Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Marriage Crisis – Can Any Good Come From This?

From Twitter on June 26th, 2013:

  • #BREAKING: SCOTUS strikes down DOMA, the ban on federal benefits for same-sex married couples, on a 5-4 vote. Via Politico
  • “This is a sweeping decision, redefining marriage, regardless of the Prop 8 decision.” Dr. Russell Moore, President of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention
  • “I honestly disagree with marriage defenders who try to minimize the impact of Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case. It’s theory is sweeping.” Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary
  • “Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove” President Barack Obama

Doma2Is this the end of marriage as we know it? Is the sky falling? Is the apocalypse upon us?

Many supporters of marriage between one man and one woman have probably hit the panic button, and the tweets above should be evidence enough that things have changed, are changing and will continue to change rapidly. The moral landscape of the United States may never be the same.

So I don’t think we should diminish what has happened and pretend that it doesn’t matter. It matters. It says something about our society and the Church in the United States. The kind of fundamental change that we are experiencing can’t be flippantly dismissed.

But when life falls a part, there is often an opportunity to pick up the pieces and be a part of redeeming something broken, even when the outlook appears bleak. This might be the case with the current marriage crisis and legal rulings over same-sex marriage. There may be something to be gained, when so much seems lost. Here are five possibilities:

  1. This marriage crisis might serve as a wake-up call to acknowledge gospel realities. If a biblical worldview means anything, then this is a stark reminder that we are living in a post-Christian country. We shouldn’t expect people who don’t believe the Bible to accept and practice what the Bible says about marriage. Neither should we expect them to affirm it, since they can’t fully understand spiritual things (2 Cor. 2:14).  So for those of us who believe the Bible and desire to obey all that Jesus commanded for the glory of God and the good of others, we need to first and foremost love people by proclaiming the truth that we are all in need of forgiveness and a transformed nature that can only come from trusting in the gospel of Christ. People need to be made new (2 Cor. 5:17) so that God can then change them and keep changing them. We are reaping the consequences of a be good, moralistic, behavioral modification religion, instead of a robust, gospel-driven theology. We must prioritize the proclamation of the whole gospel that is received by repentance and faith. Really, what we need is a true, gospel revival. Our failure to understand, articulate and apply these truths, maybe one of the biggest reasons for the current situation.
  2. This marriage crisis might increase clarity and conviction about biblical sexuality. Controversy often results in a more thorough understanding. As the debate over marriage has heated up, and has at times swarmed the news cycle and social media, it has been eye-opening to see how little Christians know and understand about what the Bible prescribes and describes regarding marriage. It is one thing when someone who isn’t a Christian denies the clarity of what the Bible says about sexuality, and it is quite another when someone who claims to be a Christian, condones what the Bible clearly condemns. If Christians are to take a loving and biblical stand, they will have to know what they believe and why they believe it. And by the way, one of the reasons we are where we are is because Christians don’t know the “why” of biblical marriage. Local churches have to be brave, more intentional and better at teaching and equipping with regards to marriage.
  3. This marriage crisis might help us to see and acknowledge our mistakes and correct them. For instance, there is little doubt that many Christians have treated homosexuality different than other sins, as though this particular sexual sin were more evil than idolatry, fornication, adultery, lust, etc. Many have not treated others the way that they would want to be treated when standing for the truth (Matt. 7:12). Standing for the truth does not a hate-monger make, but how it is done might be very hateful. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, even people we disagree with. Whether it is our tone, trusting in government instead of God  or a lack of humility, we have to acknowledge that we can improve the way we talk about the issue and how we engage others. 
  4. This marriage crisis might help us to understand and rightly define what love means. President Obama says that “marriage equality” is the right thing to do because “love is love.” That sounds and feels very caring, but what does he mean by the word love? When I read the Bible, especially the book of 2 John, I find that love is defined by the truth. They go together and truth dictates what love can and can’t be, not fuzzy feelings or a whatever floats your boat attitude. If any action is contrary to the truth of God’s word, it is not love and it is not loving to affirm it as such. Rather, it is dangerous and potentially damning. We must have a biblical definition of love, or love becomes an excuse to let people do what is right in their own eyes.
  5. This marriage crisis might further clarify who truly belongs to Christ. What’s next? No one knows for certain what will happen, but it doesn’t seem too unrealistic to think that those who hold to the traditional view of marriage (the biblical view of marriage) will soon be persecuted and penalized by the law for being hateful and intolerant. I don’t want this to happen, but it might be good. If and when this happens, people will be forced to make a stand of conviction, or they will shrink from the truth and be silent to protect themselves from trouble. This may not happen, but it’s hard to ignore history.

We are where we are and it may not be the place we wish it to be, but the worst thing we can do is nothing. We can’t stay where we are.  May God give us the strength to move and change so that we are used to bring about something that is good for others and glorifies God.

Let the Little Children Come – Reflections on VBS

VBSTonight is the fourth and final night of Eagle Heights Vacation Bible School (VBS), and for some workers, and even a few children, it can’t end fast enough. After all, a child can be hard and tiring work.  But then put one child with nine others and you have  px90-like workout.

