COURAGE- Last night I caught a real interesting show- it came on ‘by itself’ that is I must have checked the programmer to come on every Monday at that time [I don’t remember checking it]. Every Monday on EWTN [the Catholic station] I try and watch the Journey Home- with Marcus Grodi- he has real interesting guests who have converted from Protestantism back to the Catholic Church. It’s interesting to see these stories- I have yet to see a convert that was not well informed and knew the bible as well as church history- overall good show. So anyway another show popped up [they moved the encore presentation from 10 to midnight] and it was a profile of a group called Courage- I have heard a little bit about them before- they are a Catholic 12 step program designed to help people who are struggling with the gay lifestyle- it helps them return to the faith and attempt to live chaste lives. Now- I know this subject is hot- I have gay friends- lots of us have gay family members- and the country just had a big debate about gays in the military- so it gets people riled up. I really liked just listening to the stories the guys were sharing; one of the brothers was living in San Fran. And he had a relative that invited him to a courage conference in N.Y. He said he really never wanted to go- but his brother would always ask him in a nice way- so he accepted the all expense paid trip and flew to the city- he shared how spending a few days listening to other gay people who have returned to the church- that he experienced a conversion himself. When he went back to Ca. his friends told him ‘you even look different’ within 6 months he moved back to N.Y. A few of the other guys shared similar stories- it was an honest show- I liked it because it wasn’t the normal ‘Christian verses gays’ type thing you see all the time- but just an honest story about gay men seeking to live celibate lives- they are not ‘fighting’ the church- joining the parade of those wanting to make the church change its position on the subject- they are just men who have returned to a former faith- and are seeking God. These stories are also a lesson for Protestants- I can tell you- just watching the show- I could hear in my mind the normal Protestant response ‘these guys aren’t even saved’! Yet the conversion that the men experienced- it was obvious that these men were sincere Christians- trying to overcome things that they felt they needed to overcome. Now- I do realize that even this short note can be highly offensive to those living the gay lifestyle- sort of like ‘who do they/you think you are to say they need to overcome anything’ I hear you. I’m familiar with the whole debate- I do understand that there are many movements today that accept the gay monogamous lifestyle as a legitimate Christian way to live. But the normal- traditional belief [which I do hold to] is we should love and respect all people- even those in the GLBT community- and at the same time be honest about what the bible says on the subject [basically the bible does say it is a sin- this is a big debate amongst many scholars- teachers- and some think otherwise- I wrote a post on this in the past, if I can find it I’ll paste it at the end]. I do think that too many Christians respond the wrong way in many of these debates- even during the recent ‘gays in the military’ debate- some believers said ‘gays shouldn’t serve in the military because the bible says it’s a sin’ Yikes! Look- I just gave you my own conservative view- I do believe the bible says it’s not an acceptable lifestyle- yet to use that reasoning to ban gays from any job- that’s just not a good approach in my view. You very rarely- if ever- hear that argument made against those who are just ‘sleeping around’ as far as I know- at least when I was in the navy- just about everybody did. I do understand the whole argument that some military leaders made- that it affects certain ways the military functions- should we allow same sex attraction to exist in living together- taking showers- etc. But that’s a different concern- and basically Christians should not seek to ban gay people from anything. The criteria should not simply be the sexual orientation of the person. I felt bad for the gay pilot who was making the rounds in support of overturning the ban [which did pass by the way] he was in the military for 19.5 years- almost enough to retire- and because he spoke out there were rumors that they were going to discharge him- I mean if I were the one making the decision- I would have never discharged him just because he was gay- especially after almost 20 years of good service. So all in all I think believers [and humans!] in general should try their best to not discriminate against people because of race, sex- etc. And at the same time be honest about the churches’ belief- and realize that there are a lot of people in society that don’t want the church/Christians to tell them anything- that’s fine- that is Christians should not take the position ‘we are at war with you guys- you’re on one side- we are on the other’ Jesus simply never approached it like that [yes- he never spoke specifically about the subject- but he never approached any sinful lifestyle with that mindset- he loved people- was upfront about their sin ‘go and sin no more- I don’t condemn you’ type thing- but never engaged in the way the conservative right has done]. Okay- not sure why we went this way today- just felt strongly that I needed to comment on it. John
(952) EMERGENT STUFF- yesterday I spent most of the day reading up on the Emergent movement and its trends. I am not one of those critics who never actually reads the books that these brothers put out. Nor am I one of the guys who simply reads to find fault. A few years back I read ‘The sacred way’ by Tony Jones. I enjoyed the book. I incorporated some of the ideas [Jesus prayer] into my prayer time. And I even begin my intercession time with the historic crossing of myself [in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit] this was nothing new to me, I did grow up Catholic and was confirmed and made my communion in the church. Now, what do I see as a little dangerous [others see a whole lot that’s wrong]. Some of the teachings say ‘Jesus really didn’t come to start a new movement, he was a Jew who was simply incorporating others into Judaism’. Also lots of talk on the Sabbath and the religious rhythm of the ancient church. Fixed time prayers and stuff like that. Okay things that many believers practice. But all of this type of talk needs to include