When a Loved One “Comes Out”

 

Dear sister, perhaps you just received some surprising news.

It could be that your son just showed up at the front door and said, “I’m gay.” Perhaps your sister introduced you to her partner today. Or maybe the friend you’ve known for years tearfully revealed she’s struggling with same-sex attraction. It could be that someone you know is “transitioning,” going by another name and gradually changing their appearance to reflect the opposite gender.

If any one of the scenarios above resembles yours today, you may be feeling despair, ashamed, frustrated, wounded, confused, guilty, betrayed . . . or even angry with God. But in the midst of your emotions and uncertainty, God’s Word offers hope-filled answers for you today.

Seven Truths to Consider

1. Being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow
to become angry” is always a wise reaction.

It is easy, when emotions are high, to either lash out in anger or (in the name of love) to start throwing out Scriptures toward your loved one. Though sharing truth is right at its proper time, consider it may not be the first thing God is asking you to do. In the heat of the moment, the Bible gives us another way to respond—the way of wisdom:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

The Lord, through James, tells us that a quick, emotional reaction will not change your loved one’s heart. Instead, your efforts to listen to them patiently may be what God uses to help them.

Their decision to tell you probably wasn’t made overnight. It’s more possible that they’ve been wrestling for a while . . . and have been experiencing some deep pain. They may even be expecting you to reject them. Letting them share honestly lets them know they are heard and loved—and will actually help you minister to them better. Their situation may not actually be what you assume, and the Scriptures you initially think they need may not be helpful for their struggle. Are you willing to wisely listen before you speak?

2. Regardless of their choices, your loved one is
made in God’s image and has value and worth.

Here’s some deep, beautiful doctrine: God has graciously placed the imago Dei (image of God) in every person (Gen. 1:27). From the Garden of Eden, each man and woman has been given the privilege of reflecting God and His glory in Creation. Yes, sin—including sexual sin—has caused that image to be displayed imperfectly. But every human being is endowed with the gift of dignity, value, and worth in the eyes of their Creator.

That’s true for the ones who seem most violent and inhuman and the young baby who cannot yet consciously choose to disobey God’s law. Our enemy wants you to forget this truth so you’ll reject and disrespect your loved one . . . because Satan hates God and all who bear God’s image.

Your son changing his name or your cousin coming to Christmas dinner with a same-sex partner doesn’t mean their value before God has diminished. His Creation ordinance still stands—and with it, our need to show all people respect as bearers of God’s image. Recognizing this does not mean approving of all your loved one’s choices, but it does mean approaching them with an attitude of respect.

3. Your and my sin (and need for the gospel)
is the same, no matter our temptations.

We will never fully value and demonstrate the beauty of the gospel until we recognize our own neediness before God. Paul writes about this in Romans. After explaining that God has given His people spiritual advantages, he writes this:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21–24, emphasis added).

If you hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality and don’t struggle with the same temptations, it can be tempting to look at your friend or relative with disgust. But do you look at your own sin and feel as repulsed? God has offered you grace in Christ—His overwhelming gift of love and blessing—because you needed it and couldn’t earn it. Your sin, whether it’s gossip or overeating or anger, needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace as much as your neighbor’s—and that is true if they do practice homosexuality.

If you’re thinking, I do recognize my neediness . . . and it’s overwhelming!, here’s hope: Your neediness is exactly what qualifies you to help others. As you experience your weakness and God’s grace in it, you can then be a humble, effective vessel of God’s mercy toward your loved ones.

4. According to Scripture, embracing their
same-sex desires isn’t God’s best for them . . .

This is one of the hardest truths of Scripture: God is not honored by sexual relationships between people of the same gender. If you’re reading this post, you may already embrace this truth (or you’re wrestling with it). You know verses like Romans 1:26–27, where Paul describes these acts as “dishonorable” and “contrary to nature.” You’ve read the lists of sins elsewhere in the New Testament where the practice of homosexuality is listed as a mark of unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9) and “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful. This statement is true, but it’s very tempting to just stop here. There’s more to the story—and it requires more than simply throwing out Bible verses without love as grenades. (Do you see the ellipsis on the header above? Let the next truth finish the thought.)

5. . . . but obedience to God’s commands
and design can be a very hard road.

Consider the implications for your loved one to follow Jesus in their sexuality:

  • They may have to give up someone they are deeply connected with.
  • They may have to give up their community and identity.
  • They may face deep loneliness.
  • They may have seasons of depression and feeling unloved.
  • They may face misunderstanding in the Church and outside.
  • They will probably battle desires that cannot be fulfilled obediently.
  • They may never have a family or children of their own.
  • They may not be able to enjoy the physical intimacy of sex.

Jesus said following Him would be difficult and full of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). You probably feel some of that “cross of discipleship” each day—praying for a prodigal, feeling rejected by friends who want to gossip, submitting to an unwise decision of someone in authority. Let your experiences give you compassion toward your loved one. If they’re struggling against their desires, look at that list and be willing to ask questions about their fears and pain. And if they are pursuing a same-sex relationship, consider that those may be some of the reasons. Can you enter into the difficulty with them? Is there a way, as their mom or sister or friend, that you can you help provide for some of those needs?

6. God desires and is able to restore what
is broken by sin’s curse—including our
sexuality, but it may not happen in this life.

After that last point, you may be feeling heavy-hearted. But there is hope. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). With this truth in your pocket, you can look at your loved one and think, If Jesus is their Savior, He can change them.

That said, while praying and hoping, we have to avoid creating an idol called “completely free from temptation.” God’s plan for your loved one, even if He draws them to Himself, may not mean they’ll experience automatic transformation. They will still struggle with temptation (probably even same-sex attraction). God may have marriage in mind for them; He may not. They could be on a long road of both victories and failings. But the goal is the same for all who follow Christ, whether they experience homosexual feelings or not. God’s purpose for His children is always their sanctification and His glory—not attraction to the opposite gender.

The redemption of our bodies (and your loved one’s sexuality) will not be complete until the day Christ returns. But take heart: In that day, there will be no sin, no temptation, no sorrow, no loneliness, and no pain for all who belong to Him. So as you trust the Lord with your loved one’s situation, remember that He is able to turn it to good, and for His people, He will.

7. Showing Christ-like love means sacrificially seeking
your loved one’s welfare while pursuing God’s glory.

This is where it gets practical and personal. Your loved one (like all of us) needs community, a family . . . and hope. Where better to experience these things than around your dinner table, in your church, and in the everyday stuff of life? This is especially important if they’ve already experienced rejection from others. As you long for their restoration and walk with them, your friendship and love are the most beautiful gifts you can give . . . because it reflects the heart of Jesus.

