A Prayer for our Service Men & Women

May 4, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Politics, Prayer, Thankfulness

Today was the National Day of Prayer. Our local pastors gathered at McEuen Park for our annual lunch time prayer gathering. I was asked to pray on behalf of our service men and women. This was my prayer:

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!

Almighty and Everlasting God, unless You guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain; so we come seeking Your guidance, Your protection, and Your blessing on our service men and women.

Guide them, O Lord. Give them wisdom to know the right and honorable thing to do in any and every circumstance. To the commanders: grant that they would submit the might of our armed forces to the principles of right and justice which You have revealed in Your eternal law; that we might never, as a people, permit the ends to justify the means and that we would declare war and wage war justly. To all our service men and women: grant that they would be brave, courageous, and conscientious amid conflict; that they would be a credit to this nation and to the principles for which we stand.

Protect them, O Lord. Some men trust in chariots, some trust in the horse, but we will depend upon the Name of Christ our Lord. Protect them from the hand of the enemy; protect their marriages from the stresses of military life; protect their children from the absence of a parent; and protect their minds and hearts from the terrors of war.

Bless them, O Lord. Bless their plans and their strategies. Grant our generals wisdom and insight. Grant our service men and women satisfaction in their labor, joy in their service, and excellence in their calling. Grant that they might never have cause to be ashamed of serving this nation – that we would reflect the honor and courage to which we call them.

Finally, we ask Your forgiveness for increasingly placing our women in combat roles and even considering drafting them for military service. Forgive us, and grant us men willing to sacrifice their own lives and reputations to protect the women and children of our society. All this we ask in the Name of Christ our Lord,

Amen.

Meditating on 9/11

September 12, 2016 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Providence
Amos 3:6 (NKJV)
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Amos reminds us today that as certainly as a trumpet gains the attention of those who hear it, so calamity that strikes a people comes from the hand of Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord. Providentially we find ourselves worshiping today on September 11th – the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It is appropriate, therefore, to remember that events such as these are not random or haphazard. They don’t come because of chance or random mutation.
Calamities such as this are the result of two quite different wills – the will of sinful man and the will of Almighty God. On the one hand, the attack on the World Trade Centers was the result of cowardly and sinful Islamic terrorists whose conception of justice and service for Allah is perverse and damnable. Their willingness to strike civilian targets highlights their barbaric cruelty, a cruelty which mimics that of Simeon and Levi against the inhabitants of Shechem, a cruelty which will end in judgment and destruction.
Alongside this sinful and criminal will of the terrorists is the holy and righteous will of God. God struck America. God used the wicked and inexcusable actions of sinful men to accomplish His holy and righteous purposes. Even as God long ago used the nation of Assyria to strike His people Israel for their wickedness (cf. Is 10:5ff), so He has used these terrorists to strike us. So why has He done so? What are His purposes? Calamities of this sort are sent by God to remind us of our collective sin, to warn us of the inevitability of judgment when we turn away from Him, and to call us to repentance and the practice of righteousness.
So in the last fifteen years have we given heed to God’s warning, to God’s call? Not at all. We have continued in our headstrong way, despising God, despising His law, sanctioning wickedness. In the last fifteen years we have continued to worship other gods; we have continued to practice no-fault divorce; we have continued to slaughter our unborn; we have continued to permit and even celebrate sexual perversity. We slander our neighbors, give heed to the proud and the haugty, and have candidates for the highest office in the land who are both known for their deceitfulness. Rather than destroying all the wicked of the land, we have begun officially leading boys and girls astray by saying that male and female are malleable. Many of our states and even our own city have extended public protections to perverse behaviors and our federal government has imposed same sex unions upon us. In the last fifteen years, we have doubled down in rebellion against God, calling good evil and evil good.

