Friday, June 26, 2015

A Sad Day for Marriage...But God Is Still on the Throne

By a 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court overturned a definition of marriage that has endured since, well since God gave the definition back in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve.  It is best stated in Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
Here is God's definition of marriage expressed very simply: one man plus one woman. 

As I have stated in previous blogs, God's definition of marriage has crossed cultural and racial and religious and even non-religious lines down through the millenniums since the creation of man.  Throughout our nation the majority of people, through public referendums, indicated that they believed in the traditional, biblical definition of marriage. 

Now, with a vote from a panel of nine judges who have no accountability to the American people at all - remember, the Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life - that definition has been changed.  Marriage will now be defined as the union of any parties who have bonded because of love.  In the immediate sense, the changed definition relates to same-sex marriage: a man with another man, a woman with another woman.  (By the way, in spite of what five Supreme Court Justices might say, God's opinion of same-sex marriage has not changed.  It is still an abomination to Him).  But, let us look down the road a little further.  Because of this ruling today, who can deny a pedophile who wants to marry a under-aged boy because he is in love?  Or, who can deny a brother from marrying his sister?  Or, who can say it would be wrong for a man to marry two or three wives at the same time?  Now, you will say, "Pastor Max, that won't happen!  We have statutes against incest.  We have laws against polygamy."  Yes, you are right...we do have such statutes and laws right now.  But up until a few hours ago, we also had a statute in many states that said that marriage was between a man and a woman.  Now that statute has been nullified, so who is to say that incest and polygamy laws would not be nullified in the future? 

We had already begun sliding down the slippery slope of immorality.  Now that sliding has just accelerated.  And I am fearful for how God will respond!  For, indeed He will respond!  He responded to the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He responded to the immorality of Israel and Judah.  He responded to the immorality of the Roman Empire.  Oh, yes, God will respond.  It will eventually result in His judgment - perhaps as destructive as was His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  Perhaps with the devastation of the exile both Israel and Judah experienced.  Perhaps with the crushing defeat at the hands of others as the Roman Empire experienced. 

I am reminded of those words from the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-32.  That little phrase, "and God gave them over" appears three times.  Before judgment comes, God may allow our nation to wallow in the slime we have created because we have turned our backs upon God.  It will a tragic time.

What can we do?  First of all, we must continue to pray.  Let us never forget that prayer is a powerful weapon against evil.  Second, we must continue to show love to those with whom we disagree.  Those people need a Savior just as we did.  So, let us point them to Jesus.  Third, we must ask ourselves this question: "What does the Bible have to say?"  Church Boards, Pastoral groups will have to set aside time to study intensely that question.  What is your church's position?  How will your church continue to define marriage?  What will be your church's position with regard to the relationship between the state's definition of marriage and your church's definition?  Who will be able to use your church's facilities for a marriage ceremony?  Will your church still be available for use for a marriage ceremony?  Not easy questions to answer, but they have taken on a whole new meaning in the light of the decision reached today.

The Court's decision today was little more narrow than I had anticipated.  I had looked for a 7-2 vote, so, in essence, the Court was divided.  However, a divided Court did not remove a Sovereign God from His throne.  So we just need to keep looking to Him and trusting in Him and living for Him even if it will cost us some personal freedoms.  Friends, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Is the Time for God to Act Near?

In my devotions the other morning I was reading in the Book of Ezekiel.  I came across a passage that frightened me with its strong declaration from God.  It is found in the 24th chapter of that book.  When one reads this particular chapter, the focus is God's strong judgment that is coming against Jerusalem.  The judgment comes in the form of a parable that God instructs Ezekiel to proclaim to the people of Jerusalem: a parable about a cooking pot that is filled with choice pieces of meat and then placed on a cook stove and brought to a boil.  Then the pot is emptied and the empty pot is placed  back on the fire until it becomes a hot, glowing entity.  This parable is a picture of God's judgment coming upon the people of Jerusalem. 

For what does Jerusalem need judging?  As one reads the preceding chapters in Ezekiel, the primary cause of judgment is the people's spiritual adultery (read chapter 23).  In their abandonment of God, the people had resorted to every type of sexual deviation imaginable and worshiped at the altar of a god or goddess of adultery and violence.  Life had little value, for Ezekiel declares that the people even offered their own children to these gods and goddesses.  Sadly, in the very temple itself, spiritual prostitution was taking place with little regard. 

God had attempted to warn the people about their adulterous activities through prophet after prophet, but the people had failed to hear and to heed those warnings.  So, God says, through the prophet Ezekiel, "Now your impurity is lewdness.  Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided."  (Ezekiel 24:13).  In other words, God is saying that because the people failed to allow God to cleanse them voluntarily, they would become clean through an act of God. 

Next come those words that grabbed my heart.  "I the LORD have spoken.  The time has come for me to act.  I will not hold back: I will not have pity, nor will I relent.  You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 24:14). 

