Christianity is not a branch of the Secret Service

We live in the age of the megachurch, which is generally defined as a church that has a weekly average attendance in excess of 2,000.  Hillsong Church in New York City began weekly services on February 13, 2011.  Hillsong NYC now runs over 5,000 weekly under the ministry of Pastor Carl Lentz.  It is a megachurch.

     Some considers Carl’s methods unconventional.  Some of those methods would be to employ “seeker sensitive” strategies.  A seeker sensitive strategy is planning a service to create interest and excitement to draw a crowd to church.  It is an attempt to make church at more attractive to the un-churched.  As you can imagine the strategies vary in substance and degree as do the criticisms, but generally speaking I do not see anything wrong with drawing a crowd to preach the Gospel as long as biblical truth is not compromised in the process.

     His methods may have drawn the scrutiny of critics, but his success has gained the attention of the media.  Katie Couric interviewed Carl recently.  The taped interview was aired this past December 18, and Katie asked Carl if he felt the need to publicly address the “more controversial issues.”  Carl replied, “No, because we try to be like Jesus…Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues.  He was about the deeper things of the heart.”

     Carl should try being more like Jesus by reading his Bible.  If the Sermon on the Mount wasn’t about morality and the human heart then my verbal comprehension is slipping.  Here’s an excerpt, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Matthew 5:28.

      Marriage is a social institution; actually it is the foundational unit of any culture or civilization, and its protection and perpetuation is ultimately a spiritual matter, a matter of the heart.  This is why God forbids sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman such as adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality.  They are detrimental to maintaining marital unity essential for the wellbeing and flourishing of any society.

     All of society’s ills are at their heart spiritual issues.  Society is at its essence how two or more people can live together in harmony.  When society makes rules to govern interactions with one another and those rules are codified into laws we call that society a civilization.  The Bible teaches that when man broke his relationship with God that tainted every other relationship.

     If everyone respected their parents, honored another’s life, remained faithful to their spouse, respected another’s property, told the truth, and was satisfied with what they possessed, we could do away with every criminal justice system and all armed forces.  This is what the last six of the Ten Commandments teach, but everyone does not keep them.  This is because we do not keep the first four commandments; we do not honor our relationship with God by putting Him first, ignoring other things that compete for our time and money, respecting His name, and devoting a day out of each week for worshipping Him.

     When our relationship is not right with God it will not be right with our fellow man.  This is why all of society’s ills are spiritual in nature.  Social problems are ultimately spiritual problems.  Christ came to die for our sins and restore our relationship to God and each other to its proper place; so, in a sense, He died for social problems.  This is why Billy Graham said, “The central issues of our time are not economical or political or social, as important as these are.  The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.”

     Carl says he tries to “be like Jesus” and that is why he does not “use a public forum to talk about private things.”  The apostle Paul who Jesus called to “preach the word” felt differently.  He wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” Ephesians 5:11-12.

     Carl told Katie we are not about “behavior modification” but about “soul transformation.”  But soul transformation without behavior modification is meaningless.  As James tells us “faith without works is useless” and “dead” James 2:20,26.  When one contemplates the effect sexual sins have on society, and the eternal consequences that will follow, it is not an act of love to remain silent.  Christianity is not a branch of the Secret Service.

Phil Robertson Didn’t Duck

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the A&E Duck Dynasty family, reality, TV program, is in the news.  Phil was recently interviewed by Drew Magary of GQ Magazine.  Given the fact that Phil Robertson is not a GQ kind of guy, it makes the intended purpose of the interview suspect.  After all, what did Drew expect Phil to say.

     During the interview the subject of sin arose and Drew asked Phil, “What in your mind is sinful?”  Phil in his characteristically straightforward manner said, “Start with homosexual behavior and morph out from there, bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”  Adulterers and animal lovers (when it comes to bestiality we are talking about more than sentiment here) did not say a word, but homosexual activists let out a howl that could be heard by arctic wolves in Alaska.

     As support for his Christian viewpoint, Phil paraphrased First Corinthians 6:9-10 which reads, “Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals,nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”  To his credit, Phil did not share what in his mind is sinful, but what the Bible says is sinful.  Somewhere in the cultural debate of what is right and wrong, we have lost sight of what our Father God has said, and replaced it with what we think.

