Thankfully Broken

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I have to preach a tough sermon this Sunday. It covers a passage from the Bible that is often overlooked. It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when preachers didn’t shy away from the topic addressed by Jesus in these verses. Sure, many of those preachers probably could have used a little more grace in their sermons on this topic but at least those sermons were preached. Today, they rarely are.

This Sunday, I’m preaching on divorce.

We preacher types love sermonizing to the choir. We speak boldly against abortion and gay marriage and we should. Once I preached a sermon against abortion and a lady came up to me afterwards to thank me for being so brave. There’s nothing brave about preaching against abortion in the Bible belt. Divorce is a different story.

More and more people in the church have been divorced. And some of those people give a lot of money to the church. It’s been said that people vote with their feet and their wallets. One good way for a pastor to get people to vote against him is to preach on divorce. It’s a sore subject for a lot of people so many pastors find it easier to skip it and carry on with preaching for the choir. People say that they like to have their toes stepped on. They really don’t.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this Sunday’s sermon. All of those thoughts have led me to one conclusion.

Thankfulness.

I’m thankful that I grew up in what society often refers to as a broken home.

I’m thankful that I had to battle with the pain and bitterness that often become permanent residents in those broken homes.

I’m thankful that I routinely saw my mother crying about bills that she wasn’t able to pay.

I’m thankful for those occasional weekend trips to visit my dad.

I’m thankful for a mother who, when she talked about my dad, preferred funny stories from their dating days rather than ones that would fuel bitterness and rage.

I’m thankful for a dad who, when I was an adult, drove me to the side of a middle Georgia road, looked me directly in the eye and told me that he was sorry for the way that I had to grow up.

And I’m thankful for a Heavenly Father who worked in my heart in such a way that I was able to gladly give genuine forgiveness.

I wasn’t always thankful for those things. I spent a significant portion of my life resenting they way that I grew up. But something happened. When I started preaching and counseling and talking to people who have been ravaged by divorce, I noticed something. I wasn’t just sharing information from some book some guy wrote. I wasn’t just giving the Baptist talking points. I was saying what the Bible had to say but I was doing it as someone who had been there. I was like the coach who knew what it was like to play the game.

My mother used to talk about feeling like everyone in the church was staring her down because she was one of the few people who had been divorced. I think about that whenever I preach on divorce. I probably wouldn’t if I grew up in a perfect family situation.

The experiences of my childhood taught me that not everyone who is divorced wanted the divorce. It’s likely that the single mom in your church did everything she could to keep her marriage together and probably lives more fervently for Jesus than you do. There’s a good chance that the single dad who only gets to see his kids every other weekend made tremendous sacrifices to keep his family together. In the realest of senses, his divorce nearly came over his dead body.

God is in the business of bringing beauty out of broken situations and people. Most artists use a perfect blank canvas for their masterpieces. God often uses our brokenness as the canvas for his perfect masterpiece.

Paul wrote it like this.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout he whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. Philippians 1:12-13 (ESV)

In case you missed it, Paul wrote those words while he was under arrest for the terrible crime of preaching the gospel. I like to think of this as gospel math. Our pain plus God’s redeeming power equals the advance of the gospel.

Unless we have bitter and unforgiving hearts.

There would be no gospel advance through Paul if he had allowed bitterness toward his captors to derail his mission. And there would be no gospel advance through me if I would have allowed bitterness to keep me from forgiving my dad that day on the side of the road.

Forgiveness is supernatural.

Without the supernatural grace of God, none of us would be forgiven for our great sins against him. And without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, none of us would ever forgive those who have sinned against us.

You may not know divorce like I do. But you do know brokenness. Do not allow that brokenness to morph into bitterness. Instead, trust your heart to God so that he can do the supernatural work that only he can do of protecting your heart from hardness. And trust your future to God. Only he can do the supernatural work of turning your pain into a vehicle that advances the gospel.

As I write this, I am beginning the preparation for a really tough sermon that I have to preach this Sunday.

In reality, the preparation for this sermon began many years ago.

And I couldn’t be more thankful.

