Thursday, April 20, 2017

Being Gay is Not a Sin

You can quote me on this...but do read the whole post first.

Gay is a physical and/or emotional and/or erotic attraction to a person of the same gender. This is similar to a definition I found on the online Merriam Webster dictionary that reads, "sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex."

Are people born gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some are, and probably some aren't.

Do people choose to be gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some do, probably some don't. 

The condition, feeling, and experience of being gay is not sin. Anyone who is gay or has a close friend or family who is gay knows that many who are or feel gay wish they didn't. It's a difficult cross to bear, even in a permissive 21st century culture. Who wants to be the topic of every other media post and social media interaction? 

I have friends and family with both unwanted same-sex attraction and others who welcome their orientation. I love them both and pray my friendships deepen.

Let's move on...

The condition, feeling, and experience of being straight is not sin. 

Now, it is possible for straight people to sin. It is possible for gay people to sin. 

A straight person is sinning if they engage in a sexual relationship with their sibling, no matter how consensual the action is done, even by adults. Even if they say they are naturally attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they say, they are born attracted to their sibling, it is still sin.  Even if they find it pleasurable, say it is not harming anyone else, and take measures to prevent pregnancy...still sin.

Likewise, a straight person is sinning if they engage in a polygamous relationship, no matter how consensual. A straight person is sinning if they engage in an adulterous relationship, no matter how consensual.

These are moral positions held by most people for centuries. These are moral positions held by Christians for centuries because they are the plain reading of Scripture in both the Old and New Testament. We could add bestiality and pedophilia as other practices that are sin regardless of consent, feeling naturally attracted to, and arguing no one is harmed.

In a similar manner, because I believe the Bible is more sane, trustworthy, and sure than the changing waves of culture, I also think when gay people engage in consensual sexual activity they are also outside the moral bounds set by God and Scripture. This activity (not their condition or feelings or attractions) is what the Bible says is sin. (contrary to new attempts at interpreting the Bible, the Bible does not condone homosexual practice...see Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?)

Throw in Jesus' warning that lusting sexually is also our hearts engaging in adulterous sin, every person reading this post is guilty before God. No one (NO ONE) is sexually whole. All are broken, struggle with seemingly natural desires that go beyond moral bounds, and thereby hurt others, hurt themselves, and sin against God.

Three responses are in order. We must first turn to God for forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He alone can atone for our sin. He alone can give us the Holy Spirit to enable repentance from sexual sin and dangerous attractions outside moral bounds. 

Second, we must continue to uphold moral truths for our lives (first! to avoid hypocrisy, see Matthew 7:1-2) and then for others as well. God's Word is light. We do no one a favor by consenting to the dangerous darkness that always hides the truth. Paul warns us in Romans 1 (a passage that mentions the sin of homosexual practice beside envy, greed, and gossip) that we should not approve of any moral transgression that keeps people from God and the truth.

Three, we must treat people engaged in sexual sin with love, respect, and honor because they are made in God's image. Yes, we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ and invite people to repentance. This will involve years of welcoming them into your home and life, lots of listening, and lots of prayer. Many will refuse to see what seems plain to you in the Bible, but don't forget, you too resisted God and re-read the Bible to make it say what allowed you to keep on doing what you wanted to do (and if you're like me are probably doing this very thing in some area of your life right now). Only God's penetrating and illuminating grace can free people from sin to see and live the truth. Only God saves, and praise God, He saves sinners like you and me.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An argument for being a "Late Adapter"

Definition: A late adapter is somebody who is slow to embrace a new product, technology, or idea.

Let's be honest, if you're involved in technology, social media, and popular idea conversations, it can be very embarrassing to "not be in the know." 10 years ago, you were mocked if you said "I just posted on Twitter," and quickly corrected, "No, buddy, you tweeted." Technological snobbery is as ripe as an October apple. 

