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Archive for July, 2017

TRUMP, TRANSGENDER CHAOS, AND THE PULPIT

911 EMERGENCY

Have you ever actually dialed 911? Many of us have, while many of us have not—and thankfully so.  The thing about dialing 911 is that it’s not something that you schedule.  For example, I don’t have written down on my monthly planner “dial 911” for Friday, August 4th.  The last time I dialed 911 it was when I was in the middle of something and suddenly I was “distracted” (that is putting it mildly) by repeated gunfire occurring about 75 yards from my house.  The sound was so close I could tell that it was a large caliber weapon. A single shot I could maybe understand since we live sort of out in the country (shooting a poisonous snake, or maybe a wild animal was attacking a pet), but there is no good reason for such a weapon being repeatedly used in a residential area.  Nevertheless, my point is that I was in the middle of routine life, and suddenly something was happening that caused me to immediately stop whatever I was doing and act.  In case you aren’t paying attention, our nation is currently in just that kind of situation.

Given the President’s recent executive order barring those who suffer from transgender confusion from serving in the armed services, every Evangelical pastor should take one Sunday in the next 3 weeks and preach from Romans 1.16-31 (or from some other relevant biblical passage; e.g., Gen 1.26-27).  The fact is that our congregations are going to be smothered in conversations for weeks and possibly months about acceptable human sexuality, both in private conversations and through social media. Consequently, pastors should be relevant to their congregations and society in general and provide biblical leadership on this issue.  To be apathetic or avoid addressing it within the next couple of weeks—while the rhetoric is white hot—is nothing more than an abdication of spiritual leadership.  Believe me, there are people in our churches who are scared, confused, and worried about what is true and how to respond, and if they could they would dial 911 if they thought they could get some straight answers.

Before continuing, let’s think about what Paul wrote Romans 1.16-31 and the pagan world that he was describing. A first observations is that he wrote this sexually explicit passage pretty much at the beginning of his epistle to the Christians at Rome—talk about not worrying about offending your audience!  Paul was addressing people at the heart of the Roman Empire; in other words, they were living in ground zero with respect to a sexually chaotic culture.  In a rather ironic twist of fate, when the Roman historian Tacitus detailed Nero’s persecution of Christians, he described Rome as a place “where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” In Rome and throughout the empire there were all types of sexually explicit public art, perverted behavior, as well as a diversity of sexual practices that were viewed as culturally acceptable.  For example, there were temples in which “temple prostitutes” (both male and female) could be found.  These were places where practitioners could go and offer sacrifices to a fertility god, and then engage in sex with a temple prostitute.  You can be assured that there were very few regulations concerning the age of these prostitutes, so our modern concept of “underage” exposure to sex was hardly ever considered. Regrettably, if one looked “mature,” then they were considered as such regardless of their age—and that was that.  Today we would consider such an attitude as a type “human trafficking.”  There was also pedophilia between men and boys (while not rampant, it was not unheard of), there were also cross-dressers (generally speaking, these were male prostitutes who acted like females).  Another common practice of prostitution was a sort of a “bed and breakfast” arrangement. These “businesses” were typically run by women that also provided sexual services.  This type of career was not uncommon for those that had few resources, no trade skills to speak of, and who were isolated or abandoned by their extended families.  In all probability, Rahab was just such a woman who was trapped in this type of degrading situation.

The point is that the reality of these culturally accepted sexual behaviors still did not hinder Paul from explicitly identifying them as sins.  And, having identifying them as offensive in the eyes of God, he called people to repent of them and receive external life and restoration through the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, pastors need to educate and reinforce for their congregations what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul (as well as other authors of the Bible) to write concerning biblical concepts of healthy sexuality.  Ignoring these issues is no longer excusable.

In case you are unaware, you should know that this conversation in the public square does have a potentially dangerous endgame.  The president’s actions are going to be litigated in the courts, and the reality is that regardless of what happens in the short term, Secularists will continue to litigate these matters ad nauseam.  And when they final win, then sexual confusion and rebellion will have legal protection in our society.  That will mean that public schools will be allowed to have clubs encouraging sexual exploration, while at the same time promoting it as normal human behavior, which if you didn’t know is already happening in some schools throughout the country.  For now, parents have some alternatives, one of which is participating and influencing their local school boards.  But once the courts finally grant legal sanctions to our culture’s predilection for sexual chaos, then all our objections will fall on deaf ears.  The attitude of the greater society will become, “It’s legal now, you can’t do anything about it so get over it.” The time to act is now.