Our Saviour ate with both the religious and the prostitutes and swindlers of His day. Remember that Jesus didn’t make a distinction in welcoming people into His life based on their behavior, temptations, or lifestyle, as we’re often prone to do. All sorts of people were welcome at His table, because that’s where He taught and displayed the gospel. When the Pharisees questioned Him on the company He kept, He was bold and unashamed:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Consider this: If our meals are more of a meeting of self-righteous religiosity than a welcoming feast to a motley crew, are we really reflecting the heart of Jesus? When a loved one says, “I’m gay” or “I’m struggling,” should we not do the same as Christ did—showing hospitality to those who need a family, making room at the table for the outcast, and demonstrating mercy toward sinners?

Perhaps this last truth is difficult for you—it may raise questions in your mind about the implications. Yes, it looks messy. But grace rarely comes in when things are washed-up and clean. You may end up sitting by your loved one’s side in the hospital after a suicide attempt and making room for them in your home (as Rosaria Butterfield once did).

Let’s be honest: Your church friends may judge and look askance at you when your daughter, in a short haircut and men’s clothing, walks through the door. As you show love and share your table with your loved one, you may face the same rejection as Christ did from the Pharisees. But remember, our Lord says, “I came for the ones (including us!) who need my friendship and salvation.” By sacrificing your comfort in this way, you can be God’s means of showing Christ’s grace in the world.

Also know that loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love. First John 3:18 says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

As you work through your own emotions and choose to show Christ’s love, rest in the comforting truths above. And consider . . . our sovereign God is working behind your friend or relative’s confession. They’re sitting next to you for a reason; perhaps you are in their life “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a musician by training, a writer by calling, and a child of God by grace. Her passion is helping people find abundant life in Christ through life-on-life discipleship and the written word. She serves with the Revive Our Hearts team in editorial services. When she’s not writing, you can find Hayley chasing adventures in libraries, on hiking trails, and through deep conversations.

Do Miracles (Like In The Book Of Acts) Still Happen Today?

There are many people who wonder why God doesn’t show up in the miraculous like he did in the early days of the church. Lame guys getting healed by Peter & John at the temple gate kinda stuff or dudes being brought back to life by Paul type events. The main reason I believe we don’t see that happening today is quite simply because we’re living in a time marked by few miracles. I said few, not none. I do in fact believe in miracles today.

I believe that God will do as he wants, when he wants in any manner he wants. God does still perform miracles – many of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. However, the facts are that we aren’t experiencing the rate or scope of miracles that happened during the earthly ministry of Jesus, or the early days of the church when the church was being birthed where it seemed that miracles were a common, everyday and expected occurrence. Isn’t the church supposed to look like that today?

Although miracles occur throughout the book of Acts, two facts become clear. First, the number and frequency of miracles don’t approach the level of miraculous activity during Jesus’ ministry. Second, as you read Acts and the New Testament letters, you will notice some hints that the intensity of miracles began to decline during the seventy years following Jesus’ resurrection.

In what is probably the earliest New Testament letter, James tells Christians who are sick to call the elders of the church for anointing and prayer instead of seeking out a ‘faith’ healer with the gift of healing.

Early in his ministry, Paul talks about his suffering from a physical illness: “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself” – Galatians 4:13-14.

Nobody knows what Paul’s illness was precisely, but the question I think that begs to be asked is, if Paul was sick, why wasn’t he miraculously healed if that is the expectation as many (most) faith healers and health & wealth proponents claim today – especially given it was Paul?

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks several times about gifts of healings and gifts of miracles that were operative in the church but then interestingly enough a few years later in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he was suffering from “a thorn in [the] flesh.” Apparently, he had a physical affliction that God allowed to continue in his life to keep him from becoming conceited because of the wonderful revelations he had received. Paul even pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn, but God gave him grace to endure the affliction rather than granting a miraculous cure.

In his letter to the Philippians, a book written near the end of the events recorded in Acts, Paul brags on his friend Epaphroditus, who became deathly sick in Rome. Even though Paul couldn’t heal him, God did ultimately bring Epaphroditus back to health, but not through a miraculous healing.

Paul’s final letter, written just before his death, we read these words, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” – 2 Timothy 4:20 Why would Paul leave a fellow labourer sick if he could have healed him?

And then there is Timothy who seemed to suffer from “frequent illnesses,including a troubling stomach disorder. Paul counsels him to use wine in moderation to calm his stomach. If miracle healings were the norm and to be expected then why didn’t Paul say, “I’ll heal you,” or “Find a healer”? Instead he tells him to take some medicine.

Here’s the point, we shouldn’t miss the contrast between the beginning of the book of Acts where we see multitudes being healed and the end of New Testament history. In fact, it’s important to note that the New Testament writers don’t even express any regret that the intensity of spectacular miracles had begun to decrease. Nor do the apostles write any chastisements to a single individual or a group of churches for their lack of faith. That’s because they simply recognize that the period of abundant miraculous works was ending.

But didn’t Jesus say that his followers would perform greater miracles than he did? I remember hearing a pastor address the issue of whether we should expect miracles today by appealing to Jesus’ words, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”. – John 14:11-12

Based on this passage, that pastor contended that we Christians should not only expect to see the same outpouring of miracles that Jesus saw in his ministry, but even greater evidences of God’s power. But is that what Jesus meant? If it is what he meant, shouldn’t we see an increase in the number of miracles as we read through the book of Acts and on through the rest of the New Testament?

Why don’t we read of the apostles doing more miraculous works than Jesus did – or greater works – or at least the same number of works? What we do find, however, is a gradual decline in the frequency and number of miracles. The writers of the New Testament never seem surprised by that; they never admonish the church for its lack of miracles or for its lack of faith.

I believe that the apostles knew that the number of miracles would gradually decrease. As the New Testament writings became available and as the gospel became established in the known world, spectacular, public miracles occurred less and less. Even the historical writings of the early church fathers after the first hundred years of the church, record only a very few miracles. And none of the leadership past the apostolic age ever accused the church of failing to pursue the greater works that Jesus promised they would do. All this leads me to believe that Jesus had something different in mind when he said that the apostles and those who came later would do greater works than the ones Jesus himself did.

As wonderful and as powerful as Jesus’ miracles were, they met only a temporary need in people’s lives. The sick people Jesus healed and the disabled people Jesus made physically whole eventually died. Hungry people who were fed by the miraculous multiplication of a few fish and loaves of bread became hungry again. Lazarus, who was raised from the dead at the spoken word of Christ, died a second time. The Sea of Galilee that became calm at Jesus’ word has been rocked by many storms since then.