I have to admit that as I read those words, my blood ran cold.  You understand that God had finally "had it" with Jerusalem.  There would be no more warnings.  There would only be judgment.  There would only be God's wrath.  God would not hold back. Jerusalem would experience the full measure of God's wrath.  Furthermore, God said that He would not change His mind.  And this wrath would be justified because of the people's conduct and actions.  I paused as I read those words as if the prophet himself was standing beside my chair looking over my should shaking his head and pointing his finger first at the text and then at the world around.  "The time has come for me to act."  I have often been heard to say, "If Jesus does not come soon, there might not be anything to come back for."  Have you ever felt that way?  Is God about ready to act against our nation?  We keep shaking our fist in His face with our increased immorality which has  become lewdness before God.  Will the impending Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage be that final act that will bring forth God's judgment?  I don't know.  And what form will this judgment take?  Again, I don't know.  But I do know that when God's judgment fell upon Jerusalem, a city and nation was totally destroyed to only rise from the ashes seventy years later, never resembling the nation that it had been. 

May I share with you one other passage from the pen of this same prophet.  It is found in Ezekiel 22:30-31 where Ezekiel proclaims the words from God: "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.  So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD."  How sad!  God looked for one individual who would be willing to stand up and be counted, who would dare to go against the flow of the culture, who could dare to be like a Daniel.  And God found no one!  I don't know about you, but I want to be one of those who dare to stand in the gap.  I pray for God's boldness to dare to live a separated life for Jesus Christ.  I want others to see and to know that I am serving a powerful God.  I am going to dare to trust the Bible to be exactly what God said it is...His inspired Word.  I am going to dare to believe that the only salvation for this evil world is through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am going to dare to believe that a person truly discovers who he or she is when they have an encounter with the living God through His Son. 

Friends, will you join me in standing in the gap?  God's judgment is soon to come and it will be devastating.  Let's continue sounding the warning so people will hear one last time that the only answer is found in Jesus.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"I Am a Hobbit"

I am presently doing a lot of reading for a new class I will be teaching to some of the tenth grade students who attend our church this fall.  The class is on developing a Biblical Worldview.  So, I have been reading and taking notes, comparing the prevailing cultural worldview of humanism and secularism and the Biblical worldview.  I am amazed at the total lack of any foundation for humanism.  It is built upon a straw-man which has no strength.  You see, when you decide to intentionally take God and the presence of the supernatural away from culture, you are left with mere theories and speculations.  And I have found that it is never a good thing to base anything upon a mere theory or speculation.  And, one of the evidences of this lack of foundation is that there is so much room for inconsistencies.

Such an inconsistency has arisen to the surface these past few days.  The case involves a lady by the name of Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP.  She was born of Caucasian parents but identifies herself as being black.  She was asked by Matt Lauer, the host of NBC's "Today" Show, "Are you an African-American.?"  Her answer was, "I identify as black."  Ms. Dolezal claims that she began to identify as a black woman when she was five years of age.  She said that she chose a brown-colored crayon to draw herself rather than the standard peach-colored crayon that most white children use. 

Now, here is where I find the inconsistency in our cultural worldview today.  The media has a love affair with Bruce Jenner as he spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to become the "woman" he has always wanted to be.  He identified with being a woman.  So, his - or is it her? - picture is on the cover of leading magazines.  He  - or is it she? - is interviewed on national television.  Even ESPN wants to aware him - or is it her? - with an award for courage.  Bruce - or is it Caitlyn? - is elevated to the status of being a hero.  But, Ms. Dolezal is forced to defend herself before a tumultuous media simply because she wants to be black, but lives in a white body.  She said, in an interview on NBC's "Nightly News" last evening, that she had decided not to take any drugs or chemicals that might have discolored her skin.  So, she is a white woman even thought she wants be seen as being black.  So, it is okay for Bruce - or is it Caitlyn?, but not okay for Rachel.  Are you confused yet? 

Rush Limbaugh had some fun with this whole thing the other day on his radio program.  Now I am not a great fan of Rush Limbaugh, but I do believe he has his finger on the pulse of where our nation is going.  As many of you know, Rush is a big man.  So, he tells his radio audience that he now wants to be called "skinny" because he believes inside that that is what he is.  Suppose I wanted to let you know that I identify with being a Hobbit.  Would that make me a Hobbit?  No!  I might convince myself that I really was a Hobbit - of course I might need to grow my feet and find someway to increase hair-growth on those feet.  But, in reality, I am still who I am.  That is who God created me to be. 

Friends, if there is to be a consistency in this self-centered, sin-riddled culture in which we live, then we need to accept anyone as who they think they are.  Which, when you really think about it, becomes a scary thing.  Ms. Dolezal was born as a white-woman.  She may have very strong sympathies and passion for the black people she worked for and with, but she is white because that is the way God created her.  Bruce Jenner was born as a white-man.  He may have very strong sympathies and passion for the female sex, but he is a male because that is the way God created him. 

