Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Bible and Same-Sex Love

"God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; 
male and female He created them."
Genesis 1:27

Setting the marriage question aside for a moment, let's address the question, do two people of the same sex have a right to "love" each other? This question of the "right to love" seems to be at the core of the same-sex marriage debate. As Christians, we need to know what the Bible says about this and not speak or act out emotionally. The real question is not about the right of two people of the same sex to love each other, it's about what kind of "love" they are involving themselves in. We read about the love of Jonathan and David. This was a brotherly love, a knitting together of the hearts, but not a sexual relationship.1 Samuel 18-20. God is not against same-sex friendships. The line is crossed when the relationship becomes sexual.

Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Romans. He says. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness..." He goes on to explain that there is evidence of God within every person and in creation as well. Yet when people chose not to honor God, but began speculations that led to worshiping creatures and creation instead of the Creator, then "God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 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." The homosexual desire came as a result of people dishonoring God and entertaining pointless speculations bringing deception to a foolish heart. We see this sin as specific evidence of a people who have rejected the holiness of God and "exchanged the truth of God for a lie." It's simply an outward expression of how far away from God the heart of a people have gotten. Historically, it's been the expression that has come right before judgement! (Noah, Sodom). God created male and female. He created us in His image. By distorting our maleness and femaleness we are distorting the image of God Himself. He doesn't take this lightly! Romans 1:18-32. See also 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

Paul continues, "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with..." and he lists many sins that any of us have committed at least one or two of. Things like greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, arrogance etc. Paul goes on and says, that "those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." Whatever the sin, whether it's homosexuality, or any other sin, we must not only refrain from them, but not approve of those who continue to practice them. This is why Christians cannot condone homosexuality. And this is why Christians need to judge themselves as well. In fact, we should have been judging ourselves well before homosexuality became prevalent. 

Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." He commanded us to "love one another, even as I have loved you." John 13:34-35. Of course we know that God is all about love. God is love. Jesus died for all mankind because of this kind of love. We're instructed to love one another with this same kind of love. However, our love for God must trump any kind of love for another human being. God says, not to engage in acts of passionate, or sexual, love for someone of the same sex, and even of the opposite sex if it's outside of the marriage bed. If we are to love and honor God first above all, then we cannot participate or condone this kind of sexual behavior. We approve of same-sex friendship, but not same-sex sexual activity or marriage. 

If you need more Scripture to convince yourself of God's opinion on this, look at the laws God gave to Moses, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination...If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. their bloodguiltiness is upon them." Leviticus 18:22, 20:13. If anyone says, yeah but we're not under the law anymore I would say this, do you really think God has changed His mind on this? Something He wanted the death penalty for under the law is not something He is going to change His mind about now! A true Christian is not going to try and find out how much He allows us to get away with, but cares about pleasing Him and building His kingdom according to His precepts and judgments, which are the only ones that will make a society work. 

"A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 22:5. 

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality. The men of Sodom tried to forcibly take the two angels, who appeared as men and came to rescue Lot and his family, in order to have sex with them. Lot even offered them his virgin daughters but they rejected them and tried to break down the door to get to the "men." Of course we know they were all destroyed. God saw homosexuality as wicked, to the point that they were entirely destroyed because of it. Genesis 13:13, 19:4-9. 

Before the flood, sexual perversion was rampant, to the point that God said of man, "Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:1-5. After Noah and his family got out of the boat and onto dry ground, the hope of completely wiping out man's wicked thoughts was lost when Ham molested his father. Genesis 9:20-24. It was this unrestrained sexual behavior that caused his son to be cursed. 

Jesus said, "the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark." Matthew 24:37-38. So it's not surprising that we are seeing all kinds of sexual sins today. This is how it was in the days of Noah.  