So what ought we to do as the people of God? We ought to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” We ought to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, confess our own sins and the sins of our people, plead with Him to forgive our sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and petition Him to deliver us from our rebellion by the power of His Spirit. As we come into the presence of God this morning, therefore, let us begin by kneeling and confessing our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Lying Words that cannot Profit

June 27, 2016 in Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality
Jeremiah 7:8–11 (NKJV)
8 “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD.
Last week we remarked that the only two options before us as individuals are to repent or perish. Because we have all sinned and are therefore guilty in God’s sight, deserving of judgment, there are only two options: repent or perish. Repent: turn from your sin, confess your need of Jesus to cover your guilt, and ask God’s forgiveness; or perish: cling to your sin, ignore your guilt, and face God’s judgment. These are our only options.
As sinners, however, we don’t like it that there are only two options. We would much rather hold on to our sin and avoid judgment. We want to have our cake and eat it too. So we tell ourselves lies – and these lies come in two forms.
First, we lie about the nature of our behavior. We begin to call good evil and evil good. We redefine justice in accordance with our own thoughts and desires rather than defining it according to God’s moral law. We say to ourselves, “This is the way we are supposed to act!” Or, in the words of our text, “We are delivered to do all these abominations!”
So, locally, some of our city officials, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, held a vigil. This vigil didn’t bow before God and confess that we are sinners deserving of judgment and in need of mercy. This vigil didn’t acknowledge the many ways that we as a people have violated the law of God – stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely, worshiping false gods – and become justly subject to His wrath; instead this vigil stood in defense of our perverse sexuality and censured any condemnation of the behavior. We are lying about the nature of our behavior.
But not only do we lie about the nature of our behavior, we also begin to lie about the character of God. “God is soft and cuddly; God doesn’t care; God takes no notice; God just wants me to be happy; God believes in me; or, perhaps, God doesn’t even exist.” But it is these gods that do not exist – they are figments of our own imagination, not the God of creation and revelation. They are, in Jeremiah’s words, gods that we do not know – gods that we use to placate our conscience rather than the God who speaks in our conscience.
Repent or perish is not only a summons for us as individuals; it is also a summons for us as communities. When we lie about the nature of our behavior or lie about the character of God or both, these lies do not profit us. In the end, we shall come up against the solid wall of God’s reality. Gravity eventually catches up with us. For God declares, “Behold I, even I have seen it.”

Jeremiah’s words remind us that we have much to confess – individually and corporately. Let us cry out to God on behalf of our city, that God would have mercy upon us for our rebellion, that He would open our eyes to see the evil of our ways, and that we would together cry out to Him for mercy. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel in His presence.

Shouldn’t you have more compassion?

December 8, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Politics, Resurrection, Sanctification, Sexuality, Ten Commandments

I’ve received diverse feedback on my recent My Turn piece in the Coeur d’Alene Press (here). On the negative side, the most frequent critique is that I need to have more compassion, need to be more loving, and need to consider what Jesus would say or do. Below is a response I wrote to this critique.


Thank you for responding to my letter and for taking an interest in these matters. Like you I think that these issues are very important and I do consider the difficulties faced by individuals who identify as transgender as tragic. I often look in the mirror and ask what Jesus would do and am often convicted of my own lack of courage, conviction, and compassion. I am thankful that He is my Savior even as He is the Savior of all those who turn from their sin and turn in faith to God the Father, our Creator and Redeemer. I daily thank God for His mercy in sending Jesus to rescue and redeem me. Apart from His grace I would be as lost and adrift as anyone.
 
You take issue with my parallels of bestiality and I certainly understand that comparison is uncomfortable. However, what you seem to be articulating does, it seems to me, leave you open to these types of comparisons. One of my professors used to refer it as the “hobgoblin of consistency.” You say that the transgendered individual is “no different than someone born with a genetic abnormality” but your only foundation for that claim is the assertion by the transgendered person that they feel like they should have been born a different gender. There are no genetic markers otherwise; just psychological ones. So how can you avoid giving credence to the person who says that they feel that they shouldn’t have been born as a human; that they really self-identify as a dog or cat and that they want to associate with those of their own self-identified kind? Then, once technology develops how will you escape supporting the surgeon who offers to begin a transspecies transformation? I do think that this is where your position inevitably leads.
 
