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Looking Beyond the Election

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In just four days Americans will enter the voting booth and this dizzying and sometimes exacerbating Presidential election will finally come to an end. It has been a campaign season like no other. Unfortunately, it has created deep divides even within the church.

But no matter what the results are or how debated they might become, our relationships must stay intact—both with our fellow believers and with unbelievers. We must not burn bridges as a result of the contentious spirit of this election and the disdain the majority has with both major party candidates. Strong respectful debate is good and is to be encouraged. It sharpens our understanding of what is important. But the simple truth is that when the dust settles in America the greater work for the kingdom of God must and will go on.

For this we need each other in the body of Christ. For this we need a platform from which we can still speak with our neighbor. For this we need a commitment to godly relationships that will last beyond this and any election.

There is much at stake in this election. There is great concern for the future of the Supreme Court and rightly so. But maintaining the capacity to work together for the gospel and the opportunity to preach the gospel is of even greater concern. This is also at stake in this election, though not in the voting booth, but in the manner in which we conduct ourselves towards others.

We may feel frustration that we cannot affect the direction of our culture as much as we wish and that our vote often feels like a drop in the bucket when it comes to the national election. But there is one thing we are fully in control of and responsible for—our attitude. So as this temporary earthly election cycle comes to an end, like many before it and many to follow, I encourage you to reflect on how you have conducted yourself and will conduct yourself both in speech and in deed. Your reputation and that of the gospel of Christ will last way beyond Tuesday, November 8.

These are the priorities of the citizens of a greater and everlasting kingdom. And it is these priorities that should ultimately shape our conduct and vision. Our primary responsibility is to demonstrate our allegiance to Christ’s Lordship and kingdom not any political party or cause. Whatever is at stake in America—remember—eternity is at stake in the gospel. Recall also that the saints who have gone before us endured hardship for the sake of the gospel by “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Paul said, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

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Prayer: A Window into the Heart

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The Heart of Prayer
Prayer is a dialogue with God that reveals what matters to us the most. You could discover a person’s chief ambitions, anxieties, fears and hopes if you could listen in on their prayers. One could quickly identify whether a person’s heart is consumed primarily with immediate personal matters or the far reaching material and spiritual needs of others. Prayer is a window into the heart.

Listen in on the hearts of three significant biblical individuals below. What burdens their hearts? What do they seek on behalf of others? What can we learn from them?

Listen to the heart of the prophet Daniel: “To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Daniel 9:8–10).

“Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Daniel 9:17–19).

Listen to the heart of the apostle Paul: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19).

Listen to the heart of our Lord Jesus: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20–23).

What strikes me about these prayers is how God-centered and others-directed the prayers are. There is a profound desire for God to be honored and glorified coupled with a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of the people of God.

In our congregation we enter into a partnership each fall to pray and fast independently yet bound together for the sake of our local church and beyond. Each week I send out specific long-term and near-term prayer requests and Scripture verses to motivate our prayer life. I’m asking the Lord this year to give me a heart that burns with the same motivations and passions as above.

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Responding to the Unexpected

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Why does it seem odd to us or feel like somewhat of a failure when our plans don’t work out exactly as we intended? Are sudden unexpected changes of direction a mark of failed planning or a basic element of life in a fallen, yet God-directed world? The Scriptures clearly teach as much.

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand” (Prov. 19:21).

We do well to remember a change of direction is not evidence that God has lost control, it is evidence that God is in control! We have many plans but only the counsel of the Lord will stand. Do we always plan exactly what the Lord intends to bring about? No! We live in a world in which God is the Sovereign architect of our lives and not the other way around. Often when our purposes seemed as clearly fixed and soon to be accomplished as a five-minute drive to the grocery store, the Divine Architect sends some obstruction, some unexpected difficulty that sends us in another direction—His direction. And His direction is always the best.

Consider that Paul was turned aside from a wide field of labor to preach in a prison cell. How could this serve the purposes of God? Oh what letters were written in those prison cells!

When David obediently traveled to visit his brothers at his father’s request, little did he realize what great test of his faith lied ahead in the form of an individual named Goliath. But what good came to many from that representative victory which resulted from the test of his faith! This one event was used in a very personal and direct way to prepare David for His calling as King. It was also instrumental as a means of instilling faith in the people of God.

