Memo to Young Christians: This Sexuality Debate Means Something

Have you enjoyed your weekend foray into the world of social media? It has been a predictable response, no? There is a major decision made by powerful people in American politics and every timeline near you blows up. I’m not here to add to the noise, but to utilize this blog in line with its intended purpose, to equip the church to be the Church by getting back to the source of Scripture. When I say, “equip the church,” I’m thinking first and directly about LifePoint Church. I write this as a pastor serving in a local church context, particularly burdened for the younger Christians in our church family. If you are reading this from outside the LPC family, that’s cool, don’t feel like you’re eavesdropping. This blog is hosted on the Internet, after all.

If you’re just joining the party now, something important happened last Friday. The Supreme Court of the United States made a unilateral decision concerning the institution of marriage, as a 5-person majority imposed their will on the American people. With that one decision, 39 of the 50 states, many of which voted to restrict “marriage” to the only definition it has ever had in all of human history, were confronted with a cultural and political landscape not in line with the will of the majority. I’m not a lawyer, politician, or expert historian, but from what I understand the reach of the Court in this instance is significant, both in terms of the presumption this takes and the precedent this sets. The dissenting opinions of the 4-judge minority make this clear.

The Court’s decision may have been met with massive disappointment by millions of people, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. American culture has been headed this direction for a number of years. Just as predictable as this ruling was the response of people nationwide.

I want to talk about 3 responses I’ve observed and 1 thing I want to recommend, specifically to young Christians.

Here are the 3 primary responses:

1) Idiocy

This has been evident on both sides of the argument. When you put a microphone (called a Facebook or Twitter profile) in the hands of everyone on earth, you’re going to get some nuttiness. I get it. For those in culture who hate Christians, this is a great opportunity to stick it to them. Like bandwagon fans that talk trash after the Super Bowl, even though they don’t know any of the player’s names, this decision has been a great opportunity to lord the new law of the land over the Pharisees. Similarly, for those Christians (actual or supposed) who misunderstand either the history or necessity of American law reflecting biblical values, fear or hate can elicit vitriol.

2) Incarnation

From the outset, many of the most visible and vocal Christian leaders in America have been on point. They have called Christians to get perspective, pray, continue to be about the mission, and get over the fact that we no longer have home field advantage. I’ve been thankful for this response. America is going the way of secular nations all over the globe, and as much angst as that may cause, it’s a reality the Church in America would be wise to recognize. For more than 2 centuries the United States has been probably the easiest and most favorable nation in the history of the world in which Christianity has settled. Those days are passing quickly, but it’s not a death-sentence for the Church. True Christianity has never truly thrived as a comfortable religion of the masses.

3) Ignorance

This final response to Friday’s news is the reason I’m writing this blog. Particularly among younger Christians, there seems to be this idea that what happened is “not that big of a deal.” This group is particularly adept at “taking the high road,” which in this instance means grandstanding, as they lecture other Christians about grace, love and the gospel. I mean, come on people, GOD IS LOVE! He invented the rainbow.

As younger Christians we know and have grown up with an increasing number of people who identify as homosexuals. Now, we have a “third way” being propagated, which teaches that you can be both a homosexual and a Christian. I’ll address this in my comments on Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian later this week. For starters, let me say that this “third way” is a wide road that leads to destruction, and there are many who are finding it. Since many younger Christians are more personally involved with more people who identify this way, it seems we feel a sense of defensiveness toward those we see as “marginalized” in our culture.

Here is my 1 recommendation:

If you are a Christian who bases your opinions of this issue on personal experience, talking heads on TV, or the blogosphere—get educated on this stuff. The Bible teaches a clear sexual ethic from start to finish, and the definition of marriage is included in that ethic. What is happening in our culture right now is a big deal. As much as your friend’s timeline may tell you different, Bible-believing Christians do not disagree on this issue. There aren’t “two camps” in the Christian world when it comes to the definition of marriage or the issue of homosexuality. Christians who recognize the authority of Scripture and who refuse to twist it and contort it to meet their own needs are completely aligned here. Homosexuality is sin and same-sex marriage is a lie. There is not an “agree to disagree” option on this for Christians. And understanding that doesn’t mean you hate people or that you are a bigot or that you are ignorant.

