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7 Churches: The Church at Pergamum

062613_6pm_Seven Churches Part 3

Just so you know, if you're just sitting on the couch on Wednesday nights watching Sportscenter, reruns of M*A*S*H, or Toddlers and Tiaras, you're really missing out. We're going through a teaching on the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

Whitestone5It's amazing (well, it shouldn't be, I guess) that these letters do not sound like they were written almost two thousand years ago, but rather yesterday.

The message of Christ to His churches is relevant, true and needed.

Last night we looked at the letter to the church in Pergamum.

Revelation 2:12-17 (ESV)

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’


Modern-Day Nicolaitans: Compromised Living in the Church

John shares Jesus' message to the Church at Pergamum in Revelation 2. After sharing his acknowledgment of those who have suffered for the faith in the church, he then says this "So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." (Revelation 2:15 ESV)

So who were these Nicolaitans and what were their teachings?

NicolaitansThe Nicolaitans were a heretical sect within the church of the first century that had worked out a compromise with the pagan culture. They taught that freedom in Christ gave them leeway to practice idolatry and sexual immorality. Tradition connects them with Nicolas of Antioch who started out as a deacon in the Jerusalem church. In addition to this group in Antioch, there was a group in Pergamum connected to the teachings and influence of the Old Testament false-prophet Balaam and a group in Thyatira following the woman Jezebel also existed. Suffice to say, the Nicolaitans were compromisers of faith and enemies of the true church of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

The Enemy is a great deceiver and his tactics of attack against God and the Gospel have been systematic throughout the years. Therefore, it is not out of sorts to claim that he has continually resurrected Nicolaitan philosophies and groups to cause harm and disruption to the Kingdom-causes of Gospel-centric churches and disciples.

I received an email from Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in San Diego this morning. It was regarding the recent statement by Alan Chambers, founder and leader of Exodus International. Exodus International was a a ministry that assisted people with same-sex attractions and actions desiring to walk away from sinful acts and into righteousness. The ministry existed for thirty years and while the bane of the gay rights movement, many were ministered to and through the ministry. Nevertheless, last week at the Exodus Freedom Conference in California, Chambers made international news as he capitulated and stated that the therapy and ministry practices of Exodus were ineffective. He apologized to the gay community and basically affirmed that it makes no difference how one lives his/her life. Garlow writes that Chambers basically said, "You can do anything you want, sin all you want, and still be considered a faithful follower of Jesus."

It's a popular message in our culture, and apparently in all cultures throughout time. People want to justify immorality (like the Nicolaitans.)

Heresy abounds and some churches and those claiming the name of Christ are being taken in.

As believers have been watching the news for updates on the Supreme Court's rulings regarding gay marriage and state's rights to define marriage, the inevitable seems to be happening. Christians lament the weak responses of SCOTUS and cry about the state of our culture, while often ignoring the fact that tepid responses and weak examples of traditional, godly marriages within the church have been growing for decades.

What did Jesus say to the Church in Pergamum after calling them out for their Nicolaitan doctrine?

Repent!

"Therefore, repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth." Revelation 2:16 ESV

I believe it is Jesus' instruction to the Church in America as well.

Of course, there are many sins that are affirmed that would classify a person as Nicolaitan nowadays. The sexual sin of homosexuality is just one of them. It's just that the boulder of abandoning biblical opposite-gender marriage relationships, and affirming all things LGBTQ has been gaining speed and is rolling down the hill at breakneck speed now.

Other than Kanye and Kim's new baby (The baby's name is North West? Really? Is the middle name Bynorth?) it is the storyline covered by just about every news agency. It even appears The Huffington Post cannot publish a story on anything that doesn't somehow connect with the gay pride, same-sex marriage storyline. (I don't actually go online intent to read THP, but one of my iPad news apps pulls articles from various news sources and THP is one of them. That is where my observed opinion comes.)

The church, our church, should be a loving place. However, as stated in previous postings, loving a person is not akin to affirming that person's sin, regardless what it is. There have been many who have attended our church, struggling with same-sex attraction, who have felt dearly loved. Some have attended regularly. Others have left, mostly due to conviction of sin, yet still loved.

