"Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise…."
The apostle Matthew uses those simple words to start his account of the single most important event in human history. There's nothing pretentious or elaborate. There's nothing overpowering or overwhelming. Yet I find in those words something compelling far beyond the simplicity of the text. A simplicity that draws me into the story. Something far greater than what we see on the surface. Something that goes much deeper. We've told and retold the story for centuries. Yet I think we have failed to see it for what it really was.
It feels strange to look back at the birth of Jesus from a modern perspective, in the light of how we currently view that singularly important event, compared to how it must have been. I'm sure that those who actually experienced the event we so fervently celebrate had a profoundly different perspective than we do today. Even people who don't believe in Jesus celebrate the day… with the giving of gifts and the sentiment of peace and good will to all. It's a noble ideal and the festive celebration is just plain fun. But that's not how it was when Jesus was born. There was no national holiday. There was no celebration of peace on earth or the giving of gifts. Sure there were guys on camels, who were probably a little sweaty and dirty after months on the road, that gave some pretty nice gifts to the young Messiah, but the number of people who actually saw things the way we do was limited to a very small group. It was probably smaller than the number of people who line up at the Bagdad post office for Christmas stamps… well, maybe not, but I really can't say because I don't go to the Bagdad post office to buy my stamps. It just wasn't a lot of people. Let's try to figure out who it was.
Well, obviously there was Mary. She was a little shocked and awed at first, when the angel gave her the news that she was pregnant. But she doesn't make a big stink about things and accepts the situation with what I think is exceptional faith.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in to her, and said, "Hail, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you: you are blessed among women."
And when she saw him, she was troubled by what he said, and wondered in her mind what kind of greeting this was.
And the angel said unto her, "Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall become pregnant, and conceive a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his forefather, King David: And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and to his kingdom there will be no end."
Then said Mary to the angel, "How is this possible, since I've never had sex with a man?"
And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will become prominent in your life: furthermore, the holy child which will be born to you will be called the Son of God. And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she is also pregnant with a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month of her pregnancy, a woman that people said would never have a child. For with God nothing is impossible.
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let those things happen to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38 DCV (Don Crouse Version)
The details of what transpired in Mary's life after her visit with Gabriel are sketchy at best. But suffice it to say that being an unmarried, pregnant woman in those times was not a good thing, especially if you were engaged to a guy and the father wasn't that guy. If Joseph rats her out and exposes her infidelity, she's going to get stoned… which had a totally different meaning two thousand years ago. She was going to die. So why was she willing to accept the news Gabriel just dumped on her? I don't know? Why do you people keep asking me what other people are thinking? Dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a mind reader! So I'll guess. No, on second thought, I'll let you guess. Perhaps Mary's response, which is almost never mentioned at Christmas time, will help illuminate things.
And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from this time forward all generations will call me blessed. For He that is mighty has done great things to me; and His name is holy. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted those who are considered to be of very little importance. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever.
Luke 1:47-55 DCV
Generations will call you blessed? Doesn't she realize she's a stones throw away from death! This doesn't sound like a young woman without hope. It doesn't even sound like a woman that is even remotely concerned about her fate. This sounds like a woman that is excited about the future and has complete faith in God. I'd say Mary was elated that God had picked her. Although the reason for her positive attitude isn't spelled out in a concise explanation, it is clear Mary feels she has been blessed. Whatever the reason, Mary was willing to accept God's plan for her life because she trusted Him. This girl had some chutzspah! But what was she going to tell the folks? "Hey mom and dad, great news - I'm going to have a baby boy and God's the father!" Yeah, right. "No, I didn't have sex!" Yeah, right. "No, I'm not stoned!" Well, you're about to be. Have you been sniffing camel dung? "No! There was this angel…." Rrrrright. Uncle Hezekiah sniffs camel dung, and he sees angels all the time.
Now just so you know, I've never found any evidence that angels that visit us, have wings. Too conspicuous and it makes it difficult to get through doorways. They may glow a little, but that's about as obvious as it gets. Mostly they just look like us and drop heavy info on unsuspecting people, like Mary. For all Mary knew, the guy telling her God was going to be the father of her first born could have been a janitor at that camel lot down the street… only shiny. But she had faith. Maybe that's why she was the one God chose. But if her story wasn't going to get any traction at home, how in the world would she explain things to the neighbors! Or Joseph! What would she tell Joseph? Would there even be time before the stoning? Joseph might even be one of the people rocking her world. She didn't know. She just trusted God. Just a guess, but I'd say Mary is a glass-is-half-full kinda girl.
Meanwhile, over at Joseph's place, good ol' Joe has just seen his betrothed for the first time since she's returned from visiting cousin Elizabeth. And there's trouble in River City. She's pregnant! Now Joseph is a kind hearted man, who really loves Mary. He doesn't want to see her put to death. He's not a happy camper, but he doesn't want camp to be Stoning 101. So he decides to quietly release Mary from their arranged engagement so she won't be killed. He can forgive her. But he can't marry Mary… quite the contrary. This means Mary will be a very young girl, some say as young as 14, who is pregnant and on her own. There aren't a lot of career opportunities for her in Nazareth. There's an opening on the corner of Dung Gate Road and Goat Street, if she'd like to sell her body for a denarii or two. But that also carries the risk of stoning and a few others problems. And considering Mary's faith, it's not a job she could ever engage in. So Mary's first Christmas isn't looking too bright. But just as Joseph is about to drop Mary from his family planning program, something happens.
Joseph, Mary's espoused husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, decided to secretly call off their engagement.
But while he thought about that, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take Mary as your wife: for the child which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she will give birth to a son, and you will name him JESUS: for he will save his people from their sins." Now all this was done, that the words spoken by the prophet of the Lord would be fulfilled which said, "Behold, a virgin will be pregnant, and will give birth to a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which , when translated, means 'God with us'."
Then Joseph, after being awakened from his sleep, did what the angel of the Lord told him, and married Mary, and she became his wife: and he didn't have sex with her until she had given birth to her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Matthew 1:20-25 DCV
Well, thank God for angels. Now Mary won't have to try and explain the unexplainable. The angel has already done it for her. And Joseph is good with that. I'm not sure I'd have the same level of faith as Joe, but I admire his faith. Good on ya mate. So here are two people who have bought into God's plan solely based on what someone tells them… and with Joseph it was just a dream angel, not an actual, physical angel. How'd they know these angels were legit? They didn't even ask to see any angel ID… you know, an 'Angel in Good Standing' card or a flying license. Nothing.
What's really strange about this story, at least form my viewpoint (which is a little warped to start with), is that the one guy who does believe something is going on is Herod. He was the Roman approved and sponsored king in those parts. And he was not a nice man. He was on the naughty list. Herod was so convinced that this prophecy about the birth of a king was true that he had all the children killed in and around Bethlehem that were two and younger. He wanted to eliminate any threat to his throne… which, if you didn't know, also included killing two of his own sons.
The events surrounding Jesus' birth were not part of a huge, joyous celebration. Old man Herod was bearing down hard. Families lost children. The Romans subjugated and oppressed their citizens. Work was hard and taxes were high. This was a time of despair and sorrow. With the exception of a handful of people, the world missed that first Christmas. There was no celebration of Jesus' birth. There were no decorations or holiday sales at Macy's. No good King Wenceslas. No Saint Nicholas. No 'It's a Wonderful Life'. No crèches, or even nativity sets. No pickled Christmas trees (kudos if you figure this one out). No treed partridge, or turtle doves, or French hens, or calling birds, or geese a laying, or swans a swimming (I never realized how much fowl language was in that song!). There weren't even any presents. The wise men didn't get there until much later. So the only gift on that first Christmas was Jesus. The world had no idea what had happened. Just a bunch of dirty shepherds, a couple of old geriatrics, a few wise men and a couple of newlyweds, had any idea of what was going on. It's doubtful whether any of them understood the magnitude or importance of all that would transpire two thousand years later as a result of that birth. I doubt any of them could have imagined the size and scope of what this single event has become today. We celebrate it. We decorate it. We commercialize it. We immerse ourselves in it. It is the single most celebrated and commercialized holiday on the planet. But I wonder. Even today, with all the centuries between us and that first Christmas, I wonder how many of us still miss what Christmas is really about?