Contemplate also the thirteen years Joseph experienced in slavery and imprisonment. Surely this must have felt like a useless and painful change of direction but it was the doorway to becoming Pharaoh’s right hand man and God’s instrument for saving Joseph’s people from starvation and maintaining the promised line (Gen. 50:20).

Christian recording artist Phil Keaggy adapted a line from C. S. Lewis in one of his songs entitled “Disappointment” that often comes to mind when I suddenly face an unexpected turn in the road. I think it’s worth remembering:

Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

This last month our congregation was shocked and disturbed by very difficult news regarding one of our own ministry leaders. This was truly a sudden and painfully unexpected turn if there ever was one. It would be yet another setback in the formation of a leadership and staff infrastructure that could meet the needs of our growing flock.

But sudden providential changes often issue in fruit we would have never harvested otherwise. Sometimes these quick alterations are Fatherly discipline designed to wean us from our own devices, sins or ruts, that we may seek the Lord’s direction and rely upon His help more diligently. I believe , in our case, we have already begun to taste some of the first fruits.

All of these changes may seem sudden and I must admit this is not the way I had planned or envisioned it. But with unreserved confidence I once again yield to our Heavenly Architect. He knows the whole way—every step of the way. He alone knows the “end from the beginning.”

Do you have any plans for the balance of 2016? Sure you do. You might encounter a sudden and unforeseen change of direction. The God who fashions the hearts of all men means for your life, as well as our churches, to display His truth and worth. Often this comes about through the refinement of our faith that takes place through God-sent sudden changes in direction. Plans that become thwarted may be harbingers of better things. Great letters came from prison cells. In the end, I believe we will all confess that these unexpected difficulties “turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

In closing I offer you all the lyrics of “Disappointment” for your reflection.

Disappointment – His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing
Though it may come in disguise
For the end from the beginning,
Open to His wisdom lies.

Disappointment – His appointment
Whose? The Lord’s who loves best.
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test.

For like loving, earthy parent
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts unquestioned
All that from His wisdom flows.

Disappointment – His appointment
No good thing will he withhold
From denials oft we gather
Treasures from His love untold.

Well, He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller deeper trust
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

Disappointment – His appointment
Lord I take it then as such,
Like the clay in hands of potter
Yielding wholly to Thy touch

All my life’s plan is Thy molding
Not one single choice be mine
Let me answer unrepining,
Father not my will but Thine.



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He Himself has Suffered when Tempted

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Last Sunday we considered the sympathy of Jesus our High Priest. The author of Hebrews states, “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Specifically, the temptation for which He helps us is the temptation to move away from a faithful commitment to Jesus as Lord, which is what the readers of this epistle were experiencing.

But in what way was Jesus tempted? Christ was tempted to avoid the suffering appointed for Him as our High Priest and sacrifice. Does this “temptation” of Christ imply anything unholy or sinful about Jesus? Hebrews would deny this for the author states later in chapter 4 that He was tempted like us, yet “without sin.” This temptation did not arise from a sinful heart  for Jesus does not share this aspect of our nature (Rom. 8:3). To drive this point home I briefly quoted Geerhardus Vos and made mention that I would post the entire paragraph.

You will find it below. It comes from a chapter on the Priesthood of Christ in Hebrews in his work entitled “Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation.”

“We are now able… to answer the questions… concerning the temptations, the sufferings, the sympathy and the perfecting of the Savior. Wherever the Epistle speaks of temptations of Christ, it always means to refer concretely and specifically to the temptations that arose from His call to suffer. Of temptations in general it never speaks in connection with Jesus. In thus doing it limits the sphere of the Savior’s temptations to that class of experiences wherein a real appeal to His feelings and desires was possible, and yet the mere presence and force of such an appeal could not endanger His sinlessness. For the inclination to escape from suffering, which made the temptation a real one, is in itself a natural, innocent inclination. It could assert itself in the Savior’s heart and require a positive choice of the will to overbear it and keep it down, without depending for its power on the presence of evil.”

While I found Vos helpful in understanding the temptation spoken of in Hebrews 2:18, I look forward to seeing if his point holds up when carefully examining what is meant in chapter 4:15 –

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Until then, let’s remember He loves us and is willing to lay hold of us with His grace at any moment.

