Homosexual Marriage, Epistemology & Righteousness…”What?!” Part One

In all probability, you have never seen a title to a series quite like that. However, I believe it is time to make the effort to deliver a biblical/Christian response and action plan to an issue that just doesn’t seem to be going away – “gay marriage”.

I have a prediction that may be a little depressing to those of us who embrace a biblical worldview and who genuinely care for all people, including those who claim to be “gay.” In America, “gay marriage”, one day, will be the law of the land.

Folks, it is time that we face reality — we live in a Post-Christian America. The signature issue that defines this reality is the over-whelming acceptance of both the “gay” lifestyle and “gay marriage”.

Let me explain why I place “gay” in quotations. It is because there is no evidence — biblically or scientifically — that “gay” is a physical condition which can be described as normal. There is no evidence that leads us to conclude that people can be born “gay”. There is no logical foundation on which to build an argument concluding that homosexual love is equal to natural love between a man and a woman.

With that said, I fully recognize that — to those who are genuinely struggling with “gay” tendencies — same-sex attraction is real. For these folks, “gay” is not something they woke up one day and proclaimed, “I think I will be gay today.”

For the individual who earnestly believes he or she is “gay”, this is a serious spiritual and psychological condition that is beyond simply making a choice.

For me, this issue is somewhat personal. Although I have never struggled with same-sex attraction, I do understand its spiritual roots. Let’s just say that I know what it is like to grow up sexually confused. As a child of nine, I was sexually abused by a neighbor next door for a period of six months. (FYI: I am currently writing a book on my abuse and my healing.)

In a recent Facebook conversation, I posted this paragraph about my real concern over the “gay” issues.

Thank God I had a stable Christian home, along with a church and an American culture that, at that time, reflected a biblical world view on “gay” issues. I am fearful that today — when the world is confusing enough for youth — we have made it more complicated for them. Government, on every level, is validating this dysfunctional and frankly perverse lifestyle. Now more pastors and churches are falling in line. I fear for our youth. Where will they hear the truth if not from their parents and pastors – those who have been given charge over them? If pastors are silent or, God forbid, if they endorse or permit this, where will the children go for truth and for healing? God help us and God help the children.

As we begin this series, I felt we needed to separate the issues from the people who need ministry and healing.

I want to leave you with a thought.

Could the issues surrounding same-sex attraction actually be an opportunity for Christians and the church to show incredible love?

If You Want To Change the World . . .

Doing my Government and Politics class yesterday, I ran across the following:

If you want to change the world around you, state and local governments are the place to start.

I don’t agree. I think my Government class is skipping a whole lot of more important places. I believe they are skipping to the branches of the trees and ignoring the roots.

I believe that the world around us begins and ends with people. I’m not talking groups of people but individuals. If you want to change the world around you, individual people are the place to start! And individuals start with oneself. So, if you want to change the world around you, start on yourself.

What do you think? Do we start at individuals? Or, do we start at government? I’d love to hear what you have to say, below.

Click HERE to learn about a conference all about changing ourselves to help reach America for Christ!

In 10 Years America Can be a Different Place – Curious? Keep Reading

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was the greatest leadership training strategist that ever lived.

Think about it. He took 12 regular guys and not only impacted the world for their time — but we are still experiencing the impact of His ministry 2,000 year later!

Get this — Jesus got His guys trained in just three years! Surely, through the power of His Spirit working through us, He can reach just one country in 10 years!

The key is to embrace Jesus’ methodology of world impact — and to do it, together.

As the church in America, we have taken the eternal message of Christ and His love and packaged it into a modern, western, “education” methodology. Folks, it simply isn’t working.

I believe American Christians have developed a mentality that — “if we studied it, we did it.” In our lives, we have reduced Jesus to a doctrinal statement. He is not living and working through us. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with doctrine — I hope you got my point.)

Belief statements, alone, don’t change the world, changed people change the world.

What would happen in America if our churches trained Christian parents and youth leaders how to train children and teens in the way Jesus trained His disciples? Do you believe that in 10 years this country would be different?

This is the purpose of our upcoming conference, April 25-26, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I would love to meet you.

Together, let’s learn how Christ changes lives and impacts societies. Together, let’s experience how, through the power of Christ’s Spirit, God can bring this once great nation back to Him. TOGETHER, we can reach America!