I want to leave you with this quote from Kevin DeYoung’s book What Does the Bible Really Teach on Homosexuality? For those wanting to get more educated on this issue, DeYoung’s text is the #1 book I’d recommend. I’ll be commenting further on this book later this week.

A rant is not an idea, and feeling hurt is not an argument. To be sure, how we make people feel is not unimportant. But in our age of perpetual outrage, we must make clear that offendedness is not proof of the coherence or plausibility of any argument. Now is not the time for fuzzy thinking. Now is not the time to shy away form careful definitions. Now is not the time to let moods substitute for logic. These are difficult issues. These are personal issues. These are complicated issues. We cannot chart our ethical course by what feels better. We cannot build our theology based on what makes us look nicer. We cannot abdicate intellectual responsibility because smart people disagree. And we certainly cannot keep our Bibles closed. We must submit ourselves to Scripture and let God be true even if it makes every man a liar (Romans 3:4).[1]

[1] Kevin DeYoung, What does the Bible really teach about Homosexuality? p. 126.

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Summer Bliss

As summer has officially begun, there are so many great things to look forward to: barbecues, fire pits, hot dogs, lemonade, watermelon, the beach, the pool, vacation(s), summer concerts- you name it and the list goes on. Kids are excited as they are free from their school routine for a couple of months and have more opportunities to play,….then the magic words hit…”I’m bored”. How can parents engage their kids this summer? How do we ensure we do not just hit the “pause” button on learning until school starts again? How can you help your kids spend their weeks to the fullest? And really how can we ensure our kids do not fall into spending all of their time on electronics- whether it be television, movies, video games or tablets?

I was reading on children and boredom in the Huffington Post earlier this week. Bunmi Laditan writes, “Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It is an itch to scratch. Boredom is the dawn of ideas. Boredom is curiosity knocking gently at your mind, asking to play. Being “bored” means that no one, or more importantly, no devices, are stimulating your mind and you are free to come up with your own entertainment or sit in contemplative silence.” [1]

How can we balance our kids schedules in a way that will develop multiple areas of their lives?  I think there are many areas in your child’s life to consider as you help them decide summer activities. Some of the developmental areas to consider are social, mental, physical, spiritual and rest. Often several of these areas do overlap in the day to day activities.

I would like to take a minute to discuss briefly a few:

Social: Ensuring our kids develop relationally and learn how to play with other kids is crucial to developing socially. It also is healthy for children to learn the value of relationships at a young age. There is great value to planning regular play dates with not only good friends but also new friends.

Physical: Keeping kids physically active will benefit them today and potentially for the rest of their lives. Going for walks together at a nearby trail, heading to the beach or pool, and signing them up for an organized sport are just a couple ways you can ensure they remain active over the summer.

Spiritual: Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

One of the greatest opportunities you have as a parent is teaching your child in the ways of the Lord. Take advantage of these summer months and go through a book of the Bible together and talk about what you read and what it means to each of you in your own lives. Perhaps this would be a good time to memorize Scripture together as a family. Use incentives such as getting ice-cream or going to the park on a warm evening when you have accomplished the memorization.

Another great way to cultivate the areas mentioned above is through summer camps. Camp can cultivate the social, physical, mental, and spiritual areas of your child’s life. If you live in the Vancouver, WA area, LPC has a Music & Arts Camp for kids entering grade 2- grade 6. The camp is July 20-23 from 9am- Noon. Each morning there is a Bible devotion for the kids. Classes offered at the camp are: singing, drama, dance, cooking, origami, balloon art, guitar, and drums. Registration is $50 by July 1. Click here to sign up now.

MusicArtsCamp-2015

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bunmi-laditan/its-ok-to-be-bored_b_5492205.html

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Is God Worthy of Our Worship? [Part One]

I’ve said it here before, and I’ll likely say it again: worship is so much more than simply what we do on a Sunday morning. Though our verbiage and church culture would make you assume otherwise, our worship is far more than just a handful of songs and a sermon.