Years ago, I met with a man in our church who was dying of AIDS. He was married and had long repented of his sin, but his former promiscuous gay lifestyle was resulting in devastating consequences. His days on earth were nearing the end. We were his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ, and we sought to love him and his family through his final days. I am confident of his joy and celebration upon entering Christ's presence once he died.

Over the years, numerous men and women struggling with same-sex attraction have been a part of our fellowship. Many have been rescued from the lifestyle, while others have bought the lie of the Enemy regarding being "born that way" and have, unfortunately, been affirmed by friends and others in the culture.

Some accuse the church of hating gays. I'm sure there are some who do. There are definitely groups who claim to be churches who do, and share that message proudly. These pseudo-churches (i.e. false churches) are an abomination. It seems that those who want to hate the church tend to categorize all of us in the same camp as these hate-mongers.

One young man recently said that "We all sin," while attempting to affirm that if living an active gay lifestyle is a sin, it's ok, because everyone sins. He was correct in his statement. We do all sin. However, just as Satan used Scripture, out of context and ineffectively, to tempt Jesus, so too, do those who willingly and unwillingly follow his lead.

The church, it seems is afraid to speak of homosexuality as sin. Why? For fear of being labeled "homophobic" and "bigoted." Pastors often do not want to appear unloving. However, one of the most unloving thing a pastor or leader could do is ignore the Word of God and allow those he is called to pastor to slip into comfortable, cultural, Nicolaitan Christianity.

What is the church to do? Garlow says, "Preach thoughful, carefully researched, exegetically sound, loving sermons on the 'H-word.'"

Shepherds (pastors) - protect the flock!

"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." 1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV

I had one young, openly, active gay man accuse me of telling him he could not come to our church. Of course, that is not what I told him, but it is what he wanted to hear. This young man plays the victim well. One of our leaders told him "Come to church, but come for the right reasons." What are the right reasons? To hear a word from God. To worship. To find answers.

What are the wrong reasons? To disrupt what God is doing. To influence others to believe as he does. To find a young man to date.

He hasn't come back, but continually spews his lies to those who would give him an ear.

Oh, by the way, these are the wrong reasons for a heterosexual person as well.

I told a heterosexual student years ago to not come back to the youth group if he was going to continue to do these very things (except he was seeking a young girl to date, not a young boy.) He became angry and left. . .and years later , he did come back, for the right reasons. It seems God was working all along.

As for the actions of leaders of Exodus International and the abandonment of biblical truth, they are wrong. Rest assured, God can change a person and does bring rescue and healing. Years ago, one of my married friends came to me confessing multiple same-sex relationships and his failings in this area of temptation. He was seeking rescue and I connected him with local representatives and counselors working in this area. His story is one of victory as his marriage was healed, he was rescued and Christ was the victor. Counseling wasn't what healed him, but was a tool used by God to bring rescue. Christ is transformative.

I am distressed that Exodus is closing and has made this statement, but am encouraged by the growth of ministries like the Restored Hope Network and other "politically incorrect" ministries and churches seeking to minister to and with those seeking rescue.

God has not changed.

He is not distressed.

A court ruling doesn't impact His sovereignty or holiness.

He is not affected by cultural shifts.

He is never surprised.

May we stand firm on His Word, call out the Nicolaitans among us for repentance, in love, and do the work of the church (Matthew 28:19-20).


Sometimes God Just Doesn't Behave

What happens when the storms of life hit and God doesn't do what we want?

The juvenilization of the American church over the past seventy-five years, though never intended, has led to widespread spiritual immaturity, consumerism, and self-centeredness. Due to this phenomenon, many, even within the church, find themselves wondering why God seems to fail them at times. A "narcissitic Christian" lives as if he/she is at the center of the story and God's role is to perform as desired.

We may not say this aloud, but our responses and reactions to difficult chapters in life tend to show our theology to be less about God and more of a "meology" centered around self.

Storm1As I prepare for Sunday's message focusing on "God-stories" I am reminded that God is in all stories. Sometimes we only give him the credit when things end the way we desire, but the reality is that His sovereignty affirms His presence, His authorship, His strength, love, grace and mercy in all things.

An immature follower of Christ is only that way because he/she chooses to be that way. As God tests and stretches us as His disciples, our faith grows. We then mature and recognize that even when we cannot see how God is working, we know He is.

