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ANSWERS TO SUBMITTED QUESTIONS

Week 1 - Racism & Discrimination

(Responses given by Dan Ledbetter)

If biblical view is no favoritism, how do you explain God’s relationship with the Jews in Old Testament? Didn’t he favor a sect of people in giving them the Promised Land and putting so much focus on their survival against other tribes and nations?

Scripture teaches us that favoritism is sin. Pastor Curt explored this concept in detail with his treatment of James 2:1-9 on Sunday morning. So how do we reconcile this with a God who seems to favor one particular people group over all others? In order to make sense of this, we need to understand the nature of God's revelation to mankind.

The one constant theme that resonates throughout Scripture is that God in His infinite wisdom has chosen to create and gather to Himself a people to be subjects of His eternal kingdom, to praise, honor, and serve Him for all eternity. In order for people to have this type of relationship with a holy, righteous, and eternal being, they must be redeemed from sin. All men have sinned and have turn aside (Rom 3:12). The Bible, from the creation of the world, to the completion in eternity future, reveals God's plan of redemption. 

Now in God's infinite wisdom, He chose the Jews to bring this plan of redemption to mankind, not for their glory, but for His.He began with Abraham, and Scripture reveals that within the history of the Jewish people, as revealed in the OT, is the promise of the coming Savior. In the OT, He is the One symbolized in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law. He is the one spoken of by the prophets. He is the Messiah, who would die for the transgressions of His people. From beginning to end in the OT, the sacrifice of the Savior is presented, and that Savior would come from the Jewish people. So yes, God did reveal Himself to, and preserve the Jews throughout history, but not because of favoritism, or because they were a favored race of people, but because God chose to reveal Himself to mankind through them as part of His redemptive plan.

 Furthermore, the Jews of the OT serve as a reminder that we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom. In Romans chapter 3, Paul describes the situation; "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the Law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:19-20). The failure of the Jewish people to keep the Law serves as a reminder that they cannot save themselves, but it also serves to remind us that all are accountable before God. If the Jewish people, who had special revelation regarding the Lord, failed to keep His covenant, how is the rest of mankind be able to earn their way into God's favor? I believe it was John Piper who said something to the effect that it was God who ordained that the history of Israel would be a lesson book for the nations regarding the Gospel of salvation.  

 

Why did God demand that the nation of Israel not intermingle with other nations if we are not to discriminate based on race today?

 The answer to your question lies in Exodus 34:12-16. God has just renewed His covenant with His people, and assures them that He will go before them to drive out the peoples of the land that they will inhabit. He then gives them these instructions: 

"Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim- for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God-otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice their gods, and someone might invite you to eat his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your son, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods." (italics mine) We find similar instructions in Deut. 7:3-4. 

This issue here is not one of racial purity, but of religious purity. God knew the hearts of His people. We only need to look at the their actions in Exodus 32. When Moses did not come down from the hill in a timely manner, the people demanded that Aaron make a god who would go before them. So they gathered all of their gold in order to make a calf so that that they may offer worship and sacrifice. In short, they made an idol and corrupted themselves. God's purpose for His chosen people was to be set apart. A holy people, devoted to Him, to bring about the redemption of mankind through God's only Son. Worshipping and sacrificing to the idols of other nations derails the very purpose for which God called them to, and ultimately led to their exile at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. I won't go into detail here, but Jeremiah 2:14-25 declares the apostasy of His people, whereas 2 Kings 17:7-18 gives an account of the reason for Israel's exile at the hands of the Assyrians. 

Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian Church has instructions that apply to us as believers in Christ as our Lord and Savior. He instructs the believers there not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers- "for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14) The illustration comes from the OT prohibition of joining two different kinds of livestock.  The main idea for Paul is that a Spirit made alive in Christ in the believer, cannot have intimate fellowship with a Spirit that is dead to Christ in unbelief. Spiritually, it creates situations detrimental to the believer in Christ. In the same way, the spiritual health of the Jewish people depended on keeping themselves spiritually, not racially, pure. 

 

Some Christians justify their racism by citing the curse of Ham. What is the best way to refute that particular repugnant line of thinking?