God cares about His seed, especially the seed of mankind. His design is for male and female to have children, creating families which make up nations. The family is the base unit, the ruling authority, in the earth. Of course this is why it is under such attack. The very first command given to Adam and Eve after God blessed their union, was for them to procreate--to have children. See my blog, The Marriage Blessing: Legal or Not? 
The legality of marriage was man's recognition of God's blessing on the union. Man gave the union a legal status, with resulting benefits, as an acknowledgement of God's blessing on this union, and a recognition that it is the basic governing unit. God's blessing on marriage came first, not the legal status. The legal status came because of the blessing, not the blessing because of the legal status! 
We need to remember that nothing will be able to take God's blessing off the union of a godly marriage, no matter what kind of laws man passes. There may be laws passed that allow legal status to marriages that are something other than the union of a man and woman, but that will not change the blessing of God upon a marriage union as He defines it. (Quote from The Marriage Blessing: Legal or Not?)
As Christians, we need to know what God really says about this issue and not just base our beliefs on what our Pastor or Christian friends say. This is becoming more necessary each day. Our convictions must be based on faith in the Word of God and a desire to please Him in all we do. This must be this kind of heart-felt convictions we have or we will never be able to hold true to them or speak truthfully.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Purpose of Our Preservation

"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
Matthew 24:13

Jesus said this when speaking to His disciples about the end of the age and the sign of His coming. I talk a little more about "enduring" in my blog, More on Jesus' End of Age Warning: Persecution, so I wanted to say something here about the word "saved." According to Strong's Concordance, this word "saved" in the Greek is sozo which means saved, healed, preserved and rescued. What an awesome God we have who takes care of His people in this way! I like that He preserves us. It reminds me of Jesus saying that we are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13. Salt not only adds flavor, but it preserves. So we have the Lord preserving us, and us preserving the earth. 

The reason our life is saved is not because we are so great. It's not because we've done great deeds, or lived a perfect, holy life, but so God has a people in the earth. We are the salt of the earth--the flavor and preservative. If we were not here, the preserving power would not be here. God has a people here in the earth so He has a presence in the earth--His ways continue, His kingdom is built, His Gospel is preached and His love is released. It's not about our life being preserved so we can go on and live according to our own pleasures. As His disciples we are to die to ourselves daily--taking up our cross and following Him. Luke 9:23. Whether we live or die, it's all for Him.

I thank God for safety, healing, provision and all of His blessings, but I want to remember that the goal is not the preservation of my life, but the advancement of His kingdom--for His will to be done in the earth. God is looking for those who recognize that we need His righteous judgement. We need His rule in the earth. We need His mercy and His presence. We can't fix our lives, or our earth, with our own wisdom or in our own power. We need His kingdom to come, and His will to be done in earth as it is in Heaven! Matthew 6:10.

The same goal is true of the nations. I pray for the salvation of America, not because we are such a great nation, but because we have a purpose. God established this nation for a reason and we want to fulfill that purpose! Remember when Jesus healed the centurion's servant? A centurion is a commander in the Roman military, yet the Jewish elders asked Jesus to heal his servant. They said to Him, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue." Here's a guy who loved Israel to the point where he even built a synagogue for the Jewish people. Yet he showed great humility toward Jesus, and a recognition of His authority to the extent that Jesus said He had not found such great faith, even in Israel. Luke 7:1-10. The man recognized Jesus' authority in the earth. He could see that Israel was God's people. It takes faith to see God's plans and purposes. It takes faith to see what God is doing and agree with Him instead of going about our business. 

All nations need to recognize the authority of the Lord, and support what He is doing in the earth. God's way is the only way that will work. His judgments are true. We don't need to pray for God to forgive us, save us, heal, preserve or rescue us just so we can continue on in the way we have been. We need to ask the Lord to help us fix where we've gone wrong and be restored to the point where we will fulfill the purpose for which He created us. God, open our eyes to the purpose of our preservation!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

More on Jesus' End of Age Warning: Persecution

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of Jesus' answer to their question regarding the end of the age and His return to the earth. The discussion started when His disciples pointed out the beauty of the temple buildings, particularly the stone, and Jesus told them it would all come down one day. In all three accounts they say the same thing, that Jesus said, not one stone will be left on another, which will not be torn down. Of course, just like He said, that temple was destroyed in 70 AD. However, as a sign of His return coming near, we should watch the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which is what is left of that temple. It might just be one wall, but Jesus said, not one stone would be left upon another. 

