I’ve never really been a fan of religious verbiage. I especially hate it when people call me Pastor Steve. God doesn’t call me that. But the problem with the word pastor, in the English language, is that it means just about everything. Thus it sometimes doesn’t really mean anything. Anything specific that is. The problem with me is that I tried to do and to be everything associated with the word and it just about killed me. But maybe, in truth, the real problem belongs to all of us who call on the name of Christ.
Sometimes Boris would drive me nuts. I mean really drive me nuts. Ok, sometimes I suppose he just ticked me off if we’re being honest here. I remember well the afternoons that Boris would come into our office at the college we rented from in Moscow, Russia. We’d play chess and discuss everything from politics, to Christianity, to philosophy. I liked playing chess with Boris because he was just about the only Russian over the age of 12 that I could actually beat. The reason Boris pushed me to the edge sometimes was because he clearly had little interest in discussion for discovery, but rather just for the sake of being argumentative. Boris longed for the Communist to retake the government in the national elections of 96. Boris quoted Paul McCartney with as much reverence as the apostle Paul. Boris referred to both Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon with equal admiration while joking about Jesus. Boris would deny the credibility of the Bible while all the time never acknowledging the proofs I’d give for its inerrancy. Boris just liked to argue and I suppose that’s probably normal for a young man in his late teens and early 20s. I’m sure I’ve got my own history of annoying folks with my arguments as well. So if you’re out there Boris, please know that I really do love you and miss you.
One of the criticisms of Christianity that Boris would level at me periodically was the supposition that Christianity was simply not practical. “It didn’t do much,” he’d say. Maybe he was contrasting me to the Bolsheviks of old or something. But for whatever reason he had that idea, I tried to illustrate to him that Christianity is anything but impractical.
This past summer I was talking with one of my older friends from my hometown. In our conversation I discovered that she knew my 9th grade English teacher, Dan Johnson. My friend, Emadene, had taught school with Mr. Johnson’s wife and had nothing but good to say about the man. Likewise, when I think back to the year that I was in his class I have plenty of encouraging memories of my teacher. That year was truly an illustration of God moving in ways we don’t understand? Mr. Johnson was indeed a providential piece of the total equation for the man I am today.
The bottom line is that when Deb and I got married, she was a virgin and I was not. One of the modern myths about sex is that it’s just physical and no big deal. I don’t believe this and that is certainly not my journey. The emotions have been all over the place in my adult life. At one point I can experience the true forgiveness and redemption of Jesus with an understanding of grace that people with less checkered lives just can’t understand. On the other hand, there are still residual times when I ache for my choices of sexual activity before marriage. I don’t blame the girl. I know it was my decision and it pains me. If there was anything that I could take back, it would be those pre-marital sexual actions that I took during the dark ages on my high school years and young adult life. But I can’t.
I’m not a country western fan. In fact, I like to tell people that God created music and then Satan made an attempt at it which resulted in country-western. Really, there are so many different genres of music that I enjoy from classical to Christian hard rock. Head banger music is what our church admin assistant calls it. I’ve picked up a love for Irish, Scottish, and English folks music of late and sometimes old traditional Russian music will find its way to my Pandora stations. A seasoning amount of classic rock is threaded through my week as well. But I just can’t make the switch to country-western. Ok, maybe some John Denver once in a while. But that’s probably a bit more folk than western. No, country music and I just don’t do business with each other.
My wife however grew up on the country twang. Many of those songs bring fond memories to her and set her at ease. I don’t naturally like country, but she does. Thus the question of what do we listen to over the car radio.
It had been a long day as Deb and I were dropping off our girls for youth group. We try to grab date nights whenever we can. When you’ve been married for just over 26 years even fast food has a romantic ring to it. So with a coupon that Deb was graced with from one of her students, we headed to Chick Fil A with the anticipation of not having to clean a kitchen and enjoy some time without teen drama. The problem was that the line was taking forever and the day was just getting longer.
I wanted to bolt, but Deb was much more patient. To encourage me she suggested a bet; which is something she hardly ever does. In her confidence, she offered a bet that if we were not through the line in 10 minutes she’d wear a corset that night.
What? A preacher talking about the intimate details in marriage? Well why not? Actually the Bible does speak about the subject in quite wonderful ways. The unfortunate deal is that our present Western culture has allowed Hollywood to highjack the subject. Yes, God really did create sex and preachers really do engage in it. So today and later in a second installment I’ll share 5 quick points on the subject that just might help us restore a truly Kingdom mind set about sex.
Like many Americans I’ve been frustrated by the attitudes and actions of my fellow citizens since Donald Trump was elected and took office. But yet my somberness is not the same as the political angst being flooded throughout the media waves and coffee houses across the land. My frustration has to do with the body of Christ.
One of the things that I’ve been looking forward to as we kick off 2017 is reading through the Bible again devotionally. I don’t always get the whole book read in a year as some passages are missed because of interruptions in life. But I’ve found that a daily practice of systematically working through the Bible has been just as important spiritually as eating a healthy diet is physically. The objective is one of simply coming before the life changing Word of God on a regular basis and allowing HIM to change us.
In my occupation it’s easy to check out and simply look at the Bible as a text book. By this I mean merely studying the content for sermon preparation, teaching, and the like. Actually, that’s probably not too far off for many of us. In other words, it’s easy to take it for granted. Somehow we know there’s something different to this book and we have at least one laying around our house even if it’s just the white covered gift Bible we got from our grandmother at High School graduation; but we ignore it. Thus many times it just sits next to the Webster’s Dictionary until we hit the wall emotionally and seeks an answer from the Divine.
A lot of folks question the validity of scripture and speculate whether it can be trusted or not. Many people suggest that “because the Bible was written so long ago and was translated so many times” that it just can’t be reliable for us today. If that is true, then the Bible rightly should be questioned.
Earlier this morning a friend noted a New York Times article from yesterday addressing the political aftermath of the shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. In the write up the author stated that prior to a recent congressional vote, a “Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays.” The truth of the matter is that the book of Romans in the Bible says no such thing. This type of paid journalism, beyond being unprofessional and dishonest, is part of what is propagating the myth in our present culture that Bible believing Christians hate gays.
Yes, a section of Romans chapter 1 does speak of giving into homosexual temptations as being outside of God’s design but it nowhere calls for hatred and violence toward those people by Christ followers. Indeed there are cultish groups like the Westborow Baptist Church that spew hatred toward others. However this does not speak of authentic Christianity. While people who hold to an authoritative view of scripture may not agree with gay-marriage, they do not hate those who practice such. On the contrary, they love them despite their differences.
This can be easily illustrated by the response of Chick fil-A Sunday following the shooting in Orlando.
All of Jesus and the Truths that Test Part III The Act of Marriage. (LGBT, Adam and Eve, and Six Challenges for Us All)
Jesus never spoke on the issue of gay marriage. That’s what my LGBT friends report. If we’re looking for those specific words, then they are correct. But on the other hand, there are other issues, such as embezzlement, of which Jesus never talked about either. However we know His teaching on the specific because of what he said in the general about possessions. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” and other references. In like manner we can see that Jesus covered not only the idea of gay marriage, but all marital issues when He took the religious debaters of His day all the way back to Genesis.
God created mankind distinctly as male and female. The two being differently and completely complimentary to each other. The essence of the act of marriage is the union of those two different beings into one.