And so, we're tempted to try and embrace all new technological tools, Apps, and online networks, just to avoid the fear of being "on the out." So an invitation to LinkedIn, requires an immediate new account. An invite to Snapchat requires your humble submission. 

You go out and buy the newest I-Phone, Amazon Echo, and GalaxyS-400, just in case this new technology turns out to be the sliced bread you've been missing.But if you're anything like me, 3 days later, you're hundreds of dollars poorer, and your life is as full or empty as it was a week ago. 

Oh, and did I mention the accumulating paper weights of technological devices that we're not sure if we're supposed to throw away or donate to charity.

With this in mind, let me offer 3 arguments for being a late adapter (whether it's the next App or next device):

1. Old things have proven value. Many "new" items turn out to be a big bust. Also, new stuff have glitches to be worked out. My touch screen PDA of 2004 was useless in under 12 months. My 2004 myspace account lasted less than a year before Facebook proved its superior value. My Kindle e-reader of 2011 had a 6 month shelf-life before I could achieve everything and more with a different device. I wasted time and money purchasing and learning a device that turned out to not serve me well. Let a device or app be proven of its value before you attempt to adapt it to your life. 

2. There is nothing new under the sun. The deepest longings of human souls have never been met nor will be met by human ingenuity. Our hearts long for what only eternity can satisfy; the next gadget will never measure up.

3. Eyes on the future, betray our responsibility for the present. If you're always looking for that new thing, for a new experience, to solve those new problems, you'll miss the responsibilities facing you today. Not to mention, most of these responsibilities are solved through the ordinary actions of love, communication, forgiveness, hard work, and emotional presence (things that devices can't conjure up if they tried). 

So, be a late adapter...and just so you know, being a later adapter doesn't mean you go out and buy a rotary phone. It might look like this:

1) Wait for a new device or APP to be in the market 6-12 months before reading reviews and considering to purchase it.
2) Find wise, responsible, successful people, and ask them what Apps they use and avoid.
3) Talk to these same people about how they manage their technology overall. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Embrace Your Weakness

"Our problem is not our weaknesses; God's grace is up to the task. Our problem is our delusions of strength that keep us from seeking the grace that strengthens us in our weakness." - Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

As I lie horizontal in bed with intense back pain...

Thomas Watson (1620-1686): "It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temporarily Abled

I am one of those red-blooded Americans who only gets sick a few days a year, has only broken a few bones in the midst of sporting activities, and been blessed with fully functional arms and legs since birth. I have never been called "disabled" or "handicapped."

But in reading Andy Crouch's 2014 book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, I was struck by the reality that I am only "temporarily abled." That is, like many, one day my back will ache, my knees will deteriorate, and my functional arms and legs may cease to function. My heart will one day quit beating and my lungs will take in a final breath. Then, death.

So, how should I use my season of temporary ablement? Should I squander it on reckless eating, drug use, and dangerous activities? Or just maybe, is this temporary season of strength for the benefit and stewardship of others less abled?

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Easter and Good Friday Services in Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I hope you can join us for our 2017 Holy Week celebrations with Cornerstone Church.

Good Friday April 14, 6:00PM: We will be doing a combined Good Friday worship service with the congregation of Northbrook Baptist Church at our location, 925 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion.

Easter Sunday April 16: See all the festivities below that will take place at The Warehouse (925 Blairs Ferry Road) on Easter Morning!
    9:00AM: Easter Brunch (no cost)
    9:25AM: Resurrection Sunday Worship Service

May God richly bless Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa this Easter Season.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

C.S. Lewis on the Fall of Humanity into Sin...

