Friday, September 21, 2018

If the Lord Wills, We Shall Live

hospital

It has been some time since I last posted anything here at www.miykael.com, but in view of recent issues regarding my physical health it seems like a good time to end such silence. This year has posed no shortage of challenges to me, beginning with the discovery of a bulging disc in my lower back, lung cancer in my right middle lobe, and (most recently) the revelation that I have several broken bones in my right jaw (more on that at the end). Though the first and last items on this hit list of maladies have been the most painful, I will first give attention to that which is the most serious: lung cancer. In short, I will share the events surrounding my lung cancer surgery, dealing with the facts of my condition as well as the lessons I continue to learn as a result of this trial:

The Facts of my Condition: In late June of this year, while getting ready for work, I had an episode whereby I completely lost the feel and function of my left arm. This only lasted for about 15 seconds, but it seemed to be reason enough to be seen by a medical professional at a local ER. The medical personnel who saw me classified this as a small stroke, or a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). This launched an investigation into the source of this TIA, one of which was the possibility of cancer. In the process of this examination, a chest X-Ray revealed that I had a spot on my right lung. As a result, I was hospitalized for further tests. Over the course of my hospital stay, the preliminary concerns over the TIA faded while concerns over the mass in my lung became more prominent. Following this brief stay in the hospital and, after a month of coordinating efforts between the VA Medical Administration and Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, I was able to receive counsel from a pulmonologist and a thoracic surgeon regarding a treatment plan. Upon their review of my CT & PET scan images, the consensus opinion was that the mass I had in my right lung would likely be cancerous. In view of this, I was then scheduled for a surgical procedure called a robotic lobectomy, in which my right middle lobe would be completely removed. Thus, on August 23rd of this year, this procedure was performed without a prior biopsy. The reason why no biopsy was performed is that even if the mass proved to be benign it would still need to be removed as a potential threat to my health. On the day of the surgery, immediate analysis of the removed tumor revealed that it was indeed cancerous, though a more detailed analysis would be required to discern its exact type of cancer, and whether or not it had spread to any neighboring lymph nodes. For this latter and most important detail, we had to wait for a week for test results. I was discharged from the hospital on Sunday afternoon, August 26th. On Friday, August 31st, I received a call from my thoracic surgeon in which he shared with me the final pathology report: the mass was a carcinoid cancerous tumor with no evidence of any spread to the neighboring lymph nodes (11 lymph nodes in total were tested). In short, this is the best possible outcome for a lung cancer surgery such that no chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be sought. The only follow up that I anticipate having will be periodic chest x-rays. These are the facts of my condition and I am deeply thankful for God’s kind and generous providence in it all.

The Lessons I Continue to Learn: Beyond the facts of these events are the more important lessons that I have learned, and continue to learn, as I consider the circumstances of the last few months:

God’s Merciful Providence: I am especially struck by the timing and circumstances of these aforementioned events, especially since I had no significant symptoms that would give me a clear pre-indication of lung cancer. Despite my painful struggles with my bulging disc at the time, I felt as though I was in very good health. The TIA I experienced, though alarming and unpleasant as it was, became the very means by which this silent threat was discovered. It was no accident that brought about this discovery, it was God’s kind and merciful providence for which I am deeply grateful.

The Blessings and Dangers of Modern Technology: As one who isn’t always a fan of modern technology, I must say that I am thankful for the surgical advances which made my lobectomy minimally invasive. It is quite remarkable to consider that my surgery was on August 23rd; I was discharged on August 26th; I preached the next Sunday (September 2nd); and I was able to bow hunt in my hang-on tree stand on the opening day of deer hunting season (September 8th). Though I am still healing and recovering, I must say that things have moved faster than I originally expected. Had this procedure been performed without the use of robotic technology, my recovery would have been much, much slower. But with this acclaim of medical technology comes a needful confession: there is a great danger that often comes with the use of, and reliance upon, modern technology. Simply put, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of modern technology, but there is everything wrong with relying on it such that it becomes the basis of one’s hope and confidence in life. I mention this because too much of our society has bought into this latter deception whereby many think that their lives depend upon the know-how of the medical community rather than on Lord of life Himself. I must confess, I too have slipped into this deception at times. It is a rudimentary lesson that we abandon all too quickly, but the very life and breath that we have on a daily basis ultimately comes from God alone, or as Paul declared to the Athenians: “[God is not…] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” Acts 17:25. Thus, God is not sustained by anyone or anything since he is the One who sustains His creation, including every member of the human race. Without His sustaining providence, none of us would have life or breath for one more second. This then leads me to the important lesson of James 4:13-16.

The Lessons of James 4:13-16: Earlier this year I had the great privilege of completing a preaching series on the book of James. For myself and our flock it proved to be a rich epistle with an abundance of needed wisdom. One such element of wisdom that we focused on deals with mankind’s natural proclivity to presume upon God: James 4:13–16: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. What James teaches in this passage is both powerful and piercing. By it he reveals something very important about our fallen human nature: we all are deeply prone to presume that we will have our lives tomorrow at all. James calls such presumption arrogant boasting which is, in fact, evil. That is a strong indictment, but it is a necessary one. This very text is one that I have been thinking about for many years. In fact, I wrote an article based upon James 4:13-16 for the Winston Salem Journal in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami which instantly swept away an estimated 228,000 souls in one day. That tragedy gripped a watching world, and shockingly fleshed out the reality of James’ grave warning to us all: none of us can know if we will be alive tomorrow, or if we will be alive in the next hour. Yet with all this writing, contemplation, and preaching on James 4:13-16, nothing accelerated my tutelage on this important subject than when I was given a diagnosis of lung cancer. Suddenly, James’ wisdom came closer to my soul in a way that transcended all my previous studies and consideration. I found myself cherishing my family devotions with my children far more; contemplating my blessings in Christ more readily; and considering the sweetness of being with Christ in His eternal kingdom. It is certainly not the case that these things were absent prior to my diagnosis; it is just that the diagnosis intensified my appreciation of that which matters most. All of this came to me quite profoundly because I had grown a little in my small grasp of just how impotent I am at securing my tomorrow. I still remain a fledgling student of James’ wisdom, but these recent events have opened my eyes a little more to the evil of presuming upon God for the future. Each day in which I have life and breath is a gift from Him, and I pray daily for grace to be a better steward of such life for His ultimate glory.

