Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

It’s that time of year once again, when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Canadians the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year – Halloween

I was raised in a home where it seemed that there was a lot of confusion about whether or not Christians should participate in Halloween. One year we were allowed to participate, the next my parents would feel convicted that we should burn all candy, the next we were allowed to participate as long as we only trick-or-treated at people’s homes we knew, the next we’d burn candy again.

I’m exaggerating somewhat of course, however the conversations, debates and questions kept being discussed and asked year after year in our home – “How should Christians respond to Halloween?” “Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat?” “What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season – are they overreacting?”

The Pagan Origin of Halloween

The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith.

To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual – the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Day – it was the original Halloween alternative!

The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations in order to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds. Life slowed down as winter brought shortened days and longer nights (darkness), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the colour black, remains prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced “sow” “en”) celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days – October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living – ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper send-off with treats – possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

Early Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century – he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a “trick” being played on their property from drunken young people.

Today Halloween is almost exclusively a secular holiday, and many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That’s not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.

How should Christians respond?

First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God’s Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has forever “disarmed principalities and powers” through the cross of Christ and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15).

Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior – drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people would be wise to stay away from most secular Halloween parties since many are breeding grounds for trouble (use discernment). Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and possibly restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.

Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn’t just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God’s] adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God’s wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner – now that is truly terrifying.

Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination – death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry – as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian’s ally in the evangelistic enterprise.

Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth seasoned with salt (grace & love) regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

How might Christians engage?

There are several different ways Christians might engage in Halloween. Some will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As Christian parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities- listening to ghost stories and colouring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives. That response naturally raises eyebrows but can provide a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask (1 Peter 3:15).

Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals” – the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.

Finally, some Christians will opt for a limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. The good news is that there is no burning candy here. After all there’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbours. Even handing out candy to neighbourhood children (please don’t be stingy) can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behaviour does not dishonour Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

Ultimately, participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honour God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing grace, mercy and love to the culture we live in. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish those things in the gospel. What better time of the year is there to share such a message of hope than Halloween?

10 Reasons Racism Is Sin

JANUARY 21, 2019  |  Kevin DeYoung 
You can find other articles by Kevin DeYoung here: 
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/

Most people know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong.

We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known, but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say.

As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is sin and offensive to God.

1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different from animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different.

2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-205:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different.

3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

4. Separating peoples was a curse from Babel (Gen. 11:7-9); bringing peoples together was a gift from Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). The reality of Pentecost may not be possible in every community—after all, Jerusalem had all those people there because of the holy day—but if our inclination is to move in the direction of the punishment of Genesis 11 instead of the blessing of Acts 2 something is wrong.

5. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1). When we treat people unfairly, when we assume the worst about persons and peoples, when we favor one group over another, we do not reflect the God of justice, nor do we honor the Christ who came to save all men.

6. Real love loves as we hope to be loved (Matt. 22:39-40). No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbor as we would like to be treated.

7. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Sadly, we can hate without realizing we hate. Hatred does not always manifest itself as implacable rage, and it does not always—or, because of God’s restraining mercy, often—translate into physical murder. But hatred is murder of the heart, because hatred looks at someone else or some other group and thinks, I wish you weren’t around. You are what’s wrong with this world, and the world would be better without people like you. That’s hate, which sounds an awful lot like murder.

8. Love rejoices in what is true and looks for what is best (1 Cor. 13:4-7). You can’t believe all things and hope all things when you assume the worst about people and live your life fueled by prejudice, misguided convictions, and plain old animosity.

9. Christ came to tear down walls between peoples not build them up (Eph. 2:14). This is not a saccharine promise about everyone setting doctrine aside and getting along for Jesus’s sake. Ephesians 2 and 3 are about something much deeper, much more glorious, and much more cruciform. If we who have been made in the same image, born into the world with the same problem, find the same redemption through the same faith in the same Lord, how can we not draw near to each other as members of the same family?

10. Heaven has no room for racism (Rev. 5:9-107:9-1222:1-5). Woe to us if our vision of the good life here on earth will be completely undone by the reality of new heavens and new earth yet to come. Antagonism toward people of another color, language, or ethnic background is antagonism toward God himself and his design for eternity.

Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it, not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his Word.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated.

It’s Really Paganism In A Different Skin

One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. I spent a lot of time searching for reliable information on this topic but found it quite difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Traditions like bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the histories of pagan worship, but the use of these items in your home certainly doesn’t indicate a return to paganism.

While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas. Bells are played to ring out the great news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world, a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind.

Even still, one of the reasons given to not celebrate the season does seem to carry weight. It seems that the day we currently celebrate the birth of Christ is connected to a pagan festival known as Saturnalia. Keep in mind that often, in these types of arguments, supposed facts are thrown around without establishing the truth behind a claim made.

Such is the case with the argument used to support pagan roots with Easter. The argument against the celebration of Easter is that the word Easter itself, and as a consequence the celebration of that holiday, comes from the worship of the goddess Ishtar. The problem however is that there is no evidence to support that claim, they are just two words that sound similar and so has entered into a kind of ‘Christian urban legend’ as though it was a piece of factual history even though it is not. But in the case of Christmas, the claim that Christmas is connected to the pagan festival Saturnalia, is actually true – but not for the reasons most would think.

The Smoking Gun – Saturnalia

Given the connection, there are some who claim that the ancient celebration of Saturnalia is the smoking gun that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christmas is pagan.

Brief history lesson: The Saturnalia holiday was a week-long Roman festival to honour the god Saturn, starting on December 17, it fell within what we now call the Christmas season. For most of history, debauchery seemed to dominate celebrations of the holiday; in fact, the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing.

Still, though the Christian understanding of Christmas is not about immorality and carousing, some Saturnalia customs do come across as hedonistic perversions of Christmas traditions to the modern eye. For instance, singing from house to house naked (glad we don’t do that one in Canada), feasting excessively, eating baked goods shaped like people, and exchanging bawdy gifts. The truth is that in reality, there’s good historical evidence suggesting that these events were actually reformed, absorbed, and transformed over time as a result of Christmas’ popularity overtaking that of Saturnalia, not Saturnalia customs influencing the Christmas celebrations.

I found it interesting as I did my research, that the early Christian’s motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern Christians and churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Parties” on October 31. In other words, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what is perceived as a pagan celebration. Back then, over time as the Roman Empire ‘Christianized’, customs associated with Saturnalia were ‘cleaned up’ and absorbed into the celebration of Christmas.

And it wasn’t just Saturnalia – another Roman holiday, Sol Invictus, was also gradually absorbed by Christmas. Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) celebrated, on December 25, the renewing of the Sun King and was linked to the winter solstice.

