I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Gay marriage, homosexual marriage, same-sex marriage, lesbian marriage, civil union…All of these are terms used in the ongoing campaign that homosexuals are waging against the American culture and people to gain the “right” to marry as heterosexuals do.  Why?  Simply put, to destroy our belief in God.

The basis for marriage between one man and one woman is traced all the way to the beginning of time as recorded in the Bible.

… for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:20-24 (NKJV)

Jesus uses this very scripture reference to defend marriage when confronted by the Pharisees with questions of divorce (Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:4-9).  In fact, Jesus always talked about marriage in this context of one man with one woman.

We see Jesus using word pictures and metaphors concerning marriage throughout His earthly ministry.  They range from attendants for a bride waiting for the groom’s party to come take them to the wedding (Matthew 25:1-13), to the wedding contract used by Jesus in the Lord’s supper that shows how His sacrifice would be for our salvation from our sins (Luke 22:19-20), to the return of Jesus to take up His bride to the wedding feast and eternity (Revelation 19:7-10).

Marriage between one man and one woman was very important to Jesus.  As such, it became important to the apostle Paul as well.  And why shouldn’t it be since Jesus Himself instructed him after Paul’s conversion (see Galatians 1:11, 12).

Having therefore been instructed by Jesus, Paul then instructs the church at Ephesus about marriage.  He gives a very succinct picture of roles and relationships between the husband and wife particularly in how the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church.  Then, quoting the same scripture that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees, Paul emphatically states,

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:29-32 (NKJV)

Marriage between one man and one woman is a reminder of the relationship that exists between Jesus Christ (the man) and his bride the Church (the woman).  Any other type of arrangement as the homosexuals are attempting to do destroys what God has created.

If two men were to “marry” then using the analogy that Paul used there would be two Christ figures.  Only one ever lived to save that which was lost by dying on the cross and be raised from the dead.  That one is Jesus Christ.  To have two parties claiming the headship of Christ in a “marriage” is to denigrate Jesus Christ and His ministry.  The two men become pictures of anti-christs and only deny both Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV)

If two women were to “marry” then again using Paul’s analogy there would be two Churches.  They would be picturing two false religious systems.  These systems would not exist for the saints to worship God but rather to enslave and destroy them instead.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. Revelation 17:1-6 (NKJV)

Homosexuals say they want to marry as heterosexuals do so they may gain health benefits.  This makes sense sexually transmitted diseases and other disorders are disproportionately high among the homosexual community making the need for affordable health care a priority.  However, the average median income for homosexuals ranges from upper middle-class to “rich” which suggests that “affordable” healthcare is not really out of reach.  They want to be their own gods.

Others will say that they want a way to publicly express their love for and to a partner in the same way heterosexuals can.  One has to wonder why as the average homosexual relationship typically lasts less then five years.  Given that there are indeed some long-term anomalous relationships, this would drive the average down closer to one or two years if those relatively few anomalies were removed from the statistics.  Is this the love they want to express?  And even for those who have “married” in states in which it is allowed, the divorce rate is equal to or higher than the heterosexual divorce rate.  They want their own system.

Homosexual marriage has nothing to do with benefits, or love, or constitutional rights.  It has everything to do with destroying belief in God, His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, and responsibilities of the universal Church in this world.  The fact that Satan is using homosexuality in this particular fashion is both appalling and frightening.  The fact that the Church seems powerless is both not-surprising and saddening.

There is a challenge therefore offered by homosexuals to the Church.  They are saying, “If you will not be who you say you are, then we will take it for our own and destroy you.”  It is a challenge that is not easily countered in today’s homosexual favoring media.  There is a way that the Church in America can defeat the challenge being presented.  That way is to heed the warning Jesus gave to the church at Ephesus:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV)

The Church needs to turn back to Jesus Christ.  She needs to be separate from the enticements of this world.  She needs to repent and return to being that place in which the saints – those Jesus gave His life for – gather to worship God and share His love obediently.

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Lord, thank you for the salvation that comes by your Son’s shed blood washing our sins away.  We praise You for grace and mercy.  Help us to repent of our continued neglect of our relationship with you.  Bring us back to that marriage picture of Christ and His Bride.

I pray also, Lord, that heterosexual and homosexual sinners all would receive that same gift of salvation.  May they all become as new and join the Church as You prepare to receive Her to You.