Since the surgery, it seems that I have been under a post-surgical rock of sorts. My online activity has been uniquely thin. I am behind on responding to some messages and queries, but I hope to get caught up shortly. This is partly due to the complications I experienced just after the surgery. Strangely, the pain from the surgery was quickly eclipsed by the trauma I experienced in my right jaw. The pain has been so intense that it has often been difficult to concentrate. On the afternoon of my surgery, just after I awoke from sedation, I noticed that something was amiss with my right jaw. In particular, I had deep impressions in my gum on the inside of my right jaw. These impressions felt like cut marks that went back towards my throat. Also, I had a small lesion and blister in the same location. Filled with pain killers at the time, I sensed nothing else significant and assumed that it was the odd aftermath of what proved to be a difficult intubation process (I was told that it took a full hour to intubate me). I generally ignored the sensation in my mouth until the pain killers wore off. Then, upon visual inspection, I noticed that I had multiple lesions as well as a lengthy blister in my mouth which yielded crippling pain. I couldn’t eat solid food very easily and resorted to a liquid diet for some time. I finally visited my dentist who was “stumped” by what he saw, thus he referred me to an oral surgeon who, after obtaining a panoramic x-ray of my mouth, informed me that I had broken bones in my right jaw. This accounts for the painful infection that kept getting worse over time. Hopefully, the bones will “exfoliate” (or pass through the gum tissue inside my mouth). Yes, you read that right: It is my sincere hope that over the next several weeks, I will be spitting out pieces of my jaw bone (if you have the stomach for it, here is an example of such an exfoliation process). If such exfoliation does not take place, I will have to undergo oral surgery to have the necrotic fragments removed; and this will not be a cheap procedure. And so we continue to pray, taking one day at a time.

As a pastor I have overseen over 40 funerals in the last 25 years. One thing that I encounter at these somber events is this: the stark reminder that we mortals avoid the subject of our mortality until it is staring us in the face. When we do contemplate our mortality, suddenly all of the superficial things in this life vanish like a vapor. I am persuaded that this is why the wisdom of James 4:13-16 is so important. We need to forsake all that is superficial and cling to that which is truly important: the risen Christ and His true wisdom. Overall, I am reminded that though my outer man is decaying (and I can affirm that it is readily decaying), the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). And while I cannot know the future, including the time, place, and circumstances of my departure from this world, one thing is for certain: I will not add a single cubit to my lifespan by being anxious about the cares of this life (Matthew 6:27). In the end, with all that has gone on before, during, and after the surgery, I continue to look to the Lord’s kindness and tender mercies in everything. I remain mindful that my condition and suffering could be far worse than it is. Ultimately, I am especially thankful that, today, I have the life, breath, and vitality with which to serve my Lord and Master, and this is a privilege for which I am deeply grateful.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

In Memory of Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia

I know precious little about the now deceased Antonin Gregory Scalia, but it was quite apparent that during his life he held fast to the dignity of human life, the importance of the institution of marriage, as well as the value of the rule of law. Upon learning of his death, I was left to wonder if our Lord is now handing our nation over to the lawless zealots who hated him, and others, for such convictions. The sad thought of his passing also brought to mind the fact that I recently quoted him in my book, My Banner is Christ, in view of his piercing and poignant comments made in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013. I quoted Scalia in view of his expressed concerns over the manner in which the supporters of traditional marriage are rabidly vilified by many in our “progressive” society. In particular, his use of the Latin expression hostis humani generis, in reference to such vilification, brought to mind and memory a similar expression used by Tacitus when describing Nero’s intense prosecution and persecution of Christians in the 1st century. It is for this reason that I quoted Scalia’s judicial concerns in order to remind Christ’s body that the church has weathered very intense storms in the past, and may have to face similar trials in the future. Yet, believers must remember that God’s Supreme Court of Justice will prevail over the opinions of men. It is for this reason that believers must fear God rather than men, especially when faced by a society that is descending into the depths of unbridled lawlessness and wickedness. In view of this, I wanted to offer, for free, the very chapter in which I quote this former member of the Supreme Court. I believe that his concerns from the past issue a prescient warning for us in the days to come.

Dear brethren – if God is giving this nation over to greater lawlessness and darkness, then it behooves us to reverence Christ above all rather than the mere mortals of this passing life:

~ CHAPTER VI ~

SOLUS CHRISTUS

IN THE LAND OF SODOM

AND GOMORRAH

Like Vanity Fair, the world in which we live continues to proffer its ungodly wares, yet we must be committed to buying truth alone. It is a great challenge to discern and tease out those influences that appear to be helpful, but instead incline us to stray from God’s pathway with remarkable stealth. Whether by the printed page, video stream, or any other means, we are surrounded by countless counselors who seek to advise and direct. Whatever they have to say, we must always remember that Scripture alone must chart the course of our lives. As we press on in the Lord’s prescribed pathway, we may find ourselves losing the preferments and honours of mere men, or we may even face persecution, but such matters must never deter the soldier of Christ. Flavel well understood such trials himself:
“…there is no temptation in the world that hath overthrown so many, as that which hath been backed and edged with fear: the love of preferments and honours hath slain its thousands, but fear of sufferings its ten thousands.”[1]
In the end, our subjection and servitude in the fear of Christ must never be supplanted by our regard for mere men. As the men of this world proceed from bad to worse,[2] we must remember that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.[3] I find these reminders to be remarkably needful and helpful, especially since our nation has recently entered into a new phase of enmity with God and His word. On June 26th 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its ruling that “same sex marriage” cannot be prohibited by any state in the Union. By this single act, a slim majority of unelected judges had thereby created an impotent mandate opposing God and the first of all His institutions – the institution of marriage. While believers rightly mourned this irreverent act of rebellion against the Creator, our nation’s president, who repeatedly identifies himself as a Christian, proudly celebrated the court’s decision by having the White House lit up like a LGBT flag. What this portends for the future no one can say for sure, but it does appear that things are proceeding from bad to worse[4] based upon the trajectory of recent history. Exactly two years prior to this judgment by America’s highest court, another significant ruling was made against the institution of marriage. On June 26th 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law which simply asserted that marriage was the union between one man and one woman.[5] Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a response against the majority ruling in which he rebuked the “high-handed” attitude of those who so eagerly undermined the institution of marriage:
“To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to ‘dis-parage,’ ‘injure,’ ‘degrade,’ ‘demean,’ and ‘humiliate’ our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostis humani generis, enemies of the human race.”[6]
Scalia’s observations are quite interesting, if not ironic, especially when we consider his use of the expression, hostis humani generis – enemies of the human race. Though he may not have intended the association, Scalia’s use of this Latin expression brings to mind a similar expression used by Tacitus when describing Nero’s persecution of the Christian community in the 1st century:
"But neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital. First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned - not so much for incendiarism as for their hatred of humanity (odio humani generis).[7] Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals' skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight."[8]
Tacitus’ description of these early Christians reveals how they were poorly viewed within the Greco-Roman world as the haters of humanity. The most likely explanation for this label is that the Christian community resisted, for conscience’ sake, the hedonistic and idolatrous culture of the Greco-Roman world replete with its sacrifices to the gods and licentious living often associated with such worship.[9] Such opposition to idolatry was seen as an act of hostility against others, especially since the superstitious and pagan world believed that sacrifices to the gods were necessary for the greater good of the broader community.[10] Such opposition to pagan worship made the disciples the perceived enemies of the state. Though this reputation was remarkably unfair, it did point to the integrity of many believers who heralded a clear and strong Gospel witness in view of their unwillingness to compromise on the priority of exalting Christ and His authority. I would suggest that these historic points of interest offer a preview of what may come in the future. Apart from God’s merciful and gracious intervention in America’s apparent moral and spiritual suicide, further darkness will prevail in this land. Because of this, we must look to our Father with filial fear, lest we shrink back from the violent storms of this world, as Flavel said:
“It cannot be said of any man, as it is said of Leviathan, Job xli. 33 that he is made without fear; those that have most fortitude are not without some fears; and when the church is in the storms of persecution, and almost covered with the waves, the stoutest passengers in it may suffer as much from the boisterous passion within, as from the storm without; and all for want of thoroughly believing, or not seasonably remembering that, the Lord high Admiral of all the ocean, and Commander of all the winds, is on board the ship, to steer and preserve it in the storm.”[11]
It is for this reason that believers must be resolved to stand firm in the strength of the Lord’s might in order to fight the good fight of faith. Rather than shrinking back from the intense front lines of spiritual battle, in the fear of man, the church must press on with Christ’s banner (Solus Christus) on the basis of His authority alone (Sola Scriptura). The wicked choices recently made by our nation, though sad, should be seen as an opportunity to magnify Christ’s radiant glory amidst such a world of darkness. Moreover, the subject of marriage must not be avoided as if it were some ancillary point of doctrine with respect to the Gospel. Doing so would forsake many rich opportunities to magnify Christ, seeing that the Scriptures repeatedly associate the institution of marriage with the Lord’s redemption of His people. Should anyone doubt this statement, they must consult the prophets Hosea (Hosea 2:19), Isaiah (Isaiah 62:4-5), and Jeremiah (31:31-34); King Solomon (Song of Solomon 8:6); and the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:22-33). Moreover, John the Baptist’s confession of humility, as mentioned in the introduction, also happens to be rooted in the metaphor of holy matrimony:
John 3:29–30: 29 “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full. 30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Moreover, it is the true church’s ultimate longing to be joined with her Bridegroom in His eternal kingdom (Revelation 19:7-10). In all of this it is quite clear that, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the doctrine of marriage is no ancillary subject with respect to the Gospel. If we follow the teachings of the Scriptures, while heralding Christ and His authority alone, then it is impossible to avoid this relationship between marriage and the Gospel. It is in this sense that our nation’s recent debates over homosexuality should be seen as an opportunity for the Gospel rather than as a reason to hide. In view of the church’s current circumstances, she will most likely face further hostility in the future, but we must not be surprised by this.[12] We must seek to be at peace with all men,[13] but never at the expense of the truth,[14] remembering that we as servants are not above our persecuted and crucified Lord and Master:
John 15:19–20: 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
The church in America has reached a new crossroads such that she must stand for truth while resisting compromise before a watching world. The lines of separation continue to be made all the more clear in our society, but this offers us an even greater opportunity to make it clear that we are citizens of heaven and soldiers of the cross.
Yet we must consider another landmark event related to the homosexual debate. This one has nothing to do with the Supreme Court, but has everything to do with the question of the church’s Gospel witness within a nation that is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. The event in question took place just months before DOMA’s undoing. President Barak Obama had just won his second term of office, and plans were being made for his upcoming presidential inauguration to be held on January 20th, 2013. As planning was underway, it was announced that the much celebrated pastor, Louie Giglio, had been invited to offer the benediction at the event. With the choice of Giglio, the White House had allied itself with a remarkably prominent Evangelical leader. His popularity among today’s youth is self-evident, as seen through his multiple books and DVDs which have sold in the millions; his annual and highly attended Passion Conference; and his recording label, Sixstepsrecords, which is distributed by Capitol Christian Music Group. The magnitude of Giglio’s cultural prominence made certain that many would be carefully watching his every move in association with the presidential inauguration: both friend and foe. All proceeded according to plan until an older sermon of Giglio’s was discovered in which he called homosexuality a sin. With the full force of the internet at their disposal, those who made this find broadcasted their rage immediately, charging that such a view was incompatible for anyone who would be tasked to pray at the inaugural celebration. Amidst a time when the debate over homosexuality was swelling, this event seemed to capture the attention of the nation and well beyond. Giglio’s past comments on homosexuality, delivered some fifteen years prior, were stirring important conversations about what the Bible actually says about marriage and sexuality. All of this seemed to produce the perfect storm of opportunity for Giglio to stand forth and state, boldly, what the Bible teaches on the subject of homosexuality, universal sin, and ultimately the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, what the waiting world received was something remarkably inferior. Shortly after the commotion over Giglio was stirred, he announced his decision to resign: a choice that was encouraged by the White House,[15] but ultimately made by Giglio himself. He then published a letter to his church (Passion City Church) which was made available on the church’s website and, as a result, the letter was more widely distributed to the public. In his letter, Giglio mentioned that, despite some ideological differences, he had fashioned a friendship with President Obama around the common goals of ending human trafficking. However, Giglio stated that he felt the necessity to withdraw his acceptance of the president’s invitation to pray at the inauguration, and the reason he supplied for this choice was quite striking:
"Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation.”
Nowhere in Giglio’s resignation letter does he state or clarify what he actually believes it is that the Bible teaches on the subject of homosexuality. His silence on this matter, though largely unnoticed, was remarkably loud. For the benefit of those who had stirred this discussion, as well as those who follow his ministry, such a response would have provided a rich opportunity to address the realities of human sin, corruption, condemnation, and mankind’s universal need for Christ. To date, Giglio has offered no statement of support, renunciation, or clarification regarding his one controversial message on homosexuality from the past.[16] His eagerness to avoid controversy was readily admitted in his resignation letter, where he said:
“I’m confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.”
Giglio’s thoughts regarding how others should perceive him are clearly a core concern of his, but should this really be the focus of a messenger of God? After all, the Apostles were riddled with faulty accusations throughout their respective ministries here on earth, but this never led them to flee from public contests. Even Christ Himself was accused of being a glutton and drunkard,[17] deceiver,[18] liar,[19] demoniac,[20] Sabbath breaker,[21] immoralist,[22] heretic,[23] and riot-maker;[24] yet our Savior unflinchingly declared truth to those who blasphemed Him. Exactly where in Scripture are believers enjoined to focus on the public’s perception of them above the priority of proclaiming the truth? While the thought of pointing others to Jesus, as Giglio mentions, is commendable, we must wonder if this includes the avoidance of opposing people – any people, as he said. The dramatic reality all believers must face is that God’s word is inherently divisive[25] in a Christ-hating world. Though this truth may seem harsh, we do ourselves and others no favors by pretending it is not real. Just the mere mention of biblical truth within this enmity-filled world is enough to provoke an abundance of hostility. Though we earnestly seek the reconciliation of the lost through the message of the Gospel,[26] we must also understand that the very Gospel which has the power to reconcile sinners to God is the same Gospel which divides, convicts, and cuts like a two edged sword.[27] Thus, to some, the knowledge of Christ is a sweet aroma. To others it is the stench of death:
2 Corinthians 2:14–17: 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