Once again, the great Oxford Don summarizes well difficult theological topics:

God might have arrested this process by miracle: but this - to speak in somewhat irreverent metaphor - would have been to decline the problem which God had set Himself when He created the world, the problem of expressing His goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents, in spite of, and by means of, their rebellion against Him. The symbol of a drama, a symphony, or a dance, is here useful to correct a certain absurdity which may arise if we talk too much of God planning and creating the world process for good and of that good being frustrated by the free will of the creatures. This may raise the ridiculous idea that the Fall took God by surprise and upset His plan, or else - more ridiculously still - that God planned the whole thing for conditions which, He well knew, were never going to be realised. In fact, of course, God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula. The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God's own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces. The doctrine of the free Fall asserts that the evil which thus makes the fuel or raw material for the second and more complex kind of good is not God's contribution but man's. This does not mean that if man had remained innocent God could not then have contrived an equally splendid symphonic whole - supposing that we insist on asking such questions. But it must always be remembered that when we talk of what might have happened, of contingencies outside the whole actuality, we do not really know what we are talking about. There are no times or places outside the existing universe in which all this 'could happen' or 'could have happened'. I think the most significant way of stating the real freedom of man is to say that if there are other rational species than man, existing in some other part of the actual universe, then it is not necessary to suppose that they also have fallen.

Chapter 5, "The Fall of Man," in The Problem of Pain (1962).

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I was born this way...

I was born with a short temper.

I was born with an appreciation for sports.

I was born with a tendency to overeat.

I was born with a love for nature and the great outdoors.

I was born with sexual attractions for women besides my wife.

I was born with a love for excessive TV watching.

I was born with a love for knowledge acquisition, preferably through reading.

I was born with a desire to be in control and to overpower people.

I was born with a penchant toward sarcasm and cruelty.

Which of these natural tenancies should I develop? Which should I restrain? Which are morally and socially beneficial?

Being born a certain way in no way determines its goodness, so I've decided to turn to Holy Scripture and to be guided by its teachings, as revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ (see this post for those who wonder how Christians determine which laws from the Old Testament are still in play).

Beware of arguments that suggest "how I feel" means "how I should act." Moral philosophers call this creating "ought" where there is only "is." Morality stands outside of nature (supernatural). Any morality that shifts with culture ends up not being morality at all because it's been relegated to a natural entity. But when I allow an outside morality to serve as the standard of moral actions and behaviors, it is certain that I will fall short, experience shame, and feel guilt.

Turns out, contrary to modern ears, shame and guilt are exactly how you should feel when you go against morality. Shame and guilt are gifts, designed to send us toward healing, hope, and forgiveness. And where can we turn to feel this way, to know this forgiveness? Only Jesus. He identified with those most shamed and most guilty in his day (prostitutes, criminals, sexual deviants). He loved them; extended them forgiveness; invited them to repentance; and said that surely the kingdom of God is for such as these. And so I come with all my deviant natural tendencies...O Lord, receive me again, through your cleansing and sacrificial blood.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is THE WORK to be done?

Quote of the month:

Samuel Davies (1723-1761): "It is an easy thing to make a noise in the world, to flourish and harangue, to dazzle the crowd and set them all agape; but deeply to imbibe the Spirit of Christianity, to maintain a secret walk with God, to be holy as he is holy--this is the labour, this is the work."

From Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism (1994).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The (Pied) Piper or Mr. (W)Right?

There's an ancient legend about the city of Rome involving two mysterious characters.

The first was named Mr. Right. He was a bishop from a far away land. He came to explain an ancient document in the land of Rome. It had been penned by a martyr about two millennia prior.

For many years, the people of Rome had come to believe the letter spoke about how a person was to be brought into a right relationship with the King. They believed it expressed hope in someone who had purchased justice for them at the price of his own blood. They thought it described them as guilty and needing to be declared innocent. They thought it was a story about another doing a great work that could be credited to their account.

But Mr. Right arrived to correct them. Instead, he said, no my friends, this is a story about exiles coming home. It's a story about enemies of the people, enemies that have been defeated. All you need to do is come home through the work of the enemy-killer. When you get there, he'll put a sign on you that says "you're in." There's no transaction, no credit, to purchased justice. It's a declarative statement that you're already in.