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Urban Legends, Marriage And The Hypocrisy Of The Church

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

It was the summer of 1972. A woman pulls into a gas station late one evening on her way home from work. As she walks in to pay, she passes by a large truck parked at the next pump. She doesn’t give the vehicle a second thought. And she pays it no attention as she walks by it on her way back to her car. It’s not until she pulls back onto the highway that she starts to pay real attention to the giant truck and the man behind the wheel.

Almost as quickly as she pulls out, the truck does the same. For the next ten miles the man behind the wheel follows her closely, even nudging her back bumper a few times. At other times he flashes his brights and blows his horn at her. She speeds up to lose the truck. And her plan works. As she navigated her way around a hairpin curve she saw through her rearview mirror that the driver of the truck wasn’t so lucky. He lost control and landed in a ditch.

But as she continued to look in her rearview mirror. She noticed something. Another man. But this man wasn’t outside of her car. He was inside, hiding in the backseat waiting for his opportunity to attack her. The man in the truck wasn’t trying to hurt her. He was trying to warn her. The real threat to the woman wasn’t in another automobile. It was much closer than she ever imagined.

That’s how hypocrisy works. It’s easy to spot it when we see it in other people but, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s much closer to us than we think it is. It’s inside of our own hearts.

The world likes to pretend that hypocrisy is a problem only for church people. How quickly they forget about their talk of tolerance for all points of view (except for those points of view that they disagree with or that expose the foolishness of their own ideas). But hypocrisy is a problem for the church too. We would be foolish to believe otherwise. Nowhere is our hypocrisy more evident than it is in regards to marriage.

Biblical marriage is under attack in our country. There’s no doubt about that. In some professions, simply voicing your support for biblical marriage can cost you your job. Other people have lost everything for simply standing by their convictions regarding marriage. Make no mistake. There is a war going on. And the sidelines are getting smaller and smaller. At some point, everyone will have to pick a side.

Many Christians already have. They use voting booths and social media accounts to, in varying degrees of wisdom and insight, voice their support for biblical marriage and rejection of so-called gay marriage. And that’s a good thing. Christians must speak up. But we also must be careful that our words match our actions. Sadly, in many cases, that seems to be too much to ask.

Preachers speak very loudly against the nameless gay guy on the news waiving a rainbow flag but fail to say anything against the big money tither who trades in his wives like leased cars. Preaching to the choir is easy. Preaching against the choir could get you fired.

Evangelical voters come out in masses to oppose candidates who promote same sex marriage but, on the very same ballot, will think nothing about voting for a presidential candidate who has spent his entire adult life making a mockery of traditional marriage.

A man rambles on and on at the barber shop about how gay marriage is destroying our great nation only to go home and talk to his wife as if she should’ve gone out with last week’s trash.

If we really want to stop gay marriage, we need pastors and church leaders who use the Bible to lovingly speak against all perversions of marriage, even the socially acceptable ones.

We need voters who refuse to buy in to that tired old lesser of two evils argument and instead stand on biblical principles. Even if it means passing on the two most popular options.

And we need men who realize that one of the best things they can do in support of biblical marriage is to go home and love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

 

The Church has settled for hypocrisy. As a result, we have lost our influence. And we wonder why the rest of the world looks at biblical marriage as nothing more than an urban legend.

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Suppose That You Are The Chairman Of Your Church’s Pastor Search Committee

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Suppose that you are the chairman of your church’s pastor search committee. Most of the handwork has been done. You’ve figured out what type of candidate you’re looking for. You’ve put ads in all the right places. You’ve reviewed resumes. Finally, your search has been narrowed down to two people and you get to meet with them individually today.

Both men somehow managed to meet the standards that your committee has for its new pastor. They’re both young, married, look like a superhero, have 3.5 kids, have all the right letters after their last name and they drive a Buick. Classic pastoral traits.

Your meeting with the first candidate is over lunch and he leaves a fantastic impression. He’s well-dressed and personable. He convinces you that preaching the Bible would be a priority in his ministry. But that won’t be all. This candidate would be a busy pastor. He tells you about all of the ministries he has begun at his current location. There’s the men’s Bible study that he leads on Monday nights. Tuesdays are devoted to a cutting edge outreach program. The Wednesday night program at his church has grown exponentially during his time. On Thursday nights he meets with elders and other key leaders while he devotes his Friday nights to leading open gym. On Saturday nights, due to all of the growth at his current church, this pastor leads a worship service aimed at reaching younger adults who otherwise might not attend on a Sunday morning. And, of course, Sunday nights are devoted to small groups, one of which he hosts at his home.