I'm reminded of the Scott Krippayne song "Sometimes He Calms the Storm."  There are numerous versions and "covers" of it on YouTube, but Scott's vocals really hit home for me.

When I first heard the song in 1995, the lyrics struck a chord. Storms will come in life. It it inevitable. The imagery of Jesus saying "Peace, be still" and the storm ending immediately is one of the greatest biblical stories of all. However, there are many storms that come when he doesn't say "Peace, be still" to the weather. In those cases, He says those words to His disciples.

Sometimes it seems that God isn't behaving the way we'd like. Trials come. Chapters in our stories are written we'd rather not live out. Challenges and pain occur and surprises aren't always welcome.

It is vital to remember that God does not work for us, as if He's our employee. He is not a moon revolving around our self center of the universe. He is God. He is active. He is never surprised. The real story is all about Him, but due to his love and mercy, He has invited us to join Him. When we don't believe He's behaving or responding correctly, we can rest assured He is doing exactly what needs to be done.

All the time.

 


8 Elements: Exalting Worship

062313_1045_8 Elements-Exalted Worsh

A Gospel-centered church is a church that worships.

Psalm 150:1-6(ESV)
1    Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
2    Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3    Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
4    Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
5    Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6    Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

 

Worship handsI know that God inhabits the praise of His people. I know that worship is to be more than an intro or closing to a service. I also know that worship is not something that can be manipulated, orchestrated or necessarily planned. This makes the concept of a scheduled worship service a challenge.

In truth, we have scheduled three times of corporate worship for the fellowship each Sunday. One at 8am, one at 9:15am and then one at 10:45am. While these are titled “worship services” we never know until after the fact if they actually were.

Some equate worship to a style of music. Since no church really knows how to effectively deal with this, we end up categorizing people by the flavor of potential worship they enjoy.

Whether high church, with pipe organs, liturgical music and recitations, blended services with orchestras, choirs, praise teams, hymns and choruses or what has been mistakenly titled “contemporary” worship with praise bands, choruses and increased volume, the fact of the matter is when worship is designed for the audience and the audience is misconstrued to be those sitting in the room, the church has run the great risk of missing the point.

Worship is an offering made to God and there are times when God refuses this offering. You can read Isaiah 58  to see an example.

As I prepared this message, I was reminded of a sermon I heard by Louie Giglio years ago. He was speaking about Ichabod and the story of the capture and return of the Ark of the Covenant. The story is long and covers a few books in the Old Testament, but the point is clear - to approach God in worship, we are to do so as He commands.

I revisted the Ichabod story in this message. It gives great clarity for the church in what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth.

 


Our New Baby/Child Dedication Strategy

Last Sunday, I had the great privilege to stand before our fellowship with Jennifer and Jay Fuller as they dedicated their son, Cooper, to the Lord. A baby/child dedication is a special moment in the lives of a mom and dad. We have had these special events regularly in our worship services for years and I have always been honored to be asked to lead these times.

Baby-dedication_postDedicating one's child to God has been modeled in Scripture and affirmed for centuries. Dedication is not akin to salvation, but is an intentional and strategic step for parents in recognizing and acknowledging God's grace, mercy and protection. What a significant time in the lives of young parents to state publicly their belief and trust in God as it relates to the lives of their children! It is at this moment the community of faith, the church, agrees to pray for the young child and his/her parents and to be models of Christlikeness before them.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Following Sunday's service, as is often the case when we have baby/child dedications, another couple approached me and asked how they, too, could have a dedication like this.

I told them about a new opportunity we are developing for parents of young children and asked if they could wait a few months. They seemed excited about this, as have others.

After discussions with our Director of Preschool Ministries, Donna Hutcheson and pastoral staff, we are now implementing a new strategy for young parents.

I'm really excited about this as it dovetails into our developing strategy of lifelong discipleship complete with markers at significant life-stages. This strategy includes guidelines for dedication, a special class and a time of dedication during a Sunday worship service.

