on prostitution and pornography. Frankly, I think the estimates are really low on the pornography expenditures. ====== (Be careful to notice the jewelry choice of the lady pictured in the "prostitution" section of Business Pundit's article.)

Let's be honest (again), vice pays. In this fallen world, sin makes money. I often wonder if singular issues -- like the current hot-topic of homosexuality -- are the flares sent up by the enemy that cause us to stare into the sky while a thousand battles rage in the shadows.

Trust me, the Bible is not silent on the entire subject. I went over to and typed in "Sexual Immorality" and this link will show you what my search revealed: ... wow.

I'll go on record and say it: HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN. It's not a sin because I say that. It's a sin because God says it's a sin. Don't believe me? Check out Genesis 19:1-13, Leviticus 19:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9. I want to be clear that I agree with what God says about that. At the same time I want to say four things in relation to that:

  • I love every homosexual in the world. Period. I WILL treat them with the same dignity with which I attempt to treat thieves, which I honestly do struggle to love.
  • God loves every homosexual in the world, too, AND, more than I love them!
  • I never forget my own sin, sexual or not in nature, when I am talking about some sin that is not my own personal struggle. 
  • ALL SEXUAL SIN IS SIN! Did you read that? Tell me you did. ALL of it. Every type. Every time.
Believers, we need to simply agree with God on all of it, not only those things which DON'T pertain to our individual struggle.

I am gay (1a). No joke. I "happily excited" that Jesus frees people from the bondage of sin. I am overjoyed to see the work He's done in me. I am hopeful about the more-to-come nature of our current relationship. I am full of awe of what He will do in glory!

I honestly do believe Jesus is the chain-breaker, sin-taker, saint-maker that the world needs!

I do believe He is the only hope for THIS:

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming." (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)

I've set my hope on Jesus and Jesus alone.

That being said, whether I'm talking about my issues or someone else's, I believe Christ Jesus IS the answer. THAT being said, we need to put the whole discussion of immorality -- sexual and otherwise -- on the table. We need to talk about divorce, greed, gossip, etc, on and on...all of it needs to be regular and fair game. One of the faults of the American church is that we simply move from hot topic to hot topic. It makes us look small and small-minded. However, when ALL of it is ALWAYS on our minds and in our scope of introspection and preaching, no one can accuse us of being a johnny-come-lately on sin-subjects as they arise in pubic scope and discussion.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Keeping the Baby

And the angel said to those who were standing before Him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments." -- Zechariah 3:4; English Standard Version

If you are a parent you will definitely understand this illustration.
No one enjoys changing diapers. However, a parent does learn to embrace it. It's something about the thought of humbly serving my child in this way that keeps our relationship really intimate. The moment you lower yourself to serve someone in this way you are either getting paid for it or you really love them!

Here's a thought...have you ever once helped a child with a soiled diaper and thought, "Well, this kid is pretty dirty, so I think I'll just get rid of this stinky little thing!" No; we never think that. We may hate the job, but we love the person we are working to serve!

You see where this is going already. I am thankful to be a sinner who is loved by a God who hates my sin, but loves me enough not to throw me out with that which He hates.

I'll tell you this, my friends, we were created for more than we often dare to imagine. We were created in the image of our God. We were created to reflect His glory and to know intimacy with Him. Of all the beauty there is in this world, we are the prize of God's creation and the apple of His eye. Sin ruined us. We still are the apple of God's eye, but an apple that has a worm! Praise Him that He doesn't chunk the apple, just the worm!

I absolutely love today's verse. It’s beautiful. It is a picture of the cleansing one can receive through Christ Jesus. The prophets words were to the priestly order, but there is a picture in there for every believer, after all God has made us all a "royal priesthood" in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:9). Further, it is a picture of the cleansing every person receives that comes to Christ.

Here's the scoop: the garments of a priest were to be new and completely clean. Exodus 28:2 tells us that the priests garments were to be for their "glory and for beauty" (ESV). In the same way, mankind was created without defect, created by God for God with glory and beauty. The garments and mankind got dirty somewhere along the way.

If a priest's garment became dirty, it was not washed, but thrown out. The leftover cloth would be used for various purposes, such as lamp wicks. The picture we see here is a priest with dirty garments, of which the Lord could not stand the sight, so He commands those garments to be removed. It was like saying, "I can't stand the sight of this and cleaning just won't do. His garments need to be trashed!" In like fashion, God doesn't try to "pretty up" our sins; He removes them! He tells us that through Christ He causes us "to put off...the old man" (Ephesians 4:22; KJV).

It gets better...

Just like my babies couldn't clean themselves, we couldn't either. It takes the blood of Christ! All of our righteousness is filthy rags and none of "good deeds" can build a stairway to God; His grace, mercy and righteousness is poured out upon us (ref: Isaiah 64:6 and Ephesians 2:8-9). As the verse above indicates, it is God who removes iniquity. We can't. He can. He does in Christ Jesus. Not only that, but He even removes the guilt that plagues the conscience and causes us to walk in innocence as in the days of creation afresh. Man, I like that!

Even better...