I would fully agree with you that a person struggling with gender identity needs help, counsel, prayer, and compassion. They need those who are willing to help them see that biology trumps psychology; to help them know that God has created them male or female for a reason and that that reason is good. The basic types of struggles and temptations that they are facing are no different from the struggles and temptations that others face: e.g., the child who feels she has been born into the wrong home, the man who believes he should have been born into a more wealthy family, the woman who thinks she should have been born with more physical beauty, etc. These are all struggles that people deal with in varying degrees of intensity and each needs true compassion.
 
The parallel I typically draw is with drug abuse. The one who truly loves the addict won’t celebrate their addiction but help them to fight it and, Lord willing, escape it. True compassion, compassion that is informed by God’s commandments, will endeavor to help a “gender confused” person give thanks that God has created him or her as He has, to rest in that identity, and to look forward to the renewal of all creation when they will not be so conflicted. It is false compassion to fuel their confusion in the name of being loving. The one who truly loves them will endeavor to help them embrace God’s biological design. And, glory be to God, Jesus has risen from the dead to empower us to do that very thing. Through faith in Christ we can find peace – peace with God, peace with our gender.

Again, thank you for writing. This is probably a longer response than you wanted or expected. My apologies if so. I do sincerely hope that you will continue to think about these issues carefully.

Walk in the Truth and Rejoice in the Truth

December 7, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Christmas, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Faith, Love, Meditations, Sanctification, Truth, Word of God
2 John 4–6 (NKJV)
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Last week we emphasized that though it is common for people, including Christians, to pit truth and love against one another, the Scriptures do no such thing. In Scripture, truth and love are not competitors but companions. John continues this theme today – rejoicing that the believers walked in truth and calling the church to love one another. Truth and love go together.
So when we see truth and love united together and both being implemented by a group of people; when we see believers who are eager to understand the Word of God and, simultaneously, eager to put it into practice and sacrifice on behalf of one another, what should be our response? John tells us. He writes in verse 4 – I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
As children of our heavenly Father, we are to rejoice greatly when we see others walking in God’s truth. Nothing should give us a greater delight than to see folks growing and maturing in the faith. That, John tells us, is something worth celebrating.
So consider a couple implications of John’s words. First, walk in the truth. John forces you to ask, “Am I delighting in the Word of God and so striving to bring delight to others who fear God?” We all know how demoralizing it is when those we thought were on our side suddenly start compromising with the enemy: when Judas betrays the Master with a kiss; when Benedict Arnold sells the colonies out of personal spite; when fellow Christians turn away from you in time of trial or hardship. Betrayal stings. So the first admonition is to treasure the truth – don’t betray the Father and so demoralize the brethren. Instead walk in the truth and so bring delight to those who fear and reverence God. Be a cause of joy to God’s people and a cause of grief to His enemies.
Second, rejoice in those who walk in the truth. The national media, our President, many of our elected officials including some of our local city officials, want you to rejoice in wickedness, to rejoice in those who despise God and show contempt for His Word. They want to shape your celebrations, to shape your delights. Don’t let them. Rejoice in what is good and true and beautiful. In other words, celebrate Christmas with gusto. Rejoice with the wise men, rejoice with Joseph and Mary and Zacharias and Elizabeth and Simeon and Anna. And call Herod, Herod the Tyrant rather than Herod the Great.

So this morning, reminded that we are to walk in the truth and to delight in those who do the same, let us confess that we are often prone to weakness, that we often cower in the face of criticism, and that we are tempted to rejoice in wickedness rather than in righteousness. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

A Bestial Vigil

December 1, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Politics, Thankfulness, Tradition

I recently wrote another Letter to the Editor which the Coeur d’Alene Press was kind enough to publish on page C2 of Tuesday’s paper. For those who don’t get the paper, here it is in pixels:

Well it’s Thanksgiving season and that always makes me more than usually happy and grateful to live here in America. We have a glorious heritage. President George Washington remarked in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… therefore, I do recommend and assign [a day] to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…

Washington recognized our dependence as a people on the Creator of all and called upon us as Americans “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…” Virtue, Washington believed, is essential for our survival as a people and for securing the continued blessings of Almighty God.