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Ask For the Ancient Paths pt. 3

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“Stand at the crossroads and look;

Ask for the ancient paths,

Ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”

(Jer. 6:16 – NIV)

This is the third and final post in a three-part series responding to the fact that some evangelicals are discarding belief that the Bible defines homosexual activity as sin. Each post is a review and amplification of a major point of the sermon “How is the Gospel at Stake in Same-Sex Marriage?” (July 12, 2015).

The third and final point below follows a brief review of the first two affirmations seeking to demonstrate that the gospel is indeed at stake in this current discussion.

The gospel is at stake because the gospel calls for repentance as well as faith.

The simple fact of the matter is if homosexuality is not deemed sin; there is no repentance and if there is no repentance of sin, there is no salvation. Both Jesus and the apostles preached the necessity of repentance and faith as essential components of genuine conversion (our human response to the gospel call). That homosexuality is considered sin from which true believers must and will repent (not necessarily only once) is seen in various scriptures (1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph. 5:5-6; Jude 7).

The gospel is at stake because the gospel is publically portrayed in biblical marriage. Marriage has several purposes. One purpose of marriage is procreation. Procreation is the product of the consummation of a marriage – the union of two complimentary image bearers, brought together, to be fruitful and procreate. This cannot be done in same-sex marriage.

In addition, marriage also portrays the intimacy of our union with Christ. This is made evident in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church (Eph. 5:22-32). Within the union of a man and woman there are specific roles and gifts that are not arbitrary. Human marriage is a God-ordained picture in miniature of the relationship between Christ and His Church.

Married couples are not simply partners in the Bible – they are husband and wife. They are two complementary image bearers fulfilling different roles, reflecting different spiritual truths: husband and wife, head and body, Christ and church. All of this imagery is gone when we set aside the reality of gender differences as a gift of God’s creation order.

The gospel is at stake because the gospel is founded upon biblical authority. The gospel is at stake because it is in the scriptures and if you can dismiss the sinfulness of homosexuality in your reading of the scriptures then you can dismiss just about anything. You have in essence given up biblical authority.

It’s amazing to me, as I’ve read some of the contemporary books and blogs making a plea for gay evangelicals, to watch the exegetical linguistic gymnastics used by some to say the Bible not only does not speak against homosexual activity but also actually affirms them. The dishonesty of this argument boggles the mind.

This argument is understandable coming from those individuals and movements that have never affirmed the inspiration, authority, clarity and inerrancy of Holy Scripture. What the bible means by what it says has always been open to a slew of contradictory interpretations to this camp. But what is disturbing is to hear this line of argumentation blindly adopted by those who claim to be evangelicals. To claim this is simply intellectually dishonest.

As an example of intellectual honesty from someone who does not hold the traditional view I offered the writings of William Loader. He is a member of the “Uniting Church of Australia” and has done extensive research on sexuality in Jewish and early Christian literature. In his book “Sexuality and the New Testament” he states, (in regards to homosexual activity as seen by the New Testament) it is…

“A particularly crass instance of what happens when people turn away from the true God, for they also lose touch with their own reality and engage in unnatural sex.”

This is not Loader’s opinion. What Loader is arguing is that this is what Paul and the bible is saying. He does not agree with it but he is intellectually honest enough to say that this is precisely what the bible means by what it says. Furthermore, he goes on to explain that, like other Jews, Paul bases this judgment on what “biblical law prohibits” (Leviticus) and goes on to provide a range of supporting arguments which include understanding what is natural in terms of how God created things, a strong disapproval of excessive sexual passion, and the shamefulness of men taking women’s roles and women usurping men’s.

William Loader says in essence, “I’m for gay marriage but, I’ve studied the Bible, and I can tell you this, you can’t by any stretch of the imagination tell me that the Bible actually supports that.” And yet, we find self-proclaimed evangelicals trying to find a way to make the scriptures fit the times. Is there no integrity?

I do not have the space in this brief post to review the principles of hermeneutics (the science and art of biblical interpretation) that are ignored when arriving at the conclusion that the bible actually supports homosexual marriage. But when various long established principles of biblical interpretation held by evangelicals since the Protestant Reformation are violated, ignored or simply thrown out the window to arrive at such conclusion one has undermined not only an ethic but the very authority of scripture which is the basis of the Christian life and all doctrine. If you are ready to dismiss the sinfulness of homosexual acts on the reading of the Bible, then when and where will it stop? What else will be dismissed? Who gets to pick and choose and on what basis? This is a slippery slope of massive proportions.