why so many Evangelicals do not practice these rituals. One big reason is because the New Testament has a theme of grace that teaches us that Jesus did institute a ‘new religion’ [new covenant] that fulfilled all the types and symbols of the old. Paul would rebuke the early believers for wanting to return back to these things [Galatians, Colossians]. He would say ‘you are observing days and seasons and old covenant rites, I fear for you’. Paul did not teach the Sabbath as an ongoing practice for the Gentile churches. There were SOME symbols left to us [Lords Supper, baptism- I wouldn’t argue with other Christians who have a few more] but the overall Ethos of this New kingdom was not one of liturgy and symbol, it was one of fulfillment. I liked Tony’s book, but some of the ideas could easily lead a new believer down the road of legalism. If we put [or offer] too many ritualistic practices back into the New Covenant community of grace, then we are in danger of going back under a legalistic mindset. Now, what about the issues of slavery and women in the church and homosexuality [gee, you think I might be biting off a little too much?] This conversation says ‘just like preachers used scripture to defend slavery, but later the church needed to shape her overall view by the broad themes of scripture, as opposed to any single verse. So likewise we need to approach the issue of women in the pulpit and the ordaining of homosexuals thru the same lens’. Okay, I see some merit to this argument with the ordaining of women [some!] but the issue of sexual morality is different. The scripture never said ‘slavery is good, freedom is bad’. To the contrary scripture teaches the opposite. Now I have mentioned how you could justify slavery from certain passages, but freedom itself is never explicitly condemned. The scripture specifically condemns the sin of homosexuality, no bones about it [not just the Old Testament either]. Does this mean we should be mean and discriminate against the gay community, no. But we need to be open and honest about the way scripture deals with this issue. Some challenge the idea of scripture being authoritative in this way for our day. Well that’s an argument some make, but the Orthodox view of scripture doesn’t see it like that. So basically I think we need to be careful when telling new believers that Jesus never intended for the old rituals to pass away, he was starting a new revolutionary kingdom movement that would be free from the former restraints of the law. This is basic to the whole teaching of the NEW covenant.
(953) 1ST CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 Now Paul clarifies what he meant when he said ‘don’t associate with those who sin sexually’. He wants to be clear that his instructions on ‘not being with sinners’ is not misunderstood. After all we are called salt and light, Jesus himself was accused of spending too much time with the lost. So Paul says ‘what I meant was don’t keep ongoing fellowship with a brother who is practicing unrepentant sin’. He also says ‘if you thought I meant all sinners in general, then heck you wouldn’t be able to live in society this way’. Some believers have taken a stand on ‘separation from the world’ in such a way that they have no unbelieving friends. Others seem to view the unbeliever as the enemy. Sort of like we are in this culture war and the enemy is YOU! I can’t even watch the O’Reilly factor [Fox news] too long, he says he’s fighting this culture war and then in the ads for upcoming shows he shows the raciest pictures on any news show. What’s up with that? I feel we need to make the distinction between separating from a sinning brother [for his own good] and having friendships with unbelievers. People you can influence down the road. Paul also says if we judge our own [by shunning them for their own good] that this is a type of ‘present chastening’ that believers do experience. But those who are ‘outside the camp’ [unbelievers] are left to be judged by God. We see this same theme in chapter 11 ‘when we are judged we are disciplined by the Lord so we will not be condemned with the world’ [at the final judgment]. I believe that this idea is one of the best arguments for eternal security [once saved, always saved. Though I don’t like this language, you get the hint]. The concept of believers being presently dealt with for sin, even to the possible point of physical death, seems to indicate that they will not face a future judgment like the lost [eternal damnation]. When we recently did one of our Old Testament studies, I overlooked a verse that said to King David ‘I will raise up one of your sons [Solomon/Jesus- dual Messianic prophecy] and he will build this new temple/people. The way I will deal with the people under this new covenant is, if they commit sins, I will chasten them, but I will not utterly take my mercy from them’ [my paraphrasing- it is said to the actual son, Solomon/Jesus, but in the New Covenant revelation of the church actually being part of the Body of Christ, this is how you could apply it]. You can also read this idea in a few other places. I think Jeremiah uses it ‘I will give them a new heart and I will put my Spirit in them’ and he also speaks about not being totally rejected if they commit sin under this new covenant. So the point is, if there is a mechanism under this new covenant whereby sin is dealt with in the present time, and if this is compared to the other choice which is ‘judgment at a later time’. This would seem to indicate a type of ‘in house discipline’ that says ‘if you openly sin now, God will judge you now. He does this for your own good, so you won’t face the judgment of the unbeliever at the end’. So the fact that some were sinning, even pretty badly! Did not mean that they were expelled completely from the benefits of the covenant. As a matter of fact, temporal excommunication itself was one of the benefits! I don't want to be too dogmatic on this, I just want you to see a repeated theme in scripture that says God will deal with his kids in the here and now [no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous- Hebrews] but this in itself is a blessing that is designed to ‘produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby’ Hebrews.
1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 1-7 Paul rebukes them for taking each other to court. He tells them ‘don’t you have any wise people among you who could handle this? Why go before unbelievers!’ he also tells them ‘plus, why even fight for your rights, if you think you have