Why all this dissatisfaction with who we are?  The answer is found in the foundation of humanism - the prevailing worldview of today: Man is the center of his world; there is no God, therefore everything revolves around me and my happiness.  Friends, if God is missing the only anchor one has is to himself.  If I am out in a boat in a storm and I throw the anchor overboard, I certainly hope that it will catch something more significant and stronger than my boat.  I want a pretty solid rock.  But, take away the Rock, who is God Himself, and we are left to the whims of our own desires. 

Oh how it is time to return to the Scriptures and there discover that our significance as a human race is only found in the relationship we have with the living God. 

I have begun preaching a series through the Book of Ecclesiastes in my church.  This past Sunday we examined Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 where Solomon describes life as being meaningless, empty and boring; that true significance is only found in God.  I had a Dad approach me following one of the services and said that his young son, probably aged 7 or 8, had a question.  The young boy's question was: So, Pastor Max, what is the purpose for man?  Now, isn't that a great question for any of us to ask, but a marvelous question for a young boy to ask.  How would you have responded?  Well I shared with him and his Dad these words, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."  That statement from the Westminster Confession is truly amazing.  Man's significance - a young boy's significance - is found in a relationship with God.  Bruce Jenner never discovered that relationship.  Rachel Dolezal never discovered that relationship.  Have you?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lessons for Today from a Minor Prophet of Yesterday

Yesterday morning, as part of our Staff meeting here at Buffalo Covenant Church, I shared with the staff some thoughts from one of my favorite Minor Prophets.  His name - Habakkuk.  I sort of fell in love with this 6th century BC prophet when I first prepared notes for a class I was teaching at Village Schools of the Bible years ago.  This prophet takes a remarkable journey in a mere three chapters.  Yet his message is so vitally important for us today, living some 26 centuries later. 

As we open the pages of Habakkuk's book, we observe a very frustrated man of God.  Now, what I like about Habakkuk is that his frustration came because of two factors.  First, he was a student of his culture and world of his day.  He read the newspapers everyday.  He listened to the CNN's and Fox News Channels of his day.  He was totally conscious of how terrible the times were.  In fact he cries out, in verse 2, "Violence!"  (Did you know that the Hebrew word for "violence" is "hamas?")  He observes what is happening in the courts of law: justice is not prevailing.  It seems that right is wrong and wrong is right; black is white and white is black.  Everything is out of whack!  Can you identify with the frustrations of this prophet?  I know I can.  I read the newspaper every morning.  I subscribe to several news magazines that I read weekly.  I follow certain websites for further news information.  I don't have to tell you that the world seems upside-down and spinning out of control. 

The second cause for Habakkuk's frustration is that he believes God is doing nothing at all about it.  He does not see the hand of God intervening to correct the wrongs, to alleviate the sufferings, to cause things to be right.  As the book opens, God seems to be "out there, some where" and it frustrates Habakkuk because he knows that only God's intervention can possibly correct what he sees happening. 

Beginning in verse 5, God answers this frustrated prophet with remarkable words: "Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."  Then God proceeds to tell an already frustrated prophet that God's solution is to send the Babylonians to destroy the city of Jerusalem and take the people into captivity.  Not the answer Habakkuk was anticipating...not at all!  And, by the end of chapter 1 his frustration has reached fever-pitch.  God's logic has become least to one very confused and frustrated prophet.

But, as chapter 2 opens, we see Habakkuk doing something that is remarkable.  Instead of going into his room and pouting because he did not get what he wanted, we find him climbing the city wall and watching to see God's answer.  What is he watching for?  An army of Babylonians.  I want to share three incredible truths from these early verses in Habakkuk 2: 1) faith can put us in a position to watch for God's response - how we need to be looking for the hand of God to be at work in our world; 2) faith puts us in a position to wait for God's response - how we need to remember that God works in God's ways in God's time, not our time; and 3) faith puts us in a position to trust God - even when that trusting is not exactly what we desire.  As Habakkuk's faith is being cultivated, so is his understanding of how God is already at work.  Because his confidence is now restored in God, the remainder of chapter 2 is a strong declaration of God's judgment upon the sins of the culture and society of his day.  And he closes the chapter with a strong statement about our response to a holy, Almighty God: "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." 

Finally, in chapter 3 we see the prophet at prayer - and what a remarkable prayer it really is.  Our frustrated prophet has become a most contented prophet.  The one who had complained about God's inaction, now is a prophet who rests in the hands of God no matter what happens.  Listen to these amazing words: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD.  I will be joyful in God my Savior."  Wow!  Did you hear what the prophet was saying?  If God should take everything away, there would still be a reason to rejoice in what God had done! 

Friends, our world today is not unlike that of Habakkuk's.  We see the vileness of sin on every hand.  Yet, we need to be driven by our faith in God to know that God is in control of everything.  The way we want God to answer may not be the way God will answer.  Certainly God did not respond in the way that Habakkuk thought God should.  Yet, God grew his faith.  As we get closer to the return of Christ and we see the world getting increasingly more difficult, let us ask God to grow our faith so that we can respond as did Habakkuk: Lord, even if everything is taken away from me, I will still trust in You!  Amen!  Let me encourage you to read this little book.  I think you, too, will fall in love with this amazing prophet.