Click here for more info and registration.

~Pastor Gary

The Youth of Today are Ready – Today!

By Jacob Howard, Teen Editor

It has been said that when Martin Luther King Jr. saw the youth gather at his rallies, he knew he had won the fight for civil rights.

Youth are a powerful weapon. But, we are a weapon many people think is to be used in the future. Youth are often called the “future of the world”. Truth is, the youth of today, are ready and excited for – today.

Why should the Christian youth be labeled for the future? If the youth are trained up well, they should be in the battle right now!

Look at the secular youth; those not saved. They are so into the battle against God that almost everything revolves around them. Music, television, movies, etc. Very few forms of media are made today that are not for teens.

Think about the influence the unsaved youth are having on the world. What would change if Christian youth really got out there and starting fighting?

Would forms of media change? In the next few months, some high-budget movies will be coming out with famous actors and such based off Biblical events, for both Noah and Moses. You can guarantee that these movies are going to be geared toward capturing teen’s attention.

What will these movies teach? The producers are saying they stuck with the Biblical accounts, but what will really be taught? I sincerely hope the truth will be shown, but I do not know.

My point is: even Hollywood “based off Biblical events” movies are being geared toward the unsaved youth of today. Where are the Christian youth? Are they in the future, or ready to be deployed today?

If they are deployed today, then forms of media will change. America will change if we take up the fight! Let’s go!

 

Defining Christian Leadership

In a word, leadership is influence. We all influence someone, therefore we are all leaders. The question to ask young and old alike is what kind of leader are you being?

Christian leadership is influencing people to come to Christ and to become positive Christian Leaders.

The key to Christian leadership development is helping teens learn who they are in Christ and how Christ lives His life through them to impact our world. A couple of our RA theme verses are Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 2:15-16. I will break down these, and other scriptures, in this series.

To facilitate the leadership process, at Reach America, we have developed five levels of Christian leadership.

We say that a Christian leader L.E.A.D.S.

Level One: Look and See. When people look at my life do they see that Jesus matters to me?

Level Two: Encourage and Serve. Who am I going to encourage and serve today?

Level Three: Adjust/Apprentice. When I sense that God is working in someone, am I willing to adjust my life?

Level Four: Develop Leaders. Are those I am leading, growing?

Level Five: Success. Are those I am leading, leading others?

Over the next several posts, I will take a closer look into each of these five levels.

Turning Postmodern Christian Teens into Multiplying Disciples, Part 5

Have you ever considered this?

Jesus was the greatest cultural impact strategist who ever lived.

Jesus started a movement that not only impacted the world in His time; the movement He started is still impacting the world 2,000 years after His death! American-style, Christian training has ignored the power of His methodology. Instead of following His training methods, we have designed our discipleship training after the American education system. We cherish His words and life, but often we find our goal to touch and change the lives of people unmet.

Could it be that the way Jesus trained His disciples was just as important as what He taught them? A scripture that is classically used to wrap up our purpose on earth is Matthew 28:18-20. Basically, the command Jesus left us was “go, make disciples.” In our exegesis of the word “make” I believe that it is correct to assume that method is implied as much as message in the command to “make disciples.”

Jesus did more than lay the groundwork for what we teach; Jesus set the example. Through the way He trained His disciples, He modeled the method for “making disciples.”

A phrase Jesus often used to illustrate how disciples are made is “follow me.” The first time we find Jesus using “follow me” to explain His method for making disciples is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11; John 1:35-42) Through the use of “follow me,” Jesus also revealed the goal of those who would become His disciples. He stated that, “I will make you fishers of men.”

When formulating His training strategy, Jesus did not under-estimate the pull of the culture. He knew that it was important for His guys to be taught by Him as they followed Him around. Imagine Jesus saying to Simon, “I want to invite you to come and listen to me teach/preach for two hours a week.”

The context in which we are taught and from whom are just as important as what we are taught.

Let’s move forward and consider our teen’s current cultural situation. Due to the invasion of technology into our kid’s lives, they are barraged with information that significantly influences them. Secondly, as youth get older, they desire to please their friends over their parents. Third, and most certainly not last, is every teen’s struggle with their sinful flesh.