After two thousand years I think it's pretty obvious the world has been totally inundated with the birth of Jesus, yet has still managed to miss the true meaning. What is that meaning? Why are you asking me? Dammit Jim, I'm a drummer boy, not a Christmas kiosk! But it sure isn't the commercialized sales frenzy that happens each year! So as I sit here and ponder the true meaning of Christmas, I hope yours is the most meaningful one ever! Merry Christmas!
Hoping the true meaning of Christmas finds me this year,
©D Crouse 2015
Merry Christmas to my atheists friends! I don't know how many I have, but I know I have at least one. Before the atheists in the crowd write me off as being a jerk (which I usually am), please allow me to explain. (The Christians wrote me off last Christmas). My holiday wish to you is not meant to be confrontational, condescending or antagonistic in any way. I mean it the way it was intended for Christians to celebrate this very special holiday. As a message of love, hope, peace and joy to the world. Love for our fellow man, and woman. Hope for a life that is rich in the things that truly matter; family, friends, health and happiness… as well as the hope for a better life to come after this one, if you add in a more Christian perspective (not meaning that as a poke at my atheist friends). Peace that puts your heart and mind at rest, without fear or worry. And joy. Joy, the strength of life. The laughter in our merriment. The fun in our Disneyland! I really like joy. That's what Merry Christmas is all about. It's not a term that's meant to alienate. It's a celebration of all that is good in life. 'Happy Holidays' just doesn't convey the same sense of depth for me. So when I say Merry Christmas, I'm telling you I hope you have a wonderful life (like Jimmy Stewart). I don't want to cheapen my wish for you by cutting out the parts that make it the greeting I intend it to be. But I also don't want you to be offended that I have Jesus in my holiday wishes. It's not meant to be an insult. It's meant to convey how much I care about you.
We've lost a lot of the true meaning of Christmas… especially Christians. And that's sorta odd, and sad, because we're the ones that are supposed to embody and represent that message. Yet I found an atheist friend on Facebook that was willing to accept me (even though I was a Christian) and look past our differences to embrace me as a friend. Isn't that the message of Christmas? Isn't that who Christians are supposed to be? When God sent us Jesus, He didn't say, 'this is a gift for a few special people I really like'. It was a gift to the world! And the world is under no obligation to accept that gift. However, as Christians, we are required to follow the instructions on the package. We need to love our fellow man, and woman! We should be lighting the way with the joy that fills our lives upon receiving such an amazing gift! But most of us don't. So why should Merry Christmas matter to the rest of the world if it doesn't to us? If we're not the embodiment of the holiday, why should anyone else care? What that says to me is that we really don't know who Jesus is. Okay, this is where I go Biblical on you. My atheist friends can just cut to the next paragraph if my Biblical sortie will bore, offend or bother you in any way.
In the Book of Acts we have two stories that come to mind. The first is in Acts, chapter 9 (the whole chapter), about a young man named Stephen. I won't bore you with the entire chapter. I'll just paraphrase with this Crousian bit from the last 2 verses: "As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then as he fell to his knees, he shouted, 'Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!' Then he died." So here's a guy who has people pummeling him with rocks, to the extent that he knows he's dying! Why are they doing that? Well, they just don't like what he's saying. So what does he do? He forgives them! That's God's love in a nutshell. That's the essence of who Jesus is. You can pummel Them all you want and they still forgive you! Then we have the story of Paul and Silas, who after being falsely acused of a crime, then beaten and jailed for it, are singing praises to God! Here's another Crousian translation of that passage: "It was very late, about midnight, and Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs to God, and the other prisoners were listening." They were singing? Are they nuts! They're actually celebrating their incarceration? Why? Because they know who Jesus is. They have His joy - in any circumstance. And that ends up changing the lives of the people around them. Not just anybody, but Roman criminals who are probably going to die for their crimes (I should mention that it didn't take much to land in prison during Roman rule - you just had to say something snotty about Caesar). Yet when an earthquake opens all the prison doors no one leaves! Why? Because if you stay the Romans are going to do some very unpleasant things to your body! Is everybody nuts! It was because they were all listening to Paul and Silas (probably mostly Paul - he talked a lot, like me). Whatever they were singing or saying was so powerful that it changed lives. That's also the essence of Jesus. He changes you. You can read about it in Acts, chapter 16:16-40, if you like.
The fact that I have a friend that's an atheist has changed the way I look at things. No, I'm not going agnostic on you. I just have come to realize that atheists are not the enemy. To be sure, we have differences… fairly large differences when it comes to our beliefs - but that doesn't mean we can't be friends. Christians should be less insecure about what others believe, and start acting like we know who Jesus is. A good way to do that is to start acting like Him. Hey, I'm not there either. But at least I can say that I have a friend that's an atheist. And that doesn't bother or offend me in the least. And I'm not out there trying to proselytize them either. They're my friend and I just wanted to wish them a Merry Christmas, in the truest sense of the greeting!
Thoroughly enjoying the Christmas Season,
P.S. No elves were harmed during the writing of this article - at least none that I'm aware of. If you know of any elves harmed during the writing, or reading of this piece… or actually, at any time at all, please immediately call 911 and tell them you need psychiatric help!
I've been doing some thinking. It's like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day (I plan to do more). Judgement is a bitch. I probably should have found some other way to express it, but that requires more thinking, and I'm sorta at my quota for the day. So please accept my apologies for the crudeness of the analogy and let me try to explain.
Christians deal a lot with judgement. We usually get it wrong. That doesn't mean we're not right. It just means the way we go about things is wrong (this is part of the explanation, but it also needs some explaining… so now I need to explain the explanation - I'm making this way too difficult for myself). It's like dealing with a wasp's nest. I get those where I live. Big ones. If you go over and start whacking it the consequences are painful. And there's a lot of running and screaming involved as well. There are certain things one should never do. Whacking a wasp's nest is right at the top of my list. Judging other people is quickly moving up that list. Here's why. If you read the Bible you'll find a few choice verses tucked away in there that really make sense. Call them the 'don't whack a wasp's nest' verses… or the 'I'd rather not get stung to death' verses, if you like. Either works for me. They're simple little bits of writing that are meant to keep us from harm and from getting stung by life's wasp nests. Here comes one now.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
Romans 2.1-3 NIV
First thought is, "Good words!" Second thought is, "Those stupid liberals are messin' with my life!"
Okay, the first thought is the one I should have stayed with. The second one is the wasp's nest. Here's the problem. I used to be a liberal. I wanted to be a liberal. I enjoyed being a liberal. What happened to me?
And it's not like I wasn't a Christian. Or at least, it's not like I didn't believe in God, or Jesus. I did. Just not sure I was making the grade as a Christian. And of course I was very judgmental. If you think I'm bad now, you should have seen me back then. Some people did. For those that did - well, I really appreciate those of you that helped me though the process. But I'm not a finished product, so there may be some more patience required on your part (pretty much guaranteed). Anyway, today I'm whacking on people who are just like I was and wondering why they're the same way I used to be. Kinda hypocritical. Looks like I'm condemning myself, just like the Bible said.
So then we get to the part about God. He's not like people. He's consistent, unlike us. He doesn't make mistakes (or we'd be at the top of the list) and He doesn't change His values based on currently trending issues on Twitter.
Without God there is no right or wrong. There are no absolutes. There's just us, telling each other we're smart slime mold. The only ethical constraints that exist are the ones we make. And if someone disagrees, why are their beliefs any less valid than yours? If we change as a society we can also change our ethics. If enough of us don't like a certain group of people we can just get rid of them. And we do. Without a creator there is no purpose. There is no judgement. You can do whatever you want if you have enough power. And some people like that - usually the ones with the power.
But with God in the equation things change! We're now more than smart slime mold! There are repercussions for our actions (I used to get concussions as a kid, but that's a whole other story). Still, our actions can have painful consequences. Judgement wielded like a club can get the hornets in attack mode - and you usually end up hitting yourself harder with that club than you ever hit the hornets. So any time you start waving around your judgement club you run the risk of doing yourself harm. That's why God gave us a few guidelines to follow - just to keep us from getting hurt. Of course we're smarter than He is, so we feel the need to improve, or change, His guidelines. That's why we're so good at hurting each other. And that will never change. So I personally have to decide if I'm going to continue to bring out the club whenever I disagree with someone, or if I'm going to follow Jesus. Here's one of the things Jesus said about judgement:
You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.