This is a simple case of Eisegesis-the reading into Scripture one's own ideas that were never intended by the author. We find the curse of Ham (although this is a bit of a misnomer-as Ham was never cursed), in Genesis 9:25-26 where Noah curses Canaan for an offense while Noah was drunk and sleeping. Here is the general argument to defeat any racism associated with this passage:

1.    God did not curse Canaan, Noah did.

2.    God blessed allof them in Genesis 9:1-9 and again in Genesis 12:1-3.

3.    Isaiah 19:23-25 foresees the future reconciliation of Egypt and Assyria (Ham) and Israel (Shem)

4.    The three sons are from the same father-genetically similar.

5.    Nothing speaks of a racial motivation from Noah, or God for that matter.

6.    The passage actually points to the future conquest of Canaan. 

7.    Combine these points with the message Pastor Curt preached on Sunday-with the Scripture references-and one has a pretty solid case. Revelation 7:9-17 is fabulous. The whole counsel of Scripture taken in context, against one or two verses eisegetically interpreted out of context is powerful.  

Just an aside: Early Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses use this passage to discriminate against blacks. I won't go into detail here, but the book Kingdom of the Cults(Dr. Walter Martin) does a good job describing their doctrines.  

 

The Bible is against racism and discrimination. Wouldn't it then support open borders?

 Yes, the Bible is against racism and discrimination; however, an open border does not follow as we are dealing with two separate issues here. One deals with how we treat others (Pastor Curt spent time in James 2 on Sunday), and the other is how Nation/States protect their citizens from those who desire to harm them. 

Unfortunately we live in a fallen world, and with that all sorts of nasty behavior follows from man.  The reason Nation/States secure and protect their borders, is the very same reason that most of us lock our doors at night, and for some, have a loaded gun nearby. It is called security. Nehemiah knew this all too well. He was in great distress over the news that the walls of Jerusalem were broken and the gates burned. With the walls down and the gates burned, Jerusalem and the newly rebuilt temple would be vulnerable to attack from enemies.  With God's favor, he returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the wall in 52 days (see Nehemiah chapters 1-7). "When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God" (Neh. 6:16)(Italics mine). 

 Lets examine modern day Israel. There is a strip of land that borders Southwest Israel. It is called Gaza, and is headquarters of Hamas. Hamas is the sworn enemy of Israel. Their goal is the destruction of Israel, and the liberation of Palestine. I'm quite sure that an unchecked border between Israel and Gaza would be problematic. But closer to home now-let us call it home-the United States. We do not have Hamas next door. We have Mexico and Canada as our neighbors. Let's say Canada opens their borders to all. Next, we follow suit. How long before Hamas shows up to our unlocked front to door to deal with the one nation who has stood by Israel since 1948? 

Now, we can debate policy decisions made by leaders, and we often do. Furthermore if policy decisions (border decisions) are made based solely on the color of skin, yes, that is racism and needs to be addressed as such. Ultimately, border issues, and most of the issues we face, come down to a heart issue. People are broken, lost, confused, power hungry, selfish, greedy, bereft of hope, and in desperate need of a Savior. Those who call themselves followers of Christ have an answer to what ails the human race. There is an answer, and a command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt 28:19-20). 

What should I do when someone of a different color, say that it only happened to them because they are black. When it really had nothing to do with their color but more of their attitude and how they approach the situation.

This is one of those situations where we have two individuals perceiving an event differently. The answer to your question depends on your relationship to the individual in question. I will assume this is a friend of yours who is welcome to suggestions.  I find the best approach to these situations is to ask clarifying questions, rather than just state an objection to their perception. "I understand that this seemed racist to you, but could you help me understand why you feel this was a case of racism?" It is a non-threatening way to make them back up the assertion they made. And maybe they have something there that you did not perceive or consider. Follow up with question such as, "Well have you considered (fill in the blank)?" Be an active listener in these situations-don't merely be thinking about your response as they are talking in order to win an argument. Unfortunately this is all too common these days. Be compassionate-they may have experienced real cases of racism in the past that we cannot possibly relate to. Paul gives us some helpful advice in his instruction to Timothy; "The Lord's bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. . ." (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Now in this situation, Paul is instructing Timothy in regard to unbelievers, or believers whom false teachers have influenced. But the approach is what should be common to all believers. Do not be quarrelsome, be kind, and correct gently. John MacArthur's advice in this area is helpful: Christians are to contend without being contentious; to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being confrontational.