Do we really believe we can “make disciples” out of postmodern Christian teens in an hour or two a week? Jesus didn’t even try that!

Although Jesus lived in different times with different issues, He faced the same problems we face. Simon and the gang were living in a world heavily influenced by thousands of years of Judaism and modern Roman influence. Jesus had to also deal with the disciples sin issues; their struggles with their flesh.

When He considered these cultural influences and their need to overcome and tame the flesh, Jesus knew His goal to turn these guys into fishers of men would not be realized with a daily or weekly visit in their living room. Nor would it happen in a weekend retreat or a ten-week study. These guys had to get it not just agree with Jesus.

Initially, turning postmodern, Christian teens into multiplying disciples doesn’t happen in the context of visitation, while they live in the world. Training these young people must happen in the context of a Christ-centered environment. This must be included in our strategy if we are to be successful in turning Christian teens into multiplying disciples.

Jesus never completely removed His disciples from the world; He invited them to leave what they knew in order to be taught by Him. He required that they live with Him so that they would see the way He lived. Through His teaching they learned about Jesus and His mission. Through living with Him they experienced Jesus on a level they would need to accomplish His mission once He was gone from the earth.

In order for these men to fully know and understand that Jesus really is the truth, the way, and the life; they would have to walk with Him, daily.

Next Post: Step one in turning postmodern Christian teens into multiplying disciples is to create a C-4 Community – a Christ-Centered, Counter-Culture.

Please stay with me, we are just getting started.

Thank you for your patience as I write these short posts. If you are interested in deeper conversation, please feel free to email me, Gary Brown, at gary@letsreachamerica.org.

 

Turning Postmodern Christian Teens into Multiplying Disciples, Part 3

“Gary, times are a-changin!” These are the words of my wife’s grandfather, spoken to me probably 20 years ago.

This statement has never been truer than in 2013. To help make this point, I want to turn to Josh McDowell and his book, “The Disconnected Generation.” Here, Josh created a list of terms and how they are defined by adults and by teens. Pay close attention to this list. “Folks, definitions of words are a-changin!”

Tolerance

Adult Understanding: Accepting others without agreeing with or sharing their beliefs or lifestyle choices.

Teen Understanding: Accepting that every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyles and truth claims are equal.

Respect

Adult Understanding: Giving due consideration to others.

Teen Understanding: Wholeheartedly approving of other’s beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Acceptance

Adult Understanding: Embracing people for who they are, not necessarily for what they say and do.

Teen Understanding: Endorsing and even praising others for their beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Moral Judgments

Adult Understanding: Certain things are morally right and wrong, as determined by God.

Teen Understanding: We have no right to judge another person’s view or behavior.

Personal Preference

Adult Understanding: Preferences of color, food, clothing style, hobbies, etc. are personally determined.

Teen Understanding: Preferences of sexual behaviors, value systems and beliefs are personally determined.

Personal Rights

Adult Understanding: Everyone has the right to be treated justly under the law.

Teen Understanding: Everyone has the right to do what they believe is right for them.

Freedom

Adult Understanding: Being free to do what you ought to do.

Teen Understanding: Being free to do everything you want to do.

Truth

Adult Understanding: An absolute standard of right and wrong.

Teen Understanding: Whatever is right for you.

Some may be asking at this point, “Christian kids don’t think this way, do they?” Or, “Not my kids!”

First, let me say that no, not all Christian kids think this way. However, don’t assume they don’t until you present the list to them and talk about it. No matter what we do as parents and youth leaders – in this age of technology – we cannot shield our children from postmodern influences.

Along with technology is the pull of friends. Never underestimate your teen’s desire to be liked by his or her friends. I call this the “cool factor.” It is completely normal for teens to want to build relationships outside their families. This is why we, as parents and youth leaders, need to do what we can to make sure that our teens’ closest friends – their “inner circle” as we say at Reach America – are all Christians. And make sure these Christian friends have a biblical worldview!

In my next post, I will begin to explore how postmodernism has infiltrated the Christian teen world. And yes, I do have solutions and a strategy to turn postmodern Christian youth into multiplying disciples. I am doing my best to keep these posts to around 500 words.

Thanks for your comments. I always enjoy reading what God is saying to you!

