Rightly Responding to SCOTUS, et al

Does sin break your heart? Does it make you angry? When you look around you and see undeniable, unmistakable evidence … when you look within — if you dare … and you must. Do you react to those emotions? Do you merely allow that reaction to demonstrate — to reveal more of that which is broken within you? Or, do you choose to surrender that reaction to the will of the Spirit of God — of Holy Love? Do you choose to respond — making the sacrifice of yourself an offering — an act of worship to the One Who alone is Lord and God?

As I reflect on the state of our nation and the most recent SCOTUS decision, I find myself going through this process. I hear and read declarations of victory and celebration that homosexuals may now wed one another legally. Decades ago, there were similar declarations of victory and celebration that women could choose to murder their unborn children legally. My indignation builds as evil is called good and good is called evil (Is. 5:20-21). How can we rightly respond in Holy Love?

The mix of sadness and anger I feel are both an immediate and lingering reaction. Most heartbreaking of all is to see this deception increasing amongst those who claim the name of Christ. Both marriage and life are sacred gifts from God, our Creator — not to be tampered with at the whims of the proud, rebellious, and ignorant. I cannot remain silent in the face of such blatant perversion and devaluing of the sacred. Neither Jesus nor any of the prophets or apostles — who were all His personally ordained spokespeople from Genesis to Revelation — were in any way silent about sin.

So a few things must be declared here and now. We have not been given a ministry of condemnation — condemnation is already upon the sinner by their own words and deeds (Matt. 12:37; Mark 16:16; John 3:18). Continuing in sin is not the required or righteous response (John 8:11; Rom. 6:1). Men and women in all their wisdom may seek to rationalize their way out of acknowledging the sin of which they should confess and repent; yet the wisdom of all the men and women of all time remains but foolishness before the Almighty (1 Cor. 1:20-25). As the end of the age draws near, God’s response to those to those who refuse to love the Truth, but choose to love pleasure, will be to turn them over to their own desires and delusion (Rom. 1:28-32; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

God forbid that we should not proclaim that forgiveness and freedom from condemnation is for all who will confess and repent and receive the cleansing of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But for those who rebel and refuse and persist in sin, judgment is certain and unavoidable. (Heb. 10:26-31)

What could be more unloving — indeed, more hateful — than to know Truth and keep silent?! With all diligence, may we do everything that is within our power to obey God rather than man, faithfully following His highest command to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourself. And pray for God’s mercy and grace as we compassionately love and forgive those who hatefully and spitefully use us. This is the true outflow of the Holy Love with which we were first loved by Him.

Let us therefore walk worthy of our Lord — in Holy Love!

A Way Froward—NOT Forward

As I have friends and family with close ties to the United Methodist Church, I continue to be prayerful yet distraught over the worldliness to which this denomination and many others increasingly fall prey.

The message of “A Way Forward” indicates that the authors/signers do not affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture to address homosexuality as moral sin that the Christian is to abandoned. Further, public polling research favors treating immorality as normative—now there’s a headline for you! Moral sin does not fall within the the ranks of those things about which “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Sin is sin—cease and desist from all the foolish equivocation. Is it not glaringly obvious whose voice is being headed? “Did God really say…?”

As for the right response of the Body of Christ to a sinful world—we are to make disciples, proclaiming the true Gospel—truly loving both God and neighbor. Only the enemy of our souls would declare that sin isn’t sin or simply that sinful behavior doesn’t need to be avoided and abandoned. That’s not love or truth or the good news—that’s hatred and deceit! Jesus response to those bringing the woman caught in adultery to Him is often referenced when actions or words are identified as sinful—“neither do I condemn you”—yet the rest of His statement is ignored—“go…and sin no more.”

“A Way Forward” simply resolves to plant one foot in the narrow way and the other in the broad way—and the UMC as a denomination is somehow to survive this? This amounts to nothing more than a froward way—a wayward way—that will lead to destruction.

The Libertine, Dis-United Methodist Church

My recent departure from the UMC came about after months of prayerful consideration of where God was leading us as a family and, more particularly, me as a ministerial student preparing for licensure/ordination as a preacher. I arrived at a couple of conclusions toward the end of 2013 and summarized them back then in my journal—the beginning of that entry is as follows:

Denominational concerns have not subsided, but continue to persist and grow. To describe a couple:

1.) Homosexuality is tolerated, equivocated, and even endorsed by too many within the district, conference, and the highest levels of the episcopacy. Even seeing that leaders in NA have authored language that would weaken the UM position stated in the Discipline regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality …

Having some friends who have also departed the UMC, yet many others who remain, the announcement of the dismissal of the Ogletree case today (2014-Mar-10) is both sickening and saddening. (http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/new-york-conference-court-dismisses-ogletree-case) The libertine, permissive, and dismissive inclination of the UMC has led to “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. Open to whatever, wherever, whenever, however—just don’t violate the integrity of the unity.” It’s hard to believe that an official UMC split isn’t imminently forthcoming.