Parent-Child Dedication Guidelines at First Baptist Church of Orange Park

  1. Parents of the child to be dedicated must be born-again Christ followers and members of First Baptist Church of Orange Park. This is due to the fact the dedication is primarily for mom and dad and the charge to raise their child in a home that honors God. The dedication process is also a church-wide affirmation and promise of prayer and support. Therefore, to not be Christian nor to be members of the church disavows significant portions of the dedication.
  2. We believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Therefore, parents wishing to dedicate their child should be dedicated first to God and secondly to each other in a covenant marriage relationship. The single parent who is striving to live holy and desiring to dedicate his/her child to God is lovingly welcomed to participate.
  3. All parents wishing to participate in the dedication service are required to attend a class the week prior to the ceremony. This class is taught by one of our pastors.
  4. Reservations by parents desiring to participate in the ceremony are required so that all pertinent items may be secured for the class and ceremony. If the deadline for registration is missed, we ask that parents wait until the next scheduled dedication ceremony.

Parent-Child Dedication Class

Our first scheduled Parent-Child Dedication Classes will be held on Sunday, October 6 at 9:15am and 10:45am. The class will be taught at both hours, so parents can register for either option. This class will be led by me on this day. That's right, I will not be preaching this day so that I can take the time with these young parents to share with them biblical guidelines of parenting and God's desire for moms and dads. We will also talk of what a dedication truly is. These classes will be held in the "Greenhouse" room in our Administration Building. This room is on the second floor above our offices and is accessible via the elevator in the "E" Building.

This class is required by all who desire to participate in the dedication service the next Sunday.

Parent-Child Dedication Service

We will dedicate the babies and children of those who participated in the class on Sunday, October 13 at 9:15am and 10:45am (dedications in the service the families normally attend.)

Opportunties to register for the class and the dedication service will be made available soon. This moment is a significant spiritual marker in the life of a young child. It is valuable for parents and the church and we are excited to celebrate this day together with our young families.


Homosexuality and the Church, Part 3: Addictive Behaviors

It's a fallacy to say that addressing homosexuality is new for the church. The church has been dealing with and responding to sin since its founding. (It's been an issue since the Garden of Eden, actually.) Just to be clear, homosexuality is not the only sin and is simply a symptom of a deeper sin problem. As stated in a previous post, it is also not a God-designed way of life as many in our culture, and no doubt in the past, have propagated. Click here to read more about the "Born That Way" debate here.

Drug useAs the church seeks to minister to and reach those in the LGBT culture, it is imperative that love be the driving force. Of course, true love (agape) is not always construed as love by those outside the family of God. Nevertheless, standing firm on the Word and staying true to God's calling is essential. In other words, to show love to those in the LGBT community does not equate the affirmation of the lifestyle nor the ignoring of it, but to not love is not an option.

As I delve deeper into this politically incorrect topic, I fully understand that the issues discussed in this post will most likely be dissected and categorized as false by many. However, for the church to fully seek to reach those in the LGBT community openly and honestly, the issues of potential addictive behaviors must be addressed.

Friends who serve in law enforcement have shared with me their perception of the seeming connection with those in the LGBT community and increased drug use. Of course, that's not a scientific study at all and without any data to confirm it, it could be categorized as stereotyping.

In order to move away from stereotyping, I share the following from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Studies have shown that, when compared to the general population, gay and bisexual men, lesbian and transgender individuals are more likely to:

  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Have higher rates of substance abuse
  • Are less likely to abstain from drug and alcohol use
  • Are more likely to continue heavy drinking into later life

Substance abuse is associated with a wide-range of mental health and physical problems. It can disrupt relationships, employment and threaten financial stability.

According to statistics revealed in a recent survey (read more here) by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) and the University of Central Lancashire in Great Britain, more than a third of gay, lesbian and bisexual people took at least one illegal drug in a month's time. This number is seven times larger than that of the general population and causes great concern among those working with the LGBT community. Whether the drug-use is a coping mechanism, as many believe, is still being debated, but what is no longer being debated is the greatly increased susceptibility to drug and alcohol use and abuse.

It should be noted that just because a person self-identifies as LGBT that does not mean they are a drug or acohol addict. The studies simply show the higher potential for addictive behavior from those in the LGBT community as compared with the general public.

Other addictive behaviors, such as sex addiction, gambling, etc. are also real issues. However, these, as with all addictions are not limited to the gay lifestyle. All addictive behaviors are disorders driven by the self-centric desire to escape reality and "feel" better.