Jesus first speaks of Christians, those who believe in Him and His name, which is the focus of this blog. He also refers to Israel which I may address in a later blog. After talking about the temple stones, He warns not to be misled, which I talk about in my first article--Jesus End of Age Warning. After that He mentions terrorism. He says that we will hear of wars and rumors of wars and to see to it that we are not frightened. This is terrorism--a rumor of war. In fact, not just a rumor of war, but wars and rumors of war. In other words there are those who engage in violence, with the threat of more violence. If we just had the threat of violence it wouldn't be as frightening as hearing of violence occurring and then the threat directed our way. Someone could mouth off in anger, "I'm going to kill you!" and that's not as frightening as someone who just killed a few people and then says they are going to kill you too. That is one aspect of terrorism we see in our day. Jesus said not to be frightened, the end is not yet.

Then He discusses racism and wars. He says, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Matthew 24:7. This word "nation" is ethnos which, according to Strong's Concordance, means a race. So Jesus is actually speaking of one race rising against another. The word "kingdom" is basileia meaning a sovereign power, so it refers more to what we consider a nation today. He goes on to famines, earthquakes, plagues, terrors, and great signs from the heavens. However what I want to point out is what He says will happen "before all these things."
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. Luke 21:12
Before all of these other things take place, there will be a persecution against Christians. It is because of the name of Jesus that this persecution occurs. Jesus said, "...they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations (ethnos) because of My name." Matthew 24:9. Just as we read in the book of Acts where the apostles were forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, Acts 4:18 it's the name of Jesus that will be the target once again at the end of this age. Look for the term "Christian" and "Christianity" to begin to be watered down as people take the focus off of the name of Jesus and distort the true meaning of "Christ." The time will come when true Christians will of necessity be forced to identify with Jesus and not just Christianity. This may very well be why "many will fall awayMatthew 24:10 because they will not want to identify with the name of Jesus if it causes persecution or hardship. Not only will people choose not to identify with the Lord themselves, but will betray many who do. 
But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Luke 21:16-17
However, the end doesn't come because of persecution, or the famines and earthquakes, or wars, terrorism and racism. The end comes when "the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14. This is why the devil is trying to do all he can to distract Christians so they will not preach the Gospel. If we are being misled, or hiding in fear of terrorists, or afraid to identify with Jesus, then we will not preach the Gospel. Jesus said when they bring you before the authorities that, "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony." This is why He went on to say, "So make up your minds, not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. Luke 21:13-15. In Mark's account He says, "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit." Mark 13:11.

Here is good news. Jesus said, Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:18. Yes, some will be killed for their faith. Some will suffer, but will be able to speak in the name of the Lord before those in authority. Yet Jesus also said that not a hair of your head will perish! The word "endurance" is hupomone which means endurance, steadfastness, and a patient waiting for. It doesn't mean a person is hiding in a corner biting their nails, afraid of everything. In Matthew's account, Jesus says, "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." Matthew 24:13. This word "endure" is hupomeno which means to stay behind, await, endure, with the idea of standing your ground. 

The Gospel must be preached to all nations before the end comes. Those who are alive at that time will need to endure, or stand their ground, in whatever position they find themselves in. They are not to back down from preaching the Gospel or speaking in the name of Jesus, or even identifying with Him. They are not to resort to lawlessness1 or disobedience to the word of God and compromise out of deception or fear. Yet, Jesus says don't worry about what to say, the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say. The Holy Spirit will give you wisdom that cannot be resisted or refuted. And when you stand your ground, hold your position, remain steadfast and patient, you will be saved. The Greek word for "saved" is sozo, which means saved, healed, preserved and rescued!

The Lord is calling His people to be courageous soldiers and ambassadors for Him at the end of the age. Those who are not afraid or ashamed to call Him Lord, or to call Him by name, identifying with Him. Those who hold their ground to the end, will be saved, healed, preserved and rescued! In Luke's account, Jesus ended His discussion on the end of the age with, "...keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:36Our prayer for ourselves, as well as for others throughout the earth who are being persecuted for their faith, should be that we remain alert, and have the strength to escape all these things and stand before Him. It is still true that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:38.