It’s no secret then that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Yet, like a modern Canadian family celebrating a harvest festival and dressing up like a bible character or great reformer of the past on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means. Early Christians chose December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that decision of theirs continues to this day. So, though Christmas and Saturnalia may be historical neighbours with indirect connections, they are not the same holiday, never were, and of course never will be.

Since We Don’t See December 25th In The Bible, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Christmas On That Day 

Furthering the debate are those who point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth – which is certainly true. December 25th may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. While none of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, the fact remains that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.

Christmas Has Become A Worldly Celebration, So We Should Avoid It As A ‘Set Apart’ People

Finally, some say that because the world celebrates Christmas – though it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”- Christians should avoid it. But let me point out that’s the same argument made by cults that deny Jesus altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny his deity. I personally see the occasion of Christmas as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations, including those trapped in cults.

Ultimately, there’s no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas, while at the same time, no biblical mandate to celebrate it. So, in the end, whether or not to celebrate Christmas really comes down to a personal decision. Whatever you decide to do regarding Christmas, your (or my) views should not be used as a club to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honour inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from God who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views.

Overcoming Porn Addiction

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you when I say that the porn industry generates about $13 billion each year in the United States. It’s a heartbreaking reality that 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls have been exposed to pornography before the age of 18. In fact, the average age of first exposure is about 11 years old.

Studies show that terms relating to porn are by far the most commonly searched-for terms in the internet search engines. Every day, literally millions of people do searches related to the porn industry. The powerful imagery of internet pornography is highly addictive. Many men (and women) have been caught in the snare of internet porn and find themselves helplessly addicted to its visual stimulation. Most often pornography is viewed in isolation and so, the thinking goes, it’s not hurting anyone so why make it an issue?

Porn has an incredible way of appearing harmless. But researcher Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. completed a major study of pornography and called it a “quiet family killer.” His study found that fifty-six percent of divorces had one partner with an obsessive interest in porn.[1]

Why Pornography Should Be Avoided

Just a small bit of pornography can’t be all that bad, right? Wrong! Research has found that pornography is highly addictive. Scientists now know that when having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into a region of the brain responsible for emotion and learning, giving the viewer a sense of sharp focus and a sense of craving: “I have got to have this thing; this is what I need right now.” It supplies a great sense of pleasure. The next time the viewer gets the “itch” for more sexual pleasure, small packets of dopamine are released in the brain telling the user: “Remember where you got your fix last time. Go there to get it.” Norepinephrine is also released, creating alertness and focus. It is the brain’s version of adrenaline. It tells the brain, “Something is about to happen, and we need to get ready for it.”

The body also releases endorphins, natural opiates that create a “high,” a wave of pleasure over the whole body. After sexual release serotonin levels also change, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation. Sex also triggers the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help to lay down the long-term memories for the cells. They “bind” a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her the sexual pleasure.

This system is intricately designed to work this way while having sex with your spouse. God designed it for intimacy and pleasure as together you and your spouse can bond emotionally, physically, spiritually along with experiencing a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin).

With each sexual embrace you are emotionally bonding to this person. Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine). That is one of the reason’s (among others) that a person should stay celibate until their wedding night. On the wedding night when the spouses engage in sexual intimacy for the very first time, there is a deep physical and emotional “bonding” that takes place with no guilt.  But porn short-circuits the system because it is impersonal, short term, and completely selfish.

The problem only grows the more porn is used, in that the more exposure to it, the more the need for it to create arousal. This results in uncontrollable lust mixed in with frustration, along with an inability to experience true sexual intimacy in marriage, and often intense feelings of guilt and despair. The images that pornography provides create unrealistic expectations that will leave you empty and unfulfilled with your spouse. So, choosing to avoid pornography altogether is choosing a healthier, more satisfying marriage and sex life.

It’s become a sad reality that our world is obsessed with sex and pornography. But it’s not just a problem with those in the world but also those who consider themselves not of this world.

A survey taken at a Promise Keepers rally revealed that over fifty percent of the men in attendance were involved with pornography within one week of attending the event.

And that was 20 years ago…

Did you know that fifty percent of Christian men and twenty percent of Christian women say they are addicted to pornography? I didn’t know that. And did you know that the most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday? Personally, I love hanging out with family and friends at church in the mornings, and then watch football (followed by Dr. Who), either alone or with friends and family Sunday afternoons – Go Seahawks! So, I won’t lie that the last stat really surprised me.

There Is Hope In Jesus

Porn is a problem, as I’m sure you can already tell, but I don’t think all hope is lost. There are two primary aspects in the battle to overcome an addiction to internet porn: spiritual and practical.

Spiritually, addiction to pornography is a sin that God desires you to overcome and therefore will enable you to do so. The first step is to make sure you have genuinely placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour. If you are unsure, please visit our page here called Good News.

The truth is, that without salvation through Jesus, there is no possibility of a true and lasting victory over pornography: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” – John 15:5

If you are a believer in Christ yet struggling with an addiction to internet porn, there is amazing hope and there is great help for you through the power of the Holy Spirit, “According to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” – Ephesians 3:16 The cleansing of God’s forgiveness is extended to you, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

The renewing capacity of God’s Word is at your disposal, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

As you begin your redemption journey remember to commit your mind and eyes to the Lord, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” – 1 John 2:16. Along the way ask God to strengthen you and help you to overcome pornography, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

As well, ask God to protect you from further exposure to porn, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13, and to fill your mind with things that are pleasing to him, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

You may think that you are in an unwinnable battle, you may have tried before and failed, but you also need to know that you serve a Lord who hasn’t, nor will he, given up on you.

There Is Hope In Community

God has created us for community, and we fight best alongside others. Practically, to maintain sexual purity, we need a band of brothers & sisters with whom we can be open and honest with.

To be most successful, pray for and find two or three others who recognize that they themselves are real, hard-boiled messy sinners where the sinful, broken human condition is understood and the solution isn’t ‘trying harder’ but ‘deepening surrender’. They don’t need to be struggling with or have overcome porn addiction themselves, but they should be people who are honest about their own “stuff”.

Sexual sin runs deep – accountability should run deeper. If you find yourself in a situation where sexual sin has taken over or you’ve considered entertaining the idea, find someone to talk to. Be open and honest.

Also, become aware of the numerous tools at your disposal to help you combat an addiction to internet pornography. There are good programs available at Covenant Eyes or x3watch.com. Your temptation to view internet porn would be greatly reduced if you knew your youth pastor, parent, friend, pastor, or spouse would receive a detailed report about it.

Download PornAddiction.com & Nothing to Hide and start reading articles. Visit Doing Family Right’s Victory over Porn  page on their website. 

