Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"outhouse of this life"

I love to sing. Every once in a while I get some funny looks from Serenity because I'm not very good. The difference between me and a lot of others is that I know I'm not very good. I have developed a routine for putting the kids to bed each night, and it includes three songs for each of them. I enjoy this time with them because I get to sing to my kids, as horrible as I am, they think I'm great. The lyrics to one of their favorites is:

I love You Lord
and I lift my voice
To worship You
O my soul, rejoice!

Take joy, my King
in what you hear
May it be a sweet, sweet sound
in Your ear.

I love the second verse because I get a smile on my face when I think that my King takes joy in my horrible voice, just like I take joy when my kids sing a song.


The birth of Protestantism, set aflame by Martin Luther in the 1520s, was experiencing this new joy of singing and worshiping. Prior to this, in the Catholic church, only priests and friars would sing, and only in Latin. A hymn, sung in a church, by the people, was foreign and strange to most of the congregation, dubbed Lutherans. It was radical. Luther forced his congregations to sing, he held music as a "gift from God," giving it "the highest place and the greatest honor." I would probably be tagged as a "tone-deaf sluggard," as he titled many of his followers, but I also understand that it is a gift from God, and he does take joy in my worship of Him through singing. It makes me joyful to think what our worship will look like when all of eternity and all of creation bows before our sovereign God and praises Him with dancing and singing. Luther expressed this when he wrote, "If our Lord God has given us such noble gifts in the outhouse of this life, what will there be in that life eternal where everything will be perfect and delightful?"

I sing loud when I worship, that is one more reason to like the "contemporary" service at your local church. I won't ever sing solo for anyone except my kids and occasionally my wife if she accidentally overhears me, but trust me, Luther must have been listening to me when he related singing on this Earth and an outhouse. It doesn't matter though, to the Lord's ears I sound as good now as I will in Heaven, and that makes me want to sing louder!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Greed or Homosexuality?

I'll be honest with you, this one has sat in my "saved posts file" for months, not sure if I should publish it or not. Recently we came across a specific denomination who reaches out to the poor in very tangible and effective ways, providing food, clothing, prayer and love for people who are broken and needing Jesus. My only issue was that many of the "pastors" and "priests" were homosexual. I know that many denominations are now allowing homosexuals to become prominent leaders in their churches, and even ordain them as priests. I know that many denominations from Catholics to Presbyterian to Episcopalians accept this. As I researched the issue I found many denomination's "official" stance on homosexuality, one struck me as funny yet true: "We are opposed to homosexuality, yet recognize the complexity of the issue."

I believe that there is a big difference between accepting homosexuals into our churches, loving them unconditionally and ordaining people who openly practice homosexuality. As the saying goes, love the sinner, but hate the sin. When an open homosexual is ordained as a pastor or priest you go past the previous statement directly to accepting the sin. Adultery and other sexual sins are rampant amongst church leaders, as one commonly used statistic has adultery as well as divorce occurring between believers more frequently than non-believers. The difference is if a young married man came before a church body wanting to be ordained as their pastor, or elder and was openly committing adultery with the church secretary it would obviously be wrong to accept him as someone who could lead and shepherd others towards a deeper relationship with Christ. Especially if his theology and interpretation of the Scriptures distorts to the point of accepting or even condoning adultery. It is clear in both the Old and New Testaments that the Lord regards homosexuality as a sin.

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders." (I Corinthians 6:9) It is very important to point out that Paul goes on to say, "nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:10) Homosexuality is not singled out, it is grouped in with a list of other actions that miss the mark.

The Old Testament has numerous Scriptures on this topic and in the same passages it condemns a list of other sexual sins. Not once do the Scriptures condemn homosexuality alone, adultery, and other sexual sins are also grouped into the same passages.

This is not my main point, it only leads us to my main point: what makes homosexuality any different than other sins? What makes homosexuality any different than greed? I think Paul speaks on this when he writes in Colossians 3:5: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Paul groups homosexuality (sexual immorality) and greed together. The tendency in our culture is to think that homosexuality is MORE of a sin than other things. I think many Americans allow the sin of greed to permeate their lives and do not even realize it. The tendency is to think to themselves "greed, well that is the oil companies, or those damn CEOs of Walmart." We are lying to ourselves when we don't realize that greed can be on a personal level as well.

Most of the book of Isaiah warns and condemns the greedy people of Israel. The Jubilee discussed in Deuteronomy 15 and Leviticus 25 was a plan from God to institute a system to keep greed from infecting the lives of ordinary people. Do we have that setup in America? As the Church, do we have a system in place that keeps greed in check? Many denominations spend literally millions of dollars to legislate an end to homosexual marriage, while at the same time preaching a prosperity doctrine that is incongruent with Scriptures. I ask myself who is sinning, the Evangelical preacher or the lesbian?

If your sin is homosexuality, to find out if you are sinning, you simply have to ask, "am I partaking in homosexual behavior?" The answer is obvious, yes or no. The issue is much more complex when you ask yourself if greed is a sin in your life. The Lord wants nice things for His people, good food, and at times comfort, but you must look in your heart to determine if greed has engulfed it. Most evangelicals would argue with me on my next point: greed is much more of a problem in America than homosexuality. You could easily make the next step as well: greed is more of a problem in the American church than homosexuality. I've heard statistics that state that if all Christians throughout the world gave their excess to help others who are less fortunate, hunger, AIDS, and all curable diseases would be wiped out. We, as rich Christians have the ability to make dramatic changes to this world if we would release our worldly possessions and see our materialism as a sin: greed.

Another interesting Scripture passage is one in Ezekiel 16. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is interesting, and somewhat disturbing. Most Christians believe that God destroyed these cities because of their blatant homosexuality and violence, but God tells the prophet Ezekiel a different story: "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.'" It is in vogue in the Church today to attack homosexuality as being detestable and sinful, but as this Scripture points out, God is just as angry about greed and oppression of the poor.

What did Jesus have to say about possessions:

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." Luke 12:33

"Take heed and beware of greed, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Luke 12:15

Jesus' brother James:

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you." James 5:1-5

We never did work with that ministry and denomination. I was a little nervous about associating our ministry with one that condones homosexuality, that might tell people that we condoned it as well. I hadn't fully developed my thoughts on this topic, it was the first time we had been presented with it. I'm disappointed that we didn't, I think we could have had some good conversations.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just drinking some beer

I am reading a biography on Martin Luther right now. He fascinates me more and more each day. I might write a more holistic overview of Luther when I'm done reading, but I thought this was an interesting comment.

When asked about his role in changing the structure of the Roman Catholic Church Luther said that he didn't change anything, the Scriptures did. He just sat around writing about the Scriptures, speaking the Scriptures and preaching the Scriptures. Luther noted, "While I was sitting around drinking beer with my friends talking about the Gospel, it did all the work."


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Good thoughts on election day. This audio of the musician Derek Webb encapsulates much of how my thoughts have been transformed about the American political system over the past two years.

Check it out HERE. If you would like to hear more of Derek Webb you can go to and get free downloads of his music as well as a number of other musicians.