I can only echo the words of Paul again, “Be not deceived by empty words.” “If you practice these things you have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.” This is a matter of eternal significance. Don’t let the winds of modern culture blow you wherever they’re blowing. Stay on the ancient paths.

[One final pastoral note: If this question of what exactly does the bible say about homosexuality and how are we to interpret it is of interest to you I encourage you to read “What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?” by Kevin DeYoung.]




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Ask For the Ancient Paths II

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“Stand at the crossroads and look;

Ask for the ancient paths,

Ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”

(Jer. 6:16 – NIV)

My last post was first in a series of posts addressing the fact that some evangelicals are discarding belief that the Bible defines homosexual activity as sin. This became more widespread shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Each of these posts simply distills a major point of the sermon “How is the Gospel at Stake in Same-Sex Marriage?” (July 12, 2015).

The Gospel is at Stake Because The Gospel is Publically Portrayed in Biblical Marriage

What is marriage, biblically speaking? Marriage is a good gift designed and given by our Creator God (Gen. 2-3). It is a covenant between one man and one woman and God. This institution predates any human government and is the result of God’s actions and revelation (explaining His actions) and not a social construct. In this covenant the two become one flesh in consummation of the marriage. God created man in His own image; male and female He created them. He then brought the woman to the man. What follows this foundational moment is a divine pronouncement:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31)

Marriage has several purposes. One purpose of marriage is procreation. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” Procreation is the product (if God so blesses) of the consummation of a marriage – the union of two complimentary image bearers, brought together, to be fruitful, to multiply, to recreate, if you would, even as God created them to produce another. This cannot be done in same-sex marriage.

In addition, and more to our point, marriage is not only the context for our sexuality to be enjoyed and to procreate, but it also portrays the intimacy of our union with Christ. This is made evident in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Following his quotation of Genesis 2:24 above, the apostle then states:

“Now this mystery is profound, and I’m saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:32).

A mystery, in Paul’s writing, does not refer to something strange or beyond understanding. Rather, it refers to something previously not understood that has now been revealed; the Gentile~Jewish church, for example. What makes this mystery of marriage so profound is the knowledge that, the union between Christ and church is really the original model, and the marriage of a man and woman is a copy. That’s the mystery, that all along it was a copy of an ultimate reality, not simply a functional necessity. The ultimate reality and the only permanent marriage lasting into eternity is our profound and unbreakable spiritual union with Jesus Christ.

Within the union of a man and woman there are specific roles and gifts that are not arbitrary. They are not roles conjured up by Paul, Moses or any other human society. God in Holy Scripture has revealed the purpose of each role. God doesn’t do things willy-nilly. Everything has purpose and meaning and often represents a spiritual reality. In this case, human marriage is a picture in miniature of the relationship between Christ and His Church.

There are many implications to this that the church would do well to consider and reflect upon in terms of our own community before we go and try to fix fallen people outside. This is what makes adultery so abhorrent: because it lies about the covenant faithfulness of Christ to His beloved bride. This is what makes pre-marital sex so abhorrent: because it wants and demands part of what marriage represents (spiritual union), without the complete picture of the covenant commitment and loyalty of Christ in His beloved.

And this is what makes so-called same-sex marriage so abhorrent: because it lies about the reality of roles in the covenant that are rooted in the gift of gender in the creation of God – male and female.

Married couples are not simply partners in the Bible – they are husband and wife. They are two complementary image bearers fulfilling different roles, reflecting different spiritual truths: husband and wife, head and body, Christ and church. And this is what’s lost in the attempt to unite people of the same sex. Regardless of whether it is legal in any society or any nation at any time.

We’re not talking about the legality of same-sex unions. We are talking about what some are promoting within the church. The attempt to redefine marriage, within the church, as including same-sex partners is a gross distortion. Gone is the picture of Christ’s loving and sacrificial headship and authority over the church. Gone is the picture of the church’s humble submission to Christ as lord. Gone is the picture of the gospel imagery of our union with Christ. Gone is the picture of Christ’s headship seeking us, wooing us, laying down His life in order to sanctify us and bring us into a spiritual union with Him. All of that is gone when we set aside the reality of gender differences as a gift of God’s creation order.