John 8.15-16 NIV
He's right. We do judge with human standards. After all, we are human. Then He says something that He seems to contradict with the very next thing He says. He passes judgement on no one. Then He says if He does judge, He's spot on! Why? Because He's not just conveying His own judgement, but He's in agreement with God's judgement. And that's the last piece of this little judgement puzzle. There are rights and wrongs. There is black and white. It's okay to see in black and white, even in our fantastically colorful, 3D enhanced world. So when we, as mere human beings pass judgement, it's usually an inducement of our own imperfections. But when we live our lives in a way that adheres to God's laws, we become alive!
Just one practical analogy, and then I'll leave you alone. Let's pick on prostitutes - because they don't send out hate email, they have no political clout, we still have not elevated their lifestyle to being socially acceptable, and their work is classified as a sin (i.e. something harmful to humans) in the Bible. Most of us condemn prostitutes. But that would be wrong. Prostitutes are people just like us. I've met a few (unprofessionally of course), and as far as I can tell they are all people. So, by definition, they deserve to be treated like people - not scum of the earth or even slime mold. I don't even know what 'scum of the earth' is. I think we just made it up, because if it was really something some drug company would be running a commercial on TV with a cure for it. Anyway, we have yet to embrace prostitutes - wait, that came out wrong. Let's just say prostitution is against the law - at least anywhere I go. Yet, when Jesus was asked to judge one He had a surprising response. You may remember the story. Jesus in the temple courts with a crowd around Him. The religious leaders of the day come in and proudly present a woman they have caught in the act of adultery - what kind of perverted people are these guys… they're following a prostitute around and then breaking into her house while she's having sex? So the first thing they do is find Jesus and throw her in front of Him. I think they have issues (but that's being judgmental).
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8.4-11 NIV
Now the first thing people always ask is, "I wonder what He was writing?" There has been a great deal of speculation about this, and I think I have a pretty good idea what He wrote: "Peter, would you be a prince and get me a hot pastrami on rye - and hold the pickles - you know how much I hate pickles on my sandwiches. Don't worry about feeding the crowd this time. By the time you get back they'll be gone. Just get something for the guys. Judas has my wallet."
That's why He spent so much time writing in the dirt.
Now that we've gotten the important part of the message covered we can deal with the trifles.
Jesus saves this woman's life! He does that by ignoring the law (which is God's law). He tells her He doesn't condemn her - so He removes her judgement. Was it because her lifestyle was okay? No. It was a sin then and a misdemeanor now. Prostitution is breaking the law. God's law, and to a much lesser degree, man's law as well (except in Nevada - what happens in Vegas…). Wrong at every level. But it's not about the law.
Jesus didn't want to give this woman what she deserved. In Jesus' day the punishment was death by rocks - popularly known as stoning, back in the day. And it wasn't a particularly pleasant way to die. I've been hit with a few rocks in my time, and I can honestly say none of them felt good. Probably explains why I am the way I am. But Jesus wasn't interested in judgement for this woman. The people were more than happy to rock her world. Fun how we're all so eager to throw stones when we're not the ones getting hit. But Jesus wanted to give her life. And He did.
Jesus didn't say prostitution was okay. It was still breaking the law, even after He saved that woman. It is still a no-no as far as God is concerned. The difference, at least in this case, is that Jesus chose to forgive. He chose to put love above judgement. He chose to give life instead of death.
Man's judgement usually leads to death. We're just not smart enough or compassionate enough to get it right. Perhaps if we can learn to put compassion and love for others above our need to judge their faults, Christians will be able to understand judgement from God's perspective. When people look at God's laws all they usually see is a way for God to line us up in His crosshairs and blow us away. If that were really the case Jesus would have blown that woman away. He didn't have to let her off - that little minx was guilty, guilty I tell you! But that's not what God's laws are all about. They're designed to make us better and keep us out of trouble. They were created to keep us from killing each other and ourselves - and while that hasn't worked too well, that's the idea. But it's not God's fault His laws don't work. We're the ones that refuse to follow anything. Come on, we can't even agree if there is a God. So how are we ever going to figure out He loves us? I guess it's a judgement call.
Recovering from wasps,
Original content ©D Crouse 2015
Judgement is a dirty word in the secular world. It's bad to judge. It's not Christian. Everything is okay, just as long as you're not judging somebody else.
That's what the world says. But it's not what God says. So hear is where I put in my little disclaimer that if you have no desire to follow God, or you just don't believe He exists, hit the little red circle at the top left of the page and close out of this website. But if you've grown up with bad judgment as your only judgment, you may want to hear what God has to say.
When we hear the word judgment we usually think negative thoughts. We've been conditioned to do that by a society that is afraid to say anything, about anybody. So the politically correct have decided to do away with judgment. And that would be a mistake. I'd like to present a type of judgment where we can have happy thoughts! I'd like to show you a place where judgment is a good thing.
David, the guy that played a harp and cut off Goliath's head (there's some irony in there somewhere), said it this way:
Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness…
Psalms 35:24a KJV
Did you notice that David asked for judgment. And not according to his own standard of judgment, but according to God's righteousness! Is he insane?! Just throw me in the fire and cook me up! Why would he do that? Why would anybody want to be measured against standards that are unattainable? Well that's a very good question, and I'm glad I asked it. But if you want the genuine answer you'd have to be able to talk to dead people - and I think that has negative repercussions on several levels… so let's not try that. Instead, let me give you my thought - which doesn't include necromancing or dying. David wanted God's judgment because it was beneficial. Pretty deep, huh? Not really. Just overtly simple. So simple, we overlook the idea entirely… the idea that God's judgment could be good for us.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Proverbs 7:2 KJV
Well, I don't know about eye apples, but there's life in them thar commandments. I'm not saying judgment is always pleasant, but if it's from God, it's always good for you.
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Proverbs 3:11-12 KJV
Let me just interject at this point that I'm staying with the King James for everything today because all the 'eths' are so Shakespearian. Adds to the ethos, don't you think? I don't even know what ethos is, but 'eths' are just ethos without an 'o'.
But back at the ranch, the son (and probably the daughter too) is being told that God loves the people He corrects. So if you're not getting corrected, you're not being loved. Get some love people! Hashtag judgement.
Do you all know the parable of the talents? I'm not trying to be condescending… that would be judgmental, and therefore, bad. I just know I have a wide range of readers in terms of Biblical backgrounds. True, there are only two of you, and I'd ranter not say which of you is lacking the background… so let me just say that the parable of the talents can be found in Matthew 25:14-30. There are some negative parts to the story, so to avoid this being a downer message I will just quote the 'happy thoughts' verses.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Matthew 25:20-21 still KJV
Every time we do what's right - every time we accept correction - every time we receive judgment, we will hear "well done". Hashtag joy (in 100 years will anybody have any idea of what we're saying?).
God doesn't judge us to condemn us. He does it to make our lives better. If we embrace His judgment we'll live. If we don't - not so much. So just remember, judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it's from God. So who wants some judgment?
Headed to court,
Original content ©DCrouse 2015
Alright. It's time to deal with this. An article in Time Magazine came out early, so I'm actually having to respond to this issue sooner than I was planning (which was never).
First, you are free to believe whatever you want to believe. This is an article to provide you, hopefully, with a Biblical point of reference to a message I heard from a prominent local pastor. And while I disagree with many of this individual's opinions concerning the LGBTQ community, I consider him a friend and respect his right to believe whatever he wants. This article is extremely long because I wanted to deal with as many of the points he made as possible. I also wanted to keep things lighthearted and open. Please don't mistake that for sarcasm… well maybe a little (but sarcasm is my only fault). I hope my friend and I (as well as the readers of this article), can always accept one another as Christ intended… in love, without malice, and with open hearts.
I want to start with a passage of scripture as the foundation for everything else - because it is the foundation for everything else.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:34-40 NLT
We're always quick to point out the part about loving your neighbor as yourself; especially when it's in our own interests to do so. We're also pretty bad when it comes to actually following that law. But there's another, more important, part to that passage. It's the first law; the one we don't quote when our actions are contrary to God's: 'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ That's the first commandment. We need to follow the FIRST law before the second one can work. My hope is that we will all remember both those laws in viewing members of the LGBTQ community. That means we should extend the same love we have received from Jesus Christ to those people, that we extend to anyone else.