Moments later, a mysteriously dressed Piper, arrived and bellowed out a tune unsuitable for most ears, but compelling to some. This Piper said, "If all that occurs is a declarative statement, that "you're already in," then why do you need to come in at all? Beware of Mr. Right, warned the Piper. You are guilty, and the King is angry. You're worse than exiles; you are enemies. Either you die for your enmity or you believe in the One who died for your enmity. This One is the very Son of the King. Either you take what He earned or get what you earned. There must be a transaction, a gift of credit, and purchased justice. Listen to this tune. Do not tune this out.

As the legend goes, Mr. Right led some on a journey far from where any had traveled before. In like manner, the Piper convinced some as well. Where these mysterious figures will take their convinced crowds is only known by the great King. All that's left is that ancient Roman will we read it? What does it really say? You too can study it's contents: The Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Can you believe such ideas? From crawlers to soarers!

"Ridiculous, just ridiculous," muttered Chris, the caterpillar, to his neighboring companion Stu. Chris continued, "Caroline, up there, has been going on and on about this great change she's going to have for the last 3 days. She says, she'll crawl into a little ball of silk, and a few weeks later, says she'll be soaring with wings."

Stu in his slow and southern drawl, "I reckon she's been duped by them relig-i-ous fanatics who keep saying the same thing. But everyone of them soon disappears. I wouldn't trust any ol' cult that promises to soar and then lo and behold, they's gone in a blink of an eye."

"Yep," Chris commented with the nod of the heard, "Keep your thoracic legs on the ground is what I always say. Hmph, flying, soaring...we're caterpillar's for god-sake, we're bulky, pedestrian beasts who should keep our heads on the ground not in the clouds."

"I'm fixing to stay on God's green earth as long as I can. You won't get me crawling into one of them's cocoon. Who knows what happens in there...most of the time, I finds one of thems, cut open with no caterpillar left inside."

"Yeah, Caroline keeps saying, we're not meant to stay as caterpillars, that we were meant to fly. She says, it's our destiny, and only fools would choose the ground over the sky. Who's the fool? I've got all the grass I need; what am I going to find to eat in midair? And she keeps babbling about beautiful wings and breathtaking views; why can't we just be content with who we are? We're fine. We're fine."

"I feel so judged when I listen to her," continued Chris, "Her holier than thou attitude makes me bristle. She says, the change is all done by the Creator and Metamorphesizer, but that's just her way of saying, I'm special and you're not. We'll see who has the last laugh."

13 days later

"Stu, how you been? It's been a while, eh? Have you heard the news, Caroline up and disappeared into that silk ball, and then this morning there was a break in the ball and she's nowhere to be found."

"Is she okay? What did they do to her? I miss her so."

"Crazy religious fanatics; we gotta stop these guys."

"Stu, Chris, look up here..."

Stu and Chris struggle, but are able to turn their heads just enough clockwise to peer upwards.

"It's Caroline!! The change is complete; I'm a new thing. Isn't it amazing!"

"Caroline? What? Who are you really? What have you done with our friend? Did you eat her? Get away from me."

But then Chris looked over and Stu was marveling wide-mouthed at the flying creature above him. "Is it really you, Caroline? Is this what happens when you crawl in?"

"Yes, Stu, it's available to you. You have to give up that life to get this life, but it's worth. The Creator and Metamorphesizer is no respecter of bugs. You just have to trust His ways of death to life."

"Liar! You just want to eat my friend and ruin his life. Stay away you flying vampire. Take your lies and your wings elsewhere."

"O, Stu, don't listen to Chris. He does not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy and whole, you must die and be reborn."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Evangelical Mom sues Fitbit for her lack of fitness

Newark, NJ: "I just don't want other women to experience the anguish I did in 2016," says Carolyn Jones in response to our inquiries to her recent court action. "Several of the "If" speakers had on a Fitbit; why did it work for them and not me? I'm not a bit fit," says Jones, "Talk about false advertising. I wore that thing every waking hour of every day in 2016, and I'm still 30 pounds overweight."