Be assured, the gospel is at stake in same-sex marriage when all this is lost. But I hasten to add; it is also at stake in our sins of adultery and fornication within the church. It is hard to talk to outsiders when our own house is a mess. So let us humbly we remember that as well. Judgment begins with the household of God.


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Ask For the Ancient Paths

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“Stand at the crossroads and look;

Ask for the ancient paths,

Ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.” (Jer. 6:16 – NIV)

Jerusalem was at the crossroads when the prophet spoke these words to a people who had long ago tuned out the voice of God in the word of God. They were disoriented and on the wrong road – the road to destruction. God had lovingly sent messengers who were prophets – like Isaiah and Jeremiah – who warned God’s people of the consequences of rejecting God’s will by following after the idols of foreign peoples. But they would not heed His gracious warnings.

“I appointed watchmen over you and said,

‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’

But you said, ‘We will not listen.’” (Jer. 6:17 – NIV)

The Evangelical church is at a crossroads in our own times. As a church family we reflected on this in my sermon entitled “How is the Gospel at Stake in Same-Sex Marriage?” (July 12, 2015). In this blog post I seek to put in writing some of the more salient points from the message so as to multiply its reach for the church.

What exactly is the problem?

Some evangelicals are discarding belief that the Bible defines homosexuality as sin. I’m not talking about what the society is doing. I am talking about members of the visible church who have expressed support for same-sex marriage not simply as a legal societal reality but are suggesting the church should accept it and practice it. Among the many reasons offered for this about face (all which I cannot delineate in this short post) is the notion that this is a matter of personal conscience since it belongs in the category of ethics and not doctrine essential to the gospel.

While this is a clever argument, the fact is it touches upon our definition and understanding of sin, which has everything to do with doctrine essential to the gospel. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation – from sin. As such, it is not a secondary matter and as a result the very gospel is at stake in this debate (doctrinal not political). I offered three ways the gospel is at stake, the first of which I will reiterate in this first post.

The gospel is at stake because the gospel calls for repentance as well as faith.

If homosexuality is not deemed sin; there is no repentance and if there is no repentance of sin, there is no salvation. To repent is to turn from and forsake sin and to turn toward God. While repentance and faith are distinct they are inseparable. Both Jesus and the apostles preached the necessity of repentance and faith as essential components of genuine conversion (our human response to the gospel call). They are two-sides of the same coin. Repentance of sin was at the heart of the preaching of our Lord Jesus and the apostles (Mark 1:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19).

“… I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20–21 – ESV)

But does the bible teach that homosexuality is a sin that needs forsaking? In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Paul strongly urges his readers to live a life pleasing to God because God’s will is their sanctification (a holy and distinct life). In particular, they are to flee sexual immorality (Greek porneia). While the emphasis in this passage is upon monogamy, the term porneia encompasses various sorts of sexually immoral behavior including homosexuality as evidenced by several standard New Testament Greek Lexicons (cf. Louw Nida). Other biblical contexts closely link the term with homosexuality (Jude 7; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Paul makes very clear the consequences of rejecting this teaching. To disregard what he writes is not to “disregard man but God.” God is the “avenger” in these matters (1 Thess. 4:6-8). This refers to the coming judgment of God’s wrath upon any and all who reject His authority and continue in a life of unrepentant sinful practices, including homosexuality (Col. 3:5-6).

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:5–6 – ESV)

Some Evangelicals now hesitate to call individual men and women to repentance of homosexuality because they have embraced the narrative that this behavior is simply part of how they are “wired” and we can’t expect them to change their very nature. But repentance of all sin is the product of a changed nature that is the result of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. This is true of every sinner who has come to faith in Christ.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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 – ESV).

Here Paul briefly describes the awesome and gracious transformative power of the gospel. It not only brings about a new legal standing with God (justified); a new positional standing relative to the world (sanctified); but it also produces a moral transformation such that Paul can say “such were some of you” as he recalls their former manner of life. Throughout human history there have been many powerful testimonies of both men and women delivered by God’s grace from a life of homosexuality. Consider the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield in her illuminating book “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

This does not mean that same-sex attraction will never again tempt every true believer who has repented of homosexuality and has been converted by God’s grace. All the sinful propensities and inclinations of what Paul refers to as the “flesh” are not eradicated in the new birth. Temptations of every kind continue to abound of both heterosexual and homosexual varieties (Rom. 7:13-24). But it does mean that the believer will be characterized as one who repents of any and all known sin and seeks by God’s grace to live a life pleasing to God (1 Jn. 1:9). The fact that Paul had to write this to believers who had responded to his own preaching should make that clear to all.

