Archive for June, 2013

marriage

Last Wednesday (June 26, 2013) the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision made rulings that evangelicals hoped would not occur but came as no real surprise based on the past forty years of the court’s actions. I want to offer some analysis for us to consider how we should respond. First, we must recognize that marriage is not merely a public good or a “culture war” political issue. Marriage is a gospel mystery as the Bible tells us (cf. Eph. 5:32). When marriage falters, the gospel is eclipsed. On the other hand, the conversation about marriage gives the church the opportunity to point to a different word, the mystery of Christ (cf. Eph. 3:4).

Second, consider this important aspect of the court’s ruling that may offer some hope. For example, the Court left intact Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Acts, which gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage performed in other states. Currently, Louisiana is one of 36 states with such laws. In other words, the right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman is preserved. The Court did not find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Third, the critical role of man-woman marriage is not diminished by the Court’s rulings. The essential need for children to have both a married mother and father is not diminished by the opinions.

What should we do?
Do not despair or become angry. Jesus taught that marriage has existed as a male/female one flesh union “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:18). Regardless of what any culture does to redefine it or minimize it, marriage will stand. Keep this mind: no government bureaucracy invented marriage and no government bureaucracy can reinvent it either.
Love your neighbors – all of them. No matter what their lifestyle may be, they are not your enemies. They are your neighbors. Remember that Jonah was sent to speak God’s message to his enemies. Your neighbors are seeking a way that seems best to them. Be kind and respect all people because they bear the image of God.
Teach biblically on the integrity of marriage. We must not assume that people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Many people have become confused due to a lack of attention to what the Bible says about marriage. This has led to many people giving tacit approval to cohabitation, to a culture of divorce “if things don’t work out,” and even to the idea of homosexual marriage.
Take steps that our policies and procedures line up with the Scriptures. Earlier this year, I addressed this with our deacons. A team has been working on some changes to our bylaws that will specifically address these issues. No one at the time the church constitution and bylaws were adopted ever expected to need to address such matters. These changes will be discussed with our deacons at their next meeting. Hopefully, we will have something for the congregation to begin considering at the next quarterly ministry meeting.

tattered bible

In late 2012 seventy-five-year-old Marion Shurtleff purchased a Bible in a used book store near her home in San Clemente, California. After making her purchase and returning home, she discovered a couple of folded pages tucked in the middle of the Bible.

The contents of the yellowed notebook sheets contained a child’s handwriting that looked familiar. To her amazement, Marion discovered her name at the top of the first page. Upon a closer examination, she realized that she had held this very document in her hands sixty-five years ago. As a ten-year-old, Marion had written a four-page essay to earn a merit badge for the Girls Scouts in Covington, Kentucky -— more than 2,000 miles from where she had just purchased the Bible.

By her own account, Marion was deeply moved. “I opened the Bible and there was my name,” she said in a phone interview from her home. “I recognized my handwriting. I was shaking, literally. I was crying.”

Although it remains a mystery how the essay ended up in a Bible in a used bookstore half way across the country, one thing is certain. When we look deeply into God’s Word we see evidences of our lives, too. In the pages of Scripture we see individuals just like us—people who pursue faith and hope in God, people who also battle depression, doubt, lust, and pride. As we read the biblical stories about Abraham, Ruth, David, Mary, and Peter, we also recognize our own life story.

As each believer comes to faith in Christ, as amazing transformation occurs. Although each believer travels down the same gospel path -– a time when we did not know the peace that God wants everyone of us to experience, a specific time when we repented of our sinfulness and trusted Christ, and life of enjoying and experiencing confidence of having a saving relationship with Christ – each one’s story stands out as different and unique. Yes, there is one gospel and one faith. However, the stories of how believers came to the realization of their need for Jesus are innumerable.

the sower

A little more than two years ago, our deacon chairman, David Holbrook, heard a diagnosis which struck him and his family with terror — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. David lost his battle to ALS last year.