     The A&E channel has suspended Phil indefinitely from the show.  A&E said, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.  His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.  The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

     The family has issued a statement saying, in part, “We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.  We have had a successful working relationship with A&E, but, as a family, we cannot imagine our show going forward without our patriarch at the helm.”

     A&E and the Robertson family are disappointed, for different reasons, and the fans of Duck Dynasty and homosexuals are mad, for different reasons.  Phil believes in Almighty God, and A&E is probably concerned about the almighty dollar.  A&E has supported the LGBT community because it is politically correct, and let’s not forget profitable.  But now their top-rated moneymaker is politically incorrect and Duck Dynasty is a “retail powerhouse” according to one article.

     A&E has a dilemma on its hands; how do they get a man who is satisfied with a squirrel supper to eat crow for some angry homosexuals.  I think A&E is more concerned about losing Phil, than Phil is concerned about losing A&E.  Truth be told, it is not Phil who is homophobic, it is A&E that is afraid of what the homosexuals will do.  After all, they suspended Phil to pacify them; they said so in their statement.

     A&E’s quandary would be comical if it wasn’t for the serious nature of the issue.  So, let’s get some things straight, pun intended.  Phil has been mercilessly lambasted for his views, but they are not his views.  Everything he has said is taken directly from the plain meaning in the Scriptures.  They are not his views, they are God’s views.

     Although some passages in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ and no longer applicable, common decency and morality do not have biblical expiration dates.    Homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11, et alia).  Only a textual contortionist will twist the clear meaning of the Scriptures to salve the homosexual psyche.

     Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” Matthew 5:17-18.

     I do not know what Drew Magary’s intentions were when he interviewed Phil Robertson.  I just know that when Phil was asked what he thought was sin, he didn’t duck.

Suicide

There is something about it that is disturbing.  To read or hear of someone dying is mournful, but there is something that is unsettling about one who takes his own life.  Suicide is cause for sorrow to be sure, but it leaves in its wake a host of unanswered questions the biggest of which is, why?

     This past week Isaac Hunter, the former pastor of Summit Church in Orlando, Florida, committed suicide.  Summit had grown to become a megachurch in Orlando under his leadership.  Isaac seemed to be following in the footsteps of his father Joel Hunter the Senior Pastor at Northland Church.  Northland is a megachurch in Orlando also, and Joel Hunter is known as an adviser to President Obama.

     Days before Isaac took his life a pastor in Illinois shot himself grieving over his deceased wife, and another pastor in Georgia shot himself.  Earlier this year in April, Matthew Warren, son of popular pastor Rick Warren, committed suicide also.

     In his book The Grand Weaver Ravi Zacharias makes a cogent point.  He writes, “On campus after campus, in culture after culture, I have listened for hours to intellectuals, young and old, who testify to a deep-seated emptiness…No amount of philosophizing about a world without God brings hope…Academic degree after degree has not removed the haunting specter of the pointlessness of existence in a random universe.”

     For those who believe in a universe without God and life without purpose the emptiness of what lies ahead generates a deadly despair.  To ignore the existence of the Creator is to create an existence without hope.  If all we hope for is what we experience in this life, if this life becomes unpleasant it would be a reasonable basis to end it.  But that is the perspective of one who rejects faith in God.

     What we have witnessed recently (although it is not a recent problem) is the perplexing paradox of believers who take their lives, and not just a believer but those who are hailed as leaders.  Those who believe in a glorious future and a never ending life of bliss and joy should not be given to despair one would think.  If anyone should be able to handle whatever trials and troubles life may bring it should be the Christian.

     Even with all of our technological wizardry and advances in science we have barely scratched the surface in our understanding of how the mind works.  Why do two different but equally intelligent people, given the identical information, react to the information differently?  Obviously they think differently, but why?  We really do not know the answer to these kinds of questions.

     Yet, it is reasonable to believe the one who has faith in God should process and respond to information dramatically different than one who has no faith.  So is there a common denominator that would apply to Christians who take their lives?  While it would be impossible to know all the thoughts that influence a believer to take his life, it seems logical to assume there was a lack of faith that the situation would get better.  Whatever the problems associated with each one’s set of circumstances, whatever degree of emotional pain was experienced, there must have been a complete and unrelenting expectation that things would not get better; there would be no relief.