Pastor Gary

Turning Postmodern Christian Teens into Multiplying Disciples, Part 2

I am writing a blog series on turning postmodern Christian teens into multiplying disciples. Today, let’s take a snapshot view of the postmodern youth culture in America.

The following is taken from my observations of Christian teens and with a little help from some research by Purdue University.

Historians generally place the beginning of the postmodern era in America at 1945. The characteristics of this era are as follows.

There has been a breakdown of cultural forms. Everyone is coloring outside the lines.  Although the average teen is “retro” when it comes to fashion and style, they reject the grand narratives that have made America great. Youth reject that America was founded as a Christian nation, American exceptionalism, capitalism and free enterprise.

America is becoming an oral society. According to Purdue University, literacy rates had been rising steadily from the introduction of print through the modern period. Postmodern society has seen a drastic reversal in this trend as more and more people are now functionally illiterate, relying instead on an influx of oral media sources: tv, film, radio, etc…

This culture still very much relies on print to create media outlets; however, it is increasingly only a professional, well-educated class that has access to full print and computer literacy. An increasing percentage of the population merely ingests, orally, the media that is being produced.

Due to these factors, young people are visual and temporal. They have lost all connection to reality and history. This may help to explain why they are so fascinated with reality television. Pop culture keeps coming back to the idea that the line separating reality and representation has broken down. The movie, The Matrix, is a prime example of this.

Young people have a deep desire for individualism, yet they have a strange comfort level with collectivism and government. Capitalism and free enterprise is on the way out and the government as caretaker is in. Due to advancements in technology, especially surveillance technology, young people have the sense that they are always being watched. And who do they blame for this invasion of privacy? You guessed it, the government. I know, this is getting a bit convoluted, but hang in there with me.

Essentially, teens and young adults are looking to government to protect their individuality, and provide for their daily and life-long needs. They see capitalism as the epitome of greed and they want nothing to do with it. Yes, Marxism is making a comeback.

Don’t get me wrong. I value individualism as much as anyone. It is the way it is being defined that is troubling. This generation wants the freedom to do whatever they want and to be whatever they want – individualism. They believe in a type of social justice where we all have the same things – collectivism.  Again, can you say “Marxism?”

In general, this generation is disoriented; there is no right and wrong. Truth is within you. Don’t judge me, and give me what I am entitled to have. Give me an education, health care, a job and a retirement plan. Take care of me and keep me happy from the cradle to grave.

In my next post, I will continue to discuss postmodernism.

I would love to hear from you. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Can America Turn it Around? If So, How and How Long Will it Take?

Many Christians believe we are in the last days.  I agree.  With that said, the fact that Christ could return any day doesn’t mean Christians should run for the hills!  Jesus made it clear that we are to be salt and light.  As believers, we can’t let our view of eschatology and the latest interpretation of world events discourage us from taking Christ’s love and truth into the public square with the goal of turning America around.

I am fully confident that God has a plan for bringing together all things on earth, but God didn’t put me on the “planning committee.”  For all we know, the coming of Christ may be thousands of years away.

God did put me on the “preparation committee.”  I believe America needs us.  Now more than ever, our country needs Godly people to get educated, networked and engaged in the culture.

God’s call in my life to engage the culture, to stand for righteousness, came in the form of a phone call.

In 1990, I received a call from our local elementary school principle to serve on the “sex education review committee.” Many on the committee wanted to hand out condoms to children as young as fourth grade. I had to make a choice.  Do I ignore the call to confront the culture or do I go to war?  I almost chose not to get involved.  I wrestled with my theology, my role as a pastor and the role of the church.

I chose to get involved and my life has never been the same.

Once I became engaged in the issues I almost quit a dozen times.  Each time I came close to hanging up my culture warrior helmet that still, small voice said “no.”  Now I can confidently say I have never regretted “staying the course.”

Not only did we keep the condoms out of most the schools, I ended up teaching the “sex education” section to over 8,000 teens and my life was changed forever. (I am going to, soon, tell my whole story.)

Folks, we need to stand tall! Christians, we need to get educated, networked and engaged.

I want to conclude this first blog post with three questions I am often asked. And one I am never asked, but needs to be addressed.

First, “What if we do all we can and America doesn’t turn to God?”  This is not my responsibility.  God has never asked me to be responsible for the results.  All God has called you and me to do is to be faithful.