Two more things I'd like to point out about the foundational scripture. Firstly, it says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There's no implied secondary meaning that we need to accept their lifestyle. If anything, those verses tell us that our first responsibility is to follow God - not people. But to keep us from becoming self-righteous we have the second law. So try to avoid condemnation whenever possible. Second, the guy trying to 'trap' Jesus was an expert in religious law; a spiritual leader during Jesus' time. He wasn't some guy from the local news trying to get a juicy story. Yeah, he wanted news and he wanted juicy; but he wasn't an outsider. He was a member of the Jewish community who wanted to 'trap' Jesus to further his own agenda. The literal translation for 'trap' reads more like this: 'to try or test someone's faith, virtue, or character, by enticement to sin.' Our Pharisee friend wanted to lead Jesus into sin by taking Him away from God. And that's why we have the first and greatest commandment.
For me there is a certain amount of irony whenever scripture is quoted to condemn the actions that people engage in. We're told as Christians that we shouldn't be judgmental. Yet every time we use scripture to define behaviors that God finds unacceptable, we do that very thing. So what do we do as Christians? Should we be affirming of the things God condemns (and I'm not just talking about homosexuality)? Should we try to live according to the tenets of the Bible? When we see others that are engaging in activities that the Bible condemns, should we tell them? I think Jesus said it best (and He usually does):
I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
John 12:47-50 NLT
When we share the the Word of God, hopefully in love, we're telling others what God thinks. That's not your judgment. It's God's. If you agree with Him, that's not being judgmental either. That's obedience. And if we share His Word with others, hopefully it's out of love to help them, and not for their detriment.
As mentioned, this piece is intended to be Bible based. You may disagree with my interpretation or use of scripture, so I always encourage people to investigate what I've said by having them read, guess what? - a Bible. Please don't use a self-help book or the exhaustive works of Joe Blow (who, by the way, is an excellent writer) or even CliffsNotes on The Bible (and yes, there is a CliffsNotes on the Bible) to tell you what the Bible says. Just read the Bible. Then you'll know what it says. But what if God gives me a divine revelation that disagrees with what the Bible says? Sorry, you missed the publishing date. Maybe the author will allow you to add to His work in a future edition. Personally, I think as Christians, we are 'forced' to use the Bible as the divine and unquestionable Word of God. What else are we going to use? It's worked pretty good so far. And reading other books to help you understand what the Bible 'really' says can also be a problem. I believe it's better to spend your time reading the Bible to find out what it says, then to rely on others to tell you. Read all the books you like. Read 70. Read 70,000. The number of books you read makes no difference in the correctness of your interpretation of the Bible. If what they say differs from the Bible, they're wrong. Why are we using the word of man to judge the Word of God? I don't always like what I read in the Bible, but I really don't think God is going to change things because I don't like them. So I've just decided to do the best job I can following the Bible's instructions, and trust that God knows what He's doing. So instead of finding reasons why we shouldn't believe the Word of God, maybe we should just follow it. All that being said, what I'm about to present is my best effort to share what the Bible says.
I'm a recovering sinner, with all kinds of stuff that I'd like to remove from my spiritual closet. It's like a horror version of Monster's Inc. in there. But that doesn't stop me from looking for the truth, no matter how painful it might be or how much I may disagree with it. The truth is always the truth, no matter how strongly I may believe something else. And the truth is, sin is always sin. It will always be sin. God doesn't change His parameters based on our convictions. He's not influenced by societal trends or generational shifts in thinking. And no matter how emotionally attached we get to an issue, those emotions have no effect on God's commandments, laws, rules or regulations. He is always the same, so we always know what we're going to get with Him. I mean, what's the point of Jesus dying for our sins if that gets voided out in 20 years? Or what if murder was suddenly okay? How would we view a God that is constantly changing His mind, like people. Change is not a good thing when it comes to God's Word. And God has a good reason for the things He puts in place. Just because we don't get it, doesn't mean there's not a good reason. When we get good enough to tell God what works and what doesn't, then we won't need Him. Oh, I forgot - we're already there.
Today there are no absolutes. Morality has become gray (more than 50 shades) - mostly because of that gray matter between our ears. We think we know everything. There is no higher authority than us. So we can change whatever we want to fit whatever we need. That's the way the world works. Actually, that's the way the devil works. Deception by alteration. Change what God says and get everybody else to believe it and sin becomes completely acceptable.
Those poor alcoholics. Those mistreated murderers. Hey folks, drunkenness is a sin, not just a societal misdemeanor. You can end up in hell for being a drunk. Murder is also a sin. So if you intentionally kill someone, guess what, IT'S A SIN! God doesn't care if you were insane when you murdered the neighbor… which I've always thought was one of the stupidest laws ever legislated. Isn't anybody who commits murder insane? It doesn't matter what society thinks. God doesn't care. Insanity isn't going to get you off. The rules are the rules, and He's not changing them to fit our emotional state of mind.
Idolatry is a sin too. So if something in your life is more important than God, that's a sin. False witness is a sin. So if you lie about someone's integrity, that's a sin. Even being disrespectful to your parents is a sin. There's a nice long list of sins that are succinctly mentioned in the Bible. Read a Bible and you'll find a bunch. You can start with Eve disobeying God in Genesis 3:6 and go from there. There's also a really nice expository on sin in Exodus 20:1-17, called the Ten Commandments - which I think you'll find informative. Yes, there's all kinds of information on what 'sin' is, in the Bible. The trick is acknowledging they're sins. Some people can read the Bible 100 times and not find a single sin. It's all relative to what they believe. An atheist, for example, is unlikely to see anything in the Bible as valid; there is no absolute right or wrong - there is only the morality we create for ourselves. So are you going to abandon the tenets of the Bible because they don't conform to atheism?
God requires certain things from all of us before we can stand before Him, free of our sin. Have I mentioned it doesn't matter what we think, or what the world thinks, or even what the President thinks. It's God's call. When will we get that? The answer is, 'NEVER'. We'll never get it.
When an alcoholic goes to rehab and stops drinking we don't condemn them. And we shouldn't. They're no longer committing a sin because they're not getting drunk (but they still need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ). When a murderer asks God for forgiveness (in the name of Jesus… always in the name of Jesus), they are forgiven. That's not to say they should kill a few more people and ask for more forgiveness. That shows a certain lack of sincerity - and usually carries the death penalty. But all sins carry a death penalty without the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ. So there is grace and forgiveness for all sin, but acceptance of none.
I understand that there are addictions that are hard to overcome. Drug addiction. Alcohol addiction. Sexual perversion. Prostitution. Pornography. Gluttony. Greed. Even compulsive lying. They're all things that can take over a person's life. But just because these addictions are extremely difficult to overcome doesn't mean that they're not sins. The addictive level of a sin doesn't make any difference. It just makes that sin harder to get rid of. Sin is always sin. Not because I said so, but because God did.
I don't like my sin any more than a root canal done by a three fingered Tibetan yak herder. But I'll continue to commit the same sin over and over. Why? Is it because I want to? Maybe. Does that make it okay? No. It doesn't matter what my excuse is, or how much I minimalize my transgressions. My actions are still sins to God. I can either accept that fact or reject it. I can ask for forgiveness or get ready for a world of hurt… like a root canal, without anesthesia… for eternity. And I don't want an eternal, unanesthesitized, root canal. I love God. So I want to try and do what He asks. And He asks me to do things a certain way because He loves me. It's a love-love relationship. I've come to the realization that the things He tells me are for my benefit. I may not always like what He tells me, but I always trust Father Knows Best. For those just cutting their wisdom teeth, Father Knows Best was a TV show during the golden age of monochromatic television. There's a reason we don't have shows like that today. One, they were black and white. Two, they portrayed wholesome values we've long outgrown. We were pretty primitive back then. America actually tried to model itself after Godly principles. Of course that didn't stick, we experienced the '70s, and voila, here we are. But we've come a long way baby. We've loosened up those Biblical girdles and stretched the ethical loins of our primitive thinking. Now it's time for the church to get with current societal trends.