I pray we will all remember that repentance for each and every one of us was a God-wrought grace at the very threshold of the kingdom of God. It is not only “a mark that someone has done wrong but also a sign of the hand of God upon an individual” (Butterfield). It is a gift of God every believer experienced at the doorway of his or her salvation and continues to experience. One of the cruelest things we can do is to falsely assure individuals that they can have Christ and the kingdom without repenting of sin – including homosexual sins. This has been the devil’s lie from the beginning.“You surely will not die!”

Are you at the crossroads?

Are you debating whether we as members of Christ’s church should embrace and practice same-sex marriage? If so…

“Ask for the ancient paths, 

Ask where the good way is, and walk in it. 

And you will find rest for your souls”

To withhold a call to repentance of this sin is to distort the grace of the gospel and to rob it of its power. It is not the path of Jesus or the apostles. Instead of withholding a call to repentance we should gently and lovingly hold out the promise of salvation through faith in Christ and repentance of sin to all, and then trust our Lord to work in the hearts of those whom He is calling to Himself. This will not result in popularity in today’s cultural context (nor in Paul’s for that matter) but it is the good way and we must walk in it.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26 – ESV)

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Show Me Your Glory

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Beginning this Sunday we will start a new sermon series on what is traditionally referred to as the attributes of God entitled “Show Me Your Glory.” I enter this subject with both the hope that we will see more of God’s glory as revealed in Christ and with prayerful humility. A wrong or warped view of God can have devastating effects upon an individual and the church. But a deepening grasp of God’s character, while always incomplete, will yield a growing maturity and confidence in a believer’s walk with Christ. This is going to be even more essential in our times.

I am reminded of the words of A. W. Tozer, which I read as a young believer.

“The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself…Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea about God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self disclosure of her witness concerning God.” (Knowledge of the Holy, pg. 9).

What are your ideas about God? I humbly hope you will plan on attending and/or follow the series online as it unfolds.


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Children in the Worship Service

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Let the Children Come to Me

A few weeks ago I noted that in Ephesians 6:1 the apostle Paul directly addresses children. As the custom was to read the entire letter in one sitting in a gathered assembly of the church, it is evident that he expected them to be with their families in the context of corporate worship. The Old Testament teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord and thus it should come as no surprise that families were together. Lifetime habits and attitudes are often shaped early in life.

It is important at this point to be mindful of the interpretive principle that “description” is not the same as “prescription.” There is no commandment to always have children and their families united in all gatherings and activities of the local church. Nevertheless, in our highly segregated social context we do well to encourage Christian families to begin training their children to understand the concept of corporate worship by having them sit with them in the worship service.

I listed several benefits derived from this:

  1. Children pick-up more than you think.
  2. Children benefit from observing their parents worship.
  3. Children benefit from seeing believers other than their parents worship.
  4. Children can benefit spiritually by sitting under the preaching of the gospel.
  5. Children will gradually learn to sit still and listen and this is better than a sudden culture shock if parents wait too long before bringing them in.

I understand different families are at different stages of spiritual and social development and face some unique challenges. Single moms that just came to the faith have different needs than 2nd generation home-schooling Christian families. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is why we maintain childcare and children’s education classes during both worship services. We want to provide opportunities that will be supportive of the most situations possible.

That said, I want to mention a few more practical hints for families and provide a resource.

  1. Consider introducing involvement a little at a time. You don’t need to do it all at once. When children are too young to understand the things being spoken have them sit with you up to the preaching section of the service then take them to class. Begin by bringing them with you into the service once, then twice a month and so forth. We encourage parents with children younger than 4 years old to utilize the nursery and only bring the children in on occasion for a portion of the service.
  1. Sit where you can easily exit with a minimum distraction to others. I did mention this but it’s worth repeating. Parents whose little ones become distracting should sit near the exit doors not near the front row. This will help minimize distractions. If you need to exit make use of the video screens in the foyer and do not return with the child until the behavior can be corrected.
  1. Utilize the children’s outline. We provide outlines for older children to follow or have crossword puzzles related to the topic. Bring crayons for younger children to color on the backside of the outline. Ask them to draw something related to the topic. What’s the topic? You can easily identify it with the adult outline. Ask them to listen for key words.
  1. Talk about the service afterwards. Young children find it difficult to make abstract connections between sermon topics and everyday life. What’s the point? Why do we go there? What were people talking about? Discuss simple concepts afterwards.
  1. Learn the worship songs at home. The sermon is going to be new but all the music doesn’t need to be. Families can help ease the transition into the new experience of the worship service by not making everything new! Praising and praying are activities that should take place in both the home and the assembly.
  1. Use the same bible in the worship service that you do at home. Is Sunday the only time your children see your bible open? Open it at home and read from it many times. Read the text for the Sunday sermon on Saturday night. Maybe its time to give up the convenience of using the bible on your cell phone, which your young children won’t be able to share, and start carrying a printed bible again. Perhaps give them a small children’s bible of their own to bring.