Together, let’s submit to Christ, doing our best to follow His will.  Then, let’s leave the results to God.

Another question I hear is, “If America is going to turn around, how long will it take?”

I do not believe this question can be answered in terms of days, weeks, months, years or decades.  I believe this question can only be answered in terms of generations.

The third question is, “If God brings America back to Himself, how it is going to happen?

The question never asked? “What is this effort going to cost us?”

I will address the last two questions in the next post.

At Last, A Meaningful Conversation with an Atheist!

I received this question from “Jimmy.” “How would I respond to someone who argues that the first amendment includes separation of church and state?”

Pastor G: Jimmy, it just depends. I have found that most people who want to argue, that is all they want to do. Most people have already made up their mind and they just want to bug you to death. Seriously, do not waste your time on them.

Now, for your benefit and for all reasonable people the answer is really simple, the separation of church and state is NOT in the first amendment. Here is the first amendment in its entirety. As you can see, “separation of church and state” is not there.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The “separation” phrase is in a letter from Thomas Jefferson guaranteeing Danbury Baptists that the federal government will not interfere with their religious expression. Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction — his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature — as “favors granted.” In this letter, Jefferson guaranteed the Danbury Baptists that the federal governments will not interfere with their religious expression. He NEVER stated that God should not be a part of the government, but that government should stay out of the business of the church.

Jimmy: I am not trying to argue but to understand and to find common ground – that is if your sincere about not wanting a theocracy. But I fail to understand how involving your religion in politics has any other outcome.

If elected officials are religious (what ever that religion), and vote and champion policies in keeping with that view it is their right. But I am an Atheist and I have that right according the 1st Amendment (just as you have the right to not only believe in what ever you want but to proselytize that belief.) And I whole heatedly support you in exercising that right.

Do you support my right to believe or not as I see fit. Would our rights to do so be infringed if I we were forced to pray in school to a god that is not ours? or if our tax dollars were spent on a menorah display, or if the FDA mandated that all meat must be Halal?

I have no wish to infringe on your rights. Contrary to your claims kids can pray in school, they can even organize a prayer group. But state paid employees at the school can not take part. Because than my and every non-christian in the community would be paying for religious education and it would be a tacit approval by the government of that religion.

Religious freedom in the first amendment has two parts free exercise – we can believe or not as we choose and the establishment clause – the government can not show any preference or support for any religion. As my civil rights prof use to say its a bit like telling someone they can neither sit nor stand up.

I am very concerned about this and similar movements pushing for an America where christian laws are enshrined in civil statues and as someone looking in from the outside I really do not see the difference between this and sharia law.

Pastor G: Great post and great questions! America and thus American-style government has an interesting relationship with God and Christianity. It is NOT the religion of Christianity on which the founders wanted to build our nation. It was biblical principles that guided them. While they never wanted a theocracy, the founders never saw an America that wasn’t greatly influenced by Christianity. This is why, for example, Presidents Washington and Adams called for national days of repentance and fasting. In doing this, they were not trying to force religion on anyone, but recognize the mighty hand of God that guided them in the revolution and the founding of the nation.

You seek to understand us, so go with me in this next statement. You are an atheist. In a Christian nation, you are free to practice religion or not to practice. In no way should you be coerced to pray or read any scripture. In no way has anyone ever been coerced to pray in America. This is a creation of revisionist “historians.” I encourage you to read my blog series on the Real Story Behind The Thaw. I address this issue there.

In this same series I answer all the questions people have asked, like your “Prayer” question. We know that, legally, under certain circumstances kids can pray at school. Read the series and you will understand better what the kids mean by that statement.

Jimmy, you last statement is well received. “I am very concerned about this and similar movements pushing for an America where christian laws are enshrined in civil statues and as someone looking in from the outside I really do not see the difference between this and sharia law.” I am with you, if America becomes a place where you are forced to be “Christian” by the point of a gun (force of law), I am gone!

The American expression of a Christian form of government has already been written and you and I have been living free under it. It is The Declaration of Independence and The US Constitution. All we want is to keep this nation on the philosophical track on which it was founded. This philosophical foundation is found in the Declaration.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jimmy, thanks for your heart to understand. I hope I have helped.