While we must guard against the introduction of any offense due to our own sin or foolishness, we must never seek to nullify the inherent offense of the Gospel. In the end, we cannot interfere with the manner in which the Spirit wields His own Sword,[28] for we have no governance over how men will respond to the truth when it is proclaimed. In his letter, Giglio rightly spoke of our nation’s need for grace and mercy, however, one must wonder how he thought this should be achieved: “Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever we need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need." Giglio’s expressed concern over America’s deep divide and simultaneous need for grace and mercy raises further questions about his choice to resign and remain silent. Though conflict-avoidance may seem to issue such grace and mercy to this world, I must argue that it does not. As the pillar and support of the truth, the central means by which the church is to minister the love, grace, and mercy of Christ to this lost and dying world is by proclaiming God’s word abroad. And while the subject of homosexuality is not the heart of the Gospel message by itself, it is directly connected to it as is any sin.[29] For this reason, the avoidance of this divisive subject is not the solution. If we faithfully and lovingly proclaim the truth of God’s word, resulting in deep division and pain,[30] then we must accept this as a part of the Spirit’s promised ministry of convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.[31]
I would submit to the reader that Giglio’s reason for his withdrawal is deeply troubling. Before a watching world this highly celebrated pastor not only refrained from stating the Bible’s clear teaching on homosexuality, but he also withdrew from any further debate or discourse on the subject altogether. Those who shouted loudly in support of the gay agenda successfully silenced a highly visible pastor on an issue that, in fact, should be discussed for the sake of heralding Christ in the Gospel. What became a victory for the homosexual community turned into a moment of shame for the church. Giglio’s withdrawal from this controversy is also remarkable in view of a key statement he made in his Passion 2013 message, Resurrecting These Bones,
“No one does great things without going through fire.”
His above statement is quite true, yet, we must wonder about the example he has set before a watching world. Those who follow this popular pastor may very well deduce from his example that it is best to avoid controversy, especially if the controversy in question is not of one’s own choosing - as Giglio said. Yet, is this the example of the Apostles in the Scriptures? Is it not the case that the Apostle Paul was dragged into a great number of fights which were not of his choosing, and yet he embraced these conflicts as God’s providential opportunities to proclaim the Gospel – both by word and deed? Paul rightly understood that the external conflicts which he experienced in this world only served the greater purpose of magnifying the name of Jesus in the message of Christ and Him crucified. Not counting his life as dear to himself, his principal priority was not self-preservation. Contrarily, if his priority had been that of self-preservation, or conflict avoidance, he would not have been able to finish the course of his ministry. As we observed the Apostle’s words earlier: “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”[32] A simple reading of the book of Acts should remind us all that the sparks of conflict often spread the flames of the Gospel whenever the Savior’s Lordship is magnified over all aspects of life. In fact, it was precisely when Paul suffered as a prisoner in Philippi, singing praises to God from that musty cell of his, that his true emancipation in Christ was made evident to the Philippian jailer. The Philippian jailer knew that, though he was free, he was a slave to sin; and that though Paul was a prisoner, he was the true freedman of Christ (1 Cor. 7:22). When the watching world sees a Christian standing unflinchingly in the face of ungodly opposition, they are beholding a power that is truly supernatural. But when they see men fleeing contests in order to avoid unwanted controversy, or to appease men, they are seeing what all men do by their common, fallen nature. Flavel helps us on this very point:
“…it is impossible to serve God without distractions, till we can serve him without the slavish fear of enemies.”[33]
The example set by those who serve in leadership, for better or worse, is of critical importance. Pastors will either be the fearful slaves of men, or the slaves of Christ – the choice is simple, but quite grave. They will either preach the whole counsel of God for the glory of the Master (Acts 20:27), or cherry pick messages which satisfy the expectations of this world. Should a pastor find himself among that latter category, he will have the shameful bloodguilt of men on his hands. All believers must face down the common temptation of thinking that by gaining some measure of leverage with the world, the church can minister more effectively; instead, the ultimate result is that the fulcrum of worldly evil eventually brings Christ’s body down.
As we think further about the growing conflict over the subject of homosexuality in our nation, the church should consider what her approach to this ought to be. The culture in which we live will most certainly demand that we address this subject as time continues. Homosexual sin, like any other sin, is an opportunity to explain a universal truth about all mankind:
John 8:34: Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
This is the subject of slavery that should capture our attention the most, especially when we consider mankind’s greatest need. As the Savior teaches, all are slaves of sin, because all men sin. The good news of the Gospel is that though the natural man is a slave of sin, he can be emancipated by the One who has all power over sin and death:[34]
John 8:36: “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
One of Satan’s great tactics is to have men believe that they are truly free when, in reality, they are not. Much of what is so offensive about the Gospel is that its message is just the opposite of Satan’s deception. Thus, the Gospel stands as an offense to the earthly and carnal desires of lost men, but if we love the lost truly, we should share the truth with them for the glory of Christ no matter what the results may be. Shrinking back from this priority is not an option for the disciples of Christ. Imagine if one were to redact the book of Acts such that every contest which Paul faced, not of his choosing, ended with his preemptive flight from such controversies. Such an approach to conflict would have resulted in the stifling of his preaching and exemplification of the grace of God[35] in the presence of men. Of course, he would have been spared from the “beatings, imprisonments, and tumults” (2 Corinthians 6:5), the very afflictions which gave his physical appearance the mutilating brand-marks of Jesus. (Gal 6:17). Yet, neither would he have carried the fragrant aroma of Christ as one who could say: “…indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:9). In all of this, I am greatly concerned that the modern culture of Christendom is more caught up with mere form and fashion than it is with the brutal realities of a life that is fully dedicated to the Gospel ministry. It would appear that men today are more preoccupied with cool appearances, hipster haircuts, and whatever else is deemed as trendy within this world. As Spurgeon once said, “…we need soldiers, not fops,[36] earnest laborers, not genteel loiterers.”[37] Simply put, any shepherd who wishes to emulate the Good Shepherd in this harsh battle of life must remember that it is not an option to flee at the sight of encroaching wolves. The habit of hirelings has no place in public ministry:
John 10:12–13: 12 “He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them.13 “He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.”
The watching world does not need more silence from the church, instead it needs brethren to speak the truth in love, even though that truth may be hated with satanic fervor. As already noted, the debate over homosexuality is not a distraction from the Gospel. The relevancy of the doctrine of marriage and the doctrine of universal sin points to the Lord’s plan of redemption. There is, however, another point of connection between the homosexual debate and the Bible. In God’s divine providence it is profoundly ironic that the homosexual community’s banner of choice is, of all things, the rainbow.[38] I call this ironic in view of God’s purpose for the rainbow, as juxtaposed to the homosexual community’s maligned use of it. When we consider the rainbow’s origin, we find a remarkable message of God’s judgment and mercy with respect to mankind. Having destroyed the world of wickedness in a deluge, God gave Noah the promise that He would never again destroy all flesh by means of a flood. Therefore God revealed to Noah “the bow [h&Q#c#t] that is in the cloud” (i.e., rainbow) as His symbol to all of mankind that He would refrain from giving humanity what it otherwise deserves, thereby supplying a measure of mercy to the sons of men while they live on the earth. The Hebrew word h&Q#c#t is normally used in reference to a bow used in hunting or warfare. Those who have ever drawn a recurve bow know that it takes an abundance of strength to draw and sustain a bow’s tension. Releasing the bow is the easy part, but keeping it drawn and restrained for long periods of time requires significant force. I would suggest to the reader that this very concept represents two important truths: 1. God is mercifully withholding the wrath that we deserve due to indwelling sin; and 2. One day, His bow of wrath will be released in the judgment of men. It is this very picture of God’s temporal mercy upon the sons of men that is similarly unveiled in the New Testament: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). This text in John 3 unpacks some of the inherent symbolism of God’s h&Q#c#t (bow) of judgment and mercy: His mercy is now active such that men “live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28), enjoying “rains and fruitful seasons” here on the earth (Acts 14:17). Yet, John 3:36 tells us that God’s wrath “abides” on all those who do not obey the Son. That word “abides” (menei) is a present active indicative verb, indicating a present and ongoing reality in God’s relation with this world. John 3:36 is a picture of presently restrained wrath denoting an active tension of God’s present mercy which will someday give way to the release of His just and eternal wrath upon all those who resist Him. In the days of Noah, the world of sinful men was destroyed by water, but in His final judgment the present heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire such that even the elements will be consumed with intense heat.[39] In all of this, the rainbow is both awesomely beautiful, yet haunting in light of its implied message. Overall, the rainbow is not just a fearful warning to the homosexual community, it is a fearful declaration to all men in light of God’s promised future wrath. It is a reminder that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23); and that the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23); therefore, apart from Christ, all men are counted as God’s enemies (Romans 5:8) and must plead for mercy and grace which is fully revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Like the discussion of marriage, it is impossible to discuss the sin of homosexuality without discussing the Gospel and our universal need for Christ.
If possible, as far as it depends upon us, we are to be at peace with all men,[40] yet without a shred of compromise over truth. Any peace that is achieved at the expense of heralding God’s truth and glory is no peace at all. Much precious blood has been spilled throughout history by saints who refused to shrink back from upholding God’s word in a fallen world, and for this reason we can echo the truth that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.[41] It would be a dangerous presumption to conclude that the persecutions of yesteryear could never revisit the church again. Flavel warned his readers of such a dangerous presumption, especially in view of those brethren throughout history who suffered and died in the defense of God’s truth:
“We are conscious to ourselves how far short we come in holiness, innocency, and spiritual excellency of those excellent persons who have suffered these things; and therefore have no ground to expect more favour from providence than they found…If we think these evils shall not come in our days, it is like many of them thought so too; and yet they did, and we may find it quite otherwise (Lam. iv. 12)…the same race and kind of men that committed these outrages upon our brethren, are still in being…their rage and malice is not abated in the least degree, but is as fierce and cruel as ever it was…”[42]
The Lord promises His people many things in His word, one of which is the promise given by the Apostle Paul: all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.[43] When affliction arises, we may be tempted to flee in the face of opposition, but we must resist this in reverence for Christ. John Bunyan did not write The Pilgrim’s Progress in the quietude and comfort of his pastor’s study; instead, he wrote it while serving time in jail. His “crime” was quite simple: as a non-conformist minister, he refused to stop preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for this he was imprisoned twice for a total of thirteen years. Had Bunyan wished to avoid this conflict, all that was required was his silence, but this was an idolatrous sacrifice that he refused to offer up to his earthly overlords. Instead, Bunyan retained his witness for Christ and the Gospel by refusing to seek the approval and praise of the men of this world. Understanding the corruption of seeking worldly praise and affirmation, Bunyan created the obsequious character, Mr. By-ends, who was from the land of Fair-speech. His love for worldly praise belied his professed love for Christ. Christian asked Mr. By-ends who his relatives were in the town of Fair-speech, and this was his response:
“Almost the whole town; and in particular my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech, from whose ancestors that town first took its name; also, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Any-thing; and the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-tongues, was my mother’s own brother, by father’s side…’Tis true, we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide. Secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud him.”[44]
When we honestly and openly admit our imperfection and frailty as mere men, we must admit that the hypocrisy of Mr. By-ends and his kin is much closer to us all than we might wish to believe. Only by God’s grace we can resist such compromise by living as lights in this dark world.