It is for this reason that I read with much concern the article in the Coeur d’Alene Press reporting that our mayor and at least one member of our City Council attended a candlelight vigil to remember and honor transgendered people who have been murdered. While these murders are certainly tragic, the action by our city officials, by the Human Rights Educations Institute, and by Heather Seman, the leader of Community United Methodist Church, to glorify and laud the supposed “courage” of those in the transgendered community is appalling. They would like us to believe that the transgendered are the new martyrs, the heroes whom we are to extol and whose virtues we are to imitate.

But are they really? Is transgressing sexual mores really a display of courage? Or is it not rather a display of profound confusion, weakness, and sin? After all, if it is a sign of courage then why limit ourselves to the transgendered community? Why doesn’t the HREI sponsor a vigil honoring all those who’ve been killed for practicing bestiality? The bestial man killed by a local farmer because he just couldn’t suppress his longing for the farmer’s lambs. The bestial woman trampled to death by the bull with which she was attempting to mate. Are such people worthy of remembrance; are we to praise their virtue and courage?

In his Farewell Address, President Washington reminded us that “religion and morality are indispensable” to a free republic. A people who do not treasure virtue, self-control, and the moral law of God are a people doomed to destruction. Transgressing sexual mores is no more an expression of courage than murdering those who do is. We do not praise the “courage” of the thief, the “courage” of the adulterer, or the “courage” of the child abuser. Instead we condemn their violation of the moral law and their lack of virtue. Candlelight vigils should be reserved for those who truly deserve them – those who embrace virtue despite others’ opposition, those who give their lives to keep others safe, and those who restrain their passions and desires in order to honor their Creator.

The Wicked and the Good

September 18, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Election, Homosexuality, Martyrdom, Politics, Postmillennialism, Quotations

Proverbs 16:4
4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

“How then do the wicked serve the good? As persecutors serve the martyrs; as a file or hammer, gold; as a mill, wheat; as ovens, the baking of bread: those are consumed, so that these may be baked. How, I say, do the wicked serve the good? As chaff in the furnace of the goldsmith serves gold…. Therefore the wicked should not boast or extol themselves when they send tribulations to the good. For while they are persecuting the good in their bodies, they are killing themselves in their hearts.”
Caesarius of Arles (c. 468-542)
In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol II: Genesis 12-50, p. 148.

The Sins of Homosexuality and Sodomy

May 3, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creation, Homosexuality, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
We find ourselves in Eastertide, the time of year that we celebrate the way the resurrection of Jesus has transformed the world and our individual lives. Hope has arrived: forgiveness has been achieved and new life has entered into the world. In our text, Paul catalogues a number of sins from which Jesus’ resurrection power frees His people.
Today we consider homosexuality and sodomy. These two terms express both the active and passive partners in homosexual liaisons. Unlike many of the other sins listed in Paul’s catalogue, homosexuality is being lauded and praised in our culture. While adultery and theft and drunkenness are still viewed as social ills, homosexuality is being celebrated as a social good. It is being used as the point of the spear in an attempt to refashion our societal norms. Even now the Supreme Court of the United States is considering whether homosexual unions should be considered a constitutional right.
But homosexuality is a perverse, unnatural and destructive practice that incurs the wrath of God both in this life and in the next. Today in our sermon text we enter the narrative of God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexuality. A thorough analysis of homosexuality reveals that it is a deeply religious practice. It is a refusal to listen to God speaking both in His Word and in the natural order. It is a rejection of the most basic distinction between male and female, a vigorous attempt to silence the voice of God revealed in the image of God – man as male and female. Peter Jones writes in his book The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality:
The pagan gospel preaches that redemption is liberation from the Creator and repudiation of creation’s structures. It offers the “liberation” of sex from its heterosexual complementary essence. The Christian gospel proclaims that redemption is reconciliation with the Creator and the honoring of creation’s goodness. This gospel celebrates the goodness of sex within its rightful, heterosexual limits.
Jesus took on human flesh, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose again bodily from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God so that we might learn to honor God with our sexuality. And the way we honor God with our sexuality is by remaining chaste until we, in God’s good Providence, find a spouse of the opposite gender with whom to enjoy sex.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6 that “the body is not for sexual immorality” – sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is not in the design plan. It produces emotional, physical, and spiritual breakdowns. While a married couple can make love to one another for decades and never contract an STD, a single encounter outside the marriage bed can leave one suffering for life. “The body,” Paul continues, “is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.” The body, including our sexuality, is to be used to the glory and honor of God, in harmony with His design. And His design is for our good, not for our hurt.

