Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Gay Marriage? Really?"

Over the years I have had many conversations and some very intense counseling sessions with Christians and unbelievers about homosexuality. In my early years I fear much of my teaching and counseling, although Bible based, built more walls than helpful dialogue with some people. In my experience, quoting scripture to win an argument really doesn't because virtually all people will hold on to what they perceive to be true for them.

Every gay person I have ever known quotes from what I call the "gay commentary", their own interpretation of God's word. Without fail, they either begin with or at some point get around to the assumption that "God made me this way". All the research I have seen, even some as recent as the last few years, has failed to find any "genetic" link that is supposed to prove God's own hand in directly causing people to possess at birth some kind of divine mandate that makes them pursue same sex tendencies. But, I feel certain that research will continue to be very high on someone's list of priorities.

Admittedly, there is much more that I don't know than the little I do know. I have no professional degrees in psychology or psychiatry and the majority of my friends and acquaintances are not gay or bisexual. However, I am not totally ignorant on this subject. The Holy Spirit has given me a pretty thorough education on the subject of "sin" and even as much as I know some people abhor that word, we all must admit that God is very serious in his judgment concerning sin, all sin. Here are the Holy Spirit's words -

"Do you not know the unrighteous (ungodly, wicked lifestyle) shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, not idolators, nor effeminate (generally men who dress like women) nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God. And, such were some of you but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NASB

Deception is simply believing, assuming something to be true or right which cannot be supported with credible evidence. Obviously, the Holy Spirit did not know that certain people are "born" with a genetic disposition or even, in some cases, a physical condition that was engineered into their DNA by God himself. Paul says, the "Spirit of our God" washed, sanctified and justified them with the same blood of Jesus as the idolators, fornicators, swindlers etc. with the intention of taking all of the "unrighteous" to a more God honoring lifestyle. He later emphasized his point -

"Flee immorality.......or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB

The gay explosion I have witnessed in my lifetime is a disturbing reality. I would never try to explain it because I am not gay, have not had those kind of temptations and do not live in their skin. However I feel divinely compelled to affirm that God condemns all sin the in same way and for the same reason -- it ignores his sovereign love in order to live a self-willed lifestyle. That kind of attitude refuses to hear the voice of God and the training of his Spirit. It treats the sacrifice of Jesus as something to be despised and ridiculed.

From purely a Bible perspective, the idea of "gay marriage" is nowhere held out to the human family as a viable alternative to what God has forever ordained. There is no way to make the words of God assume that a man can ever serve him as someone's "wife" any more than an idolator can bow down daily before some man made statue and call it "god". In both cases, God has already clearly defined those words from his own perspective and passing laws to legitimize or legalize "gay marriage" wont make it so, at least not to God.

Paul pleaded with the Christians in Corinth to leave all that in the past, change their lifestyle and glorify God with their bodies. His words still stand today whether it be in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or Gun Barrel City, Texas. Doing so probably wasn't easy for those Corinthians, and I have no intention of trivializing what for many is obviously an enormous life challenge. Confronting our sin, especially those things we are so easily tempted by, is never simple. But with the Spirit's training and assistance, we can all get there.
I wont answer for you, but for me that is just a huge  HALLELUJAH!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The Power of Satan in Real Time!"

My daily routine generally begins around 6:00 am, give or take, with brewing up a pot of World Market French Roast, washing my face with cold water, brushing my teeth and turning on my computer. After my coffee brews, takes about 10 minutes, I sit down to check out the latest sports scores, gotta keep up with the boys back in Texas, and looking at what great tragedies have occurred in the world while I slept. Most of it I just ignore because the whole political thing is sadly sickening and I really have no interest in the latest news about Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians.
One thing that grabbed my attention this morning was a video of an older female school bus monitor being bullied by a group of middle school students on the ride home from school. Then a morning news show played a portion of the video and interviewed the poor woman who was driven to tears by the relentless and very personal assault of a small group of foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, ignorant kids.
Hearing these not-so-innocent young people, took me back to when I was a stupid kid, experimenting with some similar peer bonding, and the reaction of my Mom. Her swift, decisive action with a bar of ivory soap and her long fingers, coupled with her calm but very firm warning, made an indelible impression. I can still taste that soap in my mouth. Years later, my son, received the same corrective measure from his own Mom and even though he was too young to actually understand the meaning and effect of his words, he received a lesson of love that made the same impression on him that it did on me
Many years ago I happened to be in a position in a local high school to overhear a conversation between two young teenage girls. One girl made a harsh comment to the other and called her a FOOL. She kept on repeating, "Shut up fool!" After several minutes I had the opportunity to speak to that girl somewhat in private and I asked, "How you ever read in the Bible what Jesus said about calling someone a fool?" She looked at me somewhat surprised and said, "Jesus never said anything about that", to which I replied, "Oh he surely did. It's in your Bible at Matthew 5:22. I want you to go home today and read it, then come back and tell me what you think." Three days later I saw her again and she said, "Thank you for telling me about that. I will never call anyone a fool again."
"I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother 'RACA' (worthless) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But, anyone who says, 'YOU FOOL', will be in danger of the fire of hell." 
 I truly hate Satan for what he does in the minds/hearts of innocent children who learn to reproduce the very worst they see and hear at home and in human society. Some of us are fortunate to have someone in our life who truly cares about who we are and what we become. Satan only wants to drag every one of us into a dark place where he makes all the rules that promises what he cannot deliver.
I pray for the parents and grandparents of each of those young people in the video because if I were in their shoes, restraining my anger at them would be impossible. I pray for those young people that somehow they can hear the words of Jesus and realize that bullying an innocent person for absolutely no reason is an action that will not go unpunished. Jesus promises that and every young person needs to hear it from HIM.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"For My Father and My Sons"

At 70 years old (if you can believe it), I am able to look back over more than half of my life as a father and now a grandfather. I enjoy every day in that dual role even though I am unable at this time to be with all of them in the way I wish. My three kids are all mature adults dealing with the daily joys and challenges of raising their own families and I find it comforting and honoring to see and hear them reproducing much of the same parenting that got them to successful adulthood.