Week Two - Gender

(Responses given by Dan Ledbetter)

What should I do when I get invited to same sex marriages? Should I go to the wedding and celebrate with them?  I don't feel that I want to make it normal, and that it is OK. 

As culture shifts more and more towards acceptance of all sorts of behaviors contrary to Scripture (gay unions just one of the many), we are going to be faced with more and more decisions such as these. This gets quite sticky especially when family members are involved. I think you hit on the issue here when you used the word "celebrate." Ask yourself this question; is my presence at this wedding giving implicit approval of this union between same sex persons? Are you supporting this act by you mere presence? If the answer is yes, the follow up question would be, does my love for God supersede my acceptance from the person getting married? If before God, you can honestly say you don't feel that attending a same sex union is seen as acceptance, or support, then you might find yourself attending. Pastor Curt mentioned the idea of building barriers or bridges. In the decisions we make, the question that should be at the forefront of our minds is how are we going to both honor God, and still attempt to build bridges to the lost?

It is clear from Scripture that homosexuality is sin. A same sex union, while legal, is still a sinful act. It is not a marriage in God's eyes. God's view of marriage is clearly spelled out in the Bible (Gen 1:27, 2:24, Mark10: 6-9). Same sex unions do not fit this description. 

Now, we look at the life of Jesus, and it is clear that he spent time with sinners, tax collectors, and Samaritans. His encounter with the Samaritan woman is described in John chapter 4. Scripture says that He was a friend of sinners, and that they were drawn to Him (Matt 9:10, Luke 15:1, Matt 11:19). So, if Jesus spent time with sinners, why wouldn't we go to a same sex wedding? The issue here is that Jesus, while he associated with sinners, did not endorse their sin. A wedding is not a passive event. If one reads most invitations, they speak of a celebration. "Join us in celebrating...." 

Another very real consideration-what will my decision do to the relationship? While a relationship may not be broken, it very well might. A certain amount of pain and division might result from our decision (Luke 12:51-53, John 15:18-19). But remember, there is always a winsome way to go about conveying your decision, should you choose not to go. Something on the order of, "Well, I won't be at the wedding, but I would love to have you both over for (fill in the blank)." We are called to love people, and bring them the good news of Christ. Love does not mean we endorse or agree with sin. Unfortunately, the word tolerance has been twisted in post-modern culture. Tolerance is now interpreted to mean, "Agree with." Tolerance however, means that we can disagree with individuals, hold to our beliefs before the Lord, and yet still love them because we see them as individuals created in the image of God.   

I attended 2 family weddings last year.  One was my cousin marrying his gay partner....One was my husband's pregnant niece…. I went to both because I wanted to show love for my family.  Is it seen as acceptance that I attended either? How do you love your family through the pain? At our niece’s wedding, God was not brought up once.  At both weddings I was overcome with grief - and prayed through it.  How else could I (should I?) have handled these events?

I'm sorry you felt grief over these events-it is never a pleasant experience watching sin, especially when it is family. While not pleasant, be encouraged that your Spirit is tracking correctly as the things that grieve God, should grieve us. To your questions- the key being whether or not one attends a same sex wedding. This gets quite sticky especially when family members are involved (I speak as one who has a sister who is a lesbian, and a transsexual niece). Is my presence at this wedding giving implicit approval of this union between same sex persons? Are you supporting this act by you mere presence? If the answer is yes, the follow up question would be, does my love for God supersede my acceptance from the person getting married? (See Gal. 1: 10-11) If before God, you can honestly say you don't feel that attending a same sex union is seen as acceptance, or support, then you might find yourself attending. Pastor Curt mentioned the idea of building barriers or bridges. In the decisions we make, the question that should be at the forefront of our minds is how are we going to both honor God, and still attempt to build bridges to the lost?

It is clear from Scripture that homosexuality is sin. A same sex union, while legal, is still a sinful act. It is not a marriage in God's eyes. God's view of marriage is clearly spelled out in the Bible (Gen 1:27, 2:24, Mark10: 6-9). Same sex unions do not fit this description. 