However, as the apostles went out to the nations with the message of the gospel, they saw eternal changes take place. People who were lost in sin found forgiveness and cleansing in Christ. Men and women who were far from God and who were excluded from the covenants and promises of God to Israel were drawn near to God by the blood of the cross.

Those who believed in Christ were made new creations; the old life passed away and the new life began. These were the “greater works” Jesus spoke of. The miracle of salvation met humanity’s deepest need and met that need permanently and eternally.

Since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, many disciples of Jesus’ have led more people to saving faith than the Son of God did in his entire ministry. I am convinced that these “greater works” of reaching lost men and women with the gospel are God’s basic program for the church until Christ returns, because the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” – Romans 1:16

In the end, here is why I believe that the question about what our expectations and understandings regarding miracles is of importance – maturity. Paul said, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:28-29.

We are to be maturing in the faith but when we look to miracles or miraculous signs and wonders to strengthen our Christian walk, or used as signatures and determining markers of our faith, we stunt our spiritual growth.

Think of it this way… Jesus performed countless miracles, and yet the vast majority of people didn’t believe in him. If God performed miracles today as he did in the past, the result would be the same. People would be amazed and would believe in God for a brief time, but the faith they embraced would be shallow and would disappear the moment something unexpected or frightening occurred.

A faith based on miracles is not a mature faith. God performed the greatest “God miracle” of all time in coming to earth as the God – Man Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that we could be saved. As I said earlier, God does still perform miracles – many of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. However, we don’t need more miracles, nor do we need to seek out miracles. What we do need is to believe in the miracle of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and share that miracle to the world.

What to Do If You’re Chronically Frustrated at Church

September 14, 2017                                                  by: Brett McCracken

Stopping the Cycle of Discontent

We live in an age of constant dissatisfaction. Because of our digital connectedness and access to everything all the time, we have never been more aware of the “other options” at our disposal and how what we have stacks up against what we want (or what Instagram or Facebook reveals that others have). Furthermore, the deeply ingrained nature of consumerism tells us to never settle for what we have but always to strive for more and better. And so we live in a constant state of glass-half-empty unsettledness, hyperaware of what could be a better fit for us, what might make us happier and more comfortable.

This attitude is everywhere, including in our churches. Most of us can relate to feeling unsettled and a bit disgruntled in our churches. The reasons are manifold. The pastors never seem to speak to the current-event topics that occupy your mind and stir your heart. The worship band always adds annoying contemporary additions to perfectly good old hymns. Your suggestions for social justice initiatives or small-group curriculum never gain momentum. Everything about the church is just so predictable. Week after week it’s the same thing. It doesn’t feel relevant to what’s happening in the world, at least as you see it.

Could it be that our own self-centered approach to church is the problem?

These feelings of frustration are aggravated by the constancy of media, which bombards us with images and ideas and other stimuli that are dynamic and always changing. Any church would feel stifling and boring by comparison! Furthermore, the nature of social media is predominantly negative, conditioning us to view the world through the lenses of grievance and complaint. We naturally bring these lenses to bear in how we see our church. We have eyes to see what’s wrong, but no patience to dwell in the goodness of what’s right. What starts as small nitpicky things grow in our minds over time, snowballing to become larger grievances that eventually become deal breakers. We slowly disengage from the church, from a place of bitterness and anger, or we just leave.

How can we stop this cycle? Rather than letting dissatisfaction fester to the point that we leave the church or become embittered, what can we do to deal with our frustrations?

1. Search your own heart.

The pervasive “culture of complaint” in today’s internet age has led us to focus our anger and frustration externally, blaming this person or that institution for the things that are wrong. But what about us? What role is our own sin playing in our disgruntled state? Could it be that our own self-centered approach to church is the problem? Perhaps we should start where G.K. Chesterton starts when he answered the question, “What is wrong with the world?” with two simple words: “I am.”

2. Focus on God.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the nitpicky particularities of church that we forget what it is all about. We are there not to be comfortable, nor to be affirmed in our preferences. We are there to worship God; to hear from him; to proclaim his glory and to rest in his goodness. Choosing this posture can go a long way in softening our edginess about church. Don’t look inward in worship, rehashing bitterness in your heart. Don’t look around you either, finding fault in what your fellow churchgoers or leaders are doing. Look upward to God. Focus your gaze on him. That’s why you’re there.

3. Talk to your leaders.

Another unfortunate way social media is changing us is that it frames our complaints in a distant, anonymous, decontextualized way. We air grievances with the ease of a tweet, with the protective buffer of screens and distance, but we rarely do the harder work of hashing things out in person, in longer, more nuanced, and more civil conversations. But this is crucial in a church community.

If you have problems or grievances about the church, talk to your leaders in person. Emails aren’t the best. Texts are worse. Ask them for a meeting, one where you do as much listening as talking. Frame your issues not as demands or critiques but as observations and suggestions. And approach it all in a spirit of love and edification. This is not about you and your comfort; it’s about you as one member seeking to strengthen the whole body.

Brett McCracken

Brett McCracken is the managing editor of Biola Magazine at Biola University and the author of Hipster Christianity and Gray Matters. He writes regularly for the Gospel Coalition website, Christianity TodayRelevant, and his website, BrettMcCracken.com.

4 Reasons Why We Must Commit To Prayer

If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon and you could make one request of him, what would your request be? If you could ask him anything, would you ask for protection, a new job, more money, deeper relationships? What would you ask for?

The disciples came to Jesus one day with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray…” – Luke 11:1 I don’t know if you find that request especially interesting but I sure do. Think about it for a moment. The disciples had just watched Jesus preach the greatest sermons ever, they had been there while he performed miracles, but never once did they say, “Lord, teach us to preach” or “Lord, teach us to do miracles” or “Lord, teach us to raise the dead”. Instead they said, “Teach us how to pray.”

I think they asked that question because they saw the results of prayer in Jesus’ life. They saw him pray and they observed the impact and even experienced the results. From watching the example of Jesus, these men knew that prayer was the key to what they needed in their life.

We need to understand that as well. Prayer is crucial to the Christian’s walk and growth. I’ve heard it said before that just as air is vital to our physical existence, so prayer is vital to our spiritual existence. If you have never committed to a life of prayer allow me to share 4 reasons why we too need to make prayer a daily and growing habit of life.

1 We Recognize Our Dependence on God

When I pray, I am saying to God, “I need You.” For some reason, many of us have a problem admitting this. Perhaps it’s a part of the Canadian mindset – we value independence, hard work, and making it on our own. And while that can be a good thing, if you learn anything when you come to Jesus Christ, it is that you don’t have the ability to make it spiritually on your own.

