12/32 Task Force: Understanding the Times, Reaching America with Truth

Any strategy that God blesses begins with Jesus, is all about Jesus and ends with Jesus.

One of the most powerful prayers in Scripture is recorded by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21. I just have to post this prayer in its entirety. Yes, it is that good.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen”

What a prayer!

There is a huge difference between believing in Jesus and Jesus living his life through us. Many Christians do good things in the name of Jesus, but if we are going to reach America with Truth, people must see Christ at work in Christians.

There is a huge difference between “having a daily, morning devotional time” and “being rooted and established in love” , having “power, together with all the saints”,  grasping ” how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”, and  knowing his” love that surpasses knowledge.”

As the church, our goal is to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” so he can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Experiencing more than we can imagine can only happen “according to his power that is as work within us,” bringing glory to him in the church, throughout all generations, forever and ever!

Imagine being a part of a ministry that prepares Christians to be Jesus in the world, intentionally and strategically. Imagine God doing more through us than we can imagine!

This is the work of the 12/32 Task Force.

The first arena we need to address is prayer. Throughout history, all the great movements for God began with prayer — including the birth of the church in the book of Acts.

In Acts 1:14, the Scripture reads, “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.

I have always found it interesting that Jesus clearly told the disciples that they were to “go and make disciples of all nations”, (Matthew 28:19) but instructed them go back to the upper room and wait.  Why didn’t they divide the world into eleven slices and take off! Instead, they went back to the upper room and they prayed.

When God wants to do something greater than we can imagine, he does it through us. The key is that he does it and we are the instruments.

Let’s go back to the birth of the church.  All they did was pray and move as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts Chapter  two states that while they were together that, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” What seemed like tongues of fire separated and rested on each of them.  They “were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

Due to the festival of Pentecost, “…there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”

The same sound of violent wind that was heard by those in the upper room was also heard by the crowd outside. It was God, through the sound of the wind that brought people together — not a door-to-door evangelism campaign.

When the crowd heard this sound, they “…came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

It was then that Peter stood and addressed the crowd.

After Peter preached, some 3,000 people came to Christ and the church was born!

The significance of Pentecost is that God did it! All the people did was to follow the fire and the wind.

The formula for taking Christ to your community is no different than what was recorded in Acts chapter two. Here are the steps.

Step #1: Gather together for prayer, teaching, fellowship and such.

Step #2: Watch and wait for God to move.

Step #3: When God says move…MOVE!

Coming together in prayer is the first step in taking Christ to our communities and country. The question for us is — are we making plans to come together to pray?

Are we busily going about our business doing good things for God, or we waiting on him, watching what he is doing, in order that he may do great things — greater than we can imagine — through us!

Where Did the Effort to Take Christians and Religious Expression Out of the American Public Square Begin?

Together, We Can Make A Difference!

Where did the effort to take Christians and religious expression out of the American public square begin? How do we bring Christianity back? Is that even possible?

Exactly when the effort to take our nation away from Christianity began is debatable, but one significant place we can start is with the Supreme Court and their rulings in 1962 and 1963.

In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled prayer — even voluntary, student led prayer — was unconstitutional in our public schools. In 1963 the courts ruled the Bible unconstitutional. By the way, the 1962 case was the infamous Engel vs Vitale case. A simple 22-word prayer, approved by the New York state board of education, was struck down by the Court. “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.”

Today, most people — Including some who say they are Christians — are convinced that the issue the Court was concerned with was coercion, since it involved a state-approved prayer. Folks, there was never any evidence of coercion proven in this case. The Court, on page 423 of the ruling, states, “The schools did not compel any pupil to join in the prayer over his or her parents’ objection.”

The Court continued on page 430 of their ruling that “prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State.”

The problem this Court had wasn’t state-mandated coercion, but the simple presence of prayer in the public school system. The Engel decision was an attack on any kind of prayer; even voluntary, student-led prayer.

Let’s move on to the 1963 case: Abington Township vs Schempp.

The state of Pennsylvania had a policy that each school day would be opened by the reading of the Bible. Like the previous case, participation was voluntary and student-led. There were to be no comments made or questions asked; only the reading of the Bible would be permitted. Again, coercion was never proven in this case. The Schempp’s children, Roger and Donna, testified they had never protested to their teachers concerning the practice.

The argument was made that the school setting is no place for religious activity. If these activities are to occur it should be in the home, church or private school. Justice Stewart, in his dissent, pointed out the constitutional fallacy of this argument. “Freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion are available to all, not merely to those who can pay their own way.” Judge Stewart concluded, “A refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

Some may argue that in this ruling the Bible, itself, wasn’t ruled unconstitutional, just the reading of it in public. Without a doubt, in this case the Court struck down the official use of the Bible in public education.