There are also quite a few good books on overcoming porn addiction: Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Purity One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn and The Game Plan by Joe Dallas  are just two.

Don’t Do Nothing

I watched the movie ‘Christopher Robin’ with my family recently. It was a great movie filled with great quotable lines made by Winni the Poo. One line was, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” That line fit the context of the story perfectly, however in the case of porn addiction you must do the opposite. Don’t do nothing, because nothing always leads to something, and in the case of porn it is always the opposite of the very best for you.

Don’t despair! An addiction to internet porn is not an “unforgivable sin.” God can and will forgive you. As well, an addiction to internet porn is not an “unconquerable sin.” God can and will enable you to overcome it. Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord. Commit yourself to filling your mind with God’s Word, I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11

Seek his help daily in prayer; ask him to fill your mind with his truth and block unwanted thoughts and desires. Take the practical steps listed above to keep yourself accountable and block access to internet porn. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” – Ephesians 3:20

[1]https://www.allprodad.com/the-effects-of-porn-on-marriage/

Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen a phrase being used which simply says ‘Love is Love’. The meaning behind the statement is that falling in love is not about the gender of the person, nor important if it’s monogamous or polyamorous. The sentiment is that you can be gay, bi or straight and pursue a monogamous or polyamorous relationship as long as you’re getting the love, affection and companionship that you need to be happy and fulfilled emotionally as well as satisfied sexually.

The understanding is that when someone makes the statement using the three words, ‘love is Love’, that should settle the matter. After all, how can you argue with someone else’s choice to love? For that matter, it might not even be a choice anyways if I have ‘fallen in love’ because that’s an uncontrolled physical and emotional response to chemistry between two people that just happens. Is it though?

There are a few issues that need to be addressed that come along with the blanket statement ‘Love is Love. For instance; where do we draw the line? Does it only include ‘love’ between two consenting adults or could it include love between an adult and a child or a human and an animal?

To most of us, including those who promote the current idea of the phrase ‘love is love’, those suggestions would be unthinkable. However, only a few short years ago the majority would have been aghast at the idea of the love is love ideology as it is promoted today. Yet there are movements afoot to normalize both pedophilia and bestiality as we speak, who’s to say that one day they wouldn’t be ‘normalized’? It’s happened before in past cultures – Rome & Greece are just two examples of many.

Who set’s the boundaries of this love is love ideology anyways? After all, ‘Love is love’ isn’t it? It comes down to the simple pursuit of happiness and that sense of being needed, wanted and cared for – isn’t that what we all want? If the answer to those questions are in the affirmative then I’d say ‘go for it!’.

But what if it is not an enlightened way to live but is instead a foolish lie? What if it leads to unhealthy places for one or both involved; emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically?[1] If that’s the case then we need to be extremely careful in making a case for what we might think should be normal and accepted in our culture.

Before we go on, let’s look at this falling in love idea…

IS FALLING IN LOVE A REAL THING?

I’ve heard the statement used, “Well you can’t help who you ‘fall in love’ with”. Falling in love is an expression describing someone’s emotional state when those puppy dog, googly eyed, happy feelings of what’s assumed to be love, start to grip the soul and make you feel like you just can’t breathe another moment without that person being in the same room with you. But I think we need to ask whether or not ‘falling in love’ is even a real thing.

The idea of “falling in love” relies on warm emotions and (more than likely) surging hormones. However, the idea that love is all about feelings is more of a western cultural, 20th century invention than anything else. The biblical view of love is that love can exist apart from feelings. Think about it, no hormones are needed to obey the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” – James 2:8. In other words, we choose to love; that is, we commit ourselves to act in the best interests of another person.

Of course, nice emotions often accompany love, and we naturally have warm feelings toward someone we’re attracted to. And of course, it’s good and proper to have positive feelings and surging hormones when in the company of your spouse. But if that’s all there is to “falling in love,” then we’re in trouble. What happens when the feelings fall away? What about when the hormones stop surging? Have we fallen “out” of love?

Love should never be seen as dependent on feelings or expediency or romantic attraction. The “falling in love” concept places undue emphasis on the emotional condition of those involved. The wording of the phrase almost makes it sound as if love were an accident: “I can’t help falling in love with you” makes a nice song lyric, but, in real life, we are responsible to control our emotions. Many marriages have been ended (and many foolishly begun) because someone “fell in love” with the wrong person.

Love isn’t a state that we stumble into; it’s a commitment that we grow into. It’s probably more accurate to say that those who “fall in love” actually “fall in lust” or “fall into infatuation” or “fall into co-dependency.”

So my answer to that question, ‘is falling in love a real thing?’ can only be no, but rather an invention of the western world’s infatuation with a ‘fun’ emotional sensation.

LOVE IS LOVE STILL…ISN’T IT?

Even still, someone may not have experienced the emotional sensation of falling in love but have instead grown into a love commitment with someone other than their spouse, with more than one partner at a time or with someone of the same gender. If that’s the case then can we not say that for them at least, love is love? If loving is a choice that means I can still love someone of the same gender, or more than one person… after all love is love – right?

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church.”

The union of one man and one woman in marriage is a mystery because it presents a parable, a true story, a picture of Christ and the church. And hidden in this allegory of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between his Son Jesus and the church. In other words, marriage Is not simply an ancient cultural definition that we haven’t ‘evolved’ away from yet, nor is it an accident that marriage between a man and woman provides the church with a language to explain Christ’s relation to the church.

God had purposefully designed human marriage to be an earthly reflection of his celestial plan. Do you see that picture? God willed it that Christ and the church become one body, and then willed it for marriage to reflect that pattern. That is why we see the blessing and encouragement of a husband and wife becoming one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24.

Paul paints the picture for us even further about this being the image for the church when he says, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2

Now, understanding that – when people say that “love is Love” – we can’t help but see how it cheapens what true love is. It doesn’t allow for the full expression to be experienced as God intended, and we see it for what it is (or is not). It’s not an enlightened understanding of love at all, but is in truth a bad copy at best.

Of all the ways we might think about love being expressed, biblical love gives us the best definition. In fact, it’s described as “the most excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind” – 1 Corinthians 13:4. I don’t think that it should be lost on us that we don’t find too many people, if any at all, “falling into” patience or kindness, do we?

“Falling in love” or saying that “love is Love” are nice phrases and make for great soundbites to use in the moment or in songs on a soundtrack. They appeal to the emotions and give us nice fuzzies, the goosebumps, the enjoyable feelings of having entered the ideal romance. Please understand that I think that those feelings are fine, in and of themselves, and it’s possible that those who are “falling in love” have actually found a perfect match.

