Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Gay Marriage

***This is a series on gay marriage. This is the first of two posts. This one aims to reorient the discussion and our perspectives on the SCOTUS decision. The second is an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the decision.***

The Pros and Cons will be release in the next couple days, please check back then.

God's Perspective on the Supreme Court Decision in favor of Gay-Marriage

***This is a series on gay marriage. This is the first of two posts. This one aims to reorient the discussion and our perspectives on the SCOTUS decision. The second is an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the decision. I would especially welcome comments and discussion in the comments section below.*** 

“You want gay marriage that much? OK, you can have it.” –God.

Surely that is the response of celebration of many people who have long been fighting for what various groups have called “gay-marriage” or “marriage equality.” They have been crying foul in society and I am sure many to God for what they have perceived as a great injustice. And with the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, they feel like God has given them what they wanted. They feel a sense that justice has prevailed.

But others have been vigorously been fighting for a different vision of marriage, one in which the only participants are one man and one woman, Christians and non-Christians alike. Their vision has come in direct conflict with the version of it espoused by the other group. They hear the claim of the pro-“gay marriage” advocates that justice has prevailed, that God has said “If you want gay marriage that much, you can have it.,” and they grieve and bristle at the suggestion that God has given the pro-“gay-marriage” advocates exactly what they wanted.

But the question is: Who is right? Did justice prevail? Did God give gay marriage to the United States?

The answer I want to give you, the answer I think the Bible demands, is…

Yes…but not in the ways you expect. The truth is justice did prevail and God did give gay marriage to those who wanted it so badly. But the significance of those statements is not what you’d expect.

Justice?!! Some of you reading this, just had a heart attack. Is the CPR finished? Ok good, let’s pick up where we left off. God did give justice, but maybe not the justice you expect. Let’s read Romans 1.18-32 (or you can skip ahead to where I highlight the relevant parts).

18You see, God’s anger is being revealed from heaven on all human irreverence and unrighteousness by humans who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what is knowable about God is clear among them, because God made it clear to them. 20You see, His invisible attributes have been being observed from the creation of the world understood by what was made, including His eternal power and Godness, the result being that they are without excuse, 21because although they knew God, they didn’t glorify Him as God or thank Him, instead, they made themselves empty-headed and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they were made stupid. 23And they exchanged the glory of the Immortal God for the likeness of image of mortal humans and birds and four-footed creatures and serpents. 24Therefore, God gave them over with the desires of their hearts to impurity resulting in dishonoring their bodies with one another, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator—Who is praised forever, amen! 26Because of this, God gave them over to dishonorable passions, you see, even their women exchanged the natural sexual act for the unnatural, 27and similarly even the men, by abandoning the natural sexual act with a women, blazed in their lust for one another: men with men, producing shame and receiving in themselves consequences, which had to come from their delusion. 28And just as they did not approve of knowing God, God gave them over to an unapproved mind, to do the things that are not right 29being completely filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, badness, full of envy, murder, conflict, deception, meanspiritedness, gossipers, 30slanderers, God-haters, violent, arrogant, bragging, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31thoughtless, unfaithful, callous, uncompassionate, 32who, although they know the just verdict of God that people who practice these kinds of things are worthy of death, not only do these things, but also they celebrate those who practice them.

But what does that have to do with Justice? Well, it is really all about justice, God’s justice. The person being given justice in a positive sense in this passage is God. In a very real way, the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States is not about getting justice for humans deprived of justice, but God deprived of His.

But how does gay-marriage becoming the law of the land give God justice? Well, humans rebel, refusing to acknowledge Him as God of the universe, despite the amazing amount of proof in the world. God has been treated unfairly by humans, part of that rejection of Him as God involves humans duping themselves into idolatrous patterns of life, lifestyles that celebrate not the Glory of God, but the fading honor of creation.

But justice, how does gay marriage give God justice? Some of you reading this are thinking: God gets justice from this by humans embracing justice. But actually, the reverse is true.
God is getting justice from this decision not because humans are embracing justice, but because God is.


The answer is that God is getting justice because He is judging us. Make no mistake the most important judge in this Supreme Court decision was not the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, but God, the Judge of the Universe. And while it may look at first that God has ruled in favor of those advocates of gay marriage the truth is far different.