God's heart was never to rip away the priest's garment and leave him naked and exposed. Nor does God desire that we stand embarrassed by our naked insufficiency. Rather, He clothes us in His righteousness as the priest, Joshua, was clothed with "pure vestments". He imputes, or puts upon us, His righteousness! Wow! That SHOULD blow us away! It is in this, at least in the sight of God, that our glory is restored and we are again the people He created us to be. The filth is take away, we are changed, and we free to serve, love and worship. Clean. Fresh. Beautiful. Accepted.

Yes, we chunk the soiled diaper, but keep the baby. Thank God, when it comes to filthiness of our sin, He does the same. What next? The same as with a child; we clean them, redress them and continue nurturing their lives, helping them grow and become what they ought to be. He, through what we call sanctification, nurtures us in this revived newness to become what we were always meant to be...creatures after His nature, in His image, set apart as special, meant for love and intimacy, and free to know God and worship Him forever.

So in the words of the Apostle John, I send this rendering from my heart "and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:4-5; ESV). Yes, Amen! May we realize His cleansing, enjoy our freedom, and rejoice Him forever and ever.

You gotta love it!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Pots and Pans that Cost Me Something

Wouldn't you like to be able to say that you left a legacy that God continued to visit? I think we all would.

And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up at Gad's word, as the LORD commanded. And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground. And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be averted from the people.” Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel. (2 Samuel 24:18-25 ESV)

My formerly-oft reminder to visiting readers (which, by the way, I don't know who to credit as saying, but it's so good, you know I didn't): Text without context is pretext for prooftext. So, if you know what that means, hold on, I'll get to the context of the passage above. If you don't know and would like to, let's discuss it. If you don't know and don't care, should. 

Check it: we don't HAVE to only give our new stuff to us. 

Let me illustrate with pots and pans...

I remember listening to a conversation once about some ladies purchasing new pots and pans. One of the ladies said they didn't really need new pots and pans, but they needed new ones at church, so she bought some new ones, kept the new ones and took her old ones to church, saying, "'cause they still worked just fine." Hmmm...I say, I say....hmmmm...what? IF the church needed new ones, why not take the new ones to church? Why does God get your okay seconds and you get to keep your really nice firsts?

The second lady said she DID need some new pots, but like the first lady, she took her old ones to church, saying, "'cause I noticed the church needed some." Wait. What? IF you "needed" new ones, BUT your old ones were good enough for church, did you "need" new ones? What? I was so confused -- not really, I'm feigning it, even now, for literary effect.

Is this an issue of stewardship of stupidship? Hold up...that was tongue-in-cheek. I know what it is. It's the enemy stopping people who want to do good from understanding what good really is. After all, diligent believers know things like "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1 ESV)...that is, just like the "god of this world" blinds the minds of believers, he also seeks to confuse believers as well (ref: 2 Cor. 4:4). All of the pots and pans belong to God. The Rachel Ray set chilling in the kitchen of this house belong to God, though I don't blame Him for some of the stuff I cook. The pans at Wal Mart belong to God. The new pans belong to God. The old pans belong to God. The metal  pans will be made of one day in the future belongs to God, even the  still unmined metal from below the Earth's surface. Point made, right?

So, if we know that, why do we only seem to do what's convenient?

I can philosophically solve this problem, if I type enough words, but I'll leave my reader(s) to contemplate the implications for themselves and struggle with their own conscience and own practice. It's better that way; the Holy Spirit will work uniquely in people, in ways I never could.

I'll simply say IF God shows us a need, let's consider offering firsts. If your pots work, keep them. Buy the church, or your neighbor, or whoever the new pots. I won't get into clothes and cars and groceries-we'll-buy-for-others-that-we'd-never-buy-for-ourselves and the host of other things we see people need.

Brace yourself; CONTEXT: King David called for a census of Israel. He wanted to determine how many fighting men were available in the nation. God did not approve of David's census. God, knowing people's hearts, knew David was physically signifying what he probably would never say out loud: "I want to know what we have, because (1) I'm proud of what I've done -- heavy on the "I", and (2) I want to know what my kingdom's military capacity is so that I can be sure of what I'm working with." On the one hand, David revealed a self-centered arrogance. On the other, David revealed that he lacked trust in the Lord in this way. (ref: 2 Samuel 24:1-9)

God judged David. David repented. (ref: 2 Samuel 24:10-17)

To honor God, David decided to build an altar. Good move. David found a spot he liked, and, as he approached the owner of the spot, a threshing floor to be precise, the gentleman offered to give David the field. The gentleman, Araunah, was a neat guy, and I appreciate his generosity. However, David needed to make an expression of generosity, not Araunah. David turned Araunah's offer down, insisting that his own act of repentance cost him something. (ref: 2 Samuel 24:18-25)

Now, what might be most interesting of all...this threshing floor that David purchases later becomes the location his son, Solomon, uses to build the Temple. David honored God and it became a legacy that remains to this day.

We just can't expect God to bless stingy, self-centered hearts. He wants us to mirror His nature, to reflect who He is to a world that needs to see Him. That ain't gonna happen with second-hand pots. God is infinitely more gracious than that.

As for me and my house, we're going to off pots that cost us something.