Archive for April, 2013

The Enemies of Marriage

April 10, 2013

Title: Three Enemies of Marriage

Text: Hebrews 13:4, Romans 1:26-27

Time: April 7th, 2013

 

 

Marriage has been a big topic lately in the news, primarily because of the so-called gay marriage push by activists in the media. The Supreme Court is deciding two big cases that involve same sex marriage, so everyone is talking and thinking about marriage. Unfortunately the direction the conversation is going is all wrong. Most people today see marriage as little more than a social construct, an invention by humans for ordering society.  They fail to recognize that it’s something given by God Almighty. If marriage is something we just made up then of course we are free to amend it in any way we choose. But because marriage isn’t something man-made but something God established a long time ago, then we are not free to simply change it whenever we want. Some people today are actually trying to make the ridiculous argument that so-called gay marriage actually strengthens the institution of marriage! They reason that allowing homosexuals to enter into what we call marriage would increase social stability among gays, just as it increases social stability among heterosexuals. These same people are arguing that conservatives, traditionally opposed to same sex unions and marriages, should actually embrace it because it would strengthen the conservation of the institution itself, especially during a time when standard heterosexual marriages are breaking up at alarming rates. But this logic is so deeply flawed that I want to spend time explaining why, far from strengthening marriage, gay relationships undermine true marriage. But while the solution of gay marriage isn’t a real solution at all, the observation that traditional heterosexual marriage is in trouble today is accurate. The divorce rate is at or near fifty percent nationwide currently. That means half of all marriages will end in divorce. That statistic is alarming, and tragic. How can society survive when marriages are so unstable? It can’t. But why is marriage today so much in a state of chaos? It’s a very complicated problem, but I’d like to come at the problem from three different angles. First, there’s the problem of cohabitation, or in other words, living together by couples without the benefit of marriage. I’ll explore why this simple act of rebellion against God’s moral order undermines marriage and consequently all of society. Second, there’s the problem of divorce. Now some people might wonder whether divorce is really the result of other causes rather than a cause itself for the sad state of marriage today in society. But the no fault laws and how easy it is to divorce actually undermines God’s plan for marriage and society. I’ll try to explain this further. Third, finally, I’ll talk more about how so-called gay marriage undermines real marriage. So let’s turn to the Bible and find out what God has to say about this important topic. (more…)

The Purpose of Marriage

April 10, 2013

Title: The Purpose of Marriage

Text: Genesis 2:18; 3: 6, 17; 4:1-2, Romans 1:18

Time: April 6th, 2013

 

 

We’re past Easter now and into spring. We’re also into a national debate over marriage – what it is and what are it’s limits? The debate comes in connection with the Supreme Court hearings on so-called gay marriage – whether it should be allowed or not? Two cases appear before the court at the present time. One argues that a state, California, has the right to set the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, thus excluding all kinds of other arrangements, such as same sex relationships, as qualifying as marriage. Two, the other case before the court argues that the federal government has the right to maintain its present definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. So both cases center on the definition of marriage. Now the problem with the defenders of marriage in both cases is that they can’t use any moral or biblical reasoning to defend their side. And that greatly hurts the evidence they can bring forth. Both sides are limited to only secular reasons. For Christians and others who defend the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, there are plenty of secular reasons to argue, but the strongest arguments include references to the Bible and the Judeo-Christian tradition. But there are secular reasons for maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage. For example, one secular reason for holding on to the regular, standard definition of marriage is that it isn’t just a Christian institution, it’s also something part of all cultures at all times everywhere. In other words, it’s one of the few universal institutions of the world and of world history. And it’s that way for a good reason – it’s simply the best way to organize society, an orderly, logical and superior way of running civilization. Another secular reason is that to change the standard definition of marriage as matrimony between a man and woman puts society at risk. Opponents, like gay activists, are actually reckless and careless in their treatment of this fundamental institution of society, because they are willing to experiment with millions upon multiple millions of lives to “test” gay marriage in society. So-called gay marriage has only recently been introduced; it’s only a decade or so old. Before the 21st Century no nation anywhere at any time had ever recognized such a thing, so it’s really too new to assess it’s strengths or weaknesses on society.  Yet gay activists want to push us all “full speed ahead” as if there were nothing to lose. So these are just two good reasons to oppose it at this time. But what about biblical reasons? Does the Bible limit marriage to man and woman? What is the purpose of marriage according to the Bible? Let’s look. (more…)

An Easter Question — Is There Life After Death?

April 3, 2013

Title: An Easter Question – Is There Life After Death?

