Month: February 2015

The Bible or Flesh & Blood Relationships?

Rob Bell is at it again.  The former megachurch pastor and author of such controversial books as “Love Wins” (advocating that there is no Hell) is now proposing that churches who choose to stand against homosexuality are going to be irrelevant.  Citing his belief on Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen network, Bell has suggested that a church that relies on “2,000 year old letters” as their best defense over “flesh and blood relationships” is a church that is moving quickly toward irrelevance to our culture.

Once again, Bell is making the fatal error of putting human desire and fulfillment as the moral guideline for all behavior.  In other words, if what I want conflicts with what the “2,000 year old letters (the Bible)” say, then what I want always wins.

The problem this presents is pretty obvious.  If we do not consider these “2000 year old letters” authoritative, we have nothing on which to build the church.  I would argue that the quickest path to irrelevance is not accepting the standards set forth in the ancient record, but rejecting them as the Word of God.

His argument, further, is that most of our culture and many of our churches have already accepted homoerotic behavior as a normative lifestyle that is not to be judged or rejected as sinful or wrong.  In other words, everybody else is doing it… we may as well give in and join the party!

But how do we live as “salt and light” in a decaying culture if we simply echo what the culture is saying and doing?   Rob Bell has found a new home serving as a spiritual advisor to Oprah Winfrey.

I certainly pray he isn’t yours.

“Former Megachurch Pastor Rob Bell: A Church That Doesn’t Support Gay Marriage Is ‘Irrelevant’, The Huffington Post,  February 20, 2015.

Our New Inalienable Right

We have added a new category of rights as citizens of these United States: the inalienable right to be offended. I don’t remember hearing this much growing up; I believe this is a relatively new phenomenon.

I have received letters, emails, or phone calls from people offended at something I was supposed to have said. It is as though we use a magic word, a trump card that must receive attention immediately when used: “I am offended.”

It is a part of being American these days. We hear it on news stories, see it played out in our daily interactions, and encounter it at seemingly every turn. We wear our feelings on our sleeves, and live on the lookout with our antennae high waiting for someone to bump our emotions and allow us to proclaim, “I’m offended!” Frankly, it offends me when I see Christians play this card. I believe that one of the rights we surrender when we become Christ’s is the right to be offended. We REALLY need to learn to get over it for the sake of our witness in the world.

The Bible says two things about offences. First, “they are bound to come.” It is unavoidable that offences will come our way. Does this mean we have a right to play the “I’m offended” game when it happens? Don’t think so.

Second, the Bible tells us to be careful not to be offensive to others. “It is better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea” than for you to “offend one of these little ones.” The Biblical word that we translate “offense” is literally “skandalon.” (scandal or scandalous). We have a Gospel that, communicated clearly, will offend some who hear it. That gives us no right to be offensive in how we communicate it, but it also calls us to lay down our right to be offended by or offense to those who need to hear it. I wonder if our right to be offended is offensive to God?

Let’s lower our offences. Let’s find ways to allow the petty hurts and disagreeable ideas we sometimes hear to pass us by without response. Let’s agree to be different than the culture around us.

(By the way, I fully expect to hear from someone who was offended by this column….just sayin’.)

Living Lives of Holiness

We are to live lives of holiness. ‘BE HOLY AS I AM HOLY” SAYS THE LORD.  WE are to live in the world….surrounded by our culture; caring about the issues that the world cares about, even understanding the culture. However the Bible qualifies that kind of contextual lifestyle of cultural immersion by warning that we are not to become like the world. “Come out from among them and be separate says the Lord…and touch not the unclean thing.” That’s the balancing act.  HOW do we walk the very thin tightrope of living in a pagan, idolatrous, God-denying culture and balance our testimony, our credibility, and our profession of faith without, borrowing a phrase from Kevin DeYoung, punching a “hole in our holiness?”

WE LIVE OUT our faith and our testimony, our conviction and our commitment the same way we would eat an elephant: One bite at a time.

The question becomes, not “can you live the rest of your life in holiness and righteousness?” but “can you make this next decision before you in a way that is God-honoring, Christ exalting, and Biblically faithful? It is God’s promise to give us the strength to overcome if we ask.

The challenges to living out our faith are becoming more and more difficult in this world.  Even Christian people who should be living in the trenches with us are abandoning their posts.

But the call is to stand fast….one battle at a time…one blow at a time…one temptation at a time.

And one day, and that day is coming….

The elephant will be gone.

 

A Darker Shade of Gray

This Valentine’s Day a bombshell movie is going to drop into the consciousness of our culture.  Fandango has already called it the fastest selling advance ticket movie in their history.  Anticipation abounds as fans await the release of the movie version of EL James’ book “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  (Ironically, the name “Grey” in the title is spelled after the name of the book’s main character.  The double reference, however, is to the morally “gray” areas of what the book is really about).

But should Christ followers watch it or even read the book?  This has become the controversial question swirling around what is now a cultural phenomenon, even before the release of the movie Valentine’s Day weekend.  Is it appropriate for Christians to use, read, or view video erotica?

The UK has already banned children from seeing the movie (at least in theaters).  While I wish the same would be done in the US, we are not going to see that.  But then, the pros and cons of legislating morality versus freedom of expression is not my intent here.

I want to ask the question over the next few blogs, what does Christian morality look like?  How much of the world do we imbibe before we are washed out into “a whiter shade of gray?”  What does it mean, practically, to stand before the world as blood-washed, forgiven, transformed people of God?  Does Christian distinction mean we have to live prudish, condescending, isolationist, and judgmental lives of holiness or is there “wiggle room” in our position?

Several texts inform our stand in relationship to the culture around us:
“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  (James 4:4b)

“Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from immorality.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Each of these texts have something in common with us today:  They were all written to Christians living in sexually saturated, seductive, and immoral cultures.  It is clear from each of these texts that the expectation of Scripture is that it is both possible and expected that we live differently than the world around us.  And that this specifically works itself out in how we handle sexuality.

Here is one of the main reasons I would advise you not see this movie:  The movie will not be over when it’s over.  It will remain with you  (multiplied millions of dollars have been spent already to insure that).  The images, concepts, and ideas will be sugar coated, airbrushed, and placed in an attractive, appealing, and oh-so-innocent seeming context.  And they won’t leave you for a very long time.

In reality, they are not innocent.  And they are not ok.  It is not “gray.”
Spiritually….. they’re just black.

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