This all leads me to ask why so many Christian churches feel the need to affirm LGBTQ lifestyles? They're clearly sinful - not my call… that comes from God. Where's the Biblical proof? Well, it's coming… but before all the hate email gets out of the "Send" box, let me say that God doesn't hate the LGBTQ community. I don't either. Hate is also a sin, that hurts the wearer more than the recipient. And this is not meant to be an attack against homosexuals or any other people on the planet. Christians shouldn't be out there hating or condemning people, no matter what we think of them or their lifestyles. We should be responding to others in love. However, we do need to know what God requires. So I'm just going to share what I've read in my Bible. You decide if the Bible validates LGBTQ behaviors. And as previously requested, don't just believe what I'm telling you… read the Bible for yourself. You need to make your own decision, because you won't be judged for mine. For those who don't believe the Bible nothing I've said here will matter. So just stop reading now and avoid any further anger issues this piece is bound to cause you. Life is too short.
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 18:22 NIV
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Leviticus 20:13 NIV
This next one is a little long, but I don't want to have someone say I took things out of context, at least completely (I'm sure there will be contextual naysayers nonetheless… or maybe 'moreover').
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:18-32 NIV
You won't hear that on a Sunday morning from any pastor I know. It's too inflammatory for today's society. Yet there it is… in the Bible. So what do we do with it? Ignore it… I say we ignore it, and hope Paul is wrong. Okay, I'm being facetious. But sometimes I find the Bible is a hard book. Even when I'd like it to say something else, it doesn't. But I'm not sure I should be the one doing the editing. So I just go with what it says. And I always keep in mind that Jesus loves me.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 NIV
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Jude 1:5-7 NIV
And here's another message you're not likely to hear in the church today. It's honest, raw, succinct and brutal. And it was written by the man that Jesus said would be the foundation of His church - Peter. I don't know who pressed Peter's buttons the day he wrote this, but I wouldn't want to be one of the people this was written about. It's passages like these that drive people away from the Christian church, but that doesn't mean they aren't the anointed word of God. They hurt because they hit us where we live. So maybe we should move? Maybe it's not so much that they aren't true, but that they are. Peter is trying to warn us that God is serious about His relationship with us. We're not going to escape judgment through ignorance or denial. There's only one way out of this mess, and we all should know by now it's Jesus. None of the following verses will condemn us if we put Jesus first. But they're the painful reality of life without Him.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
1 Peter 2 (the whole chapter) NIV
The most famous story in the Bible dealing with homosexuality is probably Sodom and Gomorrah. It starts with an isolated verse in Genesis 13:13 (is that unlucky?).
But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.
It isn't until six chapters later that Sodom (and Gomorrah) are destroyed.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.
“My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
Genesis 19:1-13 (is that partly unlucky?) NIV
Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
Genesis 19:24-25 NIV
God didn't destroy Sodom and Gomorrah just because they were LGBTQ. God destroyed them because of their actions. Their sin got them toasted. Sin will get us all toasted… if we don't confess it and accept Jesus as our savior. We're not doing anyone a favor by affirming a sinful lifestyle. We're just increasing the chances of really, really, hot eternal living conditions.
An even more famous story is the creation of Adam and Eve. I don't think I need to quote any scripture here to make the point that God made a woman for the man. That's the Godly nature of our existence. Jesus said it this way:
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
Mark 10:6 KJV
What's so difficult to understand?
Just saying you're a homosexual, or any other member of the LGBTQ community isn't the problem. Sin is. Just like being an alcoholic isn't a sin, unless you get drunk. A minor, but important point. It's our actions that condemn us. And they can also save us… through Jesus Christ. He's a really good guy. And as my wife likes to continually tell me, "Jesus died for everyone".
So what are we doing church? Where's the Biblical guidance for the world, pastors? Are you manipulating the Bible to fit your convenient truths? Or is the Bible shaping you into God's image?
Suppose you've been wrestling with the whole LGBTQ thing for years. You have friends that are gay. Good friends. And you're disgusted by the way the Christian community treats them. These individuals are being rejected and driven away by the very people who should be reaching out to them. So over the years you read a lot of books on the subject. You visit gay churches and are moved by their worship and sincerity to follow Jesus. During your interactions with them you experience their pain and sorrow and you're resolved there needs to be a change. So as pastor of your church you decide that not only does the LGBTQ community need to be included in the church family, but that the church needs to be fully acceptant and affirming of their lifestyles. That means you'll be performing gay marriages. There will be gays in leadership positions, gay Sunday school teachers, gay councilors and gay pastors. While I'm with you on churches having an open door towards the LGBTQ community, there are Biblical constraints against most of the other stuff. And as well intended as your actions may be, I'm just not sure I want to explain to my 7 year old why Mr. Smith was teaching the Sunday school class in a dress and heels. I'd like to wait on that until he's 8.
Of course the prior paragraph opened a jumbo size, Costco can of worms; but it touches on some important issues of the inclusion of lifestyles that are contrary to Biblical teaching into the church… which could be a whole new piece. But this article is already way too long. So I'm not going to deal with all those slippery worms on that slope today. I'm just going to pretend they don't exist and hope they slither away… at least for this article. If I get enough hate email on the topic, maybe I'll pretend they do exist and write about them. For this article just let me quote this one scripture as a 'for instance'.
So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.
In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.
1Timothy 3:2-12 NLT
Now while the aforementioned passage doesn't specifically say that homosexuals can't be elders or deacons in the church, it does imply that those in leadership should be husbands and wives (i.e. heterosexual couples). But based on what Paul says earlier in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (which is quoted above) the possibility of homosexual leaders is sort of eliminated - if you go strictly from the Bible. And I don't even want to deal with the whole gay marriage thing (yet another article)… except maybe to refer you to what Jesus said in Mark 10:6 (also quoted above).
I have no problem with gays in the church. I do have an issue with how much authority they have. And I'm basing my views solely on what I read in my Bible. I try not to let my emotions cloud what it says, and I don't rely on others books to tell me what to believe. If the Bible is truly the anointed word of God - if that's what you believe - then why would you use outside sources to determine what you believe?
If your gay and lesbian friends are going to hell, you can't save them by changing the truth… no matter how much you love them. Misrepresenting what God tells us will just destroy them, and maybe you in the process. And I don't want to see that happen. I suggest another way. I suggest Jesus, who only condemned the religious leaders that didn't teach the truth of God. He loved people, forgave them and told them to go and sin no more. And He was so powerful in His love and truth that they listened.
I love the story of the woman that was brought to Jesus, that was caught in the act of adultery. It exemplifies the attitude that Christians should have towards the unsaved.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 8:3-12 NKJV
Did you notice the participating church officials didn't bring the guy? I guess that wasn't in vogue back then. So they just decided for themselves which people would be held accountable for their sins. These were the overly righteous spiritual leaders of their day. They told people what God required of them and then broke the very laws they taught. So when they wanted Jesus to condemn the woman according to the Law of Moses, Jesus flipped the tables on them. He asked them to examine the fruit of their own lives, not interpret the commandments of God. After He was alone with the woman He told her He didn't condemn her. Then He told her to go and sin no more. He didn't say her sin was okay. He didn't encourage her to return to the bondage of her lifestyle. He set her free from her sin. He gave her the light of life.
It's not our role as Christians to condemn people. We're here to set them free. We're here to provide light… and life. But somehow that's getting converted into marrying gay couples and affirming their sin.
Don't go down a path God hasn't paved. That doesn't mean you have to be confrontational, condescending or judgmental. Just go with love. If Jesus is in it, your friends will see Him and find the light. If you lie to them it will only cause them greater harm. And you'll have compromised your faith to your own detriment… and theirs. If you love them, tell them the truth. And do it in love… as I know we all will.
I did hear the story of Peter's visit to the house of Cornelius used as an example of why the church should accept the lifestyles of the LGBTQ community. And I'd like to address that example from a Biblical perspective… because I think it exemplifies the point I'm trying to make. For those of you not familiar with the story, let me ‘splain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry’ Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour… oops, wrong story. Sorry; maybe I should be more serious about all this, but I find that's the reason we can never talk about our disagreements… we take everything too seriously. But seriously, Peter has a vision of a giant sheet being lowered from heaven with all kinds of animals in it that he's not allowed to eat. He hears a voice telling him to eat the unclean animals. He refuses because he's never eaten an unclean animal, except maybe that gnat that landed on his fish sandwich. Those gnats are real small. It could happen to anyone. (I made the gnat part up). The voice then tells him not to call anything unclean that God has made clean. And he's good with that (and so am I). The next thing you know there are 3 guys at the door inviting him to Cornelius' house. Check out what the 3 men say about Cornelius.