Now, we look at the life of Jesus, and it is clear that he spent time with sinners, tax collectors, and Samaritans. His encounter with the Samaritan woman is described in John chapter 4. Scripture says that He was a friend of sinners, and that they were drawn to Him (Matt 9:10, Luke 15:1, Matt 11:19). So, if Jesus spent time with sinners, why wouldn't we go to a same sex wedding? The issue here is that Jesus, while he associated with sinners, did not endorse their sin. A wedding is not a passive event. If one reads most invitations, they speak of a celebration. "Join us in celebrating...." 

Another very real consideration-what will my decision do to the relationship? While a relationship may not be broken, it very well might. A certain amount of pain and division might result from our decision (Luke 12:51-53, John 15:18-19). But remember, there is always a winsome way to go about conveying your decision, should you choose not to go. Something on the order of, "Well, I won't be at the wedding, but I would love to have you both over for (fill in the blank)." We are called to love people, and bring them the good news of Christ. Love does not mean we endorse or agree with sin. Unfortunately, the word tolerance has been twisted in post-modern culture. Tolerance is now interpreted to mean, "Agree with." Tolerance however, means that we can disagree with individuals, hold to our beliefs before God, and yet still love them because we see them as individuals created in the image of God.   

 

One of my best friends is gay and I know in my heart that it’s not right and it’s not the way God intended it to be, but how do I look at someone I love and think that how they are feeling isn’t what it should be? I think it’s important to love and respect everyone because that’s what Jesus did but it just hurts to know that there’s so much more for him and there’s nothing I can do to change his mind. It’s also hard when my friends look at me as narrow minded and cruel when I don’t support the LGBT+ community.

I completely agree and sympathize with you, it is difficult to watch a friend decide to lead a life that God never intended for them. It is tough to watch a friend in the midst of sin, whatever that sin may be. It is important to love and respect individuals, as they are made in the image of God. We are to love them, but Ephesians tells us to also speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Remember, the unbeliever does not have the Spirit of truth (the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you-John 14:17),we do. And it is up to us, who have the truth, to speak it boldly, but in love. 

Remember that your friend is not espousing a Christian faith or world-view. Yes, it is difficult to be looked on as narrow minded and cruel. If criticisms come your way, know how to challenge them and defend your faith. (1 Pet. 3:15) Your belief in God and the Bible does not prevent you from loving those who don't know Him or follow Christian principles; it actually should draw you to those who are lost. The challenge is to not allow your self to be influenced by things of the world while reaching out and building relationships. 

Culture rejects any form of objective truth and embraces relativism and personal autonomy. Rather than viewing the Bible as the word of God, and a source of objective, transcendent morality, the Bible is viewed as a repressive tool to discriminate against various groups. And so people do what pleases them, and that becomes their morality. Unfortunately for them, that is not morality. Morality is doing what is right, not necessarily what is pleasant.

God views our sexuality as sacred, and therefore institutes certain boundaries in order that it remains sacred. When sacredness loses its objective sense, that which we once held sacred becomes common and profane. It loses that which makes it special and beautiful. We sacrifice sacredness on the altar of sexual autonomy. 

Take heart and continue to fight the good fight. Hold yourself to the high calling God has asked of you, and your life will be a bold testimony. Paul gives young Timothy some advice in 2 Timothy on how to do this.   "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of truth." (2 Tim. 2:24-25)

Be encouraged: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

"I understand our situation nature leads people to become homosexual. But there are young teens that feel gay at a young age... looking gay and acting gay. My head is trying to wrap around this. I've heard of Christian ministries that try to "pray people straight". And I've heard that many of these don't work. I can't quite figure this out. I am a psychologist that works with all kinds of populations. Please clarify my confusion re this. Many thanks.”

 Well as a psychologist I'm sure you have much more expertise in this area than I do, and you are correct, it is our sinful nature that is the root of the problem. All aspects of man's nature are said to be corrupted by sin; the entire person, will, emotion, mind, and physical body, are affected (Rom 1:21, Eph. 4 17-18, Tit 1:5,15, Heb. 9:14, Jer. 17:19, Mk. 7:21-23, Gen 6:5, 1 Tim 4:2, 

Rom8:7, Jer. 13:23, Jn. 5:40). The sinner, apart from Christ, has a total inability to correct one's sinful nature (Jer.13:23, Rom. 7:24). Also, we all have differing inclinations to sin, which makes it difficult at times for us to relate to those who's sins we have no inclination towards. Many of us have never had same-sex attraction, so that sin often tends to be put in a separate category. Pastor Curt touched on this Sunday. The fact that teens have this issue is all the more troubling in that we want the best for our children, and our families, and this sin, like so many others, can cause parent/child relationships to be severely strained, and in many cases, there is a disintegration of the family unit.

