Remember What We Are Called To

1 Pet 3 15

The Supreme Court announced their decision regarding state issued bans on same-sex marriage on Friday morning. Social media came alive with reaction; supporters changed their profile image to the rainbow flag and used the hashtag #lovewins, some angry Christians expressed despair in the collapse of America and quoted verses from Leviticus. But what caught my attention were the Christians that calmly reminded us we live in and also apart from the culture we are immersed in.

I pastor a small SBC church in the deep South. Below is my Sunday morning sermon, directed to my own congregation with all Christians everywhere in mind. Whatever your initial reaction was to Friday’s news, please prayerfully consider this position:

1 Peter 3:15 is the basis for Christian Apologetics. Apologetics may sound like apologizing but an apologist is one that defends the Christian faith. It’s about being prepared to answer questions about why we believe what we believe. One must be well versed in scripture and certain that his own faith has been built on a sure foundation. Apologetics may involve boldness, defending a faith that is not always popular, but care must also be taken not to offend. We will offend people by sharing the Gospel; but we must be sure is the cross that offends and not us.

We must remember what we are called to. (1 Peter 3:13-17) We are called to live differently than the world. We are surrounded by and active participants in society but our values and judgement system is different. We are called to walk circumspectly and to show our faith by living according to our principles. We are called to go into all the world and make disciples (Mark 16:15) to demonstrate our faith by the action of our good works (James 2:17) to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16).

We are called to spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-18 is all about putting on the whole armor of God, but pay attention to who the enemy is. We wrestle not against flesh and blood… The people you meet each day, regardless of the spiritual or moral condition, are your neighbors. They are the mission field. The spiritual wickedness in high places is not on Capitol Hill, it is cosmic forces in heavenly places. We do not engage the enemy in spiritual warfare by carrying signs in the streets, by arguing with strangers on the internet or contending in our nation’s court system. Our enemy is not made of flesh and blood – that is our mission field. Those are people made in God’s image and that Christ died to save.

We are not called to change the culture. Never be surprised that the world acts like the world. Romans 1:18-31 condemns homosexuality and a whole host of other sinful acts but look at the audience; Paul was writing to the church at Rome and not preaching a sermon on the street corner. Paul is speaking to Christians about the difference between how we live and how they live. In his missionary journeys throughout the Greek and Roman world he was surrounded by a corrupt culture that we in America can probably only begin to imagine. Research Greek bathhouses sometime or read up on the ancient Olympic games. Paul was well aware of what was going on around him in the culture but we don’t see him starting petitions are carrying signs in the streets. We see him starting churches and training leaders. We see him sharing the Gospel and teaching others to imitate what he did (just as he imitated Christ).

We cannot win the culture war. We have not been called to fight the culture war. Fighting the culture war distracts us from the things we have been called to. The president is not your pastor, members of Congress are not our deacons, the Supreme Court is not our final judge. The nations of this world will pass away, heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God will never pass away. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world looking for a kingdom not make by human hands. We will be judged based on whether we knew to good and did it or not. Look at Jesus as he was tried by Pilate and Herod. Look at Stephen as he is stoned in Acts 7. We do not win by winning. We do not win by being stronger. In our weakness, God is strong.

Barack Obama is the leader of our country – I am the spiritual leader in my home. I will stand before God and give an account not of how many petitions I signed, or which candidates I endorsed; I will give an account of whether or not I loved my wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; if I provided for my family; if I raised my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Did I rightly divide the Word of Truth? Was I faithful until the end?

Remember the Titanic? As that ship was sinking many perished needlessly because there were not enough lifeboats. This world is sinking. It will end in disaster, God has ordained it and prophesied it. The Gospel provides more than enough life boats for everyone. Our call is not to stop the ship from sinking, it’s to invite people into the boats.

Do You Have the Right NOT to Wed a Gay Couple?

Legal opinions vary widely on what the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate of nationwide same-sex marriage will mean for pastors and government officials authorized to perform weddings.