As with all self-centric behaviors, sin is the core.

Those outside the faith family of Christ-followers minimize the spirituality of addiction. This, of course, plays into the strategy of the Enemy.

Why is this heightened addictive behavior important for churches? It is vital to understand as fully as possible all that the Enemy uses in his uncreative and repetitive strategies to harm and destroy the image-bearers of God.

This is restorative ministry. Of course, it's classified as spiritual mumbo-jumbo by many. Nevertheless, the church is to remain focused.

Sin is muti-faceted. Therefore, the church must address all facets with the life-transforming message of the Gospel. . .and remember that God is already at work.

The church must seek to do all that God calls it to reach, disciple, restore and help those seeking to be healed and rescued from sin. Prayer is essential not only is the starting point, but should remain paramount throughout any ministry and restorative process. The church must be bold. Ministry is messy. Christ never said it would be easy.

It is worth it.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. - Luke 19:10 (ESV)


7 Churches: The Church at Smyrna

061213_6pm_Seven Churches Part 2

The Church at Smyrna faced challenges and persecution unlike most modern believers have ever faced. From seeing their leader Polycarp martyred to living in a culture where worshiping Christ was illegal, these believers stood firm.

SmyrnaChrist's letter is not necessarily encouraging at first glance, but after a full reading, it is obviously quite comforting. This is the promise, once again, to the believer that Christ will never leave nor forsake His own.

Revelation 2:8-11(ESV)
8“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. 9“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander£ of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’


Homosexuality and the Church, Part 2: Agendas

The LGBT agenda is in full swing. For years, a statistic has been propagated that 1 in 10 Americans identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. This number appears to be based on a 1948 study by Alfred Kinsey titled "Sexuality in the Human Male." Now, over sixty years later, regardless of the portrayal of Kinsey in film and his elevation as a "sexual pioneer" the reality of his upbringing with an oppressive father, religious legalism and personal, relational problems, it is evident that Kinsey, like all people, was a wounded individual seeking to create justification and permission for "freeing" people to have sex in any way, any time, anywhere and with either gender they desire.

Nevertheless, Kinsey's science (debated by other behavioral scientists for decades) has been used as to affirm a message that one tenth of Americans are self-identified as LGBT.

However, according to Gallup's polling data as shared on the Slate blog, this number is far smaller than ten percent. The Gallup research from 2012 reveals that only 3.4 percent of Americans identify themselves as LGBT. This number seems shocking to many Americans, as referenced in an article titled "Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are" dated May 31, 2012 in The Atlantic.

Apparently, a large portion of Americans believe the number to be upwards of 25 percent. The article covers the data clearly and ends with this statement: "One thing's for sure: It's hard to imagine the fact that so many think the country is more than a quarter gay or lesbian has no impact on our public policy."

Gay_flagRegardless if the number is 3 percent or 30 percent, the question for the church remains "How do we minister to those in the homosexual community without compromising the Gospel?"

Recognizing a strategic and planned out agenda for LGBT acceptance is needed. Then, understanding that not everyone who self-identifies as LGBT understands the power of agenda and would declare they have none. In these cases, however, they are victims of an agenda.

The Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission of the SBC addressed the details of a strategic gay agenda in an online article a few years ago. In this article, writers from the Fellows of the Research Institute wrote:

Even a casual observer would agree that homosexuality has made major strides toward being normalized in our culture today. The evidence is all around us in entertainment, news media, education, politics, and even the business world. Misrepresentation of scientific research on homosexuality is prominent and widely accepted as fact.

The emphasis is the same in each of these areas: Tolerance and compassion demand that we accept homosexuality as the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. Terms like "bigot" and "homophobic" are thrown around loosely and usually incorrectly. Slogans and pithy slogans take the place of reasoned discourse.

I have personally found this to be the case in conversations with individuals in this lifestyle. However, that is not always the case. The article continues. . .

It is not enough to disagree with those who believe the Bible's teachings that homosexuality is sin. They must be given labels such as bigot or hater. One of the more recent tactics is to label Bible-believing Christians as being guilty of spiritual violence. Regardless of how compassionately or lovingly homosexuality is denounced, the culture calls this an incitement of hatred against gays.