The old line about a pastor only working one day a week is far from true for this candidate.

Eventually, conversation moves to his family. He tells you how much he loves his wife and 3.5 children. He speaks glowingly of his wife’s hard work of raising the children while he devotes himself to the many ministries of the church. After some small talk, the meal is over and the committee promises to call within the next week.

The second candidate meeting is over dinner. He leaves a different kind of impression. While talking about his current ministry position, his responses are short and to the point. He spends a significant portion of his time preparing sermons and Bible studies but he also frequently checks in on the sick and does quite a bit to lead his church in engaging the community.

This candidate finally starts to say a bit more when you ask him about his family. Like the previous candidate, he talks about how much he loves his wife and children. But he goes into more detail describing all of the nights they spend going to practices, ballet recitals, school meetings and just playing games at home together as a family. There aren’t really all that many evening church events on this man’s iCalendar.

Now it’s time for your committee to make the final decision. While the two candidates have a lot in common there is one thing that separates them. The first candidate is highly dedicated to the ministry of the church over any thing else in life. The second candidate, while certainly devoted to the church, values his ministry to his wife and children over any church ministry.

So which will it be?

The church man or the family man?

When Paul lists the qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, he does so in an interesting way. Most of the qualifications he lists are character traits. And those character traits, apart for “able to teach” should be true of all Christian men, not just pastors. In this list, Paul really only gives one responsibility, one thing that the man must do as opposed to the other things that he must be. And this one responsibility has nothing to do with being an entrepreneur, a visionary or a great story teller.

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV)

According to Paul, the most important responsibility that a pastor has, under his devotion to Christ, is his responsibility to love and lead his family.

Find a super-busy pastor and behind him you’re likely to find a church that praises him for doing what they like to call “the Lord’s work.” But behind them, you’ll find an abandoned wife and bitter children who resent him for failing to do what the Bible calls the Lord’s work.

Two candidates.

You only get to pick one.

Which will it be?

The one who devotes his life to the church’s work or the one who devotes his life to the Lord’s work?

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When We Talk About Divorce

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Churches are all over the place when it comes to divorce. Some pastors are sure to get a few amens on the topic so they preach against it every month or so. Others never mention it because the big money people in their church have been married a couple of dozen times.  Wherever you or your church fall on that spectrum, there are a few things that you need to remember.

I grew up in a house that was devastated by divorce. I know all about weekend visits and awkward phone calls. I do not write this as someone who read a book about divorce. I write it as someone who has lived it. I hate divorce. And God does too.

But we must be careful with our hatred of divorce. Yes, it is a sin but like most other sins, just because you have been impacted by it does not mean that you are the guilty party.

I’ve heard a lot of women whose husbands have walked out on them describe the anxiety, loneliness and condemnation they have felt walking into a church building. Whether true or not, they have told me, it sometimes feels like every eye in the house is directing its judgmental gaze toward them. Sadly, in many churches such a scenario is all too true.

The same is true for many men. The stereotype for them is that it was their laziness, drunkenness or infidelity that led to the divorce. I know many men who, though far from perfect, made great sacrifices to save their marriage and family. But it didn’t work. And so along with being abandoned by their wives, they get the added joy of being shunned by their church.

When we talk about divorce, we need to use a surgeon’s scalpel rather than a bully’s club. The scalpel can be painful but when used properly it brings healing. The club just knocks people around. We all know about the guy who loved getting drunk and sleeping with strangers more than he loved his own wife. But we must not forget about the hard-working, Godly husband who comes home one day to the surprise of a note from his wife telling him to jump in a lake and to have fun with the child support payments. One of those men needs strong correction and discipline from his church. The other needs love and assurance. They both need grace.