It’s not mean, it’s just true. Children can wear you flat slick.

But aren’t they worth it? Isn’t every little child worth our very best energy and effort?

Jesus certainly thought so.

“13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.” (Matthew 19:13-15, ESV)

Don’t miss the context. Jesus is on the cusp of finishing the work of dying for the sins of many. He is engaged in heavy hitting discussions with religious scholars about divorce. He is talking to important people of the day like the “Rich Young Ruler”, and He still makes the time for the seemingly lesser ones.

Doesn’t Jesus have better things to do than to pray for little children when there are so many adults around who might have an immediate and greater impact for the Kingdom?

We know the answer and it is to the disciples shame. “Let the little children come to Me.”

I confess, I have had to pray for my own attitude through this week. I have found myself thinking, “Just three more nights.” And then, “Just two more nights.” And then, “One last night.” When I should have been thanking God for this Christ-like opportunity to welcome and love the little children because “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I forget too easily that I was once a child and someone worked at Bible School to serve me. You can likely say the same thing and I hope we can live in such a way that we have gratitude and a renewed joy to love the little children just as Jesus did; even when it is tiring, hard and inconvenient.

They won’t be little for long.

Water Blasts to the Back and Thoughts on Fatherhood

Me and the Boys at SDCI was mowing and sweating profusely when I felt a sudden and unexpected shot of  wet and cold on my back. Though it felt briefly refreshing, it startled me and for an instant it irritated me. Isn’t there an unspoken rule that you don’t sneak up on a man when he is working? After all, mowing requires concentration and effort and I could have cut my foot off or chopped down a flower. So I turned to confront the culprit and standing there with water gun in hand was Elijah “Sniper” Prentice, smiling from ear to ear and looking as though he had done something worthy of commendation.

Seeing his pleasure, I playfully acknowledged his feat, and an instant of irritation turned to a moment of joy as we delighted in each other as father and son.

This prompted me to think about the unexpected joys of fatherhood and how I should cherish them while I can, because the days of water blasts to the back will soon be gone.

Here are some other truths, responsibilities, privileges and unexpected joys of being a father that came to mind because of a direct hit from Elijah.

  • There is a Heavenly Father. A human father should recognize that there is a heavenly Father who is perfect and worthy of our emulation (Matt. 5:48).
  • Fathers should embrace biblical manhood. To be the father that the Heavenly Father would have us be, each of us needs to be the kind of man who will “gladly embrace sacrificial responsibility (Eph. 5:25) to cultivate (produce) and protect (keep)” what God has given to us (Gen. 2:15). You don’t have to be married or be a father to be a man, but you do need to be a Godly man to be the father that God would have you to be.
  • Fathers will need to patiently repeat themselves. Before I could mow the lawn, I had to pick up balls, bricks, toys and rocks. How many times have a I instructed the boys to be responsible and pick up after themselves? A father should accept the responsibility of patiently instructing by repeating himself until authority is respected, and truth is understood and applied. He will need to do this with gentleness and sometimes he will need to do it forcefully, but always patiently. Is this not how the heavenly Father teaches us?
  • Fathers should show and tell. Instruction is essential (Eph. 6:4) but so is modeling. If a man is going to tell his children to pick up after themselves, then they need to see him picking up after himself, and better yet, they need to see him showing what he expects by helping them do it the right way.
  • Fathers should take less so they can gladly give more. Augustine of Hippo said of God, “You release (forgive) us of our debts, but lose nothing thereby.” God gave His only Son to ransom many (forgive) from sin by death. And yet in giving, did He not gain instead of lose? A father should realize it is in giving that he receives. Instead of pursing boy toys and earthly treasures for himself, a father should want less so he can give more to his children; especially of his time and energy. See Matt. 7:9-11.
  • Fathers should love deeply the mother of their children. One of the greatest gifts a father can give to his children is the security of a verbal, visible, consistent and sacrificial love (Eph. 5:25). Children need to see and hear fathers stick to their covenant commitment before God – for better or worse.
  • Fathers should work at loving the bride of Christ – the Church. You can’t fully love the heavenly Father if you don’t love the Son. And you don’t fully love the Son if you don’t love His universal and local body. Children need to see fathers love what God loves.
  • Fathers should ask for forgiveness – a lot. I’m fairly confident that we all know that fathers fail a bunch – it’s a hard and demanding job. We are pretty good at failing and it is one of the few things in life that doesn’t require training and effort. So when a father fails and causes disappointment, he must see it as a powerful opportunity by acknowledging his failure and asking for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me?”, is a powerful question that should be familiar to your family.
  •  Fathers should learn to rest despite the failures. Present failures, and regrets about distant failures, can destroy a father. Though we are called to be perfect, none of us is, and that is why we need Jesus and His gospel so very much. Godly fathers must learn to rest in the finished work of Jesus. It is in Christ that we are made perfectly righteous in the sight of God, and because of God’s grace in Christ that we find the strength to be the father God has called us to be. Grace is never an excuse to give up or coast, rather grace protects us from living in guilt and motivates us to glorify God in all that we do because we have been given so much – including the grace and privilege of fatherhood.