But we need always remember that love is more than emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s more than finding a person or persons to ‘enjoy’ experiences with. Truth is that those who are falling in love are sometimes blinded to the reality of their situation and can easily mistake the intensity of their emotions for genuine love.

But there’s some good news…

REDEMPTION BRINGS RECOVERY

God created marriage to be THE image of Jesus’ relationship to the church. But the problem has been that sin has so confused the image as to make it unrecognizable. If contemporary culture succeeds in redefining and reimaging the purpose of love relationships, the meaning of the image we are to reflect to the world of Christ & his bride, seen as love between a husband and wife will be obscured for many years to come.

That is why we, who are committed to God’s definition of marriage, must live out the true meaning of authentic, committed love relationships, with our spouses if we’re married, within the church in authentic ways, with our neighbours representing Jesus to them, and even more importantly with Jesus Christ himself, growing to know him intimately.

As we grow in these love relationships, we need to commit to living out our true love publicly and joyfully, so that the world sees it and begins to recognize the depth of love they are missing out on. We need to live it out in such a way that our love displays Christ in all his beauty. That’s the Gospel being put on display! And pray that those who see our love in action will be so attracted to Jesus that they soon become counted among the redeemed and recover the life they were created for – a love relationship with our Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus, accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

True story – It’s only as our lives are redeemed that true recovery back to reflecting the image of Jesus can be realized just as those ‘some’ were redeemed and recovered who Paul wrote to in the Corinthian church so long ago.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[1]A telling statistic is that HPV infection is found in about 90% of people with anal cancer: https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-anal-sex-lead-anal-cancer-3-facts-and-myths-400561

Is It Unloving to Not ‘Integrate’ Same-sex Couples into The Church?

Increasingly the church is being confronted with the idea that the time has come for Christianity to accept monogamous same-sex couples as normal and & beautiful expressions of love within the church. Mainstream culture (and much of the mainstream, old-line church) seems to have come to this conclusion already and thus we ‘other’ Christian’s need to catch up. The logical step, it is assumed, is to integrate same-sex couples into the life stream of the church and if we don’t, but instead keep on saying that homosexuality is a sin, we are unloving and thus not living up to Jesus’ command to love one another.

In many ways I understand where culture is coming from. Modern culture’s ideology is rooted in Postmodernist thought, which questions (even denies) morality, absolutes, reason and of course God. This is where things get interesting. The prevailing thought currently out there is that we must not question nor judge the tastes, desires, practices, or beliefs of others. Sounds ultraistic and peaceful so far. Here’s the problem (and I’d even suggest the hypocrisy). That argument is always used in their favour but dare speak out against it or state an opposing viewpoint and watch the fireworks.

Do you see why our biblical world view creates such waves in the Postmodernist’s world? These ideas absolutely clash with each other. Publicly present a Christ centred world view and they can’t stand it. I believe the problem stems from a denial of God. If there is no God (or at least a God who is involved in human affairs), then the question begs to asked; Where do we get our moral directive for anything we do? The short answer is that culture gets direction from the collective – each other (where they get it from initially will be another blog).

In my humble opinion that hasn’t always worked out so well. Just look to history with culturally influenced ideological movements such as Isis, Nazism, Communism, KKK, Fascism, Trudeaumania. Ok maybe not so much that last one but you get my point.

For the Christian who believes in the authority of scripture however, we do have a clear foundational starting point on this morality question – God. And we discover what he says about homosexuality from scripture. Which is what confuses and saddens me so much about my ‘evangelical’ friends who claim to believe in the inspired word of God as well yet deny what scripture clearly says about homosexuality. (I smell another blog down the road).

At any rate, to answer the challenge presented about us needing to catch up to culture and prove that we the church are obeying Jesus’ commands to love our neighbour at least as good as culture is, let’s go to the word of God and see what God says about all this.

But first, I think that we need to answer the question “Is being gay itself a sin?” To do that I think that we need to challenge some assumptions upon which the question is based. Within the past fifty years, the term gay, as applied to homosexuality, has exploded into mainstream culture, and we are told that “being gay” is as much outside one’s control as “being short” or “being white.”

So, the question is worded in such a way that it makes it almost impossible to adequately answer in that form. So, let’s break this question up and deal with each piece separately. Rather than ask, “Is being gay a sin?” let’s ask two questions first, the first one building a foundation for the second, “Is it sinful to be same-sex attracted?” And then, “Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?” Then we can finally address the initial question, “Is it unloving to not integrate monogamous homosexual couples into the Church?”

Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?

Concerning first question, “Is it sinful to be same sex attracted?” Let me just say from the outset that the answer is complicated. First, we should probably distinguish between (actively) sinning and (passively) being tempted:

Being tempted isn’t a sin otherwise Jesus would have sinned before even starting on his ministry, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Then there was Eve who was tempted in the garden. She found that the forbidden fruit was definitely appealing to her, but it seems that she didn’t actually sin until she took the fruit and ate it. “So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” – Genesis 3:6-7

You and I might (and probably do) struggle with temptation, and that temptation might lead us to sin, but we need to remember that the temptation itself is not a sin.

So here’s the problem with same-sex attraction, or the feeling of “being gay,” as I understand it. It’s an attraction to something God has forbidden, and any desire for something sinful ultimately has its roots in sin. Our natures have been so infected with sin that what is evil often looks good to us. Sin causes us to see the world and our own actions through a warped perspective. Our thoughts, desires, and dispositions are all affected. That helps us understand the bent of our culture’s move away from any Godly moral foundation.

Scripture says we are sinners by nature So, same-sex attraction, per se, is not always an active, willful sin, but it springs from that sinful nature. So, in the end, same-sex attraction is on some level, an expression of the flesh, or our fallen nature. No wonder the culture has the worldview it does. Sinful humans living in a sinful world are pelted with curiosities, interests, and opportunities that lead us further from God. Our world is filled with forbidden fruits, including the enticement to “be gay.”

A happily married man can be suddenly smitten with attraction for his new female associate and wrestle with those feelings every day. A sober alcoholic can struggle with the ongoing desire to drink, even years after she becomes clean. Those desires don’t represent an active choice to sin, but they do have roots in the sinful nature.

We might not always be able to control how or what we feel, but we can control what we do with those feelings along with the responsibility to resist temptation. “Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:13

And along with that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 while being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Is it a sin to engage in homosexual activities?

The second part of this question, “is it sinful to engage in homosexual activities?” has a more straightforward answer. Being drawn toward a morally forbidden relationship is not an active sin; it is a temptation. However, sin occurs when we yield to the temptation.