     Some have said suicide is self-murder, and since the one who commits suicide is rendered unable to confess and repent of his sin; he is damned.  But this view fails to contemplate the grace of God not only in suicide, but in any situation in which one may die suddenly with unconfessed sin.

     Paul told Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” 2 Timothy 2:13.  If I understand Paul correctly a faithless act is not the final determinant of where we will spend eternity.  Suicide may be faithless, which makes it a sin, but it is not necessarily damnable.

     While suicide does not send one to hell, neither does it guarantee heaven.  This is a judgment call, and like Abraham I trust the God who knows everything, and always does the right thing, will make the right call.  “Far be it from You…that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike…Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Genesis 18:25.

Being a Christian Parent of a Homosexual Child

Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. was interviewed recently by Anderson Cooper.  In that interview Johnson claimed to be a Christian and yet supports his openly gay son Earvin Johnson III.  Johnson is a National Basketball Association legend and a successful business man who retired from professional basketball when he discovered he had HIV in November 1991.  He stepped down from his professional sports career to fight AIDS.

     In the interview with Anderson Cooper Johnson said, “I go to church, I’m a Christian, but the reality is, my son is gay.  That is the reality.  And I tell pastors that…he has a right to decide who he wants to be…and who he wants to marry, and he has decided that that’s a man, and that’s okay by us.”

     That statement made by such a public figure in an interview with a well known journalist raises several questions.  What does it mean to be a Christian parent?  What does the Bible say about homosexuality, and what should a Christian parent’s response be to a child claiming to be a homosexual?

     I am glad to hear Magic Johnson goes to church, but while church attendance is an important part of the Christian life that alone does not make one a Christian.  When the news broke that he had contracted HIV Johnson said he did not know how he had been exposed, but later admitted his infection was the result of multiple sex partners he had during his basketball career.  I hope Johnson has repented of his past sins and is living a Christian lifestyle.

     Being a Christian means turning from our sins to faith in Christ for forgiveness.  Such an act of repentance contemplates living a life in keeping with that decision.  When the issue of sexual sin is discussed many point to Jesus’ pardon of the woman taken in adultery.  After giving her accusers the opportunity to stone her and they declined, Jesus turned to the woman and said, “I do not condemn you, either.  Go.  From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).  He forgave her and admonished her to “sin no more.”  There is no lasting pardon to those who cling to their sin.  Jesus must be both Savior and Lord if one is to be a Christian.

     In the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus God forbids three sexual practices, adultery in verse 20, homosexuality in verse 22, and bestiality in verse 23.  All of these with a number of other sins are collectively called an abomination in verses 26-30.  Homosexuality is no greater or no less a sin than cheating on one’s spouse or having intercourse with animals.  That is the simple truth.  Times may have changed, but morality hasn’t.  What was true then is still true now, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality are still sins.

     So what are Christian parents to do when their children admit to sexual sin?  Christian parents are to love and pray for their children at all times, that is how we support them even when they make poor decisions.  But we also as Christian parents have a responsibility to warn them of the dangers of sexual sin.

     What Christian parent would say, “I support my son’s right and decision to cheat on his wife” or “I support my daughter’s right and decision to have sex with animals?”  The sexual sin of homosexuality is no different just because our culture is blind to the practical and spiritual consequences of homosexuality, or because it has become popular in our society.

     In fact, it is the promiscuous practices of heterosexuals that created an atmosphere of acceptance of homosexuality.  One can hardly condemn homosexuality while embracing sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and cheating on one’s spouse.  We cannot condemn homosexuality without turning the scriptural spotlight on ourselves.

     To love and pray for our children who are caught up in sexual sin is what Christian parents are supposed to do.  Magic Johnson claims to be a Christian but approves of his son’s gay choices by saying “that’s okay by us,” but in saying that he sounds more confused than Christian.  The Scriptures already condemn sexual sin; Christian parents should not compound the problem by condoning it.

     No amount of double talk or twisting of biblical truth will change the fact that homosexuality is a sin.  Sin does not become acceptable merely because our child does it.  If my child were to murder someone it would not suddenly become acceptable because it was my child who did it.  And that is good news, because Christ died for all sins, including homosexuality, and there is full and free forgiveness offered to all who are willing to repent.