You see, God, by giving the advocates of gay marriage what they want, was not saying “I am with you in your pursuit of a fuller embrace of a homosexual lifestyle.” Instead, He was saying “I am against you.”

But the judgment of God, as we see in Romans 1.18-32, often does not come in the form of fire from heaven or a holy war on earth, but the removal of His gracious restraint of our own human sinfulness. In the case of the recent Supreme Court decision, God was punishing the advocates of gay marriage by giving them what they want so much.

The truth is that sometimes the punishment for sin is not immediate destruction, but more sin. In a very real way, sin is a fate worse than death, because it destroys the soul.

But it is also a fate better than death, because it allows time for repentance. Although the recent passage of gay marriage is actually the judgment of God, it is also the opportunity from God for people to repent. Unfortunately, the curse of more sin, also pushes people further away from the God they need. Make no mistake, as gracious of a punishment as the passage of gay marriage is, it is still a punishment.

So, who is right? At the end of the day, it is the most important person: God.

Who has received justice? The One most deserving of justice: God.

What about advocates of “gay-marriage,” did they get what they want?

Yes and no. They got what they wanted, but what they have yet to realize is that what they have really received is the judgment of God.

What about the advocates of marriage, have they really lost? Yes and no.

They did lose their battle over the definition of marriage in this country, but they can now see not just the lack of support of human beings, but the full support of God, expressed not by siding against them, as it would be easy to initially think, but expressed by His siding with them, by giving the punishment of more sin. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recommended Reading in Theology

I was recently asked to compile a list of 5 theological works that are readable and theologically useful. The following list are 5 theological books that I think every Christian would benefit by reading, even if I don't agree with everything they may teach in every minute detail. But all of them are written by people passionate about the Gospel, and will be very useful.

1. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

This book is a must read for every Christian. It is clear, well-written, and does move from doctrine to application.
or if you are intimidated by its size, the condensed version Biblical Doctrine: Essential Teaches of the Christian Faith.

2. Center Church by Tim Keller

Even if you are not a church leader, this book is helpful for thinking about what the church is and how it should interact with the world. And since, last time I checked, you are part of the church and the world...yeah...uh...you might want to read it.

3. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham

I love the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and so should you. It is all about the God we worship. This book is so well written, thorough, and interesting that I have had it on my Amazon wishlist for years. Full disclosure, I've not read the whole thing, but it was so good that I actually want to at some point. If you know me, you also know that such a statement essentially means its a great book, because I hate reading.

4. Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication by Craig Ott and Gene Wilson

My friend is thinking of missions in the future, but the true is that all of us Christians are called to missions, whether God puts the focus of the mission either inside or outside of our default culture is the only question we must ask. That said, this is very helpful for planting churches, but also helping established churches become more effective in the mission of God. I have had Dr. Ott in class before and the man planted churches in Germany, so what he is talking about works no matter how hard or post-Christian the soil.

5. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

Please. Read. This. Your spiritual life will thrive more if you are able to avoid muffling God's voice with poor interpretation...also...this is a bit self-serving, because if you are better at reading and understanding the Bible, my job as a pastor will be easier. Haha. Yeah, so, while it is not strictly theological, it is helpful in constructing better theology.

Ode to the God of Light

A Spontaneous prayer of Praise, of varying meter

Good Morning Abba!
Today is beautiful--serene.

The sun is clear and beaming
light dancing and streaming.
all in the world seems so good, true, and right,
in the purity and bliss of the light.
A light and joy so pure as dawn
streaming in the room and across the lawn.
God, a taste of a world eternal,
a land rich with abundance vernal

You are God and Good and Righteous and Just,
to respond in praise is truly a must!
On days like these the peace is almost transcendent,
streaming in from Your Throne all resplendent!
The light is still but a faint echo of bliss
compared to the joy of Your presence!
The Spirit living with in me is a joy truly Divine,
to think that we so foolishly abandoned this design!
The fall into sin stole the light so sweet,
cursed as we are to return to the dust beneath our feet.