Quite frankly I believe that one of the key reasons why a lot of people don’t pray is because it is humbling. “I admit I am inadequate – I am helpless – I need ‘Your’ help in this situation.” But when we pray we are declaring our dependence upon God as our Lord and Saviour, and we are calling upon his power and strength to equip us for the work he has called us to accomplish. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that do not have the ability to save the world, that do not have the strength to keep going, that do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does, and we are asking him to fill and sustain us through the struggle. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory.

When the tough things happen, God invites us to place our dependence upon him to see us through. It does not all depend on me; it depends on me allowing God to work through me. But as long as you think you’re self sufficient, prayer can have no meaning for you.

2 We Grow In Our Relationship With God

Communication is essential to a relationship. It is safe to say that for two persons to get to know each other, they must take time to communicate. In talking together, they share not only ideas but something of themselves as well. Christ so longs to communicate with us. He has wonderful news that he is just waiting to share with each of us about who we are and of the plans he has for us if we’d just listen.

Christ promised, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” – John 15:7. It sounds like there is a communication thing happening here.

The wonder of it all is that the God of the universe wants us to call on him. In fact, unlike the annoyance we earthly mothers or fathers sometimes feel, far from being bothered, our heavenly father loves to hear the voices of his children at any time. “The prayer of the upright is his delight” – Proverbs 15:8

I remember an incident in our home a number of years ago, when my daughter was vying for my attention. She had just turned three and of course everything to her was of vital importance. I was watching a very important hockey game, after all the boys couldn’t win without me watching you realize. She had some important information that she wanted to share with me and had made a couple of attempts to get my attention. Finally, she climbed up onto my lap, grasped both of my cheeks with her cute, chubby hands, looked me full in the eye and said, “Daddy listen to me with your eyes”. She knew that to truly communicate there had to be interaction with both parties.

God desires a fully engaged relationship with us. A big part of that is to turn our eyes to him for ALL our requests. As we grow in our relationship with him we learn that we never have to call him twice. He is, in a sense, already waiting for our call. We have his full attention at all times.

3 God Wants Us To Ask from Him

In Verse 3 of Luke 11 Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus was teaching the disciples that when you come to God we come, as it were with hat in hand, recognizing that everything we receive is from God alone. And not only that, but that truth must be recognized every single day, because let’s face it, we all have short memories and before we know it we get that pride thing going again and soon think that all we have and all that has been accomplished in life is because of ‘me’.

I’ve heard others say that as we grow in our relationship with God that we should never ask God for anything, or if we have to, it should be at a minimum. The thought is that the more mature a Christian becomes, the less they will request from God, and the more they will spend their time just praising his name.

My theological response to that idea is to use the Greek word, “Malarkey!” In fact, that’s about the biggest bunch of nonsense I’ve ever heard! God wants us to ask and receive from him in prayer. The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I ask from him, because I have learned to believe in his ability, as I recognize my disability, to a much greater extent than ever before.

4 We’re Participating In His Kingdom Work

This is the most exciting thing about prayer. God invites us to pray about his work being accomplished and in that way, we are working in an act of cooperation with God in the building of his kingdom on earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Mathew 6:10

Prayer is God’s program – Prayer is God’s modus operandi. Prayer is God saying, “I have chosen to limit myself to what I accomplish on earth simply by limiting myself to the faith of My children on the earth. What they believe Me for, I will do.” When we pray for other people, we are cooperating with God. We are teaming up with God to accomplish his work in the world.

M. Bounds was a Methodist Pastor around the time of the American Civil War. It is said that he prayed daily from 4 A.M. to 7 A.M. before he would begin his work. E.M. Bounds wrote in one of many of his writings: “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men [women]…What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men [women] whom the Holy Spirit can use – men [women] of prayer, men [women] mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men [women]. He does not come on machinery, but on men [women]. He does not anoint plans, but men [women] – men [women] of prayer.”

If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon, let it be that you have already been talking with each other and it would simply be a continuation of the worship you have been giving him – every day – already.

5 Reasons Opening Up Bathrooms & Change Rooms For Transgender Individuals Is Not Only Unwise But Is Also A Dangerous Precedent

Former US President Barak Obama had instructed public schools in May of 2016 to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, even threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. This was hailed by many from within the LGBTQ community, among others, as a landmark victory for civil rights.

But then US President Donald Trump’s administration recently revoked the Obama guidelines, igniting outcries from those claiming this as a violation of human rights, sparking protests and a media frenzy which doesn’t seem to be losing steam as I write this post.

Before we move on I wish to lay my cards on the table. I in no way wish to belittle anyone’s struggle as an individual. I am not out to declare that I am better than anyone else. I am a sinner in need of transformation just the same as every single other human being on this planet. The fact is that we have free will to live anyway we want, we just need to realize that there are always consequences for the choices we make, individually but also at a societal level. What I am talking about here is a societal level issue and when other’s choices create consequences for everyone else at the societal level, then we must not remain silent.

I may not agree with Trump on all his policies, ideologies and decisions; however, I must applaud him for reversing the Obama decision and I have 5 reasons why I believe he did the right thing.

Reason 1: Gender matters to God

God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5). Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

God had it right in the beginning, so opening the door to the elimination of ‘gender’ from biological sex is only creating confusion to what a male and female actually is. If a ‘girl’ can actually have the biological hardware of a boy, or a ‘boy’ has the biological hardware of a girl, what exactly are girls and boys?

People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

In the end, if gender matters to God, then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin, then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However, that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

(For more on transgerdism and gender confusion follow the link: https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/04/24/transgenderism-identity-crisis-or-identity-lie/)

Reason 2: The push for choice is simply a ‘red herring’

The argument has been put forward that those identifying as transgender need the freedom to choose the public facility they identify with regardless of the parts they carry (or not carry) with them. This idea of their personal rights is really a ‘red herring’ as it is really about imposing a minority’s needs over a majority’s. What is really happening here is eliminating a choice from the majority. And it is even more of an issue given the fact that gender discordance isn’t simply a minority, the truth is that it’s rare.

“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs (also referred to as “intersex”) do not constitute a third sex. (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

Here’s the problem with Obama’s decision. Individual rights cannot be used to undermine the common good in any reasonable society. Please understand, I am not against the basic rights of anyone but what I am concerned about is the demands of special rights coming from any minority group at the expense of the majorities rights. Providing a separate washroom is one thing, personally I think that’s a workable solution, however to subjugate the majority for the benefit of the few just doesn’t make sense.