Our culture says that homosexuals were born gay and thus must be accepted, and that gender dysphoria is to be celebrated, not overcome. But I need to challenge that thought. Even if someone was ‘born that way’? Why does that make it ok? We’re all ‘born that way’… that way being a drive to sin in any number of ways. We all have this pull in our hearts to lie, gossip, cheat, live selfishly – looking out for number one.

There are even those who are born with a desire to murder, or commit acts of pedophilia. That’s a current reality of this sinful, God hating world we live in. Yet somehow, we all (or at least most) would agree that these other things I mentioned are not acceptable even if we are born that way. So, what makes homosexuality different in our cultures mind set then?

I believe that Paul tells us why… “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” – Romans 1:24-31

Because of this, we now have an entire generation of children and teens who never knew a time when homosexuality was considered unusual. In fact, in elementary and high schools, it is now fashionable to call oneself “gay” or “bi” or use any number of other faddish sexual labels without any real understanding of their meaning – or more importantly of the moral and eternal implications. And the growing sentiment is that if homosexuality is called for what it is – sin, that the individual(s) making that claim are unloving, homophobic, bigots who are merely shadows of a long ago, soon to be forgotten past who can be ignored at the very least or hate (speech) promoters deserving of jail at the worst.

Is it unloving to not ‘integrate’ monogamous same-sex couples into the Church?

One thing I’ll say on the outset. When speaking about not integrating same sex couples, I’m talking about not allowing for membership and leadership roles. Outside of that I welcome (and have welcomed) homosexuals to join us at any of our weekly services. At LifeBridge we recognize that people come from all different places of journey’s into faith. God has, and I know in the future will, bring people who need an accepting place that is committed to loving and sharing Christ with them. The hard facts are is that we are all sinners in need of grace, no more no less than anyother person in this world.

However, I do argue that it is unloving not to speak the truth about what God’s word says regarding homosexuality or any sin for that matter, thinking that by not speaking the truth or by accepting non truths we’re being loving. That is why I believe that it is unloving to integrate monogamous same-sex couples into the life of the church… because to do so would be to lie about something that leads to extreme harm for the couples in question as well as the church as a whole.

Think about this. If I tell my son that it’s ok for him to shoot hoops on the busy highway because he loves basketball so much, and the reason I encourage him to do so is because It’d appear to be unloving in discouraging him from what he loves so much, you’d call me foolish (or worse).

It’s foolish to not identify sin in our lives or pretend it doesn’t exist because we’re afraid it might come across as unloving, especially given the eternal implications, let alone the very specific and tragic phycological, medical and social problems that homosexuality has introduced to the world. Love without truth is hypocrisy and a lie and is damaging (temporally as well as eternally) to those who receive it.

Saying all that however, we must also remember that truth without love is brutal and harsh. If we speak truth without love for others then all we are doing is making a lot of noise which obviously doesn’t make any sense for the person on the receiving end (I Corinthians 13).

Tim Keller said it this way… “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Please remember that homosexual behaviour won’t damn a person any more quickly than pride, gossip, greed or adultery. Without Christ, we’re lost, whether we be gay, straight, or asexual. But, when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, he gives us a new nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And a wonderful part of the continuing gospel narrative is that Jesus doesn’t stop there, he also destroys the power that sin once held over us (Romans 6:1-7). That old nature that once dictated our actions has been conquered in a born-again child of God. And though temptation still rages, and weaknesses still torment, the incredible loving truth is that the power of the Holy Spirit helps us to resist Satan and overcome the sins that once held us captive. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

How Do I Talk To My Kids About Homosexuality?

I only have one major point in this article, and it’s this: the best way to talk to your kids about homosexuality is to first talk about healthy sexuality.

In our ministry we’ve recently been preaching an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. I just preached on Judges. Since there are some pretty spicy topics in this book, I sent a PG-13 warning to parents pointing out the rape, murder, and mutilation of the concubine (Judges 19). One mom didn’t read the email. Afterward she confided in me that she hadn’t yet talked to her child about sex, let alone its worldly distortions. Her fears about raising her boys in this world came trembling out as she explained the complicated tight-rope she walks with her lesbian neighbors, their kids, and her own.

How do I talk to my kids about homosexuality?

As a 27-year-old father of a 3-year-old, it seems both unwise and presumptuous to tell godly, mature parents how to talk to their kids about this issue. Nevertheless, if I’m not talking about it, everyone else is. I have an obligation to give some kind of Christian response to secular wisdom, even if it’s tempered by my lack of parental experience.

Questions like the one above will only increase in frequency in today’s cultural climate. But this shouldn’t discourage us. Such questions provide unique platforms to talk about healthy marriage in general. Throw in the divorce rate in the church, and it becomes clear many of us are failing to teach our young people about marriage in any form.

Confused By Love 

I encourage you to watch this Jimmy Kimmel Live video from last summer before reading the rest of this article. It’s funny, fascinating, and demonstrates our world’s view of marriage.

Kimmel’s point is that kids are sophisticated enough to handle the throes of modern love. When asked why people get married, the kids answered, almost universally, “Because you love someone and have a connection to them.” Kimmel—and CNN—were proud to hold this up not only as the final definition of marriage, but also as an apologetic for the legalization and self-evident virtue of same-sex marriage.

After watching the video, it occurred to me that we can’t marry for love anymore. At least, I can’t tell my children that love is the ultimate reason I proposed to their mom. “Because I love her,” though true, is to give an answer the world has thoroughly co-opted. As expected as it seems, “Because I love her” might actually confuse them more than the biblical answer would.

According to Ephesians, Christian marriage isn’t finally about my love for my spouse; it’s about Christ’s love for his.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (5:31–32)

If the world believes our children are sophisticated enough to understand the realities of modern love, let’s one-up them. Let’s show them our kids are capable of understanding the truth of an ancient, eternal love—that marriage isn’t only our response to another’s love, but ultimately a response to our Savior’s sacrificial love. (Though one article can’t address this issue exhaustively, I should also add that Genesis 2 presents all marriage—including non-Christian marriage—as a divinely commissioned creational good. Marriage isn’t only a gospel mirror, then, but a blessing for all humanity, which God established in Eden when he united Adam and Eve.)

Five Ways Christ’s Love Recalibrates Our View of Marriage

1. It elevates marriage beyond something we initiate and sustain to something God initiates and sustains.

“What God has joined together,” Jesus declared concerning marriage, “let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Marriage is God’s work, God’s idea, God’s plan. It’s not something we get to co-opt, redefine, or bail on. Marriage is a divine work woven through creation to display God’s creative glory and incredible love.