[1] Flavel, A Practical Treatise of Fear, 277.
[2] 2 Timothy 3:13.
[3] 2 Timothy 3:12.
[4] 2 Timothy 3:13.
[5] DOMA was originally passed on September 21st 1996.
[6] National Journal: Scalia: 'High-Handed' Kennedy Has Declared Us 'Enemies of the Human Race', http://www.nationaljournal.com/domesticpolicy/scalia-high-handed-kennedy-has-declared-us-enemies-of-the-human-race-20130626.
[7] Scalia’s reference to hostes humani generis, though strikingly similar in meaning, is probably rooted in maritime history, rather than being a quote from the ancient Roman historian.
[8] Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993), 365, italics mine.
[9] Minucius Felis: "You apprehensive and anxiety-ridden Christians abstain from innocent pleasures. You don't watch the public spectacles, you don't take part in the processions, you absent yourselves from the public banquets, you shrink away from sacred games, sacrificial meat, and altar libations. That's how frightened you are of the gods whose existence you deny!" Minucius Felix, Octavius 8.4, 5; 9.2, 4-7; 10.2, 5; 12:5.
[10] “…The existence of the gods depends to an appreciable extent on man's devotion to them. Varro puts this quite simply when he writes: ‘I am afraid that some gods may perish simply from neglect.’" Robert Maxwell Ogilvie, The Romans and Their Gods (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1969), 42.
[11] Flavel, A Practical Treatise on Fear, p. 242.
[12] 1 John 3:13: Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.
[13] Romans 12:17-18.
[14] Matthew 10:34-37.
[15]“We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural,” said Addie Whisenant, the spokeswoman for the committee. “Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.” NY Times Minister Backs Out of Speech at Inaugural, Jan 10th -
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/us/politics/minister-withdraws-from-inaugural-program-after-controversy-over-comments-on-gay-rights.html?_r=0
[16] Prior to the writing of this book, I sought to gain clarification on his views regarding homosexuality by phone and private letter. To date, I have received no response from him, or any other leader from the church.
[17] Matthew 11:19a.