Reason 3: It opens the door for sexual predators

The University of Toronto recently instituted unisex bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Was it a screaming success? I’m thinking that screaming may have been a part of it, but a success? I think not…

“The administration at the University of Toronto was recently enlightened on why two separate washrooms are generally established for men and women sharing co-ed residencies. The University is temporarily changing its policy on gender-neutral bathrooms after two separate incidents of “voyeurism” were reported on campus September 15 and 19. Male students within the University’s Whitney Hall student residence were caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered. Melinda Scott, dean of students at the University of Toronto, told The Daily Wire that campus police had been contacted immediately and worked with residence staff to “support impacted students and ensure the safety of the Residences.”
(http://www.dailywire.com/news/330/university-toronto-dumps-transgender-bathrooms-pardes-seleh? utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=121115-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro-share#.VwXOiCqc7wg.twitter)

I think it needs to be called for what it is – a crime, not water it down by calling it ‘voyeurism’. As much as we might like to think the best of people, we have laws for a reason. Some people are just creeps at minimum – sexual predators at worst. The truth is that there is nothing bigoted, hateful or homophobic about preserving the simple, fundamental privacy of women and children (in particular) by providing them with gender specific public facilities.

Reason #4: It opens the door for gender ‘impersonation’

The issue of gender impersonation is now a reality. One of the problems that seems to have been overlooked is the likelihood that we have the potential of “normal” males of bad character simply claiming to be “transgender” with the hopes of gaining an advantage over unsuspecting women.

“A man claimed a right to use a women’s locker room at a public swimming pool after his partial undressing there caused alarm. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, women alerted staff at Evans Pool staff when a man wearing swim trunks entered the women’s locker room and took off his shirt. When staff told him to leave, the man reportedly said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.” Employees told Seattle’s King 5 News the man didn’t attempt to identify as female but cited a new Washington state rule allowing individuals to choose their bathroom based on their gender identity. (http://dailysignal.com/2016/02/23/man-allowed-to-use-womens-locker-room-at-swimming-pool-without-citing-gender-identity/)

The unfortunate experience of a young female being exposed to biological males (regardless of whether that male ‘feels’ he is a female) is a high possibility. We must understand in all of this, whether you are being PC about it or not is that the facts are that a young mind being exposed to such images can have damaging and long term effects on a child in the same way as if being exposed to pornographic images or even sexual abuse. And while it is true that young females are unlikely to be molested by gender confused males, what is to stop a male sexual predator masquerading as a ‘female’? This foolishness isn’t just bad practice, it’s dangerous.

Reason #5: As Christians we have a duty to protect our children

Read through the gospels and you’ll quickly see that Jesus had a special place in his heart for children. As parents we have been given the responsibility to protect these children Jesus loves so much. Certainly, public places such as schools, public swimming pools and other gathering places should be safe for all children, both for the rare gender-confused student as well as their friends and classmates, but our society’s move to be inclusive to all cannot be championed at the expense of the protection for our children. It’s a matter of protection for majority over PC minority.

The move to ‘open the doors’ of public washrooms is a humanistic attack against the categories of male and female that God created, and as Christians we have a duty to affirm the biological reality of the gender binary for the sake of our children and future generations, even if the culture becomes increasingly opposed to it.

What should be the Christian response?

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. It’s only then that we are in a position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

The ultimate answer, of course, is the Gospel, which has the power to change hearts and minds far beyond what our ability to change laws in the culture might be. Be encouraged and remember that even as Christianity emerged in the first Century, the Roman world was far more depraved than we could even imagine today, and yet the Gospel of Christ transformed that culture. As we go out to live in the world know with confidence that the gospel can and will transform lives today.

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18b (italics mine)

Why Same-Sex Acts Got the Death Penalty in OT, but Not Today

Posted by Tim Keller  September 18, 2015

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.”

What I hear most often is, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts – about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t they just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality.

The New Testament has plenty to say about it as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and from sex.

However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this.

Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:

The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God.

As part of that sacrificial system, there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.

But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared, he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.

But the reason is made clear.

When he died on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.”

The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus’ name,’ we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19).

It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws.

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.

Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.

The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethics of the Old Testament are restated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.

Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments.

Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament, things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.

But in the New Testament, the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments.

The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11).

Why this change?

Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense.

Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed.

Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties.

It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities.

If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything.

But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question: “Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

Effective Prayer: 5 Perspectives For Disciples Of Christ

Isn’t prayer just something done to look good in front of grandma at the supper table, or something just before the message on a Sunday morning because that is just what we do? Have we ever really thought about the vital importance of prayer in the life of a believer?

I love reading the story of Nehemiah because it’s in his story where we have a great example of how crucial prayer is to the life of the believer.

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” – Nehemiah 1:1-3

In 455 BC, the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were in a terrible condition. Over 140 years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon had invaded Israel and had carried many of the people away as slaves. The walls had been destroyed and the gates had been burned.

Meanwhile, Nehemiah is serving as a high official, the cup-bearer to the King of Persia, at the capital city of Susa 800 miles away from Jerusalem. His role as cup-bearer is to sample the wine and the food of the king to make sure it’s not poisoned, among other roles. He is in a palace living in luxury, drinking the best wine on earth, not that little box of blush that you have in your refrigerator. He’s eating incredible food, wearing the best clothes and completely safe, no real threat to the Persian Empire at this point. I mean, this guy is living the life!

Yet, with no television to update him, no Twitter feed for him to watch pictures of his people suffering 800 hundred miles away, he’s knocked to his knees when he hears of the news back in Jerusalem. His guts turn, and he weeps before the Lord and begins to fast and pray.

By its very nature, fasting suggests that something is wrong. Eating is a normal part of human existence, so abstaining from eating implies a disruption in the very rhythm of life. When Nehemiah’s world crashed his first response was to get rid of all the distractions, food being a big one so that he could focus on the one place he would receive strength… God. He recognized that his strength and hope could only come from God and not from another piece of pie.

So, here’s a question for all of us. When our world crashes around us, when life becomes hard where do we turn? God or the refrigerator? God or sex? God or shopping? Or sports or more wine, or more of anything else but God? Nehemiah is an example of the pattern we should follow.

When the world shakes us up we should get down on our knees.

1) Prayer gives us a right perspective of others

Nehemiah was radically compassionate because he had a God sized compassion for the hurting even though he didn’t know them personally. Here’s a question for all of us to consider. Is God just telling us this is what Nehemiah felt, or is he setting before us what he wants out hearts to look like? If you look at the Bible’s expectation on us as believers in Christ, we are to feel and be bothered like our man Nehemiah was even for people we don’t even know.