You may notice that I also included Romans 1.16-17 as part of the passage to be addressed.  I included it because whatever we say about this subject, or whatever passage we preach from, the endgame concerning identifying sin and speaking out against it should be that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s power for salvation for those who repent and receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Encouraging proper God-ordained human sexual behavior without bringing people to Christ is like putting a band-aid on a hemorrhage, it may make you may feel better at that moment, but in the end the patient will still die.  As we approach these issues, we should follow Paul’s example.  Notice that he started with the gospel as God’s power to save, and then he began identifying specific sins for which it provides forgiveness.  Let’s be clear, sexual sin is not unforgiveable.  The gospel offers cleansing for all sexual sins.  Sexual fornication outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is sinful regardless of the form it takes.  Adultery and fornication are sinful just like homosexual behavior and transgender confusion.  The message of the gospel is that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all who will repent and receive the One who died in their place so that they spend life eternal with Him in the Kingdom of God.

Some may scoff at the idea that this may be an extremely valuable opportunity to share the gospel.  What we may be failing to understand is that even lost people are struggling for an answer as to why this proclivity for promoting and protecting sexual perversion.  They intuitively know that what is going on is not right, but they don’t understand why it’s not right.  They also have children, and they are concerned about the future. Even though they are spiritual dead, God is at work in them. He is awakening the consciences of many and telling them that something is grossly wrong.  If this is so, then we need to be willing, ready, and trained to give a defense to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3.15).  And, as apostle Peter said, the first step to being willing and able to proclaim the gospel is to make sure that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our hearts and lives.  Moments like these are opportunities to magnify our Savior and Lord to the lost.  This issue is not just argument over acceptable behavior, and if that is all we think it is, then we will fail—even if we win the argument.

I realize that a few of you may have recently thoroughly addressed this issue; consequently, your congregation should be trained to some degree.  Maybe a church wide seminar or conference at a time other than Sunday morning is again in order.  I also realize that some of you have sermon series that you prepare 3 to 6 months in advance.  Nevertheless, ask yourself this, is there ever a situation that would cause you to set aside a previously prepared sermon in order to be relevant to what your congregation is going through?  If you answer is yes, then now is one of those times.  However, if you answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t be a pastor in the first place.  A pastor is supposed to be the leader of their flock, and if you are avoiding an important issue that everyone in your church is thinking or talking about, then you really aren’t being a spiritual leader, you’re just some guy giving religious speeches on Sunday mornings.  Many in our congregations are looking for the spiritual equivalent of 911, the question right now is this, are we going to answer the call?

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The Church Must Overcome Its “Normalcy Bias”

sexual confusion

If you take a self-defense course one of the first things taught is how to overcome “normalcy bias.” Normalcy bias is a state of mind that prohibits a person from recognizing a lethal threat and then acting appropriately. Overcoming normalcy bias is often the difference between becoming a survivor or a victim. I have seen store videos where bystanders simply stood still watching an armed robbery until it erupted in gunfire. Tragically, their failure react decisively resulted in them being mortally wounded by a stray bullet. While the bullet was the physical cause of their deaths, the primary cause was that they failed to recognize that their situation was no longer normal but extremely dangerous. Fear was not what paralyzed them. Fear causes people to cower or turn their backs so they can’t see what is happening. Normalcy bias is not fear, it is when people just simply stand around and think to themselves, “What is happening; why is that guy holding a gun? This doesn’t make sense.” Overcoming normalcy bias it not easy, it takes training and refresher training since the longer one goes about their lives with everything being “normal,” the less prone they are to appropriately react when confronted with a lethal threat.

Regrettably, the church not only suffers from normalcy bias in our current cultural war, it is no longer interested in getting trained to overcome this weakness. Ironically, some church leaders castigate those that point out our apathy with respect to our inability to accurately evaluate what is happening all around us. One may ask, “What is this threat that the church is failing to recognize?” It is nothing more then the destruction of civilization, reality, and objective truth. For example, if a person has a functional uterus and vagina along with a combination of XX chromosomes, then that person is female no matter how she feels about herself. And if a person has functional testicles and a combination of XY chromosomes, then that person is male—regardless of what surgery he may have performed. The combination of one’s DNA and anatomy indentifies one’s gender—that is just the objective fact of the matter. It is not a moral or cultural issue of interpretation per-se, it is biological reality plain and simple. Consequently, if one’s DNA reveals that a person is female, then the appropriate pronouns for that person are “she” or “her,” and for males the correct pronouns are “he” and “him.” Yet, Secular Progressives want to mandate that if one self-identifies with the wrong gender then you and I “MUST” respect their wishes. In other words, we must go along with their charade—we must accept a false reality. It requires that we deny the biological reality that God ordained at creation (Gen 1.26-27; 2.15-25) and accept a deranged man-made lie. Consequently, today we are literally participating in the cultural chaos that Paul wrote about in Romans 1.18-32.

