Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage

This post was originally published on The Washington Post.

This opinion piece is by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As I write this, the Supreme Court has handed down what will be the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage, redefining marriage in all 50 states. This is a sober moment, and I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling. The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep. So how should the church respond?

First of all, the church should not panic. The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward his kingdom.

Moreover, while this decision will, I believe, ultimately hurt many people and families and civilization itself, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, the church often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That was the case in Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, which held to marriage views out of step with the Scriptures.

The church will need in the years ahead to articulate what we believe about marriage; we cannot assume that people agree with us, or even understand us. Let’s not simply talk about marriage in terms of values or culture or human flourishing. Let’s talk about marriage the way Jesus and the apostles taught us to — as bound up with the gospel itself, a picture of the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:32).

As we do so, we must not just articulate our views of marriage, we must embody a gospel marriage culture. We have done a poor job of that in the past. Too many of our marriages have been ravaged by divorce.

Too often we’ve neglected church discipline in the cases of those who have unrepentantly destroyed their marriages. We must repent of our failings and picture to the world what marriage is meant to be, and keep the light lit to the old paths.

This gives the church an opportunity to do what Jesus called us to do with our marriages in the first place: to serve as a light in a dark place. Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture.

We should not fear that. We believe stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is alive, and will show up in the Eastern skies on a horse. We believe that the gospel can forgive sinners like us and make us sons and daughters. Let’s embrace the sort of freakishness that saves.

Let’s also recognize that if we’re right about marriage, and I believe we are, many people will be disappointed in getting what they want. Many of our neighbors believe that a redefined concept of marriage will simply expand the institution (and, let’s be honest, many will want it to keep on expanding). This will not do so, because sexual complementarity is not ancillary to marriage. The church must prepare for the refugees from the sexual revolution.

We must prepare for those, like the sexually wayward Woman at the Well of Samaria, who will be thirsting for water of which they don’t even know.

There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth.

We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.

Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong. God decided when we would be born, and when we would be born again. We have the Spirit and the gospel. To think that we deserve to live in different times is to tell God that we deserve a better mission field than the one he has given us. Let’s joyfully march to Zion.

The witness to marriage will be, like the pro-life movement, a long-term strategy that is multi-pronged. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. We see that we are strangers and exiles in American culture. We are on the wrong side of history, just like we started. We should have been all along.

Let’s seek the kingdom. Let’s stand with the gospel. Let’s fear our God. But let’s not fear our mission field.

Summer of Psalms

 The Psalms by and large are brutally honest to the complexities of life. The righteous man does not always do or think the right thing. The righteous does not always win or prosper the way that he should. The wicked are not miserable, they aren’t wicked in every way, and usually do not receive their justice. 

The Psalms are complex in the same way that life on this planet is complex. We can join the Psalmist as he contemplates the path of wisdom and the path of folly. We can sympathize with him when he cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" or as he prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” He has high highs and low lows. He has great moments of faith and deep pits of doubt and depression.

Athanasius said, "Most of the Bible speaks to us, while the Psalms speak for us." In them we find: delight, fear, anger, joy, grief, depression, gladness, loneliness, love, and loss. While the Psalms allow us to express our raw emotions they simultaneously seek to shape them into righteous ones. In the Psalms, we can approach God with brutal honesty, seeking to be rooted in truth and ready to submit to him. 

My prayer is that as we read and study the Psalms together this summer, we will actually find the Psalms not just speaking to us, but speaking for us. Expressing for us what we could not put into words or prayers ourselves. 

Join us this summer on Sundays.

#speakingforus

Nearness and Likeness

This post in an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' book, "The Four Loves", which was mentioned in the Sunday service entitled, "A Virtuous Life – The Path."

We must distinguish two things which might both possibly be called “nearness to God.” One is likeness to God. God has impressed some sort of likeness to Himself, I suppose, in all that He has made. Space and time, in their own fashion, mirror His greatness; all life, His fecundity; animal life, His activity. Man has a more important likeness than these by being rational.   Angels, we believe have likenesses which Man lacks: immortality and intuitive knowledge. In that way all men, whether good or bad, all angels including those that fell, are more like God than the animals are. Their natures are in this sense “nearer” to the Divine Nature.  But, secondly, there is what we may call nearness of approach.  If this is what we mean, the states in which a man is “nearest” to God are those in which he is most surely and swiftly approaching his final union with God, vision of God and enjoyment of God. And as soon as we distinguish nearness-by-likeness and nearness-of-approach, we see that they do not necessarily coincide. They may or may not.

Perhaps an analogy may help.  Let us suppose that we are doing a mountain walk to the village which is our home. At mid-day we come to the top of a cliff where we are, in space, very near it because it is just below us. We could drop a stone into it.  But as we are no cragsmen we can’t get down. We must go a long way round; five miles, maybe. At many points during that detour we shall, statically, be farther from the village than we were when we sat above the cliff. But only statically. In terms of progress we shall be far “nearer” our baths and teas.