What God has called you and me to, as the people of God, is to live out a type of radical compassion and empathy. As the community of faith, we are to model to the world outside of us what it looks like to be the people of God. It is being mindful of the hurts and hang-ups of others and entering into that in some very simple ways and some very complex ways and being the picture of Christ’s love and compassion for his church in our presence and in our interaction with those around us.

If our hearts are filled with compassion for the hurting, causing us to be more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is limitless of what God can & will do through us. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of those in greatest need.

2) Prayer gives us a right perspective of God

The prophet Zephaniah describes God in a fantastic way. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

The ‘mighty’ warrior who ‘delights’ in us… My dad was involved in prison ministry. I recall as a boy of 13 going into a maximum security prison on a family day once or twice with him as he took me along to see the other side of life.

During those visits, I recall the huge prisoners with muscles bulging, tattoos everywhere, shaved heads, chewing on rusty nails – sitting out in the communal area waiting to visit with their kids. And those were the women.

What fascinated me was that no matter how big and scary these prisoners were – their own kids would run up to them and fully embrace them. To me they were scary, but to these kids they were mom & dad.

To everyone else namely the enemy the devil, our father is a big, powerful warrior to be feared, but to me he is my dad and he absolutely delights in me. In fact, Jeremiah states, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3

God wants us to call on him so that he can share with us incredible blessings that we might otherwise have missed had we not reached out to him through prayer. And it’s through communion with God in prayer where he begins to change our hearts to reflect his heart of compassion.

3) Prayer gives us a right perspective of circumstances

Nehemiah knew that life’s circumstances change on a daily basis. In fact, things can go from good too bad to worse in a very short time. Even still he knew that God remained in control. At the start of Nehemiah’s story there was no tangible evidence in that moment that God was being faithful and God was keeping his promises.

The Jewish nation is scattered like the wind all over the ancient world. They have lost the land flowing with milk and honey. But Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 5 was saying, “You are faithful. You are good. You are a covenant-keeping God. You have not abandoned us. You are here even in our hurt. You love us. You will keep your promise.”

As disciples of Christ, we know who is really in control. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that don’t have the ability to save the world, who do not have the strength to keep going, who do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory. Nothing happens without God knowing about it. God can’t help being sovereign over everything – every time… it’s who he is.

4) Prayer gives us a right perspective of self

Nehemiah begins to confess the sins of Israel. “We have not been faithful. We have not kept your commands. We have not lined ourselves up with how you’ve designed the universe to work.” – Nehemiah 1:6-7

Nehemiah recognizes the importance of being honest about who he is. The truth is that the more you have an elevated view of yourself, the more it will be impossible for you to show compassion for others.

If your kids are godly because you’re awesome and not because God is gracious, then you’ll be hard pressed to show compassion for anybody who has a wayward child, because if they would have just done what you did in all your awesomeness, then they could have had a godly kid too.

If you’re financially set and not (in your mind) because God has been gracious to you but because you’ve worked and you’ve earned and you’ve set yourself up nicely and not, instead, feeling indebted to God for his mercy and grace, how impossible will it be for you to show empathy toward someone who is impoverished?

The more you are the author and perfecter of all things, the more all the blessing on your life is because of you and not because of God that has put you, in turn, into his debt, the more it will be impossible to show empathy to others who are struggling. Why? Because you’re so freakin’ awesome!

That attitude will rot out the soul’s ability to be compassionate and merciful. It will breed in us an indifference that is unacceptable before God. It will also rot out the ability to walk in unity, love, and compassion with one another and instead create a judgemental harshness among us that God will have nothing to do with.

And it isn’t until you know who you are and have a compassionate view of others and begin to have an inkling of the amazing awesomeness of God that you or I can think to know what our place is in God’s plan.

5) Prayer gives us a right perspective of our place in God’s plan

The final statement of Nehemiah in verse 11 “I was the cup-bearer…” indicates that he knew that who he was and that where he was at that moment was no accident and in many ways, he was declaring his place in God’s plan. He was the cup-bearer for a reason. Think about that for a moment, he wasn’t a prophet, he wasn’t a priest, he wasn’t a king, he wasn’t anybody particularly special… he was the waiter.

God uses who he wants to use no matter the position in life once we submit to him. He uses common fishermen, tax collectors, kings as well as shepherds, rebels and murderers like Paul and yes, he uses waiters. Regardless of your position in life, whether at church, at work, at school, at home, etc., you need to know that it is no accident! God has placed you where he has for a purpose. He has placed you where you are for his purpose! There are no accidents or coincidences with God! God has never been caught off guard… he has never once said “oops, I didn’t see that one coming.”

If our hearts are right, and we are more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is absolutely limitless. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of self, others, our position and most importantly of God.

3 Reason’s Not To Expect New Revelations From God

There are some exciting reports coming to us from out of the Muslim world about thousands of people coming to faith in Christ because of visions, words of wisdom, prophesies or dreams. Can this be true and if it is what do we make of it? What about scripture? Doesn’t God reveal himself through scripture and doesn’t Paul tell Timothy that scripture is all we need? “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:14-16

I think it’s important to understand that God can do anything he wants, at any time, and in any way he chooses. He can speak directly to any person that he chooses to and in fact many have bona fide experiences in which God communicated something to them that the circumstances actually bore out. This includes many in the Muslim world where it seems clear that Jesus is drawing his elect to himself in some spectacular ways. At the same time, I believe that it’s of no small importance to recognize that it’s also been consistently reported that the individuals are instructed to seek out a bible, someone who can explain the scripture to them, or both.

From the word of God it seems straightforward that scripture is complete and all we need as it points us to faith in Christ. But I have a deep concern, and that is the view that teaches that individuals can get a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge, by which they mean they have a special revelation that either adds to the word of God, is equal to the word of God or may even trump the word of God. In other words, ‘new’ revelations that are meant to enhance our spiritual experiences saying that prophecies, words of wisdom or words of knowledge carry the same weight as Scripture, sometimes even going so far as to use the recent events in the Muslim world as proof.

Here’s the thing though that is vital to know when studying scripture…

…God can do anything he wants, but we can’t teach anything we want.

What we teach ought to be what the Bible itself teaches us to expect. And the Bible does not teach that we can each expect to receive ‘new’ revelations from God. It’s just not in there and any teaching or belief contrary to that knowledge should be avoided for three main reasons.