We should be aware, however, that these conditions did not come about by chance. In the 1980s gay activists discussed strategies for impacting the culture. Two activists published a book entitled (sic) After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's in an attempt to normalize the homosexual lifestyle. Among the various strategies were:

  • Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible
  • Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers
  • Give protectors a just cause
  • Make gays look good
  • Make the victimizers look bad
  • Get into the major media
  • Solicit funds: The buck stops here

It seems overly simplified, but in some ways, this strategy has worked and is working.

On this week's episode of America's Got Talent a young man from Tennessee named Jonathan Allen performed. His story was that at age 18, because of his open gay lifestyle, his parents kicked him out of their house. Now, of course, no backstory was given as to what was happening in the household. Was he kicked out? Did his parents react violently to his coming out announcement? Was there more to the story than just being gay? Did his parents say "We love you, but cannot condone this lifestyle and cannot affirm this, so you'll have to choose?" We don't know. We only know what he said. Nevertheless, he shared his story of being kicked out of his home because he was gay. The crowd joined in sympathy. The judges affirmed him. He sang. He is a great talent, but the story under the story was "Your parents are bad. Show them who you are. Be proud. You're born this way," and this not so subtle compassion, while bashing a family that was only described as a caricature of bigotry, affirmed the gayness of this victim.

In our junior high schools and high schools, students, teachers and administrators are telling me that they see an increased acceptance and experimentation of the LGBT lifestyle. In one leader's words, "It's the latest fad."

What is the church to do?

With more and more attacks, subtle and overt, against the church and its stance on biblical gender roles and identification, how should we respond?

Some respond with hate and bigotry. There's no doubt. Groups who wrongly wear the name "Baptist" and "Church", while being neither, have done a great disservice for the cause of Christ.

Yet, even those who truly are God's hands and feet in this culture have missed it here.

How do you battle an agenda? You must first realize that the "movement" and "agenda" are real, but it is the individual person that the church must reach, minister to and help.

Here are some points for churches and pastors in ministering to and with those in the LGBT lifestyle (without affirming the lifestyle) from Living Hope Ministry (www.livehope.org) gives us insight:

  • See them with God's eyes of love and mercy, and with His vision for their wholeness, healing and freedom. This means depending on the Holy Spirit for divine perspective and exercising humility to recognize that first impressions are often incomplete and inaccurate.
  • Accept them where they are, just as Jesus did. Choose to accept the person, but not the sinful behavior. People don't change unless they experience God's love and grace.
  • Don't pass judgment. All of us have besetting sins! As Billy Graham once said, "Don't take credit for not falling into a sin that never tempted you in the first place."
  • Don't make false assumptions or accusations. For example, please do not assume a person is HIV positive.
  • People find healing from same-gender attractions when they experience God as Healer through hetereosexual people who are willing to come alongside them in their journey - men helping men, women helping women.
  • If someone comes in with an agenda of arrogance, demanding acceptance of their sexual sin, don't let them bully you. Be "Jesus-in-the-flesh" for them. Show His compassion and grace.
  • Because we live in a fallen world, we are all broken. Remember this.
  • Remember that change is possible for the person self-identified as LGBT. In the first century church, Paul wrote to former homosexuals in the Corinthian church, "and such were some of you." (1 Corinthians 6:11)

It is more than a cultural battle. It is a spiritual war. It didn't begin with Kinsey's report or the political movemements of the 1990s. It began centuries ago in a Garden. It is real. It is deadly. Yet, it - the battle - has already been won.

Remember this and "Be the Church!" (Oh, by the way, ministry is messy. That means being the church is not always easy, but who said it would be, anyway?)


Homosexuality and the Church, Part 1: Are Gay People "Born That Way?"

The LGBT movement in our nation, and the world, for that matter moves forward with the mantra "We are born this way." I can almost hear Lady Gaga singing it now (sounds just like a Madonna song.)

A recent Gallup Poll shows that a record number of Americans now view homosexuality as morally acceptable and believe that sexual orientation is defined at birth.

According to a Baptist Press article dated May 22, 2013. . .

Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults say gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable while 38 percent say they are morally wrong, according to the poll conducted May 2-7 among 1,535 adults. The 59 percent is an increase from 54 percent last year and 49 percent in 2009, when the upward trend began. The trend is a dramatic reversal from 2004, a year in which 13 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That year, only 42 percent said such relations were morally acceptable and 54 percent said they were morally wrong.