But this really should not be surprising to us. 

1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be alert and sober minded. Why, because the enemy prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour. Lions typically go after the young and the weak, and those are our children and teens. Precisely when our young are going through puberty and trying to navigate all that comes with it, our culture bombards them with messages of sexual autonomy from every angle, whether it be from the internet, friends, television, school, or any number of other sources, including liberal church denominations. It is a well-orchestrated plan to trap our youth in a life of sin. Furthermore, sexual autonomy is now seen as virtuous. Look at all the media attention surrounding Bruce Jenner and his sexual transformation. He won the ESPN courage award. Michael Sam, a player for the NFL Dallas Cowboys, came out as gay. It was hailed as a brave and courageous act on his part. The point being is that our sexual autonomy has now been given a value, divorced from any Biblical value assigned by God to the sexual part of our humanity.

In a culture where there are no objective moral standards, anything is acceptable, except the very moral standards that are prescribed by Scripture. (See 2 Tim 3). Culture takes pride in its tolerance, yet cannot tolerate those who don't share in their "open-mindedness." We are left with a culture where personal autonomy trumps all, and the Bible is seen as a repressive tool, written to stifle personal self-expression. What better way to perpetuate this than to raise up a new generation of young people who will carry the message of sexual autonomy to the next. 

Yes, there are ministries that counsel and pray for those with same sex attraction, with mixed results. That people don't turn away from a homosexual/transsexual lifestyle should not be surprising to us either. Truth demands something of us. It demands that we yield our will and desires to God (Gal 2:20, Lk. 9:23, Gal. 5:24, Mk 8:35, Jn. 12:24, Rom. 6:1-23, 1 Cor. 15:31, 1 Pet. 2:24, 4:1-11, Phil. 1:21). I was listening to a prominent pastor/teacher out on the West coast, and he told a story of a man, 78 years old, a Christian, who confessed during his final moments his one regret -he was never able to get rid of his addiction to porn. 78 years old. It's sobering. We must all die to self. 

Just a quick note- California banned commercially available "conversion therapy" for minors in 2012. Note they began with minors. Recently, a bill made it to the floor that would prohibit the practice on adults. The bill was dropped, but a modified version will make it back to the floor and will likely pass. 

https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article217429175.html

There are two books that I would highly recommend:

Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Airby Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukl

Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth Worldby Abdu Murray (Chapter 6 deals with sexuality, gender, and identity).

The teaching on homosexuality gave me a new sense of compassion and love for those committing this sin, and that the reality of this lifestyle is sin much like pornography, stealing, adultery, etc. When I think of most sins, the benefit of "turning" from them is clear and obviously life is so much more full without them. My question is how do we suggest and minister to someone to end a long-term (20 plus years) relationship with another person that they clearly love.

I'm excited to hear that the teaching has ministered to you and allowed you to see the sin of homosexuality in a new light, and that this manifests itself in love and compassion. That said, it is helpful to understand the unbeliever does not have the same worldview as the one who has been regenerated by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Unlike you, the unregenerate sinner does not clearly see, and it is not obvious to him that life is much more fulfilling without sin. Furthermore, homosexuality is not sin to him-it is a completely normal lifestyle choice. In order to turn from sin, one must first recognize sin.

Therefore, I do not recommend you spend your time trying to end this 20 plus year relationship. It most likely will not end well for you. Now what I am not saying is that you accept homosexual as normal, or rejoice in their lifestyle, or ignore the issue. We rejoice in truth, and abhor sin (1 Cor. 13:6; Rom. 12:9-10). But the goal of ending their relationship is off base. The goal should be Christ. 

With no recuperative powers to enable man to save himself from sin, man is lost. Men are sinners by nature, choice, and by divine declaration (Psalm 14:1-3, Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9-18, 23; 5:10-12). Man's salvation rests upon God's grace and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When the sinner responds to the Word of God (John 5:24), and the divine provision of salvation, divine nature and life are given (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5). 