“We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
Acts 10:22 NIV
Cornelius is a righteous and God-fearing man. He's following the tenets of the Jewish faith, not those of his own heritage. And we know that because he's 'righteous'. The translation for 'righteous' means that he follows the commandments of God; and his way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. Essentially, he's a better Jew than the Jews, even though he's a Gentile.
The story continues with Peter going to Cornelius' house. When he arrives he tells Cornelius,
"You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean."
The Biblical implication here is that God has made the salvation of Jesus Christ available to EVERYBODY. There are no longer any groups of people that Peter, and other Jewish Christians, cannot associate with; even homosexuals. But I hate to say this again - sin is still sin. The opening of the Kingdom of God to all people did not remove sin from the Bible. What it did was make salvation from sin possible through Jesus Christ. And that was a new deal for both the Jews and the Gentiles.
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Acts 10:34-35 NIV
Notice that Peter says God accepts those that do what is right. The original translation for 'those that do right' goes along the lines of, 'those that are righteous before God'. I'm going to guess that means following those pesky tenets He gave us in the Bible. And I can't find any scripture in my Bible that tells me that homosexual acts, or any other sins, are 'right'. And we all have sin in our lives. So who can be righteous before God? Exactly. That's why we all need Jesus.
As Peter speaks, everybody receives the Holy Spirit and the salvation of Jesus Christ, even though they are unclean Gentiles (hence the tie-in to the unclean animals in Peter's sheet, only he doesn't kill and eat anybody - it's an allegory that's not gory).
In the story of Cornelius, Cornelius is living a righteous life. He's following the commandments of God. What he wants is to adopt the lifestyle of the 'church', not the other way around.
As far as what I've read in the Bible and the verses I've quoted in this piece, homosexual activities (not homosexuals) are condemned in the Bible. God probably has a reason for doing that. And I believe it's for our benefit. The lives of members of the LGBTQ community are filled will peril. For example, the estimated suicide rate among young gay and lesbian adults is very high. As reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1993, the suicide rate for homosexual youth in the 15-24 age range, is as high as 30% of all youth suicides committed in that age range (for a gay population that is estimated at 5%). Many blame this on anti-homosexual attitude of the Christian community. However there is another possibility. As one Christian, and former lesbian, who works with youth in the LGBTQ community said, "From my vantage point the people that I found were suicidal are those who thought they were trapped in homosexuality, who thought they had to live homosexually." Others who have left the LGBTQ community have echoed those thoughts, lest you think that's an isolated instance. So maybe (and this will be blasphemy in the LGBTQ community) it's the homosexual lifestyle that is the danger? Maybe when we go outside of the boundaries of the natural behaviors God intended us to live within, it's detrimental? Maybe that's what God's trying to tell us in all those scriptures? Maybe the Bible comes down so hard on this issue because this lifestyle is so dangerous? Maybe those scriptures were meant to help? Or maybe you just don't want to go there? Let's not go there… I'm good with that. You're free to believe anything you want. Jesus loves you no matter what you think. But before I totally abandon this idea, let me try to make this point another way.
I'm guessing most people think that alcoholism, drug addiction and prostitution are harmful activities. I'm also guessing most Christians would NOT be affirming of the lifestyles associated with those particular things. I'm just guessing. We don't have to thumb through our Bibles looking for verses that confirm our suspicions either. We know anyone engaging in those lifestyles is at risk of bodily harm. I know an alcoholic that almost killed himself drinking. He was in the hospital for months while we waited to see if the harm the alcohol had done to his body would kill him. There were operations to save his life and try to get his body back to normal. And he made it. But there's always the chance he'll go back to drinking. If he does, the next time will probably kill him. Because I love him I'd do anything I can to encourage him not to return to alcohol. So I wouldn't take a six pack over to his house to watch the Super Bowl (probably because I don't like beer - so maybe I should take wine?). And I don't want to encourage any lifestyle choice that would be harmful, let alone those that God has condemned.
Should a church be willing to provide beer to alcoholics, or say wine at communion, to bring it closer to home? How about a fifth of scotch each week so all the food money isn't spent on alcohol? Should a church provide drugs to addicts, so they have a clean, healthy environment for their habits? Maybe we can offer smoking rooms for high school students that want to experiment with marijuana, so they have a safe place to smoke their dope (I wonder why it's called dope?). How about setting up a connection kiosk for prostitutes in the lobby? A church could provide a valuable service for hookers and ensure them a safer way to perform their work. That would also be a valuable service in the gay community as well. The church could screen members for aids and then help set up encounters between same sex couples in the congregation. Or maybe the church could just hold safe-sex hook up parties. There's probably a church that's thinking about those very things right now; or doing them. But I'd be concerned if they were happening at the church I was attending. Not just because they're contrary to the Bible, but because they hurt the very people they're intended to help.
It may seem like God is picking on homosexual activities, but there are a lot of other areas of sin in the verses I quoted. And if you didn't find a sin in those verses that you engage in, you can find the sins all of us commit somewhere else in the Bible. Look harder. You're not in any better condition if you're a heterosexual sinner, than if you're a card carrying member of the LGBTQ community. So none of us should go pointing our righteous fingers at someone else's sin. Dealing with our own is enough work. But I'm not going to try and convince myself that my sin isn't sin just because I want to somehow justify my actions. We also shouldn't ignore what the Bible says about sin; and sharing what the Word of God says isn't necessarily finger-pointing. Sin is sin (or as people are so fond of saying, 'It is what it is' - don't get me started on the stupidity of that irritating cliche).
So there it is. Some old; some new. It is what it is. If you throw out my commentary and just look at the scriptures, you tell me what the Bible says. If I've missed something, or misrepresented the scriptures, toss me a bone… straighten me out with some passages from the Bible (that is how we're measuring this issue - through the one source Christians use for their spiritual compass, right?). Biblically speaking, things seem pretty straight forward to me. If you just disagree with something you read in the Bible, please don't register your complaint with me. I didn't write the Bible, and believe me when I tell you, you can be thankful for that. Take your complaints up with God. Or maybe you can get the publishing companies to delete the parts you don't like. There's also the option of burning all the Bibles. But if you think I'm going to abandon the teaching that God gives me through the Bible in favor of your version of how to live life, you're greatly mistaken. I think I'll just stick with God. You let me know how things go without Him.
Although this has certainly been a rebuttal against the lifestyles of the LGBTQ community, my concern is not primarily with them. That sort of stuff has been around since at least the time of Noah. And it's not going away any time soon. These people are not our enemy. Our interactions with them should not involve fear or hate or violence or vile language - even if that's what we receive from them. It does however require the truth. And love would also be a good thing to carry with you.
My real concern is with Christians - specifically those in positions of spiritual leadership. We should be able to trust that what they tell us follows the things that God affirms, not the morality of man. When we get to the point where those leaders go against the teachings of God then we are all in trouble. They should be leading us closer to God, not further away. They should confirm the truths God teaches us in the Bible… no matter what they are or how popular they are. But that's another one of those problems we've had since the time of Noah. So I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for things to change. I'm just going to get a pony and hope all the bad stuff goes away.
We serve a pretty big God. He's able to deal with anything we encounter. It would just be nice if we followed Him instead of our own moral compasses.
Let me leave you with this one last thought. Well, actually it's another scripture. And it says exactly how God feels about every one of us.
For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Ezekiel 18:32 NIV
I think I'll take that advice.
So what's the point? It's that we're all sinners, and the only way we're going to escape punishment is to acknowledge our sin, repent, and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Acknowledging, repenting, and accepting,
P.S. I know how this works… this is such a volatile issue that it's difficult for people not to send me their best hate email. Well the hate email box is pretty big, so feel free to send away. I just can't promise you any hate email in return. If you're hateful enough I might be moved to respond, but using all my emotional reserves for hate really drains me, so I can only promise one hate email per correspondent. Just remember, Jesus loves you, and I'm in therapy.