Text: Ecclesiastes 3:21, John 11:25-26, Luke 24:36-39

Time: March 26th, 2013

 

 

I’ve always said that Easter is a great time of the year to talk about life, death and life after death, because the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ touches on all three of these fascinating topics. But it bothers me today how often people put the topic of life after death, for example, in the category of strange, bizarre or mysterious. I was recently listening to the radio in the bathroom as I was shaving in the morning, and the local radio station was advertising a late night program called Coast-to-Coast with George Nory. The announcer said something like, “UFO’s, Crops Circles, Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, Life After Death, all these and more on late night Coast-to-Coast.” And I thought to myself, “Why are they lumping the topic of life after death in with all these fringe topics?” Have we gone so far away from the Lord in these modern, secular times that we now put the survival of the soul at death mixed together with Big Foot and the Lock Ness Monster? It’s pretty pathetic. I think it says more about a growing secular skepticism today than any real evidence or argument against the continued existence of the soul after death. Life after death isn’t a strange or unusual belief, because in fact most people believe it in one form or another. Certainly all Christians believe it, or should believe it if they are truly Christian. But the Easter season gives us a reason or excuse to talk about this topic because of Jesus Christ and the attention we give him during this time of the year. What about life after death? Is it something that there is evidence for, or is it all just a matter of faith? Today, I’d like to talk about the evidence for life after death starting with any scientific evidence there might be for the continued existence of the soul. Then, I’ll turn to any research evidence, not limited to the scientific method, but really any academic or scholarly evidence for life after death. Finally, I’ll talk about the biblical evidence found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for belief in the soul’s existence after death. In any discussion of evidence for something like life after death, as well as other related topics such as evidence for the existence of a soul or spirit in and of itself, we aren’t necessarily looking for mathematical certainty; that’s too high an order of proof. I’ll merely be looking to present any kind of rational or reasonable evidence that would support the claim that one’s soul or personality survives the physical death of the body. We all die eventually, but is this the end, or is there a part of us that will live on? I believe there are rational reasons for believing we will continue to live. (more…)

The Dangers of Double-Mindedness

April 3, 2013

Title: The Dangers of Double-Mindedness

Text: James 1:5-8

Time: March 25th, 2013

 

 

A few weeks ago I heard about the trouble of a modern folk singer by the name of Michelle Schocked. Apparently she’s losing all her fans and can’t find anyplace to perform her songs because she offended her primary audience in San Francisco by some comments she made at a recent concert. In the middle of a musical set she reportedly said, “”If someone would be so gracious as to please tweet out ‘Michelle Shocked just said from stage, God hates faggots.’ Would you do it now?” She then went on to say, “I was at a prayer meeting yesterday, and you gotta appreciate how scared folks on that side of the equation are. I mean, from their vantage point, and I really shouldn’t say ‘their’ because it’s mine too, we are nearly at the end of time. And from our vantage point we’re gonna be, uh … once Prop 8 gets instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, then I’m pretty sure that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back.” What happened was the audience started walking out in protest and the management of the venue pulled the plug on her immediately. As a result, nearly all her future concert performances have been cancelled. A few days later she issued a statement where she said her support for the LGBT community has never wavered and “If I could repeat that evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them.” So apparently here is a contemporary folk singer who is a Christian but who is torn between her Christian beliefs and between her artistic and professional loyalties – and her need to be a part of both worlds. I couldn’t help think of the New Testament passage found in James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Now I don’t want to judge Michelle Shocked the folk singer too harshly, because after all we’re all double-minded to some extent in our Christian faith. Nobody lives and believes Christianity one-hundred percent. But it’s so obvious what happened with her, and it’s such a common problem in the Christian community, that I thought I’d address the topic. It’s the old problem of one foot in and one foot out of the world – or in other words, sitting on the spiritual or moral fence. “Yes, I’m a Christian, but yes, I also love the world” – that’s the problem. But God is asking people to make a choice, whether they are with him all the way or not. Let’s look at the problem further. (more…)

Zombies In The Bible? Part 2

April 3, 2013

Title: Zombies In the Bible? Part 2

Text: Matthew 27:50-53

Time: March 22nd, 2013

 

 

A few weeks ago I dealt with a Bible passage that comes up during Holy Week, particularly on Good Friday every year, yet is so strange and mysterious that it produces lots of wild and crazy speculations – Matthew 27:50-53, “ And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Last time, I tried to explain this verse as best I could within a wider and more general explanation of resurrection from the dead. We are into the Easter season, or more properly, the season of Lent, just a few days away from Holy Week, so talk about resurrection from the dead is entirely appropriate. That’s one of the great benefits in living in a society that celebrates Easter every year – it gives us an opportunity and excuse to talk about death, resurrection, and life after death. These things might potentially go neglected in an increasingly secular society. We must thank God that we are still able to deal with these important subjects in a public way every year around Easter. So before we actually get into Holy Week, or the final week of Christ’s life, before Good Friday and Easter morning, I’d like to deal with the strange passage I talked about a few weeks ago, only deal with it in a little more depth. Again, I don’t want to take away from Christ’s death, burial and resurrection by talking about something else, but I do want to answer as many questions as I can about this very weird verse found in the New Testament gospel accounts. I began to read some of the commentaries on Matthew 27:50-53 and found that they are all over the map as far as explaining this verse. It’s seems like nobody is really certain what is happening, although some come across as more sure than others. However, even the commentaries that claim to explain the verse raise more questions than they answer. Some of the questions they raise are – Who are these people that rose from the dead? How many of them rose from the dead? It says they were “saints” but what kind of saints? Old Testament saints or New Testament saints? When did they actually rise from the dead? On Good Friday, when Christ died on the cross, or on Easter Sunday, when Christ rose from the grave? What became of them after they appeared to people in Jerusalem? Did they live out their lives and then die? Or did they ascend into heaven like Jesus after a few days? None of the commentators raise the question of zombies, because this isn’t really a realistic biblical alternative, although it is an interesting question that I’ll raise simply because our culture today is so enamored with them. But my goal is to bring clarity, as much as possible, about a very strange and mysterious passage. I’d like to get it out of the way in time for Holy Week so we can focus on Jesus as we approach Easter Sunday. So let me do my best, again, in explaining this mystery. (more…)