1 "Lawlessness" in Matthew 24:12 is anomia which means lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin. It's the idea of utter disregard for God's law--written and living. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Answer the Doubts

I think it was Kenneth Hagin Jr. who I once heard say, "If you really knew it was God speaking to you, telling you to do something, of course you would do it." His point was that the reason we don't obey the voice of God is because we're not sure it's really Him, if we knew for sure it was God telling us to do something, of course we would obey--our hesitancy comes because we doubt whether it's really Him talking to us. 

We have the same doubt today that the serpent raised in the Garden--Has God said? We ask ourselves, "Is this really God speaking to me? Did God really say this?"  The words, did God really say... are resounding around the world today, because someone took them into her heart in the beginning. At some point, the people of God need to stop the cycle, stand up and say, "Yes, God said this! I believe it, I receive it into my heart, I will obey, put it into practice, and go forward with it!"

If Jesus appeared to you in the flesh and said, "Go buy this building." Would you do it? Or would you doubt it was Him? Would you begin to speculate that it could have been an angel of light and not really the Lord? What is the difference between that and hearing Him speak to your heart and then questioning whether it was Him? In either case you can allow the words, "Did God really say..." into your heart, keeping you in a place of disobedience.

We don't doubt that someone said the words, we doubt that it was God who said them. Was it really Him, or someone else? Or we might doubt that we heard Him correctly, we think we may have misunderstood Him and He didn't really mean what we think He meant. Because we know the story of Adam and Eve, these words of doubt bring fear to our heart so we do nothing. We are afraid of making a mistake and we become paralyzed. We are afraid of looking like a fool, afraid of being wrong and the consequences that might bring. We have allowed the original terrorist to keep us in fear and disobedience, instead of faith and obedience to God. When this happens, we ignore what was spoken--put it on a shelf to "wait and see" what happens. It's time we answer the doubts--address them and respond to the Lord's words in faith and obedience.

But, but, but, you say, that's the problem, I can't obey God because I don't know if it's Him speaking to me! I beg to differ. Yes you do. If you believe in Jesus, and follow Him, then you do know His voice. Jesus said, "...you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;" John 10:26-27. If Jesus is your Shepherd, you know His voice. Yes you do. Jesus once appeared to me in a dream and I asked Him what church I should go to. This was not long after I returned back to Him after a period of backsliding. He said to me, "You know how to find out." I knew that what He meant was that I knew how to be led by the Spirit, I knew how to follow His leading and I could find this out at any time. I didn't need to wait until He appeared to me to ask Him that question. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Romans 8:14

To help keep us on track with hearing God's voice, we need to answer the question, "Is this God?" with the question, "What has God said?" When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil who was trying to get Him to do what he said, Jesus answered him every time with, "It is written..." Jesus was "led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil." Luke 4:1-2. The devil also "led Him" to a couple of places. But Jesus, knowing the Word of God and being led by the Spirit of God, did not obey the devil. Three times He did not obey what the devil was saying, and then He "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." Luke 4:14. 

When we have faith in God's words, and don't doubt, resisting the temptations and leading away of the devil, we are led by His Spirit to the garden He has prepared for us so we may cultivate it and bear much fruit. This is the place where we abide in Him and He in us. Where we walk and talk with Him in the cool of the day. This is the place where you "ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." John 15:7.

Don't look for a formula in hearing the voice of God--a foolproof way to ensure it's Him. Besides, He doesn't want you to do so much for Him that you don't do anything with Him. God knows your struggles and fears regarding hearing His voice. He has given you His Word--both living and written, and His Holy Spirit, to help you. He knows our tendency to be misled. He is merciful and gracious, but He still needs us to rise up in faith and obedience to Him. Replace the question, "Has God said?" with the faith-filled proclamation, "God has said!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Marriage Blessing: Legal or Not?

The union of a man and woman as husband and wife is a union that God blessed from the very beginning of man's existence. After creating male and female He blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:28

No matter what the law says, God recognizes and blesses the marriage union. He ordained the marriage/family unit to be the foundational ruling unit of the entire earth. He did three things after creating man and woman:

  • He blessed them
  • He told them to have children
  • He told them to rule over the earth
His blessing is on the union of a man and a woman. His command is for them to have children together, creating a family. He further instructs them to rule over the earth, establishing this marriage/family unit as the basic governing authority in the earth.