[18] John 7:12.
[19] Matthew 27:63.
[20] John 8:52.
[21] Luke 6:2.
[22] Luke 5:29-32, Matthew 11:19b.
[23] Matthew 26:65.
[24] Luke 23:14.
[25] Matthew 10:34-39.
[26] 2 Corinthians 5:20.
[27] Hebrews 4:12–13: 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
[28] Ephesians 6:17.
[29] 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Ephesians 5:5-6, Romans 1:18-32, Revelation 22:14-17.
[30] 1 Corinthians 1:18-23.
[31] John 16:7-11.
[32] Acts 20:24.
[33] Flavel, A Practical Treatise of Fear, 271.
[34] 1 Corinthians 15:57.
[35] 1 Thessalonians 1:5-13.
[36] Fop: A man who is excessively concerned with his appearance.
[37] C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, (Grand Rapids: Zoncervan Publishing, 1996), 36.
[38] The establishment of the rainbow, as a symbol for the homosexual community, is normally attributed to Gilbert Baker – an artist from San Francisco – who first designed the flag in 1978. There is no apparent evidence that Baker was attempting to imitate the Bible’s description of the rainbow in Genesis 9. Instead, the homosexual community has used several colors (in recent history) in order to depict various aspects and perspectives of the gay community.
[39] 2 Peter 3:3-10.
[40] Romans 12:18: 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
[41] Normally attributed to Tertullian.
[42] Flavel, A Practical Treatise of Fear, p. 267.
[43] 2 Timothy 3:12.
[44] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress.
For more information, please go to http://www.thearmouryministries.org/mbic.html.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

May God Have Mercy on America: A Solemn and Sincere Warning to President Obama and our Nation

255951-us-justice-gay-marriage

This is a repost of three articles that I have written in recent years. What I wrote and recorded then is quite relevant today, especially in view of yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling which prohibits all 50 states from banning same sex “marriage.” Having little time, but much concern over this matter, I have chosen to repost the following:

1. TAMB: Equal Protection for Gay Marriage

2. A Solemn and Sincere Warning to President Obama

3. “May God Have Mercy on America” from June 29th, 2013

 


1. TAMB: Equal Protection for Gay Marriage

 

 

2. A solemn and Sincere Warning to President Obama:

obama-rainbow-logo-gay-marriage-lesbian-anti-gay-law-dont-ask-dont-tellAs one who prays regularly for those in governing authority, I offer the following Solemn and Sincere Warning to our President: Barak Obama:

As a NC resident, I consider yesterday’s Marriage Amendment victory as a bitter sweet one. Though I am thankful that God’s institution of marriage has been affirmed in our state’s constitution, I find it utterly disturbing that such a legal maneuver was required at all. It stands as a dark testament to the severe perversity and downgrade of our nation – a downgrade which has, for decades, winked at sexual promiscuity, adultery, and divorce. Today, we see the continued evidence of this downgrade such that, now, 50% of Americans support homosexual marriage. Mr. President, I mention all this as a prelude to your announced support for gay marriage today. I believe that your admitted “evolution” comes as no great surprise to most in our nation. Yet, I must say that the honesty of your recent admission is remarkably important, especially when considering the question of your religious faith. I have found it very interesting when people accuse you of being a Muslim. Of course, the nearly universal response to this, from most in the mainstream media, is that you are, in fact, a Christian – based upon your own public profession of faith. Even conservative politicians have gladly affirmed your profession. But what does any of this prove or resolve? While it is ultimately true that only God knows the hearts of men,[1] we must also acknowledge that conscientious believers must discern the professions of others by means of evaluating their fruit:

Matthew 7:19–21 (NASB) — 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.”

A genuine Christian is one who has been born, spiritually, from above,[2] believing that Christ is the eternal Son of God, from above,[3] who died as the sinner’s substitute upon the cross[4] and rose again on the third day.[5] But such faith does not stand as a barren tree, but yields the fruit of loving obedience to Christ through a submission to his words and commandments:

John 14:21 (NASB) — 21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.”

If we say that we know and love Christ, but reject His commandments, we then prove ourselves to be liars rather than genuine believers.[6] In all of this, we must come to recognize the importance of what the Savior is teaching us: He is revealing the horrific reality of those who merely feign faith in Him unto their own eternal damnation. It is in this very vein of consideration that I offer the following solemn and sincere warning to you Mr. President: Your recent confession of support for gay marriage reveals a very important and deeply troubling matter. At the same time, it reveals a very important sign-post, the message of which is crucial: If a man claims to be a Christian at all, then he ought to hold fast to the Lord’s commandments. However, rejection of Christ’s word should serve as a potent warning:

Matthew 19:1–6 (NASB) — 1 AND it came about that when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan;2 and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.3 And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?”4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,5 and said, ‘FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL gaymarriageBECOME ONE FLESH’?6 “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

When creating the institution of marriage, God made them “male and female” – giving a clear indication of what is to be joined together as one flesh. Thus, “a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” The clarity of the Savior’s commandments could not be clearer: one man and one woman joined together in holy matrimony. Anything other than this is an unholy abomination. Do not be deceived Mr. President, he who has Christ’s commandments and keeps them – he it is who loves Christ truly as a genuine believer. By making your support for gay marriage known publicly, you have clearly revealed an allegiance, not to Christ, but with those who stand in opposition to the words and commandments of the Savior Himself. What the Scriptures call unnatural and indecent acts,[7] you have affirmed as legitimate behavior, and you have publicly revealed this as one who gives hearty approval to those who practice such things.[8]