Yet on days like today, as I sit here in the Sun,
I am reminded that that curse was undone!
By Jesus, the Son--Your Son, my Sun--
a joy and pleasure so grand--

He rises to stand, to stand in my defense,
to stand for my reward, having paid my recompense!
I am a fool, cruel and dumb with drool,
yet sitting in something of a Heavenly school,
sitting in the light where all seems right,
sitting and waiting hope fixed aright
On Jesus

My light, my Sun beyond this sun,
Light beyond this Heaven echoing light
He is Right, the Light, the Winner of the Fight,
Whose life blazes bright, even in the darkest night,
of the soul, of the woe,
making the broken whole.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pentecost Sunday: The Promised and Providing Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

Scripture: Acts 2
Translation: Acts 2.1And when the day of Pentecost arrived, all of them were together at the same place. 2And suddenly a sound came from the sky like the sound a violent wind brings. And if filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3And tongues like fire appeared being distributed to them. And it settled down on each one of them. 4And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages according to how the Spirit was giving them to speak out.
5And there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing men from every ethnic group from all the places under Heaven. 6And when this sound came, the huge number of people gathered together and became confused, because each one of them was hearing them speaking in his own dialect. 7And they were shocked and amazed, saying, “Look, don’t absolutely all of these people speak the Galilean dialect? 8So how is each one of us hearing them in our own dialect that we were born in? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and those who live in Mesopotamia, as well as Judea and Cappadocia, Egypt and the parts of Libya that are near Cyrene, and the visiting Romans, 11both Jews and converts, Cretans and Arabs, we are hearing them speaking in our languages the great things of God!” 12And all of them were shocked and dumbfounded, one saying to one another, “What wants this to be?” 13But others who were making fun of them were saying that “They’re really just drunk on new wine!”
14And Peter standing with the Eleven lifted up his voice and spoke boldly to them, “Men, Jews, and all those staying in Jerusalem, Let this be known to you and pay attention to my words. 15You see, it is not as you suggest “these people are drunk,” because it is 9am. 16Instead, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel. 15“And it will be in the last days, God says, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams! 18And indeed on My male slaves and on My female-slaves in those days I will pour out My Spirit and they will prophesy! 19And I will give omens in the sky above and signs on the earth below: book and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will turn into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious Day of the Lord comes. 21And it will be that everyone who will call on the Name of the Lord will be saved!”
22Men, Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus, the Nazarene, a man who really was endorsed by God for you with miracles and omens and signs, which God did through Him in the middle of you just as you yourselves know, 23This Person by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God, who was given over, you killed via the hand of lawless people by nailing Him to a cross, 24Who God raised breaking the pains of death, given that it was not possible that He be held by it. 25You see, David says about Him, “I saw the Lord before me through it all, because He is at my right hand, so that I would not be shaken. 26Because of this, my heart is rejoices and my tongue celebrates, but moreover my flesh settles on hope, 27because You will not abandon my life in Hades, and You won’t allow You Holy One to see decay. 28You make me know the path of life. You fill me with joy with Your Face!” 29Men, brothers, I have to speak to you with boldness about David the Patriarch that he is both dead and buried. And his tomb is among us to this day. 30So, because he really was a prophet and knew that with an oath God promised him someone from the fruit of his loins would sit on his throne, 31looking ahead, he spoke about the resurrection of Christ that he was not abandoned to Hades and His flesh did not see decay. 32God raised this Jesus, which we are all witnesses of.
33So, after being exalted to the right hand of God, and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He poured This Spirit out, which you both see and hear. 34For David didn’t go up into the heavens, but he says, “The Lord says to My Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand. 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet!’” 36So, certainly, all the house of Israel had better know that God made Him Lord and Messiah—this Jesus Who you crucified!”
37And when they heard they stabbed in the heart and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What should we do, men brothers?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and each of you get baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, 39because the promise is for you and your children and all those far into the future, as many as the Lord our God will summon.” 40And with many other words he was warning and urging them saying “Get saved from this warped generation!” 41So, those who accepted his message were baptized and about 3000 lives were added on that day.
42And they were focusing on the teaching of the apostles and on sharing, breaking bread, and prayers. 43And fear came over every life, and many omens and signs were happening through the apostles. 44And all those who believed were at the same place and they held absolutely everything as shared. 45And they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing them to all according to how someone had a need. 46And daily focusing with one mind on being in the Temple, and breaking bread in different homes, they were sharing food with great joy and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding the people being saved every day to their group.