Some legal experts say government officials charged with performing weddings could lose their jobs for refusing to marry gay couples. But others believe both ministers and government officials likely will have freedom not to perform same-sex marriages that violate their religious convictions.

Continue reading

How to Read the Pew Research Center’s Published Findings

Screenshot 2015-05-14 at 6.38.58 AMThe actual title of the article published by the Pew Research Center is America’s Changing Religious Landscape. You can read that article here, at their own website, rather than second or third hand if you wish. The story was reported by media outlets, such as CNN, with attention grabbing headlines like “Millennials Are Leaving the Church in Droves.”

Russell Moore takes a different perspective, suggesting that actual faith is not in decline but rather the false pretense of it. People without true faith have quit going to church to make a show. He suggests people are no longer attracted to “almost Christianity” but that real faith is alive and well. There are not more atheists than there used to be, there are more honest atheists. Please do read his article here. 

Ed Stetzer posted a similar story in USA Today, arguing that while Evangelicals make up a smaller percentage of the population than they did a few years ago their overall numbers have actually grown. While I think Moore’s article is better written, both make the point that raw data doesn’t tell the whole story. How we interpret that data is equally if not more important.

Ray Lewis Speaks to Baltimore

Screenshot 2015-05-01 at 8.36.10 PMRay Lewis spent his entire 17 year NFL career playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Even though he is retired, he remains highly respected in Baltimore. More than respected he’s practically an institution or perhaps royalty. It’s like Michael Jordan in Chicago or Hank Aaron in Atlanta (depending on which era you grew up in). Continue reading

Please Do Not Feed the People

Screenshot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.28 PMIt made news last November when a 90 year old man was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, FL for feeding the homeless. 33 cities have either banned or are considering a ban on giving food to homeless people. It is not illegal to be homeless and the thinking, which is flawed, is that by cutting off support homeless people will go away. I used to wonder as a child why starving children shown on television didn’t just go somewhere else, where there was food and water. The world is a little more complicated than that, but city leaders are apparently susceptible to that line of thinking.

Loving people, providing for the needy, feeding the hungry, giving to anyone that asks – just one more thing Jesus would be arrested for today.  Continue reading

Please Pray for Ergun Caner

A very vocal critic of Ergun Caner once wrote to me via social media “If you are Caner’s friend you must be a liar too.” He further suggested I re-examine whether or not I am truly a born-again believer. Such is the foolishness that Ergun Caner has dealt with for many years.

I am going to politely suggest reading two pieces and strongly suggest, rather implore, that my Christian brothers and sisters pray for Caner and his family. The first is an article appearing yesterday in Baptist Press. This story not only provides background of the particular issues in an objective manner but attempts to set the record straight concerning conspiracies and cover ups. The second is a highly emotional plea from Bucky Kennedy to please put the issue to rest. Kennedy currently pastors First Baptist Church of Vidalia, GA and has previously served as President of the Georgia Baptist Convention and Chairman of the Board at Brewton-Parker.

Please read the linked articles. Please thoughtfully and prayfully consider how you will respond when you hear gossip and criticism. Please pray for Ergun Caner and his family. Thank you.

This is What Happens When You Fight the Culture War

Way back when in 2008 I posted Should Christians Fight the Culture War? Perhaps that’s a good place to start. This is an example of what happens when we do try to wrestle with flesh and blood rather than powers and principalities.

Video via CNN, no explicit language or images

In Warsaw, Ohio a strip club owner staged a protest outside of a local church during service on Sunday morning, complete with topless protesters carrying signs. Apparently New Beginnings Ministries has been protesting outside of the local strip club for years, taking pictures of customers license plates and calling the girls that work there things like tramps and whores. Church Pastor Bill Dunfee says it is the responsibility of the church to spread the Gospel, uplift the name of Jesus and confront evil. The confrontation of evil has resulted in a small crowd of strippers, employees and friends of the Foxhole Club to assembling a protest of their own. Be careful when you fight the culture war, the culture may just fight back. Continue reading