Our Spirit is now alive in Christ. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits worthy of repentance as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. The believer submits control of his life to the Holy Spirit through faithful obedience to the Word of God (Eph. 5:17-21; Phil. 2:12; Col. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:4-10). It is through obedience to God's word, by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can recognize, and combat the sin in our lives. 

"If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on a new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:21-24). 

They need Christ, just as every believer did in order to turn from sin. Spend your time modeling Christ in front of them. "Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:1-2). Pray continuously. And always be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in you, remembering to do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15, italics mine). We treat everyone with dignity, respect, and love, as they are individuals created in the image of God. 

 

When a brother or sister in Christ is living with unrepentant sin we are encouraged to help them. However, if someone is in a gay marriage with someone they love and may even have children together, what do we recommend for them? How do they repent?

I would recommend Christ, as I would for any unbeliever. Remember, we are talking about a different worldview here. The two individuals in a gay marriage do not consider it sin. It is a normal lifestyle for them, so the fact that God views homosexuality as sin will be lost on them. We rejoice in the truth, but they do not know the truth. (1 Cor. 13:6) Now repentance. 

 Remember, repentance comes only with an understanding that we are sinners in need of a savior. With no recuperative powers to enable man to save himself from sin, man is lost. Men are sinners by nature, choice, and by divine declaration (Psalm 14:1-3, Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:9-18, 23; 5:10-12). Man's salvation rests upon God's grace and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When the sinner responds to the Word of God (John 5:24), and the divine provision of salvation, divine nature and life are given (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5). 

Our Spirit is now alive in Christ. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits worthy of repentance as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. The believer submits control of his life to the Holy Spirit through faithful obedience to the Word of God (Eph. 5:17-21; Phil. 2:12; Col. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:4-10). It is through obedience to God's word, by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can recognize, and combat the sin in our lives.

"If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on a new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:21-24). 

They need Christ, just as every believer did in order to turn from sin. Spend your time modeling Christ in front of them. 

"Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:1-2). Pray continuously. And always be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in you, remembering to do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). We treat everyone with dignity, respect, and love, as they are individuals created in the image of God.

 

When a friend or family member announces that they are marrying their same sex partner, how are we to respond? 

I cannot give you a comprehensive answer to the question without having a few more details. What type of relationship did you have before the announcement? Does the couple know that you are a Christian? Family should know, and friends depending on how close you are might know. We are called to everyone with the respect, dignity and love, as someone created in the image of God. Homosexuals should not be treated differently than any other person who is lost and without Christ. 

Remember, above all, people need Christ. Model Christ-be that fragrant aroma before them.  "Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:1-2). Pray continuously. And always be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in you, remembering to do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

Week Three - Politics

(Responses given by Dan Ledbetter)

An old friend on Facebook was offended at my post to vote republican.  Her response: I find to attempt to be a Good Samaritan I must vote Democratic. To be there for the lost, The forgotten, for widows and children. I find conservatives always leave the least of these, that we are called to serve, behind. I couldn’t face God at the end of my days without putting others first. SADLY she really believes this without being able to defend it. I grew up as one of these people she is talking about and all welfare did was hold us back. Why is it that so many churches do not preach truth about political agendas so that people with good hearts like hers can vote for real help and change. 

Thanks for your question. There is a long answer and a short answer to your question, and right now I'm going to give you the short answer, as Pastor Curt will be dealing with politics this upcoming week and I would like to give him the opportunity to speak to this issue. If after the weekend you still need some clarification, I will be more than happy to pursue this further.  

  • I do not know what your post said, so I cannot answer to her offense. I do know that social media is a poor medium for airing political differences- as a culture we have lost the art of the argument. It is a reason people choose to be offended-they cannot argue for a position. For the most part, people make assertions and statements, not arguments on social media. Both sides are guilty of this. Face to face, phone call, email, text, social media in that order. I find this works best. 