1.      Structure
a.       The Coming of the Spirit (vv.1-4)
b.      The Response of those in Jerusalem (vv.5-13)
c.       The Spirit-empower Sermon of Peter (vv.14-36)
                                                              i.      Peter Explains the Languages as a Fulfillment of Joel 2 (vv.14-21)
                                                            ii.      Peter Explains Christ raised from the dead, not David (vv.22-32)
                                                          iii.      Peter Explains Christ poured out the Spirit and is Lord, not David (vv.33-36)
d.      The Response of the People in Jerusalem to Peter’s Sermon (vv.37-41)
e.       The Nature of the Early Church (vv.42-47)
2.      Themes
a.       The Holy Spirit
b.      The death and resurrection of Christ
c.       The killing of Christ by the Jews
d.      Languages/tongues
e.       Prophecies interpreted
f.       Calling on the Name of the Lord
g.      Conversion
h.      Church
3.      Doctrines
a.       The Holy Spirit comes from God via Jesus
b.      The Bible is reliable
c.       The Holy Spirit comes on every Christian at conversion
d.      The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts, boldness, insight, and empowerment
e.       The Holy Spirit transforms the human heart

1.      Outline
a.       The Promised Holy Spirit
                                                              i.      Promised by Jesus (Acts 1.4-5, 8)
                                                            ii.      Promised in Joel 2 (Joel 2.28-32)
b.      The Providing Holy Spirit
                                                              i.      The Holy Spirit Provides Spiritual Gifts
1.      He provided different languages
2.      He provides other gifts too, like leadership and preaching
                                                            ii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Boldness
1.      Boldness to speak up in general
2.      Boldness to say harsh and even dangerous things
                                                          iii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Words
1.      He will give the words we need when we need them
                                                          iv.      The Holy Spirit Provides Insight
1.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Joel 2.28-32 to His coming
2.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Ps. 15.8-11 to the resurrection of Christ and not David
3.      He enabled Peter to correctly apply Ps. 110 to the Lordship of Christ not David and in particular to the sending of the Spirit from God by Christ
                                                            v.      The Holy Spirit Provides Incentive
1.      The Holy Spirit is so awesome and should be such a part of our spiritual lives that He naturally comes up in evangelism as an incentive to convert
2.      The offer of the Holy Spirit can motivate people to come to Christ in faith
                                                          vi.      The Holy Spirit Provides Dedication
1.      Dedication to learning and following God’s Word
2.      Dedication to sharing our stuff generously
3.      Dedication to eating together regularly
4.      Dedication to praying consistently
                                                        vii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Generosity
1.      Through Him we can share our time
2.      Through Him we can share our talents
3.      Through Him we can share our money
4.      Through Him we can share our stuff
                                                      viii.      The Holy Spirit Provides Joy
1.      His joy is sometimes mysterious
2.      His joy is always overwhelming
                                                          ix.      The Holy Spirit Provides Praise
1.      He brings the praise of God out of us naturally
2.      He brings the praise of people to us naturally
                                                            x.      The Holy Spirit Provides Unity
1.      He brings people together from all the different languages
2.      He brings people together from all the different places
3.      He brings people together from all the different cultures
4.      He brings people together from all the different backgrounds
5.      He brings people together from all the different statuses
2.      Discussion Questions
a.       What do you think it would have been like to have the Holy Spirit rush on you with fire over your head and different languages coming out of your mouth?
b.      If you had been on the outside looking in, what would you have said about these Jesus-followers?
c.       Before today, did you know God promised through prophecy to send His Holy Spirit on all His people? Why is sending the Holy Spirit so important to God?
d.      How important is the Holy Spirit to your daily life on a scale of 1-10? Why do you say that number?
e.       What places do you want the Holy Spirit to have on your daily life? What is keeping that from happening?
f.       How can you rely on the Spirit while reading and applying the Bible?

g.      Of the 10 things the Spirit provides mentioned in the sermon today, which 2 things do you want Him to provide to you the most? Why? Which 2 things do you want Him to provide the Universal Church the most? Why?