2. It makes marriage ultimately about the gospel.

If the gospel is such great news, our children need to see it work its way into all parts of our lives—including how we see and value our spouses. I desperately want my daughter to know Jesus loves her and died for sinners like her. And I want her to catch a glimpse of that kind of sacrifice in the way I love her mom, so that when she asks I can tell her, “How could I not love your mom this way in light of how Jesus has loved me?”

Additionally, viewing marriage through the lens of the gospel shows our kids marriage isn’t about feeling 100 percent in love 100 percent of the time. Scripture makes clear that marriage isn’t a life of warm fuzzies sustained by the loveliness of our spouse. Rather, it’s sustained by a love that continues even when we become unlovely, bitter, and aged. Gospel marriage is a recapitulation of our salvation—we are deeply sinful yet deeply loved by our Redeemer. Moreover, it relieves us of trying to be perfect husbands and wives by pointing us beyond ourselves to the perfect love of Jesus.

3. It helps us see marriage is a calling to love and serve, not an institution for self-expression and self-fulfillment.

Marriage today is seen as a universal right. In reality, though, it is a gospel-fueled sacrificial responsibility. Through sacrificial suffering for the sanctification of our spouse, marriage reflects Christ’s sacrificial suffering for the glory of the Father.

4. It displays our union with Christ, the essence of our salvation.

Marriage involves two unlike beings—a man and a woman—joining together as one. This mirrors the way God and a sinner—two very unlike beings—become one through the saving grace of Christ.

5. It primes our children for inevitable conversations about the corruptions of godly marriage and sexuality.

It lets them know God has established a standard for marriage and sex, even as they interact with gay neighbors, a friend’s divorced parents, or a buddy having premarital sex. God has already set the standard for what our conversations and relationships should look like, no matter one’s sexual sin. (We are all sexual sinners, after all.) And the Lord’s standards are finally about love, not judgment; for our good, not our harm. As John Piper beautifully writes, “God does not forbid sexual sin because he’s a killjoy, but because he opposes what kills joy.”

When we respond to questions about same-sex marriage in this way, we cut through much political punditing and religious noise. We frontload youth with a view of marriage that is more robust, more profound, and more beautiful than any “because I love her” line. And we give them a biblical perspective that will strengthen and enhance their own marriages one day, if God calls them to it.


Editors’ note: An earlier version of this article originally appeared at RootedMinistry.com.

How Can Christians Impact A World Opposed To Jesus?

The world is celebrating ‘Pride month’ as I write this. Parades, putting on display a show of open rebellion to God’s design of sexuality are promoted as normative family celebrations.

I see several posts on FB that call out to embrace this vision. Posts declaring “Love is Love” showing pictures of same sex couples, or pronouncements stating how we must end any dialogue against same sex relationships, is common place and sadly many of those posts come from church folks.

I write this while sitting on an airline flight, and the magazine in the seat pocket in front of me highlights and presents Pride as achieved through the embracing of the LGBTQ community as though it is the most natural thing to do.

The key article in the magazine is titled  Pride & Joy and is speaking to the pride and joy that has come from the steps made to normalize the gay lifestyle in Canada. Over the past 20 years in Canada, ‘Pride day’ has shifted to become ‘Pride month’. The anticipation and expectation is that society is quickly moving to ‘Pride life’ all year long.

Not only that, the anticipation & expectation is that we will and or must all agree with that vision and if we don’t we are branded as homophobic, accused of hate speech, considered bigoted, old-fashioned or seen as narrow-minded zealots.

For those who hold to the biblical understanding of marriage being instituted by God as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, encouragement, sexual intimacy, and procreation. And who believe that sexual intimacy can only be enjoyed and expressed in the marriage relationship, how are we supposed to respond to the neighbour who doesn’t hold to the word of God and this biblical vision?

Can we have an impact or are we too late?

We can get upset post angry or derogatory comments ‘back at em’ on our FB posts, we can try to argue people into the kingdom. We can attempt to be ‘louder’ than the world around us. I have seen and heard much of that approach. But here’s the thing. I don’t think that anyone is listening. And even if they are, they’re not caring about our opinions.

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons people aren’t listening is that we are trying to answer questions nobody is asking. And so instead of stopping to listen to our angsts, we are being shut out.

Think about it. Do you think the average non-believer cares if they’re being biblical? Or that they aren’t following your Christian world view? Why do we continue to expect none-Christians to act like Christians? Christians themselves have a hard-enough time trying to act like a Christian.

Paul said in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. 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. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:18-32

According to Paul, people can’t help having a distorted image of themselves, including their sexuality because of mankind’s sinful propensity to choose ‘idols’ instead of God. Man continues to see distorted images instead of the perfect image of God through Jesus.

So How Can Christians Impact A World So Opposed To Jesus?

It seems that to many, the greatest sin one can commit is the sin of “offending.” We guard our words, our actions, our attitudes, in case others become offended and turn away.

However, I really believe that if Jesus was around today, he would be called intolerant and even a ‘hater’, not because he sought to be divisive but because he wouldn’t be one of those who’d follow the crowd or bend to what is popular.

Sure, Jesus was about love… he cared for those in need and he obviously cared for those on the fringes and those folks who didn’t fit the religious standards. But he was also about truth and about ‘going & sinning no more’.

The average person couldn’t figure him out, which is why later on he lost the majority of his followers. Jesus was divisive, not because he was a jerk, but rather because of what he stood for. As a result he was different then everyone else… and it ultimately cost him.

Fast forward to our world and it seems that most of us work extremely hard to make sure we’re not seen as divisive and different. (Or if we do, we do it more as a badge of honour in our ability to ‘shake up the cultural tree’ than to do it to be Christ like). Either way, if we find that our ‘discipleship’ is acceptable to the masses, and if it doesn’t cost us something, then I think we’re doing it wrong.

The call of discipleship is, fundamentally, a call to allegiance. And as such, Jesus refuses to be an afterthought, a diversion, or a hobby in the lives of those who claim to be his disciples. It is an all or nothing thing, which includes giving up everything to follow him and standing apart from the masses even if that means being unpopular when the masses go opposite God’s way. If we’re not willing to do that – then can we be called a disciple of his?

Listen to these statistics… First, the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day – that’s just nuts! But then according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, those aged between 8 and 18 years old spent an average of 53 hours per week using electronics.[i]

That’s mind blowing enough, but then add to that the admission that most of us don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day in God’s word let alone spend any time praying other than over a meal. Wow! That should bring us to our knees. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the church in the West is weak.

Get Grounded 

So, what do we do? It is vital to make Christ the first priority of every aspect and every decision in our lives if we expect to grow in relationship with him and then as a result impact the world around us. The Psalmist tells us how to make that happen. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

If you have ever seen a satellite picture of the Nile River in Egypt you will appreciate the picture it shows. The land is rich and lush with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer, the green turns lighter and lighter until soon all that’s left is a yellow desert. The focus of the picture though is of the green where there is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life, producing the greenery.