Generally speaking, 2 generations ago people hardly ever spoke of homosexuality and transgender issues in open public, but today it is literally being crammed into our collective minds while constantly being brow beaten into accepting it all as “normal.” The secularist media now celebrates it when parents ask hospitals to leave the gender line blank. At some universities, professors ask students for bio sheets in which they can inform their professor of the gender with which they self-identify. Universities are also inventing new gender-neutral pronouns for the purpose of forcing students to use them. High Schools across the country are being threatened by an extremely small but militant minority of parents that are allowing their children to experiment with transgenderism, and they are requesting that their local schools allow their kids to have access to the gender specific locker rooms of their desire regardless of their anatomy. In other words an aberrant minority is requesting that the rest of the community suppress their rights to modesty and privacy for they sake of their own perverted view of what is acceptable and normal. Regardless of who you are, such behaviors are not normal and should never go publically unopposed.

Christians need to recognize that we are no longer in a dialogue over previously recognized acceptable norms; instead we are engaged in culture war that seeks to redefine for everyone what normal is altogether. Consequently, the entire concept of “normal” is what is at stake. What was in the past obviously abnormal is now considered normal; thus the word “normal” no longer has any functional meaning. Secular Progressives have been training for our current cultural conflict for decades. They have systemically infused themselves throughout our education and legal system and have divided our country into smaller groups in order to classify them as oppressed minorities for the purposes of obtaining legal protection and financial advantage. And while succeeding in this scheme, they have also developed the legal concept of “hate-speech,” so that anybody recognizing their incremental march to undo truth and godly civility could either be shouted down as hate-mongers, or prosecuted as law-breakers. These Secular Leftists are no longer interested in dialogue and diversity, they are after political power and control, and they will weld it to suppress all political opposition, and especially that coming from Christians.

If you want to see an example of this rejection of diversity and free speech, then simply look at the media’s recent attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions for addressing the Alliance Defending Freedom group, a group that seeks to protect the concept of traditional marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the ADF as a “hate-group,” and dozens of major news outlets have chosen that very language to report Sessions speech to the ADF. The only purpose for labeling the ADF as a “hate-group” is to delegitimize their political viewpoints in the public square while also smearing the Attorney General. The Federal Government has not listed the ADF as a national threat or terrorist group (at least not yet). Nevertheless, the SPLC has, and because of this the vast majority of the major news outlets are accepting their rhetoric and taking their progressive secular perspective on the event. It’s a Progressive smear campaign plain and simple, and the goal is to intimidate any who disagree with their agenda—an agenda that wants to blur, if not eradicate, all God ordained normal distinctions with respect to sexual expression and civil modesty. We must recognize that Secular Progressives and Leftists are not after us as much as they are after the minds of our children. Many in our generation are lost to them, but if they can through force of law mandate that our children accept and participate in their man-made cultural deceits, then the world as God created it to be with respect to human sexuality will be forever changed back into the sexual morass it was when Christianity was born.

So how does the church awaken from its lethargy and overcome our normalcy bias with respect to the moral war raging around us? We must begin to take seriously what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5.6-17, and lovingly expose sin and the wickedness that surrounds us. That means pastors cannot accept assertions such as homosexual couples can have “spiritually good lives.” Instead, Paul exhorted church leaders to encourage their flocks to live in the light of Christ’s righteousness and truth. This necessarily means that with respect to the sin that surrounds us we must have “nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (vs. 11). In order for followers of Jesus to live for Him they must not only understand what righteousness is and where it is from, but they must also learn what sin is—for if we don’t properly identify sin then how on earth can we avoid it? Learning the will of God necessarily involves understanding what offends Him. Paul put it this way: “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” It would be the epitome of biblical foolishness to act like sin doesn’t matter and, therefore, through passivity or apathy not warn Christians to avoid it, or to call the world to repent of it. It is the Lord’s will for us to live in His light, which naturally exposes sin precisely so that we may avoid it. Consequently, the only way to know what sin is requires indentifying it for what it is, which is wickedness that offends God, as well as that for which Christ died. Peter himself wrote that, “Christ died for sins once and for all” (1 Pet 3.18); consequently, how can any right-minded follower of Jesus continue to live in it or accept it as a viable lifestyle for anyone else? On the point of allowing sin to prosper and increase Paul was clear, “By no means NO!” (Rom 6.1-2).

Consequently, if you are currently in any type of church leadership then it is time to start doing triage upon your congregation. We must identify sin and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ while calling all to repent and receive the Lord. And for us that already know Christ we must repent of our apathy and live out the reality of the righteousness and truth that we have already received in the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of the reason Jesus is the perfect model of righteousness in this life is because he correctly identified sin and spoke against it, and called all to repent of it. And he is humanity’s gracious God and Savior precisely because he died to pay for sin’s penalty so that we wouldn’t have to suffer its eternal consequences. Moreover, he rose from the grave so that we would not longer be enslaved to it, but instead that we might live in the light of his holiness and righteousness. But if we don’t take seriously the reality of this man-made cultural charade and the moral chaos being forced upon us, and awaken our congregations to its dangers, then the generations that follow us will be victims of our normalcy bias. Remember, overcoming normalcy bias is the difference between being a survivor or a victim. Let us act now so that future generations will not become victims of our lethargy and inaction.

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