Our word worship can be traced back to the Old English word weorthscipe, which is the combination of two words that mean to “ascribe worth.” So worship is the act of ascribing worth, or as Tim Keller puts it, worship is the “act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that engages your whole person or being.” [1]

So this begs the question: is the God we serve worthy of this ultimate value? Does what the Bible tells us about God warrant us giving him ultimate worth in our lives? I’m going to take my next few blogs to look at what we believe about God and his character, hoping to answer this question of ultimate value. [2]

GOD AS CREATOR:

I wake up most mornings in the Pacific Northwest, and the beauty and creativity of creation that’s within a day’s drive of my house is enough to explode the mind. There’s the one million acres of Mt. Hood that stands over 11,000 feet tall and can be seen from over 100 miles away. There’s the Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000 foot deep canyon that weaves in and out of the Cascade Mountain Range. Head north and you’ll see the ash and effects of Mt. Saint Helens, an active volcano that has erupted multiple times. There’s the coast of the Pacific less than 2 hours to the west. In Oregon alone, there are three distinct geographic regions; all different enough to warrant their own category. Take a drive a few hours south, and you’ll experience vast desert. Keep driving and you’ll find the Redwood Forest, with trees that tower 360 feet above their roots.

All of that, just hours from my front door.

And chances are that there’s even more, unique, breathtaking beauty outside your front door.

In fact, the region I just explained is less than 1% of the planet we inhabit. A quick Google search will tell you that there’s a spot in the Pacific Ocean that is 35,840 feet deep (over three Mt. Hood’s deep),[3] and that we know of about 230,000 unique species in that ocean. Another Google search will tell you all about the Amazon rainforest; it’s 390 billion (with a b) trees, 2.5 million insect species, 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles.[4]

I could go on and on about how earth is just one planet (of eight) in our solar system, which is just one solar system (of more than 500 known) in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one galaxy of an estimated 100 billion in our universe. Through science, we’re finding out more about creation every day, and the God that we worship spoke it all into existence…

And then there’s us. I could go on and on about the human body, about how many things have to go perfectly for us to keep breathing. I could talk about our 206 bones or our 700+ muscles. I could tell you about the 25 feet of intestines that allow our systems to work properly. I could gross you out by reminding you that you have around 1.6 trillion skin cells, and about 30,000 of them fall of every hour and regenerate.

Our Creator did that from dust. He breathed his breath into us, and here we are.

Is the creator of all that worthy of ultimate value?

Next time we’ll take a look at God as Father. Have a great week.

1. https://twitter.com/timkellernyc/status/497351543235309569
2. Note: this is not even close to comprehensive.
3. Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench, Western Pacific Ocean.
4. Da Silva, Jose Maria Cardoso et al. (2005). “The Fate of the Amazonian Areas of Endemism”. Conservation Biology 19 (3): 689–694.

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Leaders Need Friends

Friendships are directly connected to our quality of life. If we have good healthy friendships our quality of life is greatly improved than if we don’t. Because of this, friendships are intensely important to the Lord our God.

1 Samuel records an amazing friendship between Jonathan, the eldest son of Israel’s first king and David, Israel’s second king. Jonathan and David had similar interests and passions. Both were adventuresome. Both were skilled and daring warriors. Jonathan bravely conquered the Philistines while vastly outnumbered (1 Sam. 14). David took on Goliath, lopped off his head, and handed it to King Saul (1 Sam. 17). Jonathan was the friend that we all want to be. He bonded with David (1 Sam. 18:1a). He loved David (1 Sam. 18:1b-2). He accepted David (1 Sam. 18:3-4). Though Jonathan was the heir apparent David was the heir appointed and Jonathan accepted this. He protected David (1 Sam. 19:1-2). He strengthened David when he needed it; assuring him of God’s protection, reminding him of who he was, and reassuring him of his support (1 Sam. 23:15-18). Jonathan’s name means “whom God gave.” He was a gift from God to David.

Some have said that leadership is lonely. My response to that is, “Sure, if you let it be.” Life could have been lonely for Jonathan and it could have been lonely for David, but it wasn’t because they were friends. The truth is that if you are for someone what Jonathan was for David, you will have a friend. And if you are for someone what David was for Jonathan, you will have a friend. So, be a friend and the quality of your life will greatly improve.

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Be a Friend

Friendships are directly connected to our quality of life. If we have good healthy friendships our quality of life is greatly improved than if we don’t. Because of this, friendships are intensely important to the Lord our God.