My dad, Harold Thomas Sutherland, grew up as a farm boy who learned the value of honesty and hard work at a very early age in a large family.. He taught me to value the integrity of the name he passed on to me and urged me to ensure that our name would always stand for honorable values in our community. I was only about 10 when that conversation occurred but I never forgot it. The last 25+ years of his life were a mighty struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. His body eventually gave in to the ravages of all the medication he had taken for all those years and the progression of the disease and he passed away in October 1991. But, his sense of humor will be alive with those of us who knew him best for all of our lives because he just had a way of seeing the irony in many of life's odd demands.

At my Mom's funeral service a year ago I read a journal entry my Dad had written that is a humorous bit of insight into their nearly 60 year marriage relationship. Although we all knew they loved each other dearly, my Dad's sense of humor was usually filled with the irony that life's odd situations can often inspire. Here is what he wrote in Mom's journal on a cold, snowy January day in 1985.

"January of 85 has been nothing but cold, cold and snow. The big chill came on Saturday 19th with 7 inches of snow and falling temp, which fell to 14 below that night. Memaw always gets her hair done on Saturday and at 11:30 I drove her to town and she was to call me when ready to return home. It kept snowing and the temp kept falling. At 1:15 she called and said to come get her. The roads were covered with ice under the snow, boy was it slick. When I reached the old Sink Hole Hill, there they were stopped with a TV truck bottom side up in a ditch. The Police stopped me on the steep part of the hill. It was right then and there I decided when weather was this severe I would curl her hair myself."

I can easily imagine my Mom reading this later and laughing herself silly. She understood him better than probably his own mother and was never angry or upset with his humorous stories and jokes. They were a joy to be with and my own family speaks of both of them often, recalling Dad's stories and how Mom always laughed at them as much as any of us, even though she had heard them over and over.

Fatherhood is a special place of honor that our true FATHER share with those of us who care to learn about being a father from Him. To me, fatherhood incorporates three absolute essentials:
PRESENCE - My Dad has not been physically present in my life for many years but his "presence" is a daily reality. His appearance, mannerisms, values etc will always be with me. Thank you Dad for sticking around.
PROVIDER - My Dad worked very hard all of my life to meet every need of our family. His greatest provision was the love he gave us and modeled for us. He loved God, his family, his friends and his country.
PROTECTOR - My Dad taught me how to protect myself with his example and his training, often in ways that were humorous but effective. When I left home to go to the Navy he looked into my eyes, put his hands on my shoulders and said, "Be safe, I'll always be here when you need me." And, I did, often!

I now consider my primary "fathering" function to be this - to do all I can to love, support, encourage my two grandsons and five granddaughters to be faithful to God the Father's call on their life, live with integrity and genuine appreciation of all they are and can be, always look ahead to greater challenges and opportunities and always seek to be a servant to others in their world. I am more than proud, I am ecstatic to praise their fathers, Mike, Todd and John, for modeling just what my father modeled for me. I love you guys more than I can ever say and wish you a very HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, you deserve it so bask in it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"This Is How We Know"

We have very little insight into the challenges the old warrior Apostle John felt in his spirit as he endured his time of isolation on the small island of Patmos. Having no way to know how long he remained in that exile, we try to fill in some of the blanks from what he wrote during this period and possibly even later after he probably made it to Ephesus where he did much of his writing during his last days and is thought to have died in his 90's.

This much I do know, his faith was made stronger during those difficult years because of the visions he received from Jesus and because of the enduring presence of the Holy Spirit. He wrote these monumental words:
"You dear children are from God and have overcome them (the evil spirits) because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 NIV

He had just told them to trust their hearts, their instincts, because that too comes from God.
"And this is how we know that he (Jesus) lives in us; We know it by the Spirit he gave us." 3:24

Virtually all of John's first letter is to help the disciples of Jesus understand the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in their faith and obedience of the truth Jesus had taught and modeled.
"This is the One who came by water and blood - Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man's testimony but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son." 5:6-9

One final word from John's pen is, to me, one of the great truths God wants all of us to understand -
"We know that we live in him and he in us because he has given us his Spirit." 4:13

Recently in a Bible class with a group of college students, all of whom are Christians, most of them reared in Christian homes, I asked them to share with the class how they appreciate the Holy Spirit. Predictably, there was a long silence. Finally one young man spoke up first and told us that he knows nothing about the Holy Spirit because in his family's church or in his home, the Spirit was never discussed, which turned out to be the common experience. Me too! What a shame on the church that we have allowed generation after generation to go into the world with little or no knowledge of the one God has commissioned to live in us for a very specific purpose.

The Apostle Paul wrote that, "No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:3

I KNOW what I KNOW because the Holy Spirit has revealed the words of God in written form and I can now hold that in my hands and read it for myself. But, there is another element that is crucial to the confirmation of that written word and that is the Spirit living in me to give me guidance, encouragement and direction in my personal quest to know God as my Father and Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. This too was John's source of spiritual vitality in his old age. He offered the same divine gift  to all people -

"The Spirit and the bride say , "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take of the free gift of the water of life." Revelation 22:17