God is the Creator of all and He has designed our sexuality to flourish in a monogamous heterosexual covenanted union. Reminded of this and that we as a culture are seeking to silence God’s voice, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin.

What does your body have to do with your spirituality?

March 8, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, King Jesus, Monism, Politics, Sanctification
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

How important is your body to your spirituality? Does what you do with your body reflect your relationship with God?

Many religious traditions say, “No.” The various forms of monism, the idea that there is no Creator but that the physical universe is all that is real; beliefs such as Hinduism, gnosticism, New Age thought, and Buddhism, declare that the body is really not that important. Spirituality has to do with the spirit not the body; it’s about becoming one with the universal all-soul. How? Sometimes drugs can help; sometimes illicit sex can help; sometimes severe asceticism can help; sometimes exercise can help. The means vary but the goal is the same: escape your body.

The fruit of this type of thinking has become increasingly evident in our culture. For what are homosexuality and transgenderism but radical rebellion against the body? Male and female anatomy are perfectly complementary. But if you hate the body, if you hate that you are a male or if you hate that you are a female, then just do what you want: exchange the male for the female. Escape your body.

Even modern femininists have shown a great disdain for the body, including the female body. “Biology,” they say, “does not equal destiny.” As the feminist Shulamith Firestone declares, “The heart of a woman’s oppression is her childbearing and childrearing roles.” Escape your body.

How utterly different, how completely contrary, is the message of the Bible. According to the Bible, what we do with our body is an essential part of our relationship with God. Paul writes in Romans 12:1 that Christians are to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Offering your body to Christ is your spiritual act of worship. Elsewhere he writes:

  • The body is… for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (1 C 6:13).
  • Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity…so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness (Ro 6:19).
  • Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable (1 Th 4:4).
  • You were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 C 6:20).

    Notice, therefore, that the message of Christ is not “escape your body” but “honor God with your body.” The Christian faith is about what you do with your genitalia, what you do with your knees and hands and mouths and stomachs. This is why Christianity and monism are completely incompatible: why Idaho Senator Sheryl Nuxoll’s declaration that Hinduism is a false religion is right on; Christianity and monism have radically different visions of the body. They cannot both be true.

    So what of you? Men and boys, have you given thanks that God made you a male and have you endeavored to learn what it means to have a male body and to be a man? The Bible does not denigrate your body but rejoices in it: I have written to you young men because you are strong and the Word of God abides in you (1 Jn 2:14).

    Women and girls, have you given thanks that God made you a female and have you endeavored to learn what it means to have a female body and to be a woman? The Bible does not denigrate your body but rejoices in it. Women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim 2:15).


    Christ took on human flesh and dwelt among us; in this way, God broadcast to the world the glory, dignity, and wonder of the body. God created us, male and female, soul and body, after His own image, in His own likeness. So this morning let us confess that we have often despised the body. And let us use our bodies to kneel as we do so.