The legality of marriage is man's recognition of God's blessing on the union. Man gave the union a legal status, with resulting benefits, as an acknowledgement of God's blessing on this union, and a recognition that it is the basic governing unit. God's blessing on marriage came first, not the legal status. The legal status came because of the blessing, not the blessing because of the legal status!

We need to remember that nothing will be able to take God's blessing off the union of a godly marriage, no matter what kind of laws man passes. There may be laws passed that allow legal status to marriages that are something other than the union of a man and woman, but that will not change the blessing of God upon a marriage union as He defines it.

Of course we are opposed to giving legal status to ungodly marriage unions, however God's blessing will not be on that union. He will not bless a union that is contrary to what He has established as shown in His Word. We must recognize that the blessing of God is more valuable than the legal status granted by man. A united man and woman have God's authority to create families and rule over the earth. Don't get a defeated attitude if laws are passed that give legal status to ungodly unions. Yes we pray, vote and take action against that, however we still have God's blessing and authority on godly unions no matter what happens.

I understand that by passing laws contrary to the commands of God there is the possibility for judgement to come on a state or nation. This is why we must pray, inform ourselves, vote and take action for this not to happen. However, I believe it is necessary to point out that God's Word takes precedence over the laws of man, and we can take comfort in this as we, as individuals, couples, families and churches, follow His Word.

The next thing God did after the three things mentioned above, is He told them what to eat. He provided food for them so there would be provision for generations to come. God always provides for the righteous and makes a way for their seed to continue. Whether or not your marriage has legal status, and whether or not legal status is granted to ungodly marriages, you still have God's blessing and authority on your union as a godly man and woman. This blessing includes provision so you and your children may continue living as He has called you to.

Monday, June 1, 2015

He Sent You A Letter

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, the apostle Paul addresses the accusations and sarcasms that some were speaking against him. There were those who were saying that Paul 's letters were quite bold, but that in person he would be unimpressive. It really was a challenge of his God-given authority in the regions he was called to. Paul assures them that "what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present." (10:11). In other words, he will be just as bold in person as he is in his letters.

The boldness of Paul's letters were for the instruction of the church. Paul wasn't on an ego trip where he vainly wanted everyone to think highly of him. He had a mandate from the Lord to preach the gospel and instruct the churches. He was determined to fulfill his call and purpose in Christ. It was for the benefit of the church, not for Paul's own benefit, that he wrote bold letters of instruction and correction when necessary. Paul tells them, "I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." (12:14). Paul was as a father to them, sacrificing for their benefit, so they could grow up in Christ.

In Paul's explanation for why he is so bold in his letters, we see a parallel to the Lord's coming. Paul explains the "reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down." (13:10). Paul wanted to give the necessary correction ahead of time in his written letter to them, which was sent before his coming, so that when he came in person he wouldn't have to give severe correction to them. He was giving them time to get things in order, so to speak. In the same way, the Lord Jesus has given us His written word ahead of time, for us to learn from and live by and make the necessary corrections in our lives, so that when He comes again He will not need to be severe with us!

Paul also says, "For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish:" (12:20). In other words, Paul is concerned that when he comes in person he will be disappointed in them--they will not be what he was expecting, and that he would not be what they were expecting. Paralleling this to the Lord's coming, we do not want to disappoint the Lord when He comes because we've failed to follow His Word, and we are not what He would have hoped us to be at His coming. In addition, by not getting to know Him through the Word He's sent us ahead of time, He would not be what we expect when He comes again. 

The Lord has given us His Word to prepare us for His coming. By following His Word, we will be found to be all that He hopes for us to be, and He will be to us, all that we hope Him to be! Just as Paul sent his letter ahead of time before his coming, so that his coming would be a time of rejoicing rather than correction, so has the Lord Jesus given us His Word before His coming, for the same purpose--so His coming will be a time of rejoicing!

Of course it's not a dead, lifeless, religious works type of letter. His Word is alive--in the person of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul was the person and personality behind the letter he wrote, Jesus is the One made flesh--the Word of God Himself. We come to know Him, His person and personality, prior to His physical coming, so we can abide in Him and He in us.

"Now, little children, abide in Him,
so that when He appears,we may have confidence
and not shrink away from Him in shame
at His coming."
1 John 2:28