The Church must not follow the example of presidential politicians on the campaign trail. Trump, Clinton, Sanders and the rest can afford to paint with broad brushes on complex issues in order to appeal to the base. We can’t do that. We must speak to and love the individual in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.

There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Some of those wounds have been self-inflicted and others came like a shot from an assassin. But whatever the situation, God’s grace is sufficient. If we are serious about loving our neighbor we will do the hard work that comes with being vehicles of that grace.

We can’t do that if we are content to simply preach to the choir. And we can’t do it if we’re too scared to share the hard things the Bible says about painful issues. But we can do it if we take the time to know someone for who he is rather than who he used to be married to.

Divorce is painful.

I hate it.

So does God.

But God is the Master of bringing beauty from painful things.

May we who carry the name of Christ be used by him in that process.

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Defending Wayne

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When a man stands up for something, you can be certain that others will try to make him sit back down. When he refuses, it’s his character that suddenly finds itself in the crosshairs.

You probably have never heard of Wayne Grudem but if you pay any attention to national politics, you’re about to hear a lot about him. And my guess is that most of what you hear won’t be good.

Wayne Grudem isn’t a politician. He’s a seminary professor and author. His most notable work is called Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. If you’ve spent any time in a quality Christian college or seminary, you’ve come across this book. But none of that has anything to do with why you’ll be hearing Wayne Grudem’s name.

Wayne Grudem is a complementarian. That means that he believes that a husband should do the job of leading is wife and children. Well, that’s the actual definition. Progressives would use a different one. To them, a complementarian is someone who sits on the couch all day telling his woman to get him another beer while he considers his next rape victim.

Along with writing books, Wayne Grudem serves as a religious liberty adviser for presidential candidate Marco Rubio. That’s why you’re going to be hearing Wayne Grudem’s name a lot.

In fact, it’s already happened.

Time Magazine calls him “controversial.” One blogger says that he, “limits women.” As Rubio’s numbers continue to rise, you can expect more people to attack Wayne Grudem. When politicians shine a light on religious men who stand with conviction, you can always expect the character attacks to follow.

But rather than listening to all of the attacks and misinformation, perhaps we should look at the man himself. In doing so, we might just get a good picture of what it really means for a man to lead his family.

Wayne Grudem was a department chair at a major evangelical seminary in the Chicago area. For his field, it was a dream job. You could say that it was like coaching the New England Patriots, minus all of the cheating of course. He had the job that hundreds of Bible scholars would love to have.

But all wasn’t well. Wayne’s wife was sick and the Chicago climate made her illness worse. A job opened up for Wayne in Arizona, a climate that had already proven to be much more friendly to his ailing wife. Here’s how Grudem handled the decision of walking away from his dream job of 20 years and moving to a new place to work at a school that few had even heard of.

“On September 19, 2000, when we were in the middle of this thinking process, I came to Ephesians 5:28, ‘Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.’ If I were living with the pain in my body that Margaret is living with, I thought, would I move for the sake of my health? Yes, I would. So, if I were to love my own wife as I love my own body, then shouldn’t I move for the sake of Margaret? It seemed an unmistakable implication of this verse.”

That sounds nothing like the caveman that Wayne Grudem and other complimentarians are often presented to be. It sounds more like a man who loves his wife enough to lead her and make personal sacrifices for her good.

But the decision making process wasn’t over for the Grudem’s. Wayne wanted desperately to avoid the leadership mistakes that he had made earlier in their marriage.

“At that time, I thought that God wanted me to teach at a seminary, and though I had asked Margaret what she thought, I did not honestly listen. I think that I failed to understand that though the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), a well functioning head has ears. Perhaps if I had listened more, and involved her more in the process, many of the details of the decision would have been different.”

Now wait just a minute! Wayne Grudem didn’t drag his wife by her hair all the way from Chicago to Arizona?

Grudem has endorsed Marco Rubio for president. I have not. But I am endorsing Wayne Grudem. Not for president but rather for a man who we would all be better of having listened to and read.

In the coming weeks you will be told that Wayne Grudem is against women. As his own life story shows, he is not. What he is against is feminism. You know, that failed worldview that virtually demonized all sex, scares men out of even thinking about approaching a woman without first signing a contract of mutual engagement and that has led many women to put aside the so-called ball and chain of an apron and trade it in for the much heavier one that comes with grabbing for more and more power.