On the question of homosexuality's origins, 47 percent say "being gay or lesbian" is "something a person is born with" while 33 percent say it is "due to factors such as upbringing and environment." Both numbers are records. The percentage of people who believe homosexuality is present at birth has increased or remained steady since 2009 when the upward trend began and a plurality of Americans (42 percent) said it was due to upbringing/environment and 35 percent said it was something with which people are born.[i]

Statistics are one thing, but what about this concept of being born gay? Is it possible? According to the "born that way" argument, a sexual orientation is a part of a person's core identity, so such a homosexually oriented person must be accepted as expressing his or her own true, created nature. But, there are problems that undermine this argument even if a “gay gene” were discovered tomorrow. Science – in spite of what many people assume – is inherently limited in what it can tell us. Science describes the world and tells us “what is,” but cannot tell us “what ought to be.”[ii]

This statement about the role of science is vital.

Gay-men-holding-hands-rainbow-braceletsAs for the “gay gene,” the concept that people are born with a gay orientation first hit the mainstream in 1991 when openly gay researcher named Simon LeVay studied the brains of thirty-five cadavers presumed to be of homosexual men. The study focused on a small cluster of neurons in the brain, called the hypothalamus.

He discovered small differences in this area of brain matter. The media and activists grabbed hold of his findings and declared the discovery of the “gay gene.” However, it should be noted that not even Dr. LeVey believe he had proven what was being attributed to him.

He stated, “It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work.”[iii]

Other studies, such as one in 1993 by geneticist Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute attempted to affirm the “born that way” belief. Hamer, also a gay man, had his study shared via the press stating that his study was further evidence of a genetically defined gay marker. However, when two other researchers attempted to replicate the study, the findings were quite different.[iv]

Are people “born gay?” While the movement of acceptance says “Absolutely, YES!” research and biblical teaching states otherwise. Nevertheless, there is a sense that those who claim to be LGBT are in truth “born that way.” Not born LGBT, but like all humanity, born into sin. Of course, the push back from the culture is strong when homosexuality is equated to sin. The normalization of homosexuality in our society leaves those who attempt to stand firmly on the Word of God, in love, being labeled as “haters” or “un-Christian.” It’s in the intolerance in the name of tolerance that we find ourselves.

To even the casual observer, and made evident by the recent Gallup study, the normalization of homosexuality and the marginalization of an inerrant biblical stance on the issue is growing. This is not without a strategy. In other words, this hasn’t “just happened.”

More on that strategy tomorrow.

As for today’s question: “Are gay people just born that way?” into sin? Yes. Just like everyone else. Into an unchangeable and God-ordained lifestyle of same-sex attraction and action? No. That is a choice. Often it is exacerbated by stressful upbringing and familial relations. Sometimes it is affected by the unfortunate and tragic experience of abuse. Regardless, it remains a choice. All sin is a choice. No sin is worse than another. Sin is our nature and default setting. That is why we need a Savior.

Many have bought the “born this way” lie and life a lifestyle far from God and with little hope.

And, yet. . .there is Hope!

I’m reminded of the story of Christopher Yuan. This young man is an author and teaches at Moody Bible Institute. He speaks internationally on the subject of sexuality from his personal story of coming out of the gay lifestyle. Check out his website at www.christopheryuan.com and his book Out of a Far Country for more on his incredible journey to God. This resource and others are featured in my online bookstore, accessible here and in the side menu of the blog.

 

There is Hope.

There is an Answer.

It’s not religious talk. It’s not easy. It’s not a strategy of “pray the gay away.” It’s about surrender. It’s a step of faith and trust.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)



[i] Foust, Michael. "Baptist Press - More Americans Linking Homosexuality to Birth - News with a Christian Perspective." Baptist Press. N.p., 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 June 2013.

[ii] Nicolosi, Joseph, and Linda Ames Nicolosi. A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002. 35. Print.

[iii] Quoted in David Nommons, “Sex and the Brain,” Discover, March 1994, pp. 64-71.

[iv] G. Rice et. al., “Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at Xq28,” Science 284 (1999): 665-667.