Was “Revoice” the Scriptural Voice?

The message of the Gospel is this: man is sinful; man must recognize his sins and repent of them; when he does, God, through the mercy of the Cross that Jesus suffered, will forgive all sins, and will set people free from the chains of sin that had them bound.

It’s truly the “Good News,” a positive message of redemption. It just doesn’t seem like good news to those who want to hold onto their sins. They refuse to see the freedom being offered to them in Christ.

Recently, the Presbyterian Church in America hosted a meeting in St. Louis that it called the Revoice Conference. The stated goal was to discuss the issue of homosexuality in the church and how the church should respond to it.

There was a decidedly mixed message in this conference. Yes, attendees were told that anyone with same-sex attractions should not give in to that temptation, but there was also an affirming message about “gay” orientation that existed side-by-side with that warning.

World magazine explained what else was heard besides the message of not practicing homosexuality:

One reason the conference was controversial: Its use of fuzzy pro-gay terminology such as “sexual minority” and “queer culture.” One breakout session on redeeming “queer culture” spoke of the “virtues of queer culture” and asked, “What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time?”

The use of the pro-gay terminology and the question at the end are both disturbing. Homosexuality might contribute to the treasure, honor, and glory of the New Jerusalem? Really?

World‘s description continued, quoting Nate Collins, organizer of the conference:

“Is it possible that gay people today are being sent by God like Jeremiah to find God’s words for the church to eat them and make them our own; to shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries—not just the false teaching of the progressive sexual ethic, but other, more subtle forms of false teaching?” he asked attendees. “Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who live lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure? If so, then we are prophets.”

Now we’re supposed to call “gay” people prophets, in the same manner as Jeremiah? While I realize that he’s talking about those who don’t give in to their inclinations, he’s simultaneously demeaning the nuclear family. Can some people make family into an idol? Certainly. But the tone of this statement seems to downplay the role of the family, as if being homosexual and remaining celibate is a higher glory.

What bothers me about the overall leaning of the conference is the almost-affirming nature of homosexuality and the seeming acceptance that this is how God has created some people. If my perception is accurate, that would be a wholesale sellout to modern trendy thinking.

We need to remember what is explicitly stated in Scripture, in a number of places, but most clearly in Romans, chapter 1:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. . . .

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

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.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. . . .

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this post: The message of the Gospel is this: man is sinful; man must recognize his sins and repent of them; when he does, God, through the mercy of the Cross that Jesus suffered, will forgive all sins, and will set people free from the chains of sin that had them bound.

Any deviation from those central tenets of the faith is a betrayal of Scripture, which, in turn, leaves people in their sins. That’s not the good news we’re supposed to be offering.

Parkland Solutions–Real & Imagined

For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19

After watching many news reports and reading many commentaries about the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that resulted in seventeen deaths, nothing I’ve seen or read has changed my mind about the basic issue that leads to such atrocities: the sinfulness of man.

We hear many loud voices calling for new legislation against gun ownership, as if that’s some kind of final solution for the problem of sin. Yet we have had gun ownership in this country since its founding. Many lives have been spared by the proper use of guns as a means of self-defense against sinful men.

Guns are not the problem. People are. And our culture, which drifts steadily away from the fear of God and from His truth, only makes that problem worse.

Then we get a CNN Townhall that allows grieving young people to display their angst and try to set public policy via emotion rather than principle and sound reflection. Some may think they are the source of wisdom, but I don’t, especially if they are merely spouting a distorted worldview they have received through our perverted culture.

The Biblical admonition about how a little child shall lead them is part of a prophecy of Isaiah in reference to when God will set up His kingdom on earth in the last days. It’s when the lion will lie down with the lamb.

We’re not there yet. We shouldn’t let the immature be our policymakers.

Those who think that legislation is the answer are seeking a utopia—a word that basically translates as “no such place.”

Yes, laws can help, if they are the right kind, based on a realistic view of man’s sinfulness. But any law that takes away the means for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves is a law that will lead to even greater atrocities.

We are told by some that if we turn in all the guns, we can be confident that our law enforcement agencies will be able to defend us. Trust them, we are told.

How did that work out in this case?

The FBI received numerous calls about the potential for Nikolas Cruz to go off the deep end. It did nothing. The Broward County police responded to numerous incidents with Cruz over the past years. They did nothing.