  • I too appreciate her heart for the lost, as Scripture speaks volumes regarding the poor and needy. "Woeto those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of my peoples rights so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans" (Isa. 10:1-2). "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).  Now, I can only comment that if she feels the best way to go about this before God in the political sphere is to vote Democrat, so be it. Obviously you disagree with her position. Like I said, I did not see the post, nor do I know whether or not she can cogently defend the position politically. I will say I have heard good arguments from both sides of the fence regarding this issue. (One of my undergrads is Political Science-so I have spent time here). If she can't defend it-help her. Ask questions: "I know you feel strongly about helping the poor and needy and I appreciate that about you. But could you help me understand why you feel the Conservatives have dropped the ball in this area?" Questions of this nature go a long way to fostering good discussions. 

  • Both sides have political agendas.

  • Recall Ephesians 4:11-12, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."Their job is to equip us, for the work of the body of Christ. We are to put on a new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:24), so that we can go make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). The job of the pastor/teacher is to equip us to do the work that Christ commanded. Political efforts rarely address the root cause of what torments humanity-they are merely short-term external efforts that address symptoms. We are called to bring light to a dark world; a world in which humanity has traded truth for a lie-a world in which the human heart hates God. Now I'm not saying we don't involve ourselves in the system. I'm thankful for the opportunity to vote and attempt to support Biblical views of morality, however the church's first priority lies elsewhere. 

  • That said, Pastor Curt is devoting time Sunday to talk about a Biblical view of  politics. Many churches do talk about politics. It is the reason there are rules for doing so. The Pacific Justice Institute has a pamphlet regarding the issue of what is legal for a church and a pastor. I will attach it. 

  • If you are interested in digging deeper into issues of Politics and the Church/State relationship look at itlnet.org. It is the Institute for Theology and Law.  

Is the increased tension and division in the US and the world a sign of the end times?

When we read Mark Chapter 13 Jesus describes the beginning of the end-"For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs" (vs. 8). Furthermore, the gospel must be preached to all nations (vs. 10). 

To summarize the end times:

  • Rapture of the Church -bodily return of Jesus before the seven-year tribulation (1 Thess. 4:16, Titus 2:3). Church raptured (John 14:1-3, 1 Cor. 15: 51-53, 1 Thess. 4:15-5:11). I hold to pre-tribulation eschatology. 

  • Tribulation-seven year tribulation where Jesus will pour out His righteous judgments on an unbelieving world (Jer. 30:7, Dan. 9:27, 12:1, 2 Thess. 2:7-12, Rev 16).

  • Second coming and Millennial reign- Christ Occupies the throne of David (Matt. 25:31, Luke 1:31-33, Acts 1:10-11, 2:29-30) Establishes 1000 year reign-the messianic kingdom (Rev 20:1-7). 

  • Judgment of the Lost- After 1000 year reign, Satan and his army devoured by fire from heaven, Satan thrown into lake of fire (Rev 20:9-10), and unbelievers judged (John 5:22, 2 Thess. 1:9, Rev 20:7-15)

  • Eternity-This is followed by the saved entering into an eternal state of glory with God (John 17:3, Eph. 5:5, Rev 21:22).

Now this is just a pencil sketch of the end times, but to your question of whether or not we are the generation that Christ speaks of in Mark 13 is unclear, nor would I want to speculate on things that Scripture doesn't make clear. Now it is possible that we are seeing the beginnings; there are plenty of wars, Christians being persecuted, and natural disasters. Do they seem to be getting worse? Maybe. But perspective is an interesting thing. I hadn't yet been born when Stalin purged tens of millions of his countrymen. Mao exterminated tens of millions of his own people. WW11 saw devastation not seen before from the hands of mankind. Evil has always existed in the heart of man since the fall, and that will not change. Are natural disasters getting worse? Probably. But what does scripture say about when? Look at what Jesus says in Mark 13:32; "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Jesus, voluntarily limiting His divine attributes as part of His human nature, says that He does not know. Then look at Acts 1: 6-7; when asked about restoring the kingdom to Israel, he says, "It is not for you to know the times or dates that the Father has set by His own authority." Jesus, fully divine in nature now, knows, but he tells them that as mere mortals, they will not know. 

So as one of those mere mortals, I must say that I do not know. Many have claimed to know, have set dates, and been proven wrong every time. Be wary of those that make these predictions-you will usually find a cult of Christianity lurking in the midst. If the angels in heaven do not know, I'd be willing to bet that I'm not going to know. It's possible, but I'm not sure. 

Do you still have questions? Send us your questions and we will get back with you

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