So to put it another way, Wayne Grudem is very much for women. If you don’t believe me, just ask his wife. You can look for them the next time you’re in Arizona.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

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It was one of my last nights on my college campus. We weren’t celebrating by getting drunk at some party. We were much more sophisticated.

One of my friends knew how to turn the lights on at the little league baseball fields in town. So at 11:00 at night, I played football with my college buddies on a little league baseball field. Early on in the game something hit me. This was probably the last time that I would ever do something like this.

College kids are supposed to sneak onto baseball fields late at night and play football. But once you graduate, the rules all change. There are real jobs to get up early for. There are bills to pay. I thought about all of those things that night while I dove for passes in the wet grass. This is it. When the sun comes up tomorrow, it’s time to be a grown up.

After that thought, I made it a point to have the most fun I ever had playing football with my friends. That night, I did.

I realized early on that I couldn’t go back. If I really wanted to do the impossible and make the moment last, I had to enjoy the moment while it lasted.

Two decades have passed since then but I’ve learned to live with the same philosophy. There is no pause button. The rewind button is a myth. If you spend all of your time wishing for what was, you’ll miss what is.

There’s not going to be another Wednesday, January 6, 2016. This is the last one. So make it count.

Hug your wife a little harder.

Laugh with your kids a little longer.

Time is a strange and scary thing. It goes by so quickly while simultaneously moving ever so slowly. It’s easy to get fooled by this. We mark our calendars for the start of another weekend. We wish the years away until our kids are able to drive themselves to practice. We long for them to graduate and move out of the house. And then get married. And then get us some grandkids. And then, hopefully, come back to that same house to visit us.

It’s a vicious, ugly cycle.

But there is a better way.

Enjoy the moment. There will be other moments but this one will never happen again. Make it count.

Christmas break is over for most of the country. Kids are finally back in school. Many parents talk about this like a herd of lepers is finally leaving the house. They’re actually glad to not have their own small children around so much. This is tragic.

One day, you will look back on Wednesday, January 6, 2016. You might remember it as just another day or it could be one of your favorite memories. Not because something remarkable happened.

But just because you took the time to enjoy the little moments rather than wishing them away in hopes of some better, more fulfilling milestone.

This is the only Wednesday, January 6, 2016 you’ll ever get.

Make it count.

Enjoy the moment.

[7] Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. [8] Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.  [9] Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain(1) life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. [10] Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,(2) for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (ESV)

 

In Defense Of War Room

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You know the guy. He’s the one who critiques the way that Stephen Curry, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, plays defense. And he has a few tips on how your mom could make her world famous sweet tea a little better. Oh, and he’s also the guy in class who asks questions that aren’t really questions but rather points of advice to the professor who has devoted the last 30 years of his life studying that particular topic.

You know the guy.

Well, that guy goes to the movies too. Most recently, he’s seen War Room, the Kendrick brothers’ latest film. And, guess what, he hates it.

I saw War Room last weekend. I’ve seen almost all of the movies the Kendricks have made. I haven’t walked away from one of those films thinking to myself, “Man, those Kendrick boys had better set aside some space on their shelf for an Oscar because that’s the greatest movie ever made.”

Their movies just aren’t my thing.

Neither are The Beatles. But I can still appreciate what they have brought to the table while switching to another station when they come on my radio. I think more Christians who like to play the part of the movie critic should take the same approach when it comes to the Kendricks and their movies.

Several years ago there was a guy who sporadically attended my church with his family. Eventually, he started coming regularly. One day he told me why. He had seen Courageous, another film by the Kendricks, and it inspired him to step up, be a man and lead his family.

What was I supposed to say to that?

“What a shame. You know the acting was bad and the writing was lazy in that movie. Meet me in my office tomorrow and we’ll watch The Matrix while sipping hot tea and discussing the finer points of cinematography. Your wife and kids will think me for it later. Trust me.”