The water of the river flows 24/7 and as a result the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to flourish and produce fruit just like a blessed man (and woman) who is ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil.

I’ll admit that if there is one thing that bothers me as a preacher, it’s when people leave a morning worship service after getting their 40 – 60 minute fix of ‘God’, telling me on their way out to the car (and lunch) that they’re excited about living for Jesus because of what they’ve heard and experienced.

That part doesn’t bother me and in fact that is awesome. What bothers me is when I discover later that many of those very same people will, by that same evening, continue to struggle with the very things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. I honestly believe that they want to change but don’t or can’t. They want to get close to Jesus but aren’t – Why?

Here’s why… You can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading God’s word daily. Follow Jesus daily, get involved with your local church community, places where you can be helped and be held accountable. As the church, we are meant to be a community to build each other up in our faith, continually, not just once a week.

Don’t expect to grow and feel close to Jesus if you are isolating yourself from others who can speak into your life, or if you aren’t putting yourself in a position to learn from his teachings which we get from reading his word and praying and learning how to pray.

Discipleship isn’t a Sunday thing it’s a lifestyle. God wants full custody… not just weekend visits.

 

In Acts 2 we see that the early church met daily and as a result they became grounded in Jesus Christ, and when persecution came the church grew and didn’t fall apart. They were strong and healthy and produced fruit just like the blessed man we see in Psalm 1.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. We can get all worked up about how this world is going to the dogs and get all bothered about how the church doesn’t seem to have any teeth to combat sin, or for that matter too much teeth, but then not be willing to do what it takes to make Jesus the first priority and seek out what it means to be grounded in him… If that is us, can we actually expect to have an impact?

[i]http://www.zdnet.com/article/study-american-kids-spend-7-5-hours-per-day-using-electronics/

Why It’s Important To Gather Regularly As The Church

Attend any church service in 2018 on a somewhat regular basis and it becomes quite clear that only about 1/3 of any particular congregant attends more than twice a month. Many attend even less. 43% of Canadians born between 1934 and 1943 reported that they attended religious services at least once a month. But only 31% of the subsequent cohort (born 1944-1953) said they attended religious services monthly or more in the same year. Younger cohorts (born 1954 and later) reported attending religious services even less frequently.

In addition, self-reported rates of attendance have been dropping in some cohorts over time. For example, in the 1988 Canadian General Social Survey, nearly four-in-ten Canadians (39%) born from 1944 to 1953 said they attended religious services at least once a month. Two decades later, in 2008, 31% of the same cohort reported attending religious services that often. Similar declines have occurred in other generations of Canadians.

Here’s the question. Does attendance matter? I understand that the church is not a building, it’s people. But that argument is the same for family. Family is not a house – it’s people. That doesn’t take away from the fact that a family spending time with each other, investing into each other and committing to being together is much healthier than a family that is connecting only once a year.

If we look at the roots of the church we find that the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” – Acts 2:42.

Was that just a cultural norm or a situational necessity? More to the point, was it a pattern to follow for the early believers that we in the modern church no longer deem necessary?

I believe that there is something we are missing out on today as the church, and in fact are missing out on as individuals when we skip out on regularly  meeting together. We should follow the example of devotion the early church had. Back then, they had no designated church building, after all the church isn’t a building – it’s people as we established earlier. Even  so as people, “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” – Acts 2:46 Wherever the meeting takes place, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers and the teaching of God’s Word.

Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not the way to go. We need the encouragement that church attendance affords. And the approach of the end times should prompt us to be even more devoted to gathering together.

The wide purpose of the church is two-fold

We gather and then we scatter. First off, we gather together (or assemble) for the purpose of bringing each member to spiritual maturity.

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.” – Ephesians 4:13

And then secondly the church scatters (reaches out) to spread the love of Christ and the gospel message to unbelievers in the world.

 “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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’.” – Matthew 28:18-19

This is what is known as the Great Commission. And we’re given that commission by God because for whatever reason he has decided that the church is to be one of the main vehicles through which he carries out his purposes on earth. We, the church, are the body of Christ – his heart, his mouth, his hands and feet – reaching out to the world.

To break it down even more practically, Acts 2:42 could be considered the action statement for the church: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”- Acts 2:42.

According to this verse, the purposes and the activities of the church should be 1) teach biblical doctrine, 2) provide a place of fellowship for believers which includes observing the Lord’s supper together, 3) prayer (corporately and privately, 4) and then as the early church scattered they would Proclaim Christ.

I’ve heard others say that ‘their’ church is the lake, or a place where they can meet with one or two others because after all, “where two or three are gathered”. That passage btw is taken out of context and though it is a part of the church functioning, is not speaking to the function of the church on the most effective corporate scale. The most obvious place in our modern culture for growth, accountability, use of gifts , corporate prayer and worship, teaching and sending is during a corporate gathering, whether that be on a Sunday morning, afternoon, Saturday evening or whenever your particular church family gathers as one body.

The gathering of the church is to be an occasion of fellowship, where Christians can be devoted to one another and honour one another, instruct one another, be kind and compassionate to one another, encourage one another, and most importantly, love one another.

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” – 1 John 3:11 

 Gathering together regularly allows for familiarity, and shared needs. A family that meets for dinner only once a month is not as intimate as a family that meets weekly. A football team can’t be effective if the players show up only on occasion to fill their roles… just can’t be as successful as a team that practices weekly together. A weekly church gathering is the place where believers can love one another… much easier to do when they connect regularly (1 John 4:12), to encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honour one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). How can these spiritual ‘emotions’ grow effectively when a disciple connects only on occasion? The simple answer – it can’t.

Some final purposes of the church

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

The church is to be about the business of ministering to those in need. This includes not only sharing the gospel, but also providing for physical needs (food, clothing, shelter) as necessary and appropriate.

The church is also to equip believers in Christ with the tools they need to overcome sin and remain free from the pollution of the world. This is done by biblical teaching and Christian fellowship.

So, what is the church? Paul gave an excellent illustration to the believers in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Paul paints a picture of the church as God’s hands, mouth, and feet in this world – showing us as the body of Christ. We are the Church and as such we are to be doing the things that Jesus Christ would do if he were here physically on the earth.

For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his and her gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26). Not only that, the mission of the church can’t happen in a casual independent way. It takes commitment to the other members and to a shared proximity and a shared story which happens in a consistent connection over time. Otherwise it’s just an event or a club.