Good Friday — Jesus Teaches Us How To Die

April 3, 2013

Title: Good Friday – Jesus Teaches Us How to Die

Text: Matthew 26:36

Time: March 20th, 2013

 

 

It is said that there are two things that all people have in common – death and taxes. That’s a clever way of saying that these are two facts of life. When we think of the Easter season we usually think of life because we emphasize or celebrate Easter morning when Christ arose from the dead. We think of new life and renewal when we think of Easter, especially because it is celebrated in the springtime, as the winter ends and plants and animals start to come out of hiding for summer. But we should also remember that Jesus not only teaches us how to live, he also teaches us how to die. And since all of us will experience death – unless the Lord returns again before we reach the end of our life – we should particularly pay attention how Jesus approaches his earthly end. In other words, we not only look to Jesus for leadership in life; we also look to Jesus in handling death. How did Jesus handle his own upcoming death? What things did he do to prepare himself for death? As we get older we see that different people towards the end of their life prepare for death in different ways – some ways are healthy and some are not so healthy. For example, some people decide to make what they call a “bucket list” of different things they hope to accomplish or do or experience before they “kick the bucket,” as they refer to death. Then they go about trying to fulfill all or as many items as they can on their so-called “bucket list.” That’s one way some people handle their upcoming death. There are many ways people deal with the fact that they won’t live forever on earth, that they are getting closer to the last day on earth, and that they feel they only have just a short time left of life. In other words, different people react in different ways to the prospect of shortly dying. How would you react if you knew you only had 24 hours to live, or one month more to live, or one year more? How would you react to the realization that you are up in age and that you could pass away at any time now; if you are there now, how are you reacting to this reality? Jesus has a thing or two to show us about dying, because he too realized that the end was near for his earthly life. His model and example can serve as a pattern for all of us as we near our last days on earth. What can Jesus teach us about dying? What can we learn from him? I’ll look at three ways Jesus teaches us how to die, ways that will be helpful for us to remember as we approach our last days of living. First, he teaches us to draw close to God. Second, he teaches us to draw close to family and friends. Third, he teaches us to gradually draw apart from the earthly, worldly preoccupations. Let’s break these three lessons down further. (more…)

Where Was Jesus After He Died On The Cross?

April 3, 2013

Title: Where Was Jesus After He Died on the Cross?

Text: 1 Peter 3:18-19, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Luke 23:42-43

Time: March 19th, 2013

 

 

We’re less than two weeks away from Easter Sunday 2013, coming closer to spring, although it still feels like winter with snow and sleet.  I’ve been dealing with different aspects of the Easter theme this year, so I’ll continue in that same direction this morning. Today, I’d like to tackle the difficult question of where Christ was during the three days between his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. Where did he go after he spoke these words on the cross at his final moment, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” Luke 23:46. If you remember last message, we got into this issue in dealing with the separation of mind and body of Christ after his death on the cross. I was explaining how the physical, material body of Jesus was placed in the tomb after his crucifixion, but that his soul or spirit had long since left and gone off to some other place. If you remember, I couldn’t say exactly where the mind and soul or spirit of Jesus went after his death on the cross. Matthew 27:50 says, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit,” but it doesn’t say exactly where his spirit went from there. So what we have to do is piece together a number of different clues or hints in the New Testament in order to come up with a likely place where Jesus was in the spirit, while his physical, material body lie in the stone cold tomb. Now in addition to biblical passages found in the New Testament, we’ll also consider the famous “Apostle’s Creed” and see if it helps us in understanding the whereabouts of Jesus for the three days before his resurrection. Why consider the Apostle’s Creed? Because it’s a very old and very popular summary of the teachings of Christianity that practically all branches of Christianity follow. What specific content does it contain that is related to the question of where Jesus was during the interval between the cross and the resurrection? Only this simple, yet important phrase, “He (Jesus) was crucified, dead and was buried; he descended into hell. He rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven.” Now anyone from a traditional or main line church has said this phrase while reciting the Apostle’s Creed. Most people say it without thinking much about it. Today we’ll take a closer look at it and see if it helps us understand the whereabouts of Jesus during the end of Holy Week. And we’ll mostly explore what the Bible itself says about this question, since as Christians we look primarily to it as our authoritative source for truth, not man-made commentary. So it should be an interesting time as we reflect deeply about our Easter faith this year. Please join me. (more…)