Since God is blessed, omnipotent, sovereign and creative, there is obviously a sense in which happiness, strength, freedom and fertility (whether of mind or body), wherever they appear in human life, constitute likenesses, and in that way promiximities, to God.  But no one supposes that the possession of these gifts has any necessary connection with our sanctification. No kind riches is a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven.

At the cliff’s top we are near the village, but however long we sit there we shall never be any nearer to our bath and our tea. So here; the likeness, and in that sense, nearness, to Himself which God has conferred upon certain creatures and certain states of those creatures is something finished, built in. What is near Him by likeness is never, by that fact alone, going to be any nearer. But nearness of approach is, by definition, increasing nearness. And whereas the likeness is given to us – and can be received with or without thanks, can be used or abused – the approach, however initiated and supported by Grace, is something we must do. Creatures are made in their varying ways images of God without their own collaboration or even consent. It is not so that they become sons of God. And the likeness they receive by sonship is not that of images or portraits.  It is in one way more than likeness, for it is union or unity with God in will; but this is consistent with all the differences we have been considering. Hence, as a better writer has said, our imitation of God in this life–that is, our willed imitation as distinct from any of the likenesses which He has impressed upon our nature or states — must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.

Make A Habit Of Having No Habits

This post is an excerpt from the book, "My Utmost For His Highest," by Oswald Chambers. To  hear similar topics discussed join us for our current Sunday series, "A Virtuous Life".

"For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." – 2 Peter 1:8

When we first begin to form a habit, we are fully aware of it. There are times when we are aware of becoming virtuous and godly, but this awareness should only be a stage we quickly pass through as we grow spiritually. If we stop at this stage, we will develop a sense of spiritual pride. The right thing to do with godly habits is to immerse them in the life of the Lord until they become such a spontaneous expression of our lives that we are no longer aware of them. Our spiritual life continually causes us to focus our attention inwardly for the determined purpose of self-examination, because each of us has some qualities we have not yet added to our lives.

Your god may be your little Christian habit—the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. We say, “I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.” No, this is your time alone with your habit. There is a quality that is still lacking in you. Identify your shortcoming and then look for opportunities to work into your life that missing quality.

Love means that there are no visible habits—that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. If you are consciously aware of your own holiness, you place limitations on yourself from doing certain things— things God is not restricting you from at all. This means there is a missing quality that needs to be added to your life. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there someplace where you are not at home with God? Then allow God to work through whatever that particular circumstance may be until you increase in Him, adding His qualities. Your life will then become the simple life of a child.

No Library Can Contain

This post is an excerpt from the sermon, "The Epilogue (You Follow Me)" given by Char Brodersen on April 26, 2015.

I love the way John ends his gospel. After telling us to follow Jesus he ends on a crescendo–the greatness of Jesus. John closes with these words:

"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Now here is a funny thing. We moderns, we believe Jesus did many things. Many wonderful things that are not all recorded in John's gospel account. John in this passage is often considered to be exaggerating because there is no way he could have anticipate the volumes of learning, works of art, and literature from all the centuries to follow. John could not account for the volumes of the world–or did he?

Listen to this by D.A. Carson:

"Remember, the Jesus to whom John bears witness is not only the obedient Son and the risen Lord, he is the incarnate Word, the one through him the universe was crafted and is sustained. If all his deeds were described, the world would be a very small and inadequate library indeed.

How beautiful. Indeed, no library can contain his glory or can fathom the depths of the great, incarnate Son of God. John's claim from beginning to end has been that Jesus is absolutely ultimate. It is unfathomable that the world will never be fully able to comprehend the glory of all that he has said and done. 

What an honor it is to be a follower of Jesus. We know and believe Jesus to be the eternal God who became human. We believe Jesus is it. We believe he is the most important figure in all of world history, time, and eternity. For us then, the most important thing in all the world is to follow Jesus, and by following, we have life in his name.

John's last words would tell us to keep our eyes on Jesus. Look to Jesus the author, perfecter, and finisher of your faith.

A Virtuous Life

Performing Our Best

There are many people in the world who have natural or what we often call "raw talent." Much of our modern media is obsessed with finding such raw talent. Through avenues such as SportsCenter, YouTube, The Voice, Master Chef, and even Dancing with the Stars. America is weekly searching and taking in some of the greatest raw talent this side of the globe.

These sensations are the role models for the current generation, but what of their character? Should we praise them in such high regard on performance alone? Do we even care about their character?

If we are honest, culturally and personally we really aren't concerned with virtue, character or discipline. The sweet delight of outward performance is intoxicating. True character and virtue that is attractive and inspiring is gone. As Christians how should we be thinking about virtue versus performance? Is virtue an outdated form of piety left over from the Puritans? Does character mean nothing anymore?

Human Wholeness

The New Testament just like the Old Testament is filled with exhortations to character. If we think rules and regulations are simply Old Testament and have been covered by the "Grace of God” then we've truly misunderstood the whole point of the power and beauty of the resurrection. A misunderstanding that is changing our daily lives.

Listen to this:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us that character, virtue, discipline is very important. In fact, Peter's language makes it vital to the Christian life. These bible verses tell us that those who trust in Christ are headed for the glory and excellence of Jesus Christ. We are headed for human wholeness. The New Testament makes it clear that this work has already begun. It began the moment you placed your trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and were subsequently filled with the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.