On June 19, 2011, David wrote a testimony warning against missing opportunities. A copy of this testimony hangs in my study at the church to remind me not to miss any opportunity to sow the seeds of the gospel. Last Sunday — Father’s Day — our missions pastor, Tim Scott, read David’s testimony, which incidentally was written on Father’s Day two years ago. Here’s David’s testimony:

“Romans 10:14 says, ‘How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’

“Over the past several Sundays we have studied Mark 4. In the parable the sower starts his day with a single, very intentional focus. The sower goes out to sow!

“I can visualize the sower tying an apron around his waist and filling the pouches until they could not hold another seed! (a morning with God in prayer and reading the Word). At first light he heads out and at the first opportunity he plunges his hand deep into the bulging pockets of his apron only to discover that his hands will longer grasp the seed! For the first time in his life he is not able to do what he is called to do. Try as he may he can only grasp one or two seeds at a time.

“The sower begins to think of all the places where he was waiting to sow until his sowing technique was better, or waiting on the climate to be perfect and rain imminent. Now he could only regret not going while he was able.

“If this were the last day that you were able to share the good news of Jesus, where would you go? Would you save anything back or would you sow every last seed given to you? ‘And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher (sower)?'”

boy-scout-1

Last week I attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston with Gayla, along with Tim Scott and Andrew Hackler from our church staff. We had an encouraging time interacting meeting with representatives of the International Mission Board and other ministry leaders. We celebrated the reelection of Pastor Fred Luter as president of the SBC. Of course the two-day business meeting was filled with reports from our various boards and agencies. The messengers approved twelve resolutions including ones dealing with sexual abuse of children, human trafficking, prayer for the president of the United States, and another dealing with the Boy Scouts. After several amendments to the original Boy Scout resolution were offered, debated, and approved or rejected, the messengers overwhelmingly approved the resolution that officially expressed its opposition to the Boy Scouts’ new policy regarding homosexuality.

Only this year did our church become the charter holder of Boy Scout Troop 85. Even prior to our becoming the charter holder, we made it clear that should the Boy Scouts of America turn from its historic roots in such a way that would diminish our congregation’s name or mission that we would be forced to sever the relationship.

While no decision has been made on this matter, I want to offer something to consider as we go forward. Prior to going to the convention, I met with both men from our church who have sons in Troop 85 and who serves as leaders in the troop. They understand the situation we face and understand that further changes to BSA policy could negatively affect our relationship. I asked for a greater role in the troop activities, particularly working with the leadership.

One of the amendments to the resolution offered by David Uth of FBC, Orlando, whose church has had a Boy Scout troop since 2005 so that they might influence boys and their families for the gospel, encouraged those churches that continue to sponsor Boy Scout troops to “seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Here’s what I am asking you to do right now: pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Make yourself open to His leadership. Pray for the boys and the families involved in scouting. Pray for discernment for our congregation so that we might clearly know how we should respond.

Happy Father’s Day!

Posted: June 14, 2013 in Discipleship, Family, Stories
Ken and Gayla with our four children, Kendal, Melissa, KeriBeth, and Travis

Ken and Gayla with our four children, Kendal, Melissa, KeriBeth, and Travis

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This routine question posed to virtually to every child gets cliché responses ranging from “fireman” to “professional baseball player” to “teacher.” In Richard Scarry’s children’s book, “The Bunny Book,” he explores that question. The book walks the reader through various career options for a baby boy bunny—policeman, circus clown, lifeguard, doctor, farmer—before landing on the baby bunny’s most important vocation—a daddy rabbit. The book concludes as daddy rabbit tucks his children into bed at night, providing an appropriate bookend.

Though putting our children to bed may seem like a simple, nightly ritual—separate and distinct from the daily grind in the workplace—such a routine act aptly demonstrates the normative, formative impact that father has on all we do. The act of putting our children to bed serves as a daily reminder of where responsibility ultimately rests and how value is ultimately defined.

Surely the bunny in Scarry’s book will be more than a daddy. All of that provision must, after all, come from somewhere. But this type of build-up and conclusion serves as a helpful illustration that, although the world around us may be telling us to achieve x, y, and z, many of us are called, first and foremost, to our families. Happy Father’s Day! “Do your job!”