Mr. President, genuine believers are certainly not perfect people, but their lives are marked by genuine fruit and forward oriented spiritual progress despite their trials and momentary setbacks along the way. Ultimately, no child of God will be known as one whose practice it is to regress backwards from the words and commandments of Jesus Christ. Thus, a genuine disciple of Christ will seek to stand by His words, rather than flee from them as you clearly have today. I implore you to consider the nature of the fruit of your actions this day – they are serious and solemn indicators of the true nature of your “religion.” Your actions this week serve as a sign-post, revealing a dangerous enmity against the very Creator of all things (including marriage). Mr. President, do not ignore these sign-posts – their message is cogent and clear. Your position on homosexuality is not the only matter that justifies the aforementioned warning (such as your continued support of those who abort and murder the unborn children of our land, your religious syncretism, along with your willingness to attend a racist church for 20 years). Yet, this recent admission of yours only strengthens the need to issue this Gospel call knowing that the wrath of God is promised to the “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:1-6). The reality is that we must all give an account before the Lord someday – and that account will go well beyond whether or not we merely claimed to be a Christian in this life. The real question will be this: “Did we have a genuine faith – one which revealed itself through the fruit of loving obedience to Christ and His commandments?”[9] If not, then we must heed the solemn warnings of Scripture: Acts 17:31 (NASB) — 31 …He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” It is this Jesus who is returning to judge the living and the dead; and though men may disobey His words now, with apparent impunity, they cannot escape His final justice and coming judgment.[10]

May God have mercy on you… may God have mercy on America


As a side note….

In light of the tense political climate that we have here in America, I should note that this post would have been written to any president, no matter what his background or ethnicity may be. Should anyone doubt my resolve in this, then please note my convictions on the subject of racialism below – which I have been teaching and advocating all of my years as a Christian:

Video: All Men are Created Equal?
from: www.wheredoyoustand.us

Finally, on a personal note, it has now been roughly eight years since the book The First Institution was completed and published. In its introduction, I addressed the disturbing trend of those who seek to redefine the institution of marriage. Here is a small excerpt:

“During the completion of this book, our nation has witnessed the anarchy of many judges, governing authorities, and politicians who have pressed an agenda to redefine the institution of marriage without any regard to law - whether the law of men or especially of God. The corruption of our culture has become so excessive, that it is actually considered to be a matter of debate as to whether men should marry men and women should marry women! But this pattern of corruption is the very earmark of a society that is being given over to its own wickedness. In light of this societal degradation, a very important question must be addressed: exactly who has the authority to define marriage and family? Judges and legislators in our own nation are laboring diligently to redefine what the nuclear family is, but do these individuals actually have the authority to establish the standards that define the family? The very simple answer from Scripture is: No. Only God has the authority to define the institution of the family, for He is the Author (Latin – auctor; Creator) of all things. This Latin word [auctor] is the foundation of our English words author and authority. Therefore, when we say that God has authority, we are acknowledging His office as the Creator and governor of all things…The terrifying reality is that those who deny the Creator have no real concept of the judgment that awaits them. The Scriptures remind us that one day all creation will bow in submission to the risen Son of God, and in that day every created thing in Heaven and on the earth will bow in submission and confess the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. In that final judgment of mankind, all creation will make this universal declaration of God's unquestioned authority, whether as a final confession unto judgment, or as an act of genuine worship by the disciples of Jesus Christ unto eternal glory. When His judgment is complete, there will be no petitions heard, no protests permitted, and not a single appeal will be entertained. The only sound that will fill God's Supreme Court of justice will be the song of the Lamb, which will yield the eternal celebration of Christ's victory and dominion over the entire Universe.” (The First Institution, A Theological and Practical Guide for the Reformation of God’s Institution of Marriage and Family, © 2004)


[1] 2 Timothy 2:19 (NASB) — 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.”
[2] John 3:3 (NASB) — 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
[3] John 8:23–24 (NASB) — 23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.24 “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) — 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him., 1 Peter 3:18 (NASB) — 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…
[5] 1 Corinthians 15:16–17 (NASB) — 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
[6] 1 John 2:4 (NASB) — 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
[7] Romans 1:26–27 (NASB) — 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
[8] Romans 1:32.
[9] James 2:14-26.
[10] 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.


3. May God Have Mercy on America:

Here in America the expression, God bless America, has become such a common utterance in presidential speeches that it now seems like a cheap tag line with little meaning. I say this because God has blessed this nation, in abundance, yet sadly America has progressively forsaken those blessings, while blaspheming the God of such blessings year after year. Over my lifetime I have witnessed a tremendous change within America’s culture, and the downgrade only seems to accelerate with time. The most recent forensics of this comes to us through the redefinition of marriage posited by Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Writing for the majority opinion, in defense of same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized elements of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), indicating that those who oppose homosexuality resultantly “injure” and “demean” the “moral and sexual choices” of same-sex couples. What was so striking about this decision was that the court went well beyond rendering a judgment against DOMA. In essence, it vilified all those who oppose gay marriage. Thus, this is much more than a “victory” for those who support gay marriage, it is a broad and open door to the future persecution of all those who choose to oppose homosexuality. In view of this I must say that, before petitioning God for blessings, America should repent of her multiple sins and cry out for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Like rebellious Israel, our nation is destroyed for a lack of knowledge.[1]

Though not surprising, the SCOTUS decision reveals America’s continued descent into darkness. The revelation of this new ruling proved to be grievous for the disciples of Christ, but for everyone else, it was a day of celebration:

The National Cathedral: Following the ruling of SCOTUS regarding DOMA and Proposition 8, The National Cathedral in Washington DC rang its church bells in celebration for 45 minutes to an hour.

The Governor of Connecticut: In response to the STOTUS decisions regarding DOMA and proposition 8, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy flew a rainbow flag outside the Governor’s official residence – revealing a profound change since Connecticut’s beginning.[2]

President Obama: The President quickly weighed on this judgment, declaring the following: “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal — and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

What the president suppresses and denies[3] (along with most Americans) is that the love found within the institution which “God has joined together”[4] is in no way equal to the hedonistic lust of pornea (sexual immorality) so commonly found within this fallen world. Moreover, though it is true that the presidents and judges of this nation can decree, by law, such a notion of equality, the Supreme Judge of all laughs at such foolishness and rebellion.[5] Sadly, America continues in a downward spiral, but such truth ought to drive the church to more earnest prayer, asking the God of all mercy and grace for the blessing of repentance and spiritual awakening. This we must continue to do, knowing that no piece of legislation, no judicial ruling, and no executive order can turn the hearts of men and women away from their enmity with God. Only the Gospel, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can turn and awaken those who remain dead in their trespasses and sins.[6] We must also pray for “kings and for all those in authority so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life, with all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-6). In relation to this latter point, I am concerned that the believer’s Gospel freedoms here in America continue to be weakened, and the recent decision by SCOTUS will further accelerate this trend. As mentioned earlier, SCOTUS did more than make a judgment in favor of homosexuality, it made a judgment of those who oppose such conduct. A plain reading of Kennedy’s majority opinion reveals this. Justice Antonin Scalia offered an ominous summary of the majority’s opinion on this ruling, offering a Latin expression that is strikingly familiar to a familiar one from ancient church history:

Justice Antonin Scalia: “To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to ‘dis- parage,’ ‘injure,’ ‘degrade,’ ‘demean,’ and ‘humiliate’ our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.”[7]

Having read through Kennedy’s majority opinion on the SCOTUS ruling, I can attest that Scalia’s above summary is spot-on. Though the terms “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” are broadly scattered throughout the court’s published opinion, the retributive force of these words is still quite stunning. Scalia’s observations are quite interesting, if not ironic, especially when he invoked the expression, hostes humani generis – enemies of the human race. When I read this, my thoughts were brought back to the writings of Tacitus who described the nature of Nero’s persecution of the Christian community within the 1st century:

Tacitus: "But neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital. First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned - not so much for incendiarism as for their hatred of humanity (odio humani generis).[8] Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals' skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight."[9]

Tacitus’ description of the Christian community reminds us of the degrading opinions that developed within the Greco-Roman world: Christians were the haters of humanity. The most likely explanation for this label is that the Christian community was unwilling, for conscience’ sake, to participate in the hedonistic and idolatrous culture of the Greco-Roman world, replete with its sacrifices to the gods and licentious living. Such non-participation was seen as an act of hostility against others, especially since the superstitious and pagan world believed that sacrifices to the gods were necessary for the greater good of the broader community. Because of such non-participation, Christians were ridiculed as the haters of humanity among other things. I would suggest that Scalia’s summary of Kennedy’s opinion offers a historically packed preview of what may come in the future. Apart from God’s merciful and gracious intervention in America’s moral and spiritual suicide, further darkness will prevail in this land. My mention of this is not designed to be morose, but to emphasize the continued need to look to the Gospel for genuine light in this dark world. Too often the modern church has sought ways to nurture friendship with the world, but this has only led to compromise and corruption.[10] This could be a means by which the Lord will purify and strengthen His true church here in America. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers regarding the darkness of their own world (Eph 5:8-11), in order to enjoin them to a more diligent walk (Eph 5:2, 8, 15) as the children of light (Eph 5:8). Contextually and grammatically he continues his appeal by commanding the Ephesians to avoid foolishness while pursuing the will of the Lord (Eph 5:17), refraining from drunkenness while being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Paul then describes what such Spirit-filled living looks like in the children of God: speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be[ing] subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph 5:19-21). The verse division between verse 21 and 22 may lead the reader to think that Paul has ceased his description of Spirit-filled living – but this is not the case. Paul’s expansion of this important subject only continues as he describes the beauty of a Spirit-filled marriage, which reflects the glory of Christ and His union with His bride, the church (Eph 5:22-33); and we must not forget that this extends further to a description of a godly family, complete with a father, mother, and children (Eph 6:1-4) who seek to honor the Lord in everything. Yes, Ephesus was engulfed in darkness – but this reality afforded Paul the opportunity to remind genuine believers that their solution was not to dim the light of the Gospel, but to make it radiate more brightly in their individual lives, as well as in their marriages, and families.

Dear reader - what was true in that day is equally true today.

In conclusion, I should also note the profound irony of the homosexual community’s banner which is, of all things, the rainbow.[11] I call this ironic because of God’s stated purpose for the rainbow. Having destroyed the world of wickedness in a deluge, God gave Noah the promise that He would never again “destroy all flesh” by means of a flood. Therefore God revealed to Noah “the bow [haqeshet] that is in the cloud” (i.e., rainbow) as His symbol to all of mankind that He would refrain from giving humanity what it otherwise deserves, thereby supplying a measure of mercy to the sons of men while they live on the earth. The Hebrew word haqeshet (a hunter’s bow) gives us a sense of what is implied by the word mercy: men deserve judgment because of indwelling sin (Gen. 8:21), yet such judgment is withheld as an act of merciful restrain. Those who have ever drawn a hunter’s bow know that it takes a measure of strength to draw and sustain a bow’s tension. Releasing the bow is the easy part, but keeping it drawn and restrained for long periods of time requires significant force. I would suggest to the reader that this is the picture of God’s temporal mercy upon the sons of men in this life, which is similarly unveiled in the New Testament: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). This text in John 3 unpacks some of the inherentrainbow_04 symbolism of God’s “bow (haqeshet) in the clouds” by revealing God’s presently active mercy and pending wrath. Mercy is now active such that men “live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28), enjoying “rains and fruitful seasons” here on the earth (Acts 14:17). Note that the text tells us that God’s wrath “abides” on all those who do not obey the Son. That word “abides” (menei) is the present active indicative form of the verb meno (abide), indicating a present and ongoing reality in God’s relation with this world. In many respects, this is what we see in God’s bow (haqeshet) – the active tension of God’s merciful restraint which will someday give way to the release of His just and eternal wrath upon all those who resist Him. In view of this, the rainbow is both awesomely beautiful, yet haunting in light of its implied message. Overall, let the reader consider this: the image of the rainbow is not just for the homosexual community – it is for all men in light of God’s present Gospel mercy and promised future wrath. It is a reminder that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23); and that the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23); therefore, apart from Christ, all men are counted as God’s enemies (Romans 5:8) and must plead for mercy and grace which is fully revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ:

These truths are not just for one sector of our society, but they are for all men: “…he who believes in the Son has life, he who does not obey the son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” John 3:36.


[1] Hosea 4:6.

[2] From The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1638-1639): “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed…”

[3] Romans 1:18-24.

[4] Matthew 19:4–6 — 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

[5] Psalm 2:1–6 — 1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

[6] Ephesians 2:1–3 — 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

[7] NationalJournal: Scalia: 'High-Handed' Kennedy Has Declared Us 'Enemies of the Human Race', http://www.nationaljournal.com/domesticpolicy/scalia-high-handed-kennedy-has-declared-us-enemies-of-the-human-race-20130626.

[8] Scalia’s reference to hostes humani generis, though strikingly similar in meaning, is probably rooted in maritime history, rather than being a quote from the ancient Roman historian.

[9] Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome (Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1993), p. 365, italics mine.

[10] James 4:4 — 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

[11] The establishment of the rainbow, as a symbol for the homosexual community, is normally attributed to Gilbert Baker – an artist from San Francisco – who first designed the flag in 1978. There is no apparent evidence that Baker was attempting to imitate the Bible’s description of the rainbow in Genesis 9. Instead, the homosexual community has used several colors (in recent history) in order to depict various aspects and perspectives of the gay community.