Here is a PDF of our handout Children in the worship Service brochure

Parents are ultimately responsible for the training of their children. Our church ministries are designed to provide support for parents and families. Training children involves forethought and effort. If there is any way you could use further help please let us know.

Training children to participate in worship will require sensitivity and patience from all of us. We should seek to respond to occasional disturbances and inconveniences with patience and community love. Our irritation should quickly turn into prayer for the children and their parents who are faithfully raising them to fear the Lord and delight in His adoration.

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Fit for the Times

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“We have not men fit for the times.”

So wrote John Adams, the second president of the United States. He was referring to the demands of the political tensions and military battles ushering in the American Revolution and the birth of our nation. His reasoning was that unique chapters in history require individuals with like experience and character to meet the challenges of the moment.

In one sense, that is true. God has fit specific individuals with gifts and abilities that seemed perfectly suited to their time. As a bit of a minor history buff I think of George Washington (Adams’ remarks were made before he knew Washington well) and Winston Churchill.

But in another sense, we as believers must view his remarks through the lens of the gospel. The gospel teaches us that our sufficiency is always found in Christ and His gifts. In addition, biblically speaking, our times are like all times since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus up to this very moment. Since the resurrection of our Lord Christians have all lived in the “already-not yet” tension of belonging to two ages.

His kingdom has “already” pierced this present age and has broken through into our hearts and yet we still pray “Thy kingdom come.” The political and social landscape may change but spiritually speaking we have been in the same stage of redemptive history since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is the age in which God is bringing in His people from every nation, tribe and tongue. This is the age of the church militant. Our enemies remain the godless world system (whatever political shape it takes), the flesh and the devil.

Who Is Sufficient For These Times?

We should be encouraged to know that none other than the apostle Paul saw himself as “inadequate” for the greatest task of all “times” – announcing and ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, which has profound eternal consequences for human beings. Inadequate, in and of himself that is.

“Who is sufficient for these things?” he asks in 2 Cor. 2:16. If Paul expected a negative answer (“no one”), it was because he was acknowledging his lack of self-sufficiency. That is to say, no one in and of himself is up to this task. Success in the Christian life and gospel ministry are never the result of one’s own capacities and gifts. They are the product of God’s divine grace.

Which is why some scholars believe Paul was anticipating a positive answer because he goes on to say the following:

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit….” 2 Corinthians 3:5–6a.

It’s as if Paul was saying, “Who is adequate for this? Well, in Christ I am. I say this because I don’t peddle the gospel but teach the truth plainly and God makes me sufficient for the task. God brings to bear His divine power and the gifts of His Holy Spirit in my ministry.” Paul believed that his competence, just like his mission, came from God.

Indeed, in many ways these are troubling times. But it’s been this way more or less since Paul’s day. The gospel is always opposed and God’s people are a persecuted minority voice. As Paul notes in Romans,

As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 

Truly, God’s people have suffered throughout the ages. And we can’t always make sense of it all. In fact, that’s the point of Psalm 44, which Paul quotes here. But thanks be to God that at any moment you and I can be “fit for the times” by the Holy Spirit. It is His grace and divine power that enables believers to persevere during times of great spiritual opposition and become “more than conquerors through Him.” Our competence, just like our mission, comes from Him.

Beloved, we may appear awkward and out of step with the culture to some degree because we are a counter-cultural people, but we have a word that is fit for all “times”, should God decide to bless it. We also have a Savior who is Lord over all “times” (Mt. 28:19). And we have a God who loves us – in all times (Rom. 8:38).




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