Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shades of Gray

In almost thirty years as a police officer in a Milwaukee suburb, I learned that the law had few exceptions or what could be called “gray” areas. The law is invariably black and white; choose to break the law and you will pay the consequences. As the saying goes, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” If an officer failed to properly conduct an investigation, the only gray area was that in which the perpetrator’s attorney found a loophole in the law and the guilty walked away from his or her just punishment. The law is pretty plain for the police. Observe someone break the law and take appropriate enforcement action. Investigate crimes, identify a suspect and make an arrest. Prepare reports, appear and testify in court. Of course, there were those minor issues, such as speeding, where an officer could actually use his or her discretion. But, as the years rolled on, more and more discretion was eliminated from the police officer’s role in law enforcement. Mandatory arrests were required in every domestic violence situation. Every traffic stop was video recorded. Most interactions with citizens were also recorded for further review, requiring every officer to make certain to dot every “I” and cross every “T”. Police officers now operate in a fish bowl, with every decision made picked apart by the public, media and the administration.

The law in Scripture is quite clear. God declares a number of behaviors immoral, or more commonly referred to as sinful. The hot button issue of our time, homosexuality, is clearly defined as behavior that is unacceptable to God. No gray area here. Look no further than the 6th Commandment, You shall not commit adultery. Adultery is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and God defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Jesus said so in Matthew 19:4-6, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

The leaders of the ELCA would have their membership believe that Scripture is chock full of gray areas and is not relevant to this new enlightened age of man. In lifting up R. Guy Erwin the first openly gay as bishop in the ELCA Southwest California Synod, they disregard their own contrived doctrine, specifically adopted to normalize homosexuality within the ELCA. Resolution 4 passed by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly explicitly states, “This resolution called upon members to respect the bound consciences of those with whom they disagree; declared intent to allow structured flexibility in decision-making about candidacy and the call process; eliminated the prohibition of rostered service by members in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships; recognized and committed to respect the conviction of members who believe that the ELCA should not call or roster people in committed same-gender relationships; called for development of accountability guidelines; directed that amendments to ministry policy documents be drafted and approved; and stated that this church continue to trust congregations, bishops, synods and others responsible for determining who should be called into public ministry." (Adopted 667-307 as amended)

Well, those of you in the Southwest California Synod who disagree are given no choice but to accept Bishop Erwin as their pastor. So much for bound conscience and allowing those who disagree to not call or roster people in committed same-gender relationships. From ELCA website, Conference of Bishops; "Each of the 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elects a bishop to serve as the synod's chief pastor and to exercise administrative oversight of the synod's work." When redirecting the authority of God’s church to advocate for those engaged in behavior prohibited by God Himself and place willful sinners that have no intention of repentance for their actions in a position of authority, the ELCA relinquishes any authority to remain as a church of God. No, it is not about disobedience. It is why the choice is made to disobey. Human authority replaces God’s authority. Human desires replace God’s will. Humans worship themselves, their identities and accomplishments instead of worshipping the Lord our God. When your doctor tells you that certain behaviors will end up costing you your life, either you change and eliminate those risky behaviors or the prognosis will come to fruition. Is it not more important to acquiesce to God’s will since it is your eternal life that is at risk? 1 Peter 1:24-25, “For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.”

Those that succumb to homosexual desires are no worse a sinner than any other supposedly faithful Christian. After all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” We don’t need to act on our desires. We commit the sin as if we actually indulged in the act. 1 John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” When we choose to refuse to repent of sinful behavior, we deceive ourselves and make our God out to be a liar. When we deny our sin, we diminish the gift of life given through the death of our Savior. When we refuse to deny ourselves, we fail to give our Father the glory and praise that He deserves. It is not about us. It is not only about the love of the neighbor. It is about what He did for all of us, even though we deserve nothing less than what our Savior suffered upon that cross. Place your love and trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and not in this apostate “church”.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Baby Steps

On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first human being to step foot on the moon. The words he uttered were actually, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” His statement is typically quoted as “one small step for man.” While Armstrong made a giant leap for mankind, it was just one small step in the progress of space travel. As a sinful, broken humanity, we take many baby steps in our walk through this life. Many of these steps end up taking us back instead of forward. Humanity’s selfishness often leads us astray. Our selfish nature compels us to be disobedient. Our selfish nature compels us to place our wants and needs above others. And our selfish nature consistently erodes away at our relationship with our Father. The selfish proclivities of a broken humanity are fed, not with the bread of life, but an affirmation of those immoral behaviors, by the former ELCA presiding Bishop, Herbert Chilstrom. Before all you tolerant and accepting Christians begin casting stones, know this, I am a far greater sinner than anyone who engages in homosexual relations. Yes, you heard it here, my sins are far greater than yours. But, it’s not about me is it? I cannot, by my own volition, earn my reward in heaven. Even though so many claim otherwise, this is not a matter about sex. It is a matter about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and what He did for all of us unworthy sinners.

As we take our baby steps in our faith journeys, we are faced with many forks in the road. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said that this was the second most important command. Problem is, some of us are so concerned with loving our neighbor that we forget to love our Father first, which Jesus said is the most important command. Mark 12:28-31, “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

One step away from God.

Those who affirm that which God prohibits, simply encourage the innate human selfishness, placing human desire before the love of the Lord. Ignoring or acquiescing to unlawful activity is not a prerequisite to properly love one’s neighbor. Properly loving one’s neighbor sometimes involves correction, especially if that behavior leads them to love themselves, their identities and desires more than God.

One more step away from God.

For a man of God, once chosen to lead the largest Lutheran denomination in America, to read between the lines and come to believe and promote that the Bible merely addressed homosexual rape or abuse and condemned only those acts, is more than a giant leap, it is simply delusional. Chilstrom so desires the normalization of homosexual behavior, he ignores obvious and clear evidence in the written word. Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” We have God’s law written on our hearts, whether we believe or not. This is what our “consciences” tell us when we engage in behavior that is not pleasing to our Father.

Take a step back to God.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and open our minds to the truth, we come to faith in the Risen Christ. We are simply empty vessels waiting to be filled with the love of Christ and we cannot believe without the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual awakening means the death of our former lives. The person we once were dies and we truly begin to live as a servant of Christ. He is all that matters. Ourselves, our time and our possessions are gifts from God. Everything we are or are going to be is based on God’s will for us. If we place our desires above the love of the Lord, we deny Him. If we place conditions upon God that He must accept us as we are, we deny Him. If we love ourselves more than we love Him, we deny Him. Romans 6:11-14, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Offer yourself fully to the Lord. Be an instrument for Him. Live to give God all the glory. Reject those that would have you deny the Lord as necessary to “properly” love your neighbor.