I’m already hearing about married couples who are going on dates to see War Room and leaving the theater talking to each other about their marriage. Some of those couples haven’t been on a date or talked about their marriage since Hillary Clinton and her husband were running the country. If the Kendrick brothers do nothing else, they’ve made movies that married couples, friends and church groups go see together for a fun night of entertainment.

What’s wrong with that? Does every movie have to be Citizen Kane?

I’ve seen the movies and read the books that the self-appointed Christian art critics have put their stamp of approval on. They usually have two things in common. One, they’re boring. Two, no one else ever sees them.

War Room isn’t the greatest film ever made. But here’s the really cool thing about it. It’s better than the last movie the Kendricks made. And that one was better than the one before it. And while the Kendrick brothers have been doing what they do, other Christians have been making movies. Good movies. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out Mom’s Night Out and Believe Me. Both are funny and well done. And I dare say that neither one would exist if it weren’t for the Kendrick brothers leading the way.

There’s something funny about the critic. He likes to tell us what Stephen Curry did wrong but he doesn’t play the game himself. He knows how your mom’s sweet tea could be better but he gets tripped up on the boiling water stage. And he’s quick to jump in when everyone is piling on the latest piece of Christian art that fails to meet whatever the standards are for that day. But he’s not making his own.

A few days ago, I was watching my son practice soccer. He got in trouble. He was supposed to wait for the ball to get passed to his teammate and then get open for the ball to come to him. The problem with that plan was that the teammate was picking his nose. So my son ran over and stole the pass from his nose-picking teammate and started up the field. The coach blew the whistle and let my son have it. Later on, he did essentially the same thing. The coach stopped the drill and made my son pay the price.

After practice, I told my son that he had probably played his best soccer that day. He was confused. He didn’t really know why he had gotten into trouble. I told him that I would rather him get in trouble for being too active than for being lazy and sitting on the sidelines.

You never get yelled at on the sidelines. But you also never get to score.

Say what you want about the Kendrick brothers but at least they’re not on the sidelines. And as you say what you want about them, be careful, because while their particular brand of art might not reach your standards, it is still being used by God. So it just might be that the Kendricks really aren’t the ones you’re critiquing.

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice. Acts 5:38-39 (ESV)

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Cargo Shorts And The First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina

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All of my shorts are out of style.

Cargo shorts aren’t acceptable anymore. I found that out this week. So, If it’s hot outside and I want to be cool, I have three options. First, I could wear jeans. Next, I could go buy a pair of purple European short shorts. Finally, I could just be out of style.

I have decided to just be out of style. Why change now?

There’s nothing more disturbing than a 40-year-old man who dresses exactly like the kids in his neighborhood.

Well, almost nothing more disturbing.

Consider the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina.

It’s known as a historic Baptist church, whatever that means. Recently, the church made a historic decision. Historic for all of the wrong reasons.

They have decided that they, “will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” That’s another way of the church saying that being gay is okay with God. And, as an added perk, if you used to be called Chris but now go by Christina, you can still serve on the Historical Committee and teach the little ones about Jesus.

I told you it was a historic decision.

The church’s conclusions about homosexuality are disturbing because they are completely contradictory to Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Romans 1:18-32).

But the way that the church arrived at that conclusion is equally as disturbing. As a lifelong Baptist, I am well aware that we love to form committees. We have committees for flowers. Committees for music. We even have committees for committees. But I must say, I’ve never heard of the committee that was formed at the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina.

They called it the LGBT Discernment Team. It sounds very presidential, doesn’t it?

According to baptistnews.com, here’s how the final decision of the LGBT Discernment Team was solidified.

The LGBT Discernment Team reported its findings of the church consensus to deacons May 4. A majority of the diaconate endorsed the report. In May members of the congregation were invited to stand to indicate their affirmation of the statement. A majority stood, but the few who didn’t were invited to stand to agree to remain in fellowship. By the time it was over, according to the Greenville News, everyone was standing.

“It can be so much trouble finding a new church. Let’s just stand up with everyone else, dear.”

Jim Dant, pastor of the church, said the following about the unanimous vote of approval.

“This church’s journey is like of a lot of churches’ journey. You think you’re about to make a decision about homosexuality or how the church is going to deal with the LGBT community or live with the LGBT community, and it really ended up not being a decision about homosexuality but being a larger decision about what it means to be a church.” 