1) We’ve been warned about false teachings

“For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” – Matthew 24:24

Here we have a clear warning that many false prophets will come and try to add to God’s revelation. That being the case the church should carefully guard against that danger. So since there is such a strong warning against false prophets, we should both not expect ‘new’ revelations as well as resist any alleged ‘new’ revelations.

Charles Spurgeon said it well:
“I have heard many fanatical persons say the Holy Spirit revealed this and that to them. Now that is very generally revealed nonsense. The Holy Ghost does not reveal anything fresh now. He brings old things to our remembrance. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have told you.” – John 14:26
The canon of revelation is closed; there is no more to be added. God does not give a fresh revelation, but he rivets the old one. When it has been forgotten, and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, he fetches it out and cleans the picture, but does not paint a new one. There are no new doctrines, but the old ones are often revived. It is not, I say, by any new revelation that the Spirit comforts. He does so by telling us old things over again; he brings a fresh lamp to manifest the treasures hidden in Scripture; he unlocks the strong chests in which the truth had long lain, and he points to secret chambers filled with untold riches; but he coins no more, for enough is done.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. I (1855), p. 38)

2) We’re in the silent period

In the OT we see that the ending of scripture for that time were with the writings of Malachi who prophesied that the next major event in the covenantal history of God’s people would be the coming of John the Baptist preparing the way for the messiah – Jesus.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 3:1

We see that prophesy being fulfilled in Luke and Mark. However, in between that time there was what is commonly referred to as the ‘silent period’. Don’t get me wrong, history was still happening at a very quick pace. During this time the Greeks were out conquering the land, there was a revolt in Israel that established a Jewish dynasty for 100 years, and then of course the Romans decided to show up on the world stage to do their dance and pony show.

So clearly, the silent period wasn’t describing a period where nothing was happening, and where everyone was whispering quietly, tip-toeing around, and being as quiet as they could be in the hopes they wouldn’t wake up another evil empire. Obviously, a lot was going on. It was referring to the fact that God didn’t speak through the prophets as he had earlier. The reason was that the OT scripture had been completed.

There was also a completion of the NT canon as well. In the book of Revelation, it says that no other scripture is to be added after this, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

The fact is that we’re like the people in Malachi’s day in that we are now in our own silent period,

this one being between the closing of the NT revelation and the next major event in the life of God’s people, the second coming of Jesus. There is no other information required; and we are in the time reflecting the time of looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises made.

3) Jesus is the final word

The writer of Hebrews says this about the subject. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

The tense and the context of these verses are saying that just as the prophets were the final word in the OT, Jesus is the final word in the NT.

The canon of Scripture is closed. And considering what we are told at the end of Revelation we discover that we should not, nor need to, add anything to the words of Jesus.

We already have all we need for faith and holy living.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak any more. He still speaks through prophecies, dreams, visions, angels, and in a number of ways that the bible still speaks about, as we have been hearing about in the Muslim world, just not as in an apostolic, inspired, canon revelation way.

Of course, we can’t despise prophecy as we are cautioned about in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Do not despise prophecies.” but then on the other hand we are to test everything as Paul continues into verse 21, “but test everything; hold fast what is good.”  – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. John shows his agreement with Paul as he says, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

Scripture gives us the standard for testing, otherwise it’s open season to agree on anything and everything. “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” – Ephesians 4:11-14

It’s through the scriptures that we may be equipped and taught and it’s through the word of God that we have a standard that can be used to hold things up to careful scrutiny and testing. As such we have no need to receive more words than has already been given, thus no need for any ‘new’ revelation.

How Can We Know That The Idea Of Jesus’ Deity Is Not Simply An Idea Borrowed From Ancient God Myths?

I recently watched a BBC Documentary ‘The Dark Ages: An Age of Light’, hosted by Waldemar Januszczak, a television documentary presenter and British art critic, who pitched a startling idea. He claimed that Jesus is simply a deity borrowed from the mythology of the ancient Egyptian god Horus.

We may recoil in horror in response to this claim; however, this isn’t a new idea. There have been a number of skeptics over the years who have similarly claimed that Jesus was nothing more than a copy of popular dying-and-rising fertility gods in various places – Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria, Attis in Asia Minor, and Horus in Egypt. As Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code, “Nothing in Christianity is original.”

When the comparisons are made though, I must admit that, taken at face value, the similarities are astounding and can cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus (especially young believers who encounter this objection while in University).

A significant portion of the claims made about the similarities with ancient deities though are simply false and lack any archaeological or historical support. Sloppy research in the least and outright lies at the worst are often used in a ‘straw man’ attempt to bolster the effort of some atheists to make these deities (Horus in Waldemar’s case) look as much like Jesus as possible.

But serious research shows just how weak these claims are. Here are only three examples borrowed from J. Warner Wallace’s blog.

Claim: Horus was born in a cave, his birth announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds.
Truth: There is no reference to a cave or manger in the Egyptian birth story of Horus. In fact, none of these details are present in the ancient Egyptian stories of Horus. Horus was born in a swamp. His birth was not heralded by an angel. There was no star.

 Claim: Horus was baptized in a river at the age of 30, and his baptizer was later beheaded.
Truth: Horus was never baptized. While conspiracy theorists often point to “Anup the Baptizer” (claiming he was later beheaded), there is no such person in Horus’ story.

Claim: Horus had 12 disciples.
Truth: Horus had only four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’), but at some point, in his story there is reference to sixteen followers and a group of unnumbered followers who join Horus in battle (called ‘mesnui’).

(You can find many more claims and the corresponding truth by clicking here): 

There are many more examples, but even with only using three ‘claims vs. truth’ we can quickly see just how weak the attempts to discredit the authenticity of Jesus’ claim to be God really is.

What does the Bible say?

Still the question remains… Just what was Jesus’ claims about himself? Did he actually claim to be God and does the Bible shed any light on this question? To answer these questions let’s look at what Jesus himself says. In the gospel of John, he says “I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30.

At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God, however, look at the Jews’ reaction to his statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:33. The Jews understood Jesus’ statement as a clear and loud claim to be God. What’s even more interesting is that later on in the following verses, Jesus never corrects them. He doesn’t put up his hands and say, “whoa, just hold it a minute guys, I didn’t actually claim to be God, you dudes got me all wrong.” The reason? Jesus was actually declaring himself God when he said, “I and the Father are one”. Jesus knew very well what he was saying and he knew how it would be received.

In John 8:58 we’re given another instance: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!”

Here again the Jewish leaders get all up in a huff, and again get ready to stone him because of his ‘blasphemy’. Jesus’ announcing his identity as “I am” is a declaration, claiming the Old Testament name for God found in Exodus 3:14 (remember the burning bush story?).