Putting on the New Behavior of Life 

Now the fun part begins. We are now on a life long journey of “working out our salvation.” Working to what we will be one day when we see Jesus Christ face to face. We are becoming new creations day-by-day. Putting off the old ways of thinking, speaking, and living we are putting on the new behavior of life in the Holy Spirit.

N. T. Wright calls this Resurrection life:

"The new life of strenuous ethical obedience, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to which the believer is committed.” I believe, in these dark times, that the Church needs to hear this call of the Holy Spirit and return to the true calling of the new covenant–to live out the life of Jesus. To be parables of Jesus. You are the light of the world! You are the salt of the earth. But if that light grows dim and if that salt loses it savor what is it good for? It is by our good deeds, by our character, that mission is made possible. Co-workers, employees, and employers, neighbors, friends, family are to see the virtuous life of the Spirit in us and as they do we can give an answer for the reason for the “living hope that is at work in our lives, with meekness and fear. Each follower of Jesus Christ is called to this: to reflect God’s own character back to himself–worship. And simultaneously to reflect God’s character out into the world–mission. We are called to a life of virtue. Christian, begin to become what you will be by God’s grace.

A Virtuous Life

Beginning Sunday, May 3 we will look into these things. Join us as we unpack Bible passages that speak of "a virtuous life." A virtuous life that is pleasing to God and a delight to the world.

 

#avirtuouslife

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Sia Yambire

SIA YAMBIRE'S STORY

Sia is from Bolgatanga, Ghana, which borders Burkina Faso. Every year, he goes back there for four months. Like nearly everyone over there, Sia grew up happy but simply—with a large family in a primitive mud hut—no electricity, running water, or plumbing. It was subsistence living off the land. And that’s how all the people of Yorgo still live. “Bolga” is world famous for their beautiful African baskets, and Sia makes a humble living by bringing back a few thousand of them each year to sell at local markets. He’s everywhere–you’ve probably seen him at our farmer’s markets yourself.

Over there, churches are the focal point of communal living and sharing, and it’s been Sia’s vision that Yorgo might have their very own. Sia, with his beautiful tribal scars all over his face, grew up practicing a form of traditional African spiritualism; but at age 18, he became a Christian.

Back in 2009, while Sia was here in Sonoma County, his wife Linda was pregnant and leading their church-building effort in Yorgo. But when she gave birth, there were no doctors to stop her blood loss, and tragically, she died. Accepting this different path, Sia named his daughter Ayinema, meaning “God’s Will”. Now that’s the church’s name, too.

Last year, a couple of our church members visited Ayinema Church. It only had an outer foundation and walls, and no roof, no floor. But still, because it is made from concrete and cinderblocks,  it was a source of pride. There are many African churches like this–walls but no roof (roofs are expensive, so they often remain only a “one-day maybe” hope). This Refuge family provided a metal roof, and now the villagers are protected from sun or rain.

About Yorgo, Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa around 105,900 square miles in size. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north; Niger to the east; Benin to the southeast; Togo and Ghana to the south; and Ivory Coast to the southwest. Its capital is Ouagadougou. As of 2014, its population was estimated at just over 17.3 million.

CONNECT

www.ayinema.org

www.facebook.com/ayinema

email[at]ayinema.org

February 25, 2014

Introduction

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest...

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"'O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.' Now I was cupbearer to the king.

In the month of Nisan, win the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, 'Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.' Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, a 'Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, bwhen the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?' Then the king said to me, 'What are you requesting?' So I prayed cto the God of heaven. And I said to the king, 'If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.' And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), 'How long will you be gone, and when will you return?' So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time." – Nehemiah 1:11-2:6

"The intense, persistent praying of Nehemiah prevailed. God can even affect the mind of a heathen ruler, and this he can do in answer to prayer without in the least overturning his free agency or forcing his will." – E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men

Intercession For Others

Pray that even in the face of the rebellion of others that the will of God will prevail for his glory. Pray boldly for his will to be accomplished in this city, county, and country.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Our God of wonders is even able to turn the head of the mocker. He can move the stone heart of evil men and influence the dark powers of this world without them even knowing that even their rebellion is made to obey him in the perfect outplaying of the LORD's will.

February 24, 2014

Introduction

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest...

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks.  I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.  On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist.

And he said to me, 'O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.' And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, 'Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.'" – Daniel 10:2-5; 11-14

"It takes time to pray, and it takes time to get the answer to prayer. Delays in answering prayer are not denials. Failure to receive an immediate answer is no evidence that God does not hear prayer. It takes not only courage and persistence to pray successfully, but it requires much patience. 'Wait on the Lord and be of good courage; and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.'" – E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men

Intercession For Others

That someone you know who seems beyond God's reach, pray for them; not just today, but daily and consistently. Persist is prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Does the LORD seem slow in answering your prayers? He is not slow, but is quick to teach us patience, persistence, and to trust him for his perfect timing. Persist patiently today as you trust him for his answers.