Sarah Gillespie stands with her friend. "We were praying for Carolyn all year, read two Christian dieting books, and even had a healing service. We did everything to ensure Carolyn's success, but another piece of overpriced technology failed us again. I hope she gets every penny."

Fitbit has attempted mediation to settle out of court. They claim their devices simply track fitness, not ensure fitness. 

"Well if that's the case," responded Jones to our questions, "they shouldn't use phony advertising of healthy individuals donning a Fitbit."

Jones says she will not be fooled in 2017. She has joined a Christian essential oils club that offer supplements to cure the appetite.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Listen to Maya

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

Contra: The famous athlete caught cheating, says, "I'm very sorry; I wasn't acting like myself." The cruel adolescent after smearing a person's good name, "Nah, man, I was only joking."

There is always a place to apologize, confess a wrongdoing, and say, "This is not the person I want to be." Such a response is more credible. It affirms our actions reveal our character. It is who we are. But it acknowledges we fall short of the moral bar, and we are willing to accept the consequences of past actions and the sacrifices necessary to never repeat them.

If you've been wronged by someone, be leery of empty promises. Wait for change.

If you keep doing the same thing, don't believe your own hype, this is who you are. God can change you. There is hope at the cross. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

What we know in our 30s that we hope you'd learn at 18...

Innovation is not original.

Hmm, but innovation means a new idea or a new method, and to be original refers to something inventive or unusual.

Yes, but the stark difference is that originality cannot be copied, imitated, or improved upon.

What I wish every kid approaching 18 would know and what many in their young 20s could gain from understanding is that innovation for innovation sake is not only unoriginal, but often times a dangerous turn away from beautiful originality.

Some things cannot be improved upon. Innovation only tarnishes. For instance, a walk amid the colors, smells, and temperature of fall is simple fare. The only way to ruin such a walk is to try to capture the moment with your smart phone. Your innovative device serves as a vacuum cleaner sucking up all that was perfectly common. (Read more on the danger of such devices here: digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/)

Much could be said for all the innovative religious practices. Jesus on the cross, dying for sinners, is the original idea. But new ideas ask questions like, "Did Jesus really die?" Or "Who is really a sinner?" Immediately the original work of beauty is tarnished by this banal innovation. Or maybe we play rock music so loud that we "awe" the audience. Two problems here: first, it's a congregation, not an audience. Second, congregations are supposed to participate and sing, not just listen. No thank you innovation. What about a Bible preacher who is now simply a "Speaker" or "Communicator" who uses an electronic tablet? The medium is the message...we no longer revere the Word, we revere the worker. We no longer evaluate the message based on Biblical fidelity, but on communicative flare.

Innovation is not original.

Beware the substitutes.

Find the real.

Settle there.


Psychoanalysts Finally Know Why Tim Keller is Smirking

​Manhattan, NY: You have seen that smirk on the back cover's of books. It's been seen on television, at conferences, and on myriads of church curriculum. But why, just why does Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City carry his trademark smirk? A team of psychoanalysts (don't worry readers, these are Christian psychoanalysts) have finished their ten month research project and finally know why. 
"Behind that smirk is a convincing, 'Nah, nah, nah, boo boo,'" explains chief researcher I.M. Wright. "Dr. Keller's east coast civility does not allow him to stoop to the petty behaviors of certain evangelical superheroes (cough), I mean pastors, but he nonetheless is fully aware that no matter how smart you think you are, he's got you beat."

Other researchers explained that Keller's brain is actually addressing the weaknesses of Einstein's theory of relativity, while preparing to answer the sharpest arguments from proponents of the New Atheism. One unproven hypothesis is that Dr. Keller's brain is actively cataloging the near 10,000 footnotes of his previously published books.

Know this readers: if Dr. Keller is smirking at you, you might as well crawl into a hole and read the Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards in order to avoid a prevailing sense of ignorance.