In Jesus’ Name…

Amen.

Jesus Is God

Given that Jesus said,

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)

AND

 …love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10b (NKJV)

THEREBY:  Jesus is Love.

Further more,

…God is love. 1 John 4:8b (NKJV)

THEREBY:  God is Love.

Therefore…

Jesus is God.

 

 

The Role of the Church in Society

Society is rife with many issues that are given heed to at differing levels of interest by the church today. There are varying degrees of success – or failures. No matter the cause, opponents of the church will seek to undermine any positive influences and accentuate the negatives. In view of the current trend of secularism seemingly in control of popular opinion, what then is the role of the church in society?

In speaking of and about the church it is important to note that herein “the church” means the local church body made of regenerate members and not that of the universal church. The local church body is the point of contact of, and representative for the universal church. Local church bodies should be seen acting in concert with other local church bodies collectively and cooperatively. This is seen throughout Acts and in much of the other books of the New Testament as Paul sought the support of churches for each other and for the church in Jerusalem.

Luke’s account of the activity of the early church in Jerusalem gives the most succinct picture of the role of the church in society. Acts 4:32-37 shows 1) “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…2) with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…3) there was not a needy person among them, for as…it was distributed to each as any had need.

First, the members of the church were as Acts 2:1 says “they were all with one accord” (KJV). As they gathered together they celebrated. As they celebrated they prayed. As they prayed they worshiped. They gave freely of what they had out of love for each other as they epitomized the greatest commandment according to Jesus (Matthew 22:37-39), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and carried through with the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Secondly, the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) was important for the public proclamation all Christians are responsible for giving. The early church had the privilege of hearing first-hand from the people that were with Jesus every hour of every day for three years. Today, we are blessed with the Bible that tells the same stories and expounds upon the same doctrines (the main purpose for much of Paul’s writings). Strong exegetical and doctrinally sound proclamation of the gospel is paramount for the church today if wishes to regain a positive role in society.

Thirdly, none in the early church of Jerusalem had any need. This is not so in most churches today. Despite increasing financial burdens and lingering illnesses necessitating being home-bound the members of today’s local churches do not seek to meet the needs of its own membership. Yet, those same non-internally reaching members will lay out literally thousands of dollars to go half-way around the world to do the very thing they neglect in their own church. The hypocrisy of our missions shouts volumes to society today and causes loss of credibility.

The role of the church in society has been in large part abdicated and can only be viewed as a hollow facade of what used to be a respected and sought after leader in our culture. As a whole, forfeiture of an active role has become the norm from community to community though some corners do seem to be able to grab some form of media attention and point to that as proof of an active role. The local church as become less important due to its lack of love and compassion for its own membership (assuming regenerate membership). Instead of the gathering place to celebrate God’s work in their lives, it has become the social club for conscious-salving “mission projects” at best and dark-room-meeting places for the ego-driven power mongers at worst. Church has become more about what-someone-else-does-for-me rather than the assembly of God-worshiping, blood-bought, born again, Christians.

The church must revisit the oft repeated Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and its corollary of Acts 1:8. Matthew records that the church (implied) should teach all that Jesus had commanded. This carries the overt implication that the teachers would be obeying those very commands. Obeying Jesus’ words will strengthen the church in the rest of the commission to go and make disciples. The role of the church in society starts closest to home and moved outward (Acts 1:8).

Is there concern that the church’s voice is being drowned out by alternate influences? We can change that by hearing the voice of the needy in our own congregations. Is there concern that poor preaching and teaching is corrupting our congregations’ view of God? That can be changed by giving heed to those that only preach the gospel and teach the doctrines found there. Does the church’s lack of influence diminish its presence? Taking care of each other will strengthen the right to be heard in our society.

The role of the church is to start being the church again.

April 19, 1995

oklahoma-city-bombing-1

(Photograph by Charles Porter IV, a freelancer, taken after the Oklahoma City bombing and distributed by the Associated Press, showing a one-year-old victim handed to and then cradled by a local fireman. http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1996/)

As we went about our lives another went about our deaths. He wanted to steal the innocence from our routine and interject shear terror into our existence. As he slipped away into obscurity we cried out for justice. Our children died horribly while we lived horrified.