Even having departed the UMC these few months ago, I feel strangely tied to this. This is a deep spiritual divide. The enemy knows all too well that the Church in America is fraught with a pervasive spiritual anemia. Entertainment, good works, and moralistic (relatively speaking, of course) behavior are religion enough for the masses. Oh, the abyss we’re headed for when “evil is called good and good evil” not just in the world itself (that’s to be expected), but from within the Body!

I don’t want to merely bemoan the morass of this situation. The state of the church in America is truly mournful. There is such a desperate need for repentance and holiness. We cannot truly love God or our neighbor if we’re so preoccupied with religiosity, serving inoffensively, etc. that we walk him/her right down the “primrose path” to Hell believing that sin need not be acknowledged, confessed, and repented of nor abhorred and abandoned.

Kyrie eleison. Kriste eleison.

Marana tha!

The Appearance of Worship

Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-7) the priestly sons of Aaron, offered what was translated as unholy, strange, or unauthorized fire before God. Rather than following the Lord’s instructions, they chose and acted of their own will. This is curiously similar to the story of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-12). In this present age, we worship not necessarily according to a prescribed set of rules that dictate the form and appearance of our worship; rather, we worship as Jesus instructively foretold, in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24). Perhaps that is precisely what we must recognize – that to worship according to any prescribed form or appearance, or even according to no prescription at all is of little consequence. If we are not worshiping in Spirit and in Truth, we are offering unholy, strange, and unauthorized fire before the Lord our God. Ananias and Sapphira serve as a tragic example (Acts 5:1-11). For when they worshiped according to appearance, yet worshiped deceitfully, God struck them dead. Carefully note that Peter states that they lied to the Holy Spirit. God help me to cast off everything that only appears to be worship … that is not entirely and perfectly in and of the Spirit and Truth.

In Spirit and In Truth

The continual emphasis on what is cool, weird, fun, uncomfortable, etc. feels like nothing more than another worn-out set of rags the Church has tried desperately to dress itself in.  The goal appears to be social/cultural relevance … the resultant effect is a vacuous excuse for worship.  A return to reverent worship is long overdue.  Yet even reverence itself can be contrived and/or inauthentic.  When the impetus for reverence is little more than the appearance of being reverent, then the resultant effect may be less exciting or stimulating to the senses only due to a pervasive dearth of spiritual life among the worshipers.

Ultimately, the basis for worship – its very essence – is missing.  “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, ESV)  Jesus made this pronouncement in conversation with someone who was concerned and confused about where and how worship was to be rightly done.  As was always His way, He stripped away the symptoms and got to the root of issue.  The unregenerate soul has not been given the Spirit of God (John 3:5-8, Rom 5:1-5) and can do little more than make a pretense of worship.

In one of Jesus harshest criticisms of the Jewish religious leaders, he quotes Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt 15:8–9).  When heart of the worshiper is far from God, going through the motions of worship is nothing more than vanity!  When the teaching, instruction, and admonition being delivered in word and in song is full of human wisdom or when Truth is tainted or perverted, going through the motions of worship is nothing more than vanity!  Just because the Truth is not welcome culturally or socially or if it is supposedly not seeker-friendly … none of these serve as excuses for not teaching and preaching the whole Truth.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4).  The Church ignores these precepts at its own peril.

The format of worship – whether traditional, contemporary, or blended (however one wishes to define those concepts) – is not terribly germane to its authenticity or efficacy.  The arguments and opinions abound – indeed, every human of every generation can find things they prefer or dislike about music, speaking styles, etc.  Yet substituting form and function for genuine worship will never honor God.  For example, for the worship leader to be continually coercing congregants to stand, sit, clap, cheer, or do something weird for a change tends to indicate the need for human intervention into what should be a spiritually-driven experience.  If congregants seem unable or unwilling to worship freely, it’s highly probably that the Spirit of the Lord is absent or grieved or quenched.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17)

So what are we to do to realize the healthy growth of the Church, the Body of Christ?  The model given to us in Scripture is really quite clear and consistent.  Dr. Luke describes for us exactly what happened in the first century.  “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)  Living continually and prayerfully in the fear and reverence of the Lord and in the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit is the prescription.  We dare not waste our time on anything less.  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15–16)