Well, it's been about a year since I've written anything on my blog. I quit because of some feedback that made me question if I really wanted to spend time putting my thoughts into words, then post them on the internet and have someone crush my delicate ego in one sentence. Well, I'm back, with a bigger and stronger ego. If you want to crush me this time it will take two sentences!
There are a couple things I want to address in the next few days involving events that have transpired in my geographical neighborhood that have received national attention and lots of controversy. Since I was so vociferous about the Seahawks win in last year's Super Bowl, I'll start with the devastating emotional defeat we suffered in this one. Can you say 'Seahawks grief counseling'? I've had a year to think about what I wrote last year, but only a day to put it into perspective with what happened yesterday. And frankly, my fragile psyche is still attempting to drag itself out of the dark hole it was plunged into in the last 28 seconds of yesterday's game. With second and goal, Pete Carroll made the worst call in Seahawks history and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s rushing touchdown leader, he decided to have Russell Wilson throw the ball. Instead of Beast mode we got defeat mode. Mistake. Interception. Game over. Don's fragile psyche plunged into a dark hole. I'm hoping writing about it will be therapeutic - but so far I'm not feeling it. It's still pretty dark over here. So for the rest of you that are experiencing my pain, I hope one or more of us will be lifted from the gloom of agonizing defeat to a place where we can say the words 'Pete Carroll', without wanting to choke the dog. If you don't have a dog to choke, you can pick one up at your local animal shelter. And before the ASPCA starts sending law enforcement folks to my house to check on my dog, that was just a joke. I don't choke my dog. I'd like to choke Pete Carroll, just a little, because I didn't get any sense of closure from the excuses he used to explain that horrendous call. I haven't actually heard what he said. The TV went dark right after the interception and I haven't had the strength to listen to his post game interview. I just read about it on the internet. But in all my doldrums, where's my compassion for Pete? I shouldn't forget all the things he's done for Seahawks fans. He's built a great team that has talent, heart and a never-quit attitude. He won a Super Bowl for Seattle last year and one for New England this year. Both parties should be happy. No… I'd never choke Pete. Pete doesn't deserve that. He made a mistake. We all do. It's just that our mistakes aren't usually made in front of a hundred million people and then picked apart by the media, analyzed by sports personalities and blasted by armchair quarterbacks. If the pass had been completed to Ricardo Lockette for a touchdown, he would have been a genius. I need to forgive and let it go (please don't start singing the song from Frozen). Besides, I'm pretty sure Darrell Bevell made the call. Pete just went with it. So I probably should be choking Darrell. Okay, the whole choking thing is just a joke people. I'm not going to choke anyone. That would make me a hypocrite because choking is strictly forbidden at our house. What I didn't like was that Darrell criticized Lockette for not "staying strong on the ball." Hey Darrell, we all would have run Marshawn. Maybe you should have been 'staying strong on the ball' and run it with Marshawn? He's about as strong as it gets. Bad call. Own it. Because I'm going to live with it for the rest of my irritated, annoyed, exasperated, irked, disgruntled, peeved, miffed, brooding life. Pray for me. I need a hug.
I won't lie. This one REALLY hurts. My wife, on the other hand, was over it before New England ran out the clock. But for me it was more painful than a prostate exam performed by a Jiffy Lube tech with a frozen periscope. I take my football seriously… too seriously. It's just a game… that can drag your fragile psyche into dark holes. So how has this experience changed my thoughts about what I wrote last year, when we won the whole enchilada and my fragile psyche dwelt in the heavenly light of victory? Well, I found out that former Rams quarterback, Kurt Warner, wonders if the Patriots cheated by spying on the Rams plays before Super Bowl XXXVI, which the Patriots won 20-17. I wish we could use that as an excuse… but we beat ourselves.
No, I think I'm good with the overall thoughts I expressed last year. But this year I think God may be trying to teach ME a lesson. For one, I yelled at my wife, who was just trying to serve everyone hot cheese sticks while standing in front of the TV. Does the phrase, 'you make a better door than a window' mean anything to you? But I shouldn't have yelled at her, and that probably cost us the game… at least according to my wife, who is fairly certain God punished my reprehensible behavior with a Seahawk loss. So to my wife, I'd like to apologize for yelling at you. To all the Seahawks fans, players and coaches, I'd like to apologize for losing us the game.
When you yell at your wife or when the outcome of a game drags your fragile psyche into a dark place, you probably don't have your priorities right. Football is a game. It's a really good game that is a lot better than soccer, or baseball, or basketball (has anyone seen the Sonics?), or hockey (why not just change hockey to 'boxing on ice'). But it's still a game. Yet many of us have our lives drastically altered by the outcome of a single sporting event.
For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.
1 Chronicles 16:26 KJV
For some, football has become a God. And, of course, it's played on Sunday just to keep us from attending church.
When football effects our lives in negative ways, we may be putting just a tad too much emphasis on the wrong syllable. Maybe God should be the syllable we put our emphasis on - not football, or baseball, or boxing on ice. When we lose it shouldn't be the end of the world. And when we win we should only trash talk for about a week, because when we lose it's all comin' back to us. Gracious in victory. Gracious in defeat. But it still was a terrible call. And we still lost the game. However, the Patriots did come back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter. If we had stopped either of their fourth quarter touchdowns, we win. We didn't. Instead the game came down to the last 28 seconds and one bad call. Yes, we handed them a victory. But they also scored twice in the fourth. Good game. Congratulations. God has a plan. I'm not crazy about the outcome, but I know God is at work in everything in our lives. As per Ecclesiastes:
There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to rebuild. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak up. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. A time to win the Super Bowl and a time to give the game to the Patriots (I added that one). What do people really get for all their hard work? I have thought about this in connection with the various kinds of work God has given people to do. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God's purpose in this is that people should fear him. Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 NLT (except the part about the Super Bowl).
God has a time for everything. And that timing is perfect. We're not in control. I don't know if God gave the Patriots the win, but I wouldn't put it past Him if He's trying to teach somebody a lesson (and I'm not just talking about me). What's the lesson? We're not in control… and apparently neither are the Seahawk coaches. God is. All we're required to do is put God first, grab a Big Mac, a lovely beverage and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Don't forget to hug your kids… or Pete and Darrell if you don't have any kids. They could both use a hug right about now.
Starting to see the light,
So I got to thinking, which I'm prone to do in rare moments of lucidness - and I thought to myself, why don't we start being "Biblically correct"? We're already politically correct, and I think we can all see how well that is working… everybody trying to say just the right thing, using just the right words, so that no one offends anyone else. And that's good, I think… but nobody ever says, "Hey, we need to be Biblically correct, so we don't offend God." How come we're not concerned about offending God, when we're so concerned about offending people? That's sorta like not using shampoo so you don't kill your head lice, but hitting a lion on the nose with a stick… well, not really, but it's the best analogy I could come up with.
I gotta be honest with you - well, I don't, but I will - getting things correct with God is a whole lot more important than getting things correct with people. I'm not advocating that we be mean spirited to people who disagree with our faith-based views. That wouldn't be Biblically correct. I'm simply suggesting that we follow God: that we believe His Word, that we trust His guidance, that we have faith in Him and that we follow the example of Jesus Christ as best as we can - and be Biblically correct.
When we run up against things, or people, that are at odds with God's Word, we need to stand for what God says is right. We need to adhere to our faith and not the political correctness of society. Society gets a lot of things wrong, while God NEVER makes a mistake… well, maybe creating humans wasn't His best idea, but I'm personally grateful for the opportunity to live and serve. And I have a great family that I want to instill with the idea that being Biblically correct is the most important thing you can do. It'll save your life! It'll give you one too.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."
John 5:24 NKJV
So the next time somebody talks about being politically correct, I think I'll just tell them I'm really not interested, and everything that needs fixing would get fixed if we all were just Biblically correct!
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalms 119:105 KJV
Walking in the day whenever possible, and using a light at night,
P.S. I always find it much easier to find my way at night when using a flashlight. I hit fewer trees and bleed less… however, since we have about 18 flashlights and no one knows where any of them are, I usually just walk around the property in the day.
P.P.S. If you know where all the flashlights go, please let me know. If you have spares please send me one… or a box of band-aids.
Seahawks win! Seahawks win! And they didn't just win, they dominated!