John starts off his Epistle with “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, and then in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” Jesus is identified as the ‘Word’ and so is clearly being acknowledged as God. Following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” – John 20:28. Jesus doesn’t correct him, rather accepts the worship only God can receive.

We see the apostle Peter describe Jesus as God, “…our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 1:1. The apostle Paul does the same thing, “…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13.

Also God the Father himself said the following about Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” – Hebrews 1:8.

And then we discover that Old Testament prophecies of Christ, announce his deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks, who were immersed in mythological deity worship, never tried to claim that Jesus (or his followers) borrowed ideas from current or former deities or mythologies. The reason they didn’t was simply because they never perceived there to be any similarities. They in fact confirmed that Jesus was unique and not mistaken for any other god when Paul spoke with them.

“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’ – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean’.” – Acts 17:18-20

The point is that if Paul was just rehashing stories of other gods, the Athenians wouldn’t have referred to his doctrine as a “new” and “strange” teaching. If dying-and-rising gods were plentiful in the first century, why then, when Paul preached Jesus rising from the dead, did the Epicureans and Stoics not remark, “Ah, just like Horus and Mithras”?

Why is the question important?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God?

in his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes the following:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

In attempts to explain away the words of Jesus, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to him and as we have seen people like Waldemar do – even trying to bolster their claims by relegating Jesus to a borrowed ‘God Mythology’.

But who are we to argue with God’s Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can an art critic, “scholar” or documentary presenter, two thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus himself?

C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be only a good teacher isn’t an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If he is not God, then he is a liar, and so not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. Jesus has to be God because if he is not God, his death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ deity is why he is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity is why he proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6

If Jesus is simply a myth among many myths, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, godly man, or even real, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. But if he does exist as God then we must recognise that we are responsible to him and in need of forgiveness from him. “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20

I truly hope and pray that men like Waldemar discover this truth and declare Jesus as Thomas did, My Lord & my God, before they meet him as their Judge.

Is It Possible To Have A Deep Relationship With Jesus Without Doctrine?

There is a growing trend to devalue doctrine for Christian living and make the teachings of scripture irrelevant or unimportant. I have repeatedly heard statements like, “Doctrine is not important in Christianity. Nothing is important but having a relationship with Jesus”.

This can be made to sound good if presented with passion and is packaged right, but it’s a completely false statement. In fact, it is impossible to have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ without doctrine because doctrine is about knowing him.

A young man who meets a young girl and finds his heart going all twitter pated, naturally wants to know everything about her. If you love hunting you naturally want to know everything about hunting, same with sports or baking. Jesus says the same thing about knowing him. In John 14:15 he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Then also in verses 23 & 24, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

Bottom line is this… if you do not know the word, you can’t keep the word.

If you do not keep the commandments of scripture, you do not love God regardless of how emotional we get and how spirited our time of worship becomes. Keeping the Word of God is the evidence that the love of God is in our hearts.

If you do not know God’s word, how can you keep God’s word? If you do not know God’s word, how can you know God? Sound doctrine is critical because it reveals to us how to know and relate to our Creator and Saviour.

Paul tells Titus to “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1. Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. In fact it’s so important that it’s the last command given by Jesus before he left earth.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Later on, we see how the apostles followed through on that command of Jesus’ in Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Doctrine Is A Sacred Trust

In Titus 2:1; Matthew 28 & Acts 2 we see a command of God’s to teach doctrine because he wants us to know him. If that’s true then doctrine is a sacred trust.

The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined by the word of God itself: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, [and] that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This is the clear-cut good news that we are to share, and Paul says it is “of first importance.” Change that message and the basis of faith crumbles and shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing and then acting on that message.

A sacred trust is defined as something not to be violated, criticized, or tampered with. That means we dare not tamper with God’s communiqué to the world. Truth is, we are the couriers of the message, not its editors. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it.

Jude was so insistent that the church defend sound doctrine that he uses the word ‘contend’: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” – Jude 1:3

To “contend” carries with it the idea of strenuously fighting for something and to hold nothing back in the struggle, to give it everything you’ve got. A contender in boxing is someone who has worked hard for a shot at the title and will fight through pain to get it.

Are you known as a contender for the doctrines of God or are you more known as a lover not a fighter? Love Wins is applicable only in that someone else contended and died for us first. God now wants fighters and defenders for his truth. The question is… are we?

Doctrine is such a sacred trust that scripture includes a warning about tampering with God’s word. Revelation 22 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we are to receive what has been passed down to us, keep it, contend for it and pass it on.

Doctrine Affects How We Live

We also need to understand that doctrine is a statement of faith which articulates our orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief’). Belief is only the beginning because what we believe affects what we do.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul clearly associates proper belief (sound doctrine) with right behaviour. Writing to slaves he says in 1 Timothy 6: “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honour so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against.” – 1 Timothy 6:1

If a Christian slave dishonoured his master in any way by disobedience, by acting disrespectfully, by speaking shamefully of his master, the worst consequence would not be the beating he would receive but the curses he would cause his master to hurl at this slave’s God, his religion, and the teaching he had embraced: “So that is what this new religion teaches its converts!”

Instead of bringing honour to the true God and the gospel, as every Christian should be anxious to do, this slave would bring about the very opposite.

With that in mind it’s of interest then that the history of the early church reveals that Christian slaves generally commanded a higher price on the slave market than unbelievers. If a master knew that a certain slave on the auction block was a Christian, he would generally be willing to pay more for that slave, since he knew that the slave would serve him faithfully and well.

This is high tribute to the Christian faith and the soundness of the doctrine that this slave embraced. What this slave believed inside himself, affected how he lived outside himself.

Here’s a question for all of us to consider. If you were put on the “slave market” so to speak would you “command a higher price?” The purpose of doctrine is not to simply inform us intellectually of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but to challenge us to live out our faith in life and practice.

Behaviour is an extension of theology and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act, between belief and behaviour.

Let’s look at it another way. If you believe that you’re invincible you can easily make foolhardy decisions. For example, two guys stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he can’t. Their next actions and ultimate results will be quite dissimilar.

In the same way, someone who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently than someone who believes in well-defined moral standards.

Paul says, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” – 1 Timothy 1:9-10

Isn’t it interesting that here Paul lists sins like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading and then concludes with “and whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” I think Paul thinks sound doctrine is kinda important don’t you think? In other words, Paul’s saying “listen, bad behaviour is out of sync with true belief”. Sound doctrine curbs corrupt conduct.

So ask yourself, “Are my actions before my family, in school and at the workplace giving clear testimony to the reality of the doctrine of Christ in me?”