We face the same spiritual reality from the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) that seeks to blind and destroy us. He seeks to blind and destroy us because we are God’s creation, created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26,27). The same emotions we expericienced on April 19, 1995 are very much akin to the ones God feels for us. And yet He did something more than bringing one man to trial and punishment.

God gave of Himself in the fashion of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, to die in our place (Luke 22:42-44). By His sacrifice the one who would see God thwarted saw his trial and coming punishment (Revelation 12:9).

Death is not what God intended for His creation. Uneasiness of spirit, of feeling, of emotion that may be in the reader at this moment should be addressed as leading by God to receive His adoption. Find a pastor, elder, — or better yet, a friend that knows the comfort of God for His children. Talk about your spiritual fate. Read what God says in the Bible. Know that this day is not forgotten.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;

1 John 3:1a

Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive

Behold...(Sixth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

This verse forms a basic foundational belief for Christianity. It molds the understanding of the supernatural in our theology. Without it, most of our treasured orthodoxy crumbles.

Isaiah brings a message to the King of Judah, Ahaz. Essentially, he informs King Ahaz that God will deliver Judah from destruction and therefore Ahaz is to request a sign from God that will show Isaiah’s words to be true. Like most of today, Ahaz was too proud to actually obey and request a sign. He deferred! How curious to be granted safety and then give up the option for gratification by seeing what you actually expected. Perhaps this is still in play today.

Since Ahaz would not ask for a sign God gave a sign to him instead. It is this sign that we read of in Isaiah 7:14 “Behold a virgin shall conceive.” There is a particular strain of scholarship that implies this only referenced the immediate time of Isaiah understanding that this meant judgment before the maturation of future offspring for either Isaiah or Ahaz. While this is possible historically speaking the scope of the canon of scripture gives another and better understanding…

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. –Matthew 1:23

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. –Luke 1:26-27

…and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David –Luke 1:32

…he shall save his people from their sins. –Matthew 1:21

What do all the above references have in common? They all refer to Isaiah 7:14 centuries after the exile to which Isaiah prophesied about. They each refer to the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ through whom the salvation of His people would be dependent upon.

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Father, by the words of Your prophets You proclaimed Your plan for Your children. By the life death and resurrection of Your Son You fulfilled those prophecies. Help me to live each day with the expectancy of Isaiah, Mary, and Joseph until Your Son comes again. In His Name, AMEN.

Thus Saith the Lord


The Empty Tomb

Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

(Fourth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:6-7

The prophet Haggai is addressing the returned remnant as they rebuild the temple. In reading chapter one it seems the people have lost focus and have accepted mediocrity as the norm. Of course this does not set well with God and hence a rebuke is given and then the awesome words of the text here as an encouragement.

I wonder though. I get a sense that even though God wants the temple built, He seems to be using the moment to make a point that gets missed. David wanted to build a temple claiming that since he lived in a house of cedar that God deserved better (2 Samuel 7:2). In fact, God tells the prophet Nathan that He never wanted a permanent dwelling. He had plans for Israel that would surpass their design (2 Samuel 7:8-10).

Curiously, God goes on to say,

even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

And yet, Solomon was allowed to build the temple. And the people worshiped there. And the people soon forgot the meaning of the trappings and dimensions that matched those of the tabernacle of Israel’s pre-Solomonic Kingships (Exodus 25-27 and 1 Kings 7:15-22). In forgetting the true worship of God they were led away into captivity where they would have no temple. Even then, as the book of Daniel attests, some worshipped God despite the lack of trappings and looked forward to the completion of God’s promises to Isaiah et al.

Being allowed to rebuild a structure that God clearly did not view as what He had in mind for His worship, the people just did not have a heart for what God truly wanted. Hence, the words here from Haggai serve to drive home what God told Nathan to communicate to David.

The house was going to be built by God (Matthew 16:18). Jesus even told the people in John 2:19 , “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He was speaking of Himself. In the bodily form God had assumed He drew the nations to Him, shook the earth, and manifested His glory far greater than the earthly temple of the Israelites or the Herodians.

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Help me to look beyond the mere trappings of earthly temples. Help me to be drawn to the only house You desire us to worship in — Your Son, Jesus Christ. Gather us in that Temple, in which the Prince of Peace reigns. In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.