Please forgive my euphoria, but it's been 38 years that I've been waiting for this day… the day that I can say my team is the Super Bowl Champion! Not only was I there when the franchise came to town, I was actually asked if I wanted to tryout for the team… true story. I won't go into the details, because it sounds so much better when I leave them out. Unfortunately I wasn't thinking (which happens a lot!) and I said "no". What? The Seahawks asked you if you wanted to tryout and you said no? Yep, that's what I said. In retrospect I wish I had… but that was 38 years ago and I've just got to let it go… or maybe Pete Carrol will give me a second chance.
I know people say baseball is America's pastime… but football is its' passion! It also seems like football has a higher percentage of Christians than any other sport. I don't have any scientific numbers to back that up, but I don't need any, because that's my theory. And since our society doesn't need proof for most scientific theories, I'm chalking my theory up to science. So theoretically, football has more Christians than any other sport. And I want to talk about that, and the declarations these athletes often make about their faith.
When you find an on-fire Christian, a guy like Kurt Warner, former quarterback of the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, he's not afraid to tell you he's a Christian. In fact my favorite sports quote belongs to him. After winning Super Bowl XXXIV, Mike Tirico, an announcer for ABC said, "Kurt, first things first - tell me about the final touchdown pass to Isaac." To which Kurt replied, "Well, first things first, I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above - thank you, Jesus!" To my surprise the stadium erupted in cheers. But why is that my favorite quote in sports? Well, as a Christian the most important thing to me is Jesus Christ. Not because I'm forced to serve Him, but because of what He's done for me, and the fact that regardless of what the world thinks, I know He loves me enough to die for me. I owe Him. Everything. He's changed my life and made me a better person. He's given me a richer life and filled it with purpose. He comes first. But that's what you'd expect a Christian to say. We'd sound pretty stupid if we said we serve a God that can't do anything. So when I hear someone else proclaim that they have experienced the same life changing events that I have, because of what Jesus has done for both of us, it gets me excited about my faith. It is a bond between us that goes deeper than just sentiment or words. It's a game changer. Or is it?
Does God determine the outcome of a game based on the number of Christians that are on a team or that support it? A lot of people see Kurt Warner as a misguided athlete that has placed his faith in the wrong place. It's the coaches, the general manager, the other players, and maybe a little luck (and I don't mean Andrew), that determine the outcome of the game, right? It doesn't have anything to do with God, right? (For all you that don't know, Andrew Luck is the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Personally, I don't believe in luck, or that it changes anything. However, I do believe Andrew is a great quarterback… and when it comes to the Colts, Luck is a major factor in the outcome of every game.)
So, does God get involved in the outcome of football games based on the Christians on the team? Yesterday I thought the answer was no… that God doesn't intervene in a game where both sides have Christians on their teams. It's like a parent rooting for one kid over another. But today I'm not so sure. And here's why. It's not about the other guys, it about you… it's how you respond to Jesus. So even though there may be Christians on both teams, their commitment level to Christ may be different. Some are Kurt Warners - there's no ambiguity about where they stand. Others are quiet, but still strong in their faith. Still others are closet Christians. What I've seen is that those who are steadfast, determined and excited about their faith tend to perform at a level that sometimes is beyond what their talent level would predict. It's not because they don't have talent. It's because their faith allows them to express it fully. And because they allow God the opportunity to work in their lives, He does. He helps them to be all they can be… and sometimes more.
David (you remember him - smallish shepherd boy) wasn't the best warrior in the Israeli army. In fact, he wasn't even in the army! He was an errand boy for his father. Yet his confidence in God changed a nation forever. Did his faith give him an edge. Absolutely! Did his faith give him a victory. Undeniably!
Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.
Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
1 Samuel 17:21-28 NIV
As far as I know, everybody in the Israeli army was Jewish. They all believed, and supposedly served, the same God. But ONLY David had the courage to act on his faith. And because of that, even his own brother got upset with him. He knew David's confidence level was greater than his own, and that bothered him. But what Eliab failed to realize was that David's confidence came from his faith in God. And that gave David an advantage.
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV
If you're looking for confidence, David had it. David put his trust in God… so completely that he was not afraid to challenge the most feared warrior of his time - not with a sword, or a spear, or a javelin - but with his belief that God would protect him. Most of us are terrified when we overdraw our bank account. Some of us are just afraid to tell the rest of society what we believe. So I doubt many Christians would be confident enough to volunteer to fight the injustices placed upon us by an outside threat. And if we do, we'll surely take some flack from our own family!
But a sporting event is a lot different than the battle between the Israelites (with a third less calories than regular Hebrews) and the Philistines. There were no Christians on the other side - just one really big heathen, and a bunch of heathenettes. So in this case it was pretty obvious that God was taking sides. For the Super Bowl, or any other sporting event, I'm not so sure God cares about who wins. I think He cares about who serves Him, and those that believe in His Son. And I know He loves all of us, or He wouldn't have sacrificed His Son for us. So it's not about the game, folks. It's about us… and our salvation.
Now as excited as I am about our Super Bowl victory, I know that God is not the genie of football championships. If anything, I think He's disappointed that a Seahawks victory means more to some people than He ever will. Football is a game. Jesus Christ wants to give us life. That's what Kurt Warner understands, probably as well as anyone. And if you had asked him after Super Bowl XLIII (in which his team lost) about what it was like to be on the losing end of the score, I hope he would have answered the same way he did after he won Super Bowl XXXIV.
Being a Christian isn't about all the trophies, riches and accolades you accumulate in life. It's about living a life that is above what the world has in store for you. It's about trading death for life… and it's about sharing that life with others. Hopefully that's why Christian athletes are putting "first things first", and thanking Jesus for what they have. In no way do I think Kurt Warner's acknowledgement of Jesus Christ was to elevate himself over others or to insinuate that God had given him victory in the Super Bowl. I think he simply wanted the rest of the world to know that he was grateful for what Jesus had done for Him.
Life has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. Life exists only because God created it. It's great to be a winner, but you can't be a winner in life without Jesus Christ. I just wish Seattle could get as excited about Jesus as they are about the Seahawks. That would be a world changer.
You remember Joshua. Tall, nice looking man; former spy, now leader of the people of Israel. Well, it's his first day on the job and he's trying to fill some pretty big shoes. Moses is gone and it's up to him to lead the people into the promised land. Israel has been roaming around the wilderness for 40 years, waiting for the remnants of a disillusioned group of Jews to fade from their ranks, so they can at last inherit the land promised to them by God. All their dreams are about to be fulfilled, they will no longer be a people without a home… everything that had been promised to their fathers is about to be realized, and Joshua is the man that is going to lead them there. Not Moses - Joshua. No pressure. So Joshua leads the people across the River Jordan and into the promised land. But there'a a problem… a big problem. And it's name is Jericho. If you don't know about the battle of Jericho, don't worry - I'm not going to bore you with the details here. I have another item I want to bore you with. And it determines whether we are victorious or vanquished.
As Joshua prepared for the battle he moseyed himself over to Jericho to scope out the city. And when he did he saw something that caught his attention. It was a man holding a sword.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15 NIV
Did you notice that Joshua didn't ask for the man's papers or request any current identification? He just hit the deck and asked for instructions. Joshua immediately understood the gravity of the situation. He also knew how to correctly respond to God - he obeyed.
So why did the commander of the Lord's army say he was on neither side? Why wasn't he on Joshua's side? Joshua was a good guy, so why wasn't the commander with him? I'm so glad you ask these questions, because I've wondered that myself. Maybe it's because he served God and not people. Maybe it's because it really doesn't matter what people think, but rather if we're willing to follow God. Maybe he was on God's side because men aren't always on the right side. Maybe we mess up, and God doesn't want to back us when we do. Maybe God doesn't wants to base His actions on our abilities or wisdom. Maybe instead of us trying to get God to be on our side, we should try to get on God's side.
It's not about who's side God is on, because God doesn't take sides. He's not interested in conforming to our perceptions of how we think He should respond… and He usually doesn't make His decisions based on what we think. We really don't have a side for Him to take. He's the creator of the universe, so what is it that we have that would entice God to be on our side? He already owns all the sides that are worth taking. There is no incentive for God to pick our side. It's up to us to choose if we want to be on God's side - not for Him to decide if He wants to be on ours. If we're on God's side, then He's for us. If we're on God's side, then the commander of His armies is already fighting for us.
Enlisted for life,