The Broward County deputy who was assigned to protect the school hid outside, never even attempting to confront the shooter. The county’s sheriff is making a fool of himself in interviews after the fact. He is arrogant, defending himself, and blaming everyone else.

Let me also say something here about the organization that is getting pilloried over this, as it always does after a shooting. The NRA (for the record, I’m not a member) is a respectable organization devoted to gun safety. The one time I went to an NRA firing range, I was tested first, then instructed carefully on how to use the weapons.

The NRA is not the enemy of the people.

Politicians like to get their names in the headlines after these terrible incidents. The one who stands out to me this time is California Senator Kamala Harris, who responded to Parkland with this:

This cannot be a political issue. We have to have smart gun safety laws – our babies are being slaughtered.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet Kamala Harris promotes the slaughter of babies all the time, as she is a vocal supporter of Planned Parenthood and abortion on demand.

She is not a serious voice, and should be ignored, as should all politicians who wrap themselves in the cloak of protecting our children while simultaneously applauding the killing of the most innocent.

So are we a “sick” society? Wrong word. We are a sinful, depraved society. Scripture also informs us that the problem goes much deeper even than human sinfulness.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

The solution, also found in the larger context of that chapter, is to put on God’s full armor: truth, righteousness, the spreading of the Gospel message to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

There is an evil one out there, even though our society doesn’t want to believe that. Neither does the society want to believe that there is One who has overcome the evil one, and that we need to place our full confidence in Him:

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. I Peter 5:7-9

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8

These Scriptures need to be our guide.

Reading “The Message”: Seeing Scripture Anew

Message BibleI like reading varied translations of Scripture, just to get different takes on how a passage can be understood. Until recently, I’d never looked at The Message version. I’m sure there are some who shrink in horror from something so colloquial, but I stop and think: how might Jesus have come across to the people of His day? Could it be more like this?

For instance, here’s The Message from the gospel of Matthew, the 16th chapter—a quite familiar passage that’s one of my favorites no matter the translation. I found this rather refreshing:

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat: I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is to to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

And then in chapter 18 of the same gospel, we get this:

Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.

But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time. Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do.

Sometimes I do smile at some of the colloquialisms used, but I am reading the Scripture with new eyes lately as I peruse this particular version. The goal is to communicate in language that modern-day Americans can grasp. I think this accomplishes that quite effectively.

The Fine Art of Twisting Scripture for One’s Own Purposes

Normally, I would be pleased for a president to attend a prayer breakfast, as President Obama did yesterday. But it would have been better if he had just been an attendee listening to someone with a genuine Biblical message. Instead, he was the speaker, and he used the occasion to say Jesus would approve of his policies, specifically his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy.

He used the Scripture that says more is required from someone who has been given much. Well, let’s look at that Scripture in context. It’s found in Luke 12 beginning in verse 42:

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

“But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Where to begin?

First, the larger context of the passage has to do with the Second Coming. Jesus had just told a parable about those who were not ready. He then further explained that parable by telling this story. So far, there is nothing about the government taking more taxes.

Second, He emphasizes stewardship of whatever God gives us. The steward had a responsibility to carry out his particular tasks, and he needed to do so faithfully. One of those tasks was to provide rations to the master’s servants, but this is not a government endeavor. It’s simply using the master’s money to pay for services rendered.

Third, it’s an exhortation to stay focused and not allow oneself to turn to sin. He’s speaking of man’s propensity to follow his own selfish desires when he thinks the master [God] isn’t around to rebuke him.

Fourth, it offers a theology of divine punishment for those who don’t follow the will of God, but instead give themselves over to personal pleasures and desires.

Finally, we get to the line Obama used. It is a general principle that states the obvious: if you have been entrusted with much, you will be judged with a more stringent judgment. It actually places on emphasis on knowledge: those who know more, i.e., have a greater understanding of God’s will, and then disobey, will receive a stiffer penalty.

Nothing in the entire passage offers a hint of any government action, and certainly has nothing to do with sanctioning higher taxes on the wealthy.

Using Scripture for one’s own purposes by twisting it out of its context is deplorable. Mr. President, what you said at the prayer breakfast qualifies as deplorable.