I can agree with the reverend there. His church’s “journey” really is one that many others have taken. Laodicea and Corinth are the first to come to mind (Revelation 3:14-22; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). And the First Baptist Church of Greenville did make a decision about what it means to be a church. Essentially, they decided that they didn’t want to be one anymore. They’d rather be a community of people who are accepted by the culture because they are so good at accepting whatever the culture is doing. That’s a far cry from any picture of the church one would find in the Bible.

For years, experts have warned churches that if they don’t loosen their stance on homosexuality, gay marriage and self-mutilation, they will be found irrelevant by the ever-prized millennials who, we all know, are so open-minded and tolerant. In other words, they’ve told us to get rid of our cargo shorts and go buy some purple, European short shorts. Don’t ask any questions. Just do it. Stand up. You wouldn’t want to not fit in, would you?

One thing that is more disturbing than an old man in trendy short shorts is an old church with trendy doctrines. That’s because trends change. In clothing, they go in cycles. What once was out eventually comes back in. Not so with doctrine. With trendy doctrines, what once was preached against, over time becomes a part of the mission statement.

Shorts are meant to be changed. Doctrine isn’t. Doctrine is supposed to change us. But that’s the problem with a solid doctrine that refuses to morph with the always transforming tastes of the culture.

It can be uncomfortable.

And terribly out of style.

But those two things have never bothered true followers of Jesus nearly as much as they seem to bother the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina.

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So Now What? Love

Gay marriage is now legal in the United States. So now what? How should the Church respond? The following is the final part of five answers to that question.

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Love

A man hits his wife. As soon as his fist makes contact with her jaw, he fills with regret. He knows what he did was wrong. By the time he pulls himself together, all he can see is his wife walking out the door.

He calls her the next day.

“I love you. Please come back.”

She does. Things make a turn for the better. For about a week or so. Then the man snaps again. This time, it’s a slap with the back of his hand. His wife leaves.

And again, he makes that same phone call.

“I love you. Please come back.”

Only this time she doesn’t come back. She doesn’t come back because she has come to understand that the two of them have completely different definitions for the word love.

When it comes to gay marriage, or any heated debate for that matter, most rational people agree that we just need to love one another. But usually, both sides have two completely different definitions for that word. Before we can agree to love one another, we need to know what love really is.

For the world, love is a feeling. It is nothing more or less than an emotion. An emotion that you can’t help. That’s why you hear people using love as a rationale for cheating on their spouse. You fall out of love. You fall back into love. Things happen. It’s also why so many Christians are classified as hateful when they oppose gay marriage. Surely anyone who opposes love can’t be anything other than hateful.

But Christian love is different.

Christian love is rooted in God’s love for sinners as demonstrated by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (ESV)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Christian love isn’t passive, always apologizing for anything that even comes close to being offensive and it isn’t blind, constantly ignoring sin. Christian love moves toward sin with honesty and grace.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11 (ESV)

Christians who love well can do so because they are ever aware of their own dreadful condition and the transformation the love of God brought to them.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:12-15 (ESV)

The world’s version of love could easily be defined as, “Shut up and agree.”

Christian love is the laying down of what is rightfully yours for the ultimate benefit of another.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:4-8 (ESV)

Christians, now is a good time to show the world what love really is. That doesn’t mean that we have to sign off on what the world is selling or sit quietly in the corner while people self-destruct. No, we should speak up. Homosexuality is a sin. No court can change that. But rather than a picket sign, bull horn or Facebook status written in all caps, our platform should be the love of Christ.

This means that our greatest acts of Christian speech and service will be an overflow of love.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV)

It means that we don’t always have to have the final word in whatever the heated debate of the day happens to be.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)

And it means that truth, not the latest fad, will be our guide.

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6 (ESV)

The world will never find true love in a feeling, a political agenda or a rainbow profile picture. The love that they are looking for can only be found at the cross. As they search, they will gaze through the lens of our lives. May our love for God and neighbor give them an accurate picture of the only love that they really need.

Christians, don’t just show them that they are wrong.

Show them the cross.

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