1 Samuel records an amazing friendship between Jonathan, the eldest son of Israel’s first king and David, Israel’s second king. Jonathan and David had similar interests and passions. Both were adventuresome. Both were skilled and daring warriors. Jonathan bravely conquered the Philistines while vastly outnumbered (1 Sam. 14). David took on Goliath, lopped off his head, and handed it to King Saul (1 Sam. 17). Jonathan was the friend that we all want to be. He bonded with David (1 Sam. 18:1a). He loved David (1 Sam. 18:1b-2). He accepted David (1 Sam. 18:3-4). Though Jonathan was the heir apparent David was the heir appointed and Jonathan accepted this. He protected David (1 Sam. 19:1-2). He strengthened David when he needed it; assuring him of God’s protection, reminding him of who he was, and reassuring him of his support (1 Sam. 23:15-18). Jonathan’s name means “whom God gave.” He was a gift from God to David.

Some have said that leadership is lonely. My response to that is, “Sure, if you let it be.” Life could have been lonely for Jonathan and it could have been lonely for David, but it wasn’t because they were friends. The truth is that if you are for someone what Jonathan was for David, you will have a friend. And if you are for someone what David was for Jonathan, you will have a friend. So, be a friend and the quality of your life will greatly improve.

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The Soundtrack of Ecclesiastes

Some books of the Bible seem to have a soundtrack. As a Music Pastor, I’m always looking for songs that portray the truths of the Scriptures that we’re exploring each Sunday. Sometimes it’s impossible… sometimes it’s a stretch… but every once in awhile, there will be a text that just, well, seems to have a soundtrack.

Ecclesiastes is one of those books. Thematically, there are so many great songs written about the vanity of this life, the sovereignty of God, and our proper response to whatever life throws at us. Here are a few songs that have been helpful to our church community as we’ve studied Ecclesiastes, as well as links to buy them, and a few lyrics:

Vapor by The Liturgists
Buy on iTunes

Oh the vapor of it all, it’s a chasing of the wind
The powers of the earth so pale and thin
We will set our hearts on you again…
…Holy, You oh God are Holy, trees clap their hands for you
Oceans they dance for you, You are holy

I Will Follow by Vertical Church Band
Buy on iTunes

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I’ll follow You
I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You

Home by Robbie Seay Band
Buy on iTunes

Don’t wanna live for the rich
Don’t wanna live for me
A rich man who’s come here to confess my sin
Don’t wanna live for the politics
Politics of man
For the hope we seek is never found in the politicians
I wanna live for the King

Though You Slay Me by Shane & ShaneBuy on iTunes

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need

Slow Me Down by Robbie Seay Band
Buy on iTunes

Slow me down, O Lord
Slow me down
Help my heart to hear Your sound
Speak into my life
Lord speak now
Slow me down, O Lord

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Rooted Summer Camp

Camp is a specRooted-Fullial time in every student ministry. It’s been said that camp is where 6-months worth of youth ministry is done in 4 days. Meaning, the amount of relationships formed, the conversations had, the trust earned, and the progress made that weekend will equal that of the 6-months leading up to it.

Every year at camp, God reveals Himself to students, increases their understanding of the gospel, and leads them to be  more committed followers Jesus. This year we are expecting no less for Summer Camp 2015: Rooted.

The culture students live in today is very spiritual. However the word spirituality means many different things to many different people. Many students claim belief in a “higher power”, some abide by the principle of Karma, and still others preach a gospel of “positive energy” – if this surprises you, you’re out of touch! There is a syncretic hodgepodge of beliefs that fill the middle schools and high school, and students are left to navigate through the mess in order to answer, “What do I believe?”

This is exactly how it was in Colossae. The metro area of Colossae was a melting pot of culture, and the Christians who lived there were confronted with numerous belief systems. Rather than pick and choose, they simply combined them! The result was a hybrid of doctrine. They needed help distinguishing between true spirituality and false spirituality, and so Pastor Paul wrote the letter of Colossians. Over the 4 nights of camp, Camp speaker Matt Rensi (Multnomah University) will explain, apply, and illustrate chapter two of Colossians. We’ll learn that while other spiritual teachings “have indeed an appearance of wisdom,” Jesus Christ is supreme!

Take some time to read and reflect on Colossians 2 this week. And as you do, pray that Citizens youth will learn that authentic spirituality is “rooted” in Jesus Christ.

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