For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be regular aspects of a believer’s life. Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive his Word, serve together in the body they’ve been placed into, submit to some form of accountability and fellowship with other believers. And when those times together are missed – more than we could possibly know is missed in the spiritual health of the body and in the disciple.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are “like living stones… being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God’s “spiritual house,” we naturally have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church “goes to church.”

How To Be A Christian On Social Media

How sober minded, self controlled and Holy are we Christians – really? I know we think we are, but have we really asked that about ourselves? I bring this up because I have a social media account, actually more than one. Before you classify me as a social media ‘hater’, allow me to say that as much as I dislike aspects of the social media ‘habit’ we seem to be living in today, social media does allow for connections and updates that are not a possibility without it.

I also like using social media for teaching points and reminders of connections, among a host of other benefits, so it can be a useful tool if used responsibly. Whatever you might think about it though, it is a medium that isn’t going away any time soon so we should learn to use it.

In the end, you need to know that I’m not a social media ‘Debbie downer’. My point for bringing this up though is that while it can be a good medium, we should also be aware that it allows us all to peek into each other’s’ minds and sometimes what we discover (I’m speaking to the Christian remember), is a lack of sober minded thinking.

What I mean by that is that some, not necessarily the majority (though enough to alarm me) of the discussion I see happening in our social media platforms, conforms more to the world’s philosophy of thinking and less to a Christ centred outflow.

From my observation, a ‘Drunken Christian’ is a thing, and more prevalent than we might like to think. I’m not talking about drunk as in too much alcohol – though that can be a problem too – but rather drunken in the ‘not thinking rationally’ way.

Regarding my social media observations, I’m not going to give specific examples, instead I think that we should each of us consider our own hearts and ask the questions (in both the cyber world and the real world) the following: “Am I sober minded or am I living the Christian life like a drunken sailor?”and “Are those observing my ‘life’ seeing Christ or do they see the world?”

In the first century, Peter wasn’t dealing with social media, but he was dealing with social interactions just the same. In his first Epistle he said the following, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16

A few summers ago, I visited Canada’s wonderland with my family and of course had to try out a few of the rides. The Leviathan is a giant roller coaster that both of my boys wanted to try out. I had been on roller coasters before and so for the most part I knew what to expect.

But this would be their first time and so as a good dad would do in this situation I didn’t tell them a thing to help them prepare. I wanted to see how they’d react. As we got to the top of the first hill, just before the top, I made sure to look over at them as we crested the hill and began the plunge downward. It was amazing, the look on their faces that is. One of them saying over and over again “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh”the other’s eyes like saucers, holding on for dear life.

I’m ok knowing that you’ll probably never let me look after your kids. I’ve made peace with that. The point was that they weren’t prepared for what was coming and so were put into a bit of a panic.

Peter in the passage I shared, is telling us to get prepared. Why? Because of what he was giving us a heads-up about in verse 6. That we will suffer various trials for the name of Christ. He then goes on to tell us what to do. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – Vs.13 In other words, keep yourself mentally fit and morally sober to fight the fight of hope.

What comes out of 1 Peter, and the whole New Testament for that matter, is that the Christian life is supposed to be a lifelived inGod. We are supposed to be constantly aware of God, constantly submitted to God, constantly trusting in God, constantly guided by God and constantly hoping in God.

What amazes me is that when I look into the culture around us today however, the alarming reality is the complete insignificance of God. Christ doesn’t play into our culture except to be used as a swear word. And so, our culture has proven itself to be Christ-less which equals hope-less. Sadly, much too often we see (usually in the social media realm) the Christian world acting out or speaking up the same way as our none Christian neighbour.

In comparison, when we look into the Word we see that the most amazing and striking thing is that God is everything. Hope and holiness come only through a Christ-filled life. And we can’t live both lives – Sundays Christ-filled and then Monday’s to Saturday’s Christ-less. In person Christ-like and on social media culture-like. We have a choice to make. It’s one or the other. Either we live a Christ-less life or we live a Christ-filled life. Since we are called to be Holy the choice is clear. There is no halfway. It’s like a woman who says “I’m kinda pregnant”You either are or you’re not.

So, if you want to live a Christ-less life that’s easy – live for yourself, just be honest about it. But if you want to live a Christ-filled life then there are some choices that need to be made.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:13

Peter says that we need to prepare our minds for action, to fasten our seatbelts because it’s gonna be a wild ride. The picture we have here is of men girding up the loins of their minds. Very picturesque. In the East, men wore long flowing robes which slowed them down from moving too quickly. Around their waist they would wear a wide belt and when action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up into the belt in order to give them freedom of movement.

The modern-day equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one’s sleeves or to take off one’s jacket. Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavour.

Never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; don’t become complacent. Don’t be lazy. We need to think things out and think them through. And he says to be sober minded, which means that we need to be rational in our thinking. Don’t allow yourself to become intoxicated with intoxicating thoughts, don’t get caught up in the bling. Be sober-minded, mentally alert, self-controlled.

When someone is drunk, not sober, they don’t make the wisest of choices – relationships and otherwise. A few years ago, I was visiting with a friend and I noticed a very crude, cartoonish, and ugly tattoo on his forearm.

I asked him about it and he told me hated it. He then shared with me the story. He isn’t a follower of Christ yet and so doesn’t make the same life choices I do, in this case the over drinking part. He had gone out drinking with a few friends and, let me say that he tends to drink much more than is recommended.

His dad had been in the navy and he wanted to do something to honour him, which is kinda ironic since his dad hates tattoos. I personally don’t have an issue with getting inked, though I do recommend to first ‘think through’ what you’re getting. (Check out my blog post on tattoos if you want to know more about my thoughts on the matter). In his case though, there wasn’t a lot of thought put into his adventure and he ended up getting the stupidest and ugliest one you could imagine.

In his mind and in his state of intoxication – not being sober, he got carried away with what he thought was the ‘next’ exciting thing to do. He wasn’t at that moment self-controlled in his mind. And now he has a daily reminder of that soberless choice on a daily basis.

It’s no different as Disciples of Christ in the spiritual realm. If we’re not self-controlled in our minds we can get carried away with the next sudden exciting thing, even if it’s a worldly philosophy that’s opposed to a Christ-like philosophy. Sometimes even getting so intoxicated with the newest craze in the Christian scene we think that it’s the most incredible thing ever, though it may be taking our minds off of Jesus.

Peter is saying to them, and to us, to keep the balance as Disciples who know what we believe, so that when weconsider our hearts and ask the questions (in both the cyber world and the real world) the following: “Am I sober minded or am I living the Christian life like a drunken sailor?” and “Are those observing my ‘life’ seeing Christ or do they see the world?” Others can answer with confidence that yes, they see sober mindedness and Christlikeness, and as a result God is reflected throughout our world.