These two rulings paved the way for future decisions like this one. In 1980, Stone vs Graham, the Court ruled it unconstitutional for students to view the Ten Commandments while at school. — In this case the Court ruled, “That if the 10 commandments were read in school…a student might feel inclined to follow them” — yeah, really.

The 1962 and 63 rulings opened the floodgates for secularists to make our public places — our schools, our colleges and universities, our government, even our businesses — religious expression-free zones. Unfortunately, many Christians have also taken this stance.

The first amendment no longer protects the right of free religious expression but is used to restrict it. It is now in vogue to ask us, Christians, to keep our religious beliefs to ourselves. We, Christians, are being told that that we have the right to express our beliefs — in our homes and places of worship.

It is time for action.

At Reach America, we are launching a two-part strategy to bring Christianity back into the public square. The strategies will begin locally, here, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Our goal is for other communities to join us.

In my next blog, I will outline the strategy.

At times, we all get discouraged — even I get discouraged. Now, however, is not the time to shrink back. We, at Reach America, still believe God can bring our nation back through us.

Do you believe? Will you join us?

We want to hear from you. My email is gary@letsreachamerica,org. Our phone number here is 208-966-4434.

If you are interested in joining the effort to take Christ to the public square, please contact us. Personally, I would love to talk to you.

Together, we can make a difference!

~Pastor Gary

Gay Marriage, Part Eight: Serve, Say, Stand

Part Eight: Serve, Say, Stand

Matthew (20:28) and Mark (10:45) record Jesus as saying, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The power behind what Jesus said was in how Jesus served.

Without a doubt, Jesus’ words were powerful, but it was what he did that gave his words impact. Luke records in Luke 4:36, “All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’”

As I stated in “Rip Van Church”, Christians fell asleep at the switch and now we have awakened to find ourselves shoved out of the public square. As stated in Part Six, “A Little History Lesson”, the “gay” movement had its roots in the feminist, socialist movements of the 1930s through 50s and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s. To pinpoint the watershed moment when our country began to rapidly move away from our Christian founding we need to look to the 1962 decision of the Supreme Court, ruling student-led prayer in public schools as unconstitutional. (This will be the topic of my next post.)

I believe we all agree that the sleeping giant, the church, needs to wake up and re-enter the public square. I want to begin a discussion on the most effective way to do so. I want to suggest a three-point strategy to bring back righteousness and save our communities.

Start, Serve, Stand

Start

We start with learning to C.A.R.E. for our communities again. We must become Culturally Aware and become Ready to Engage our community. Too many of us, Christian, have given up on our communities and we have begun to withdraw from the public square. I believe the scriptures are clear that we should be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) and that we should “occupy” (Luke 19:13) until he comes.

Why did God leave us here after we were saved? Think about it. There are only two things we can do on earth that we cannot do in heaven — sin and tell others about Jesus. Now, which one do you think He left us here to do?

Serve

We must re-enter society as a servant. Unlike when Jesus walked the earth, Christianity is not new. In the eyes of today’s world we are not only irrelevant but we read an ancient book that is no good for today and we claim to worship a God that no longer is necessary. In the minds of the majority of America, the advances of society and science have made faith in a “God” pointless.

It is into this new America that we are living and that we are called to reach.

In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus is recorded as saying this:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

How we reenter the public square is important. I have been involved in the abstinence education movement since 1990, when Magic Johnson first announced to the world that he was HIV positive. I have been blessed to lead on every level of government in America. I have served locally, as well as the state and national levels.

From experience, I have learned that the old adage, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care”, is true.

It seems that the only time Christians show up in the community is when we are against something. All people know about us is what we are against. When we lead with our service, people see our heart. When we lead with our mouth in a negative way, all people believe they see are our fangs. When we serve, we prove to those reasonable people where we live that we really don’t have fangs.

Stand

After we have shown that we care, we have earned the right to be heard. We need to be active in the community. We need to be active in county commissioner meetings, school board meetings, and city council meetings. We need to let our voices be heard in areas in which we agree and disagree.

Christians need to get involved in politics. Yes, I said “that” word — politics! Run for office, work for those Christians running for office. VOTE!

Get involved in local ministries that are making a difference. Programs like food banks, shelters and pregnancy centers need our help. Start a leadership program, like Reach America, where you live that is training up youth and their parents how to lead.

Jesus used the “salt” and “light” metaphors –mentioned earlier– in what we know as the “Sermon on the Mount”. Earlier in that sermon, Jesus lists the “beatitudes.”  I have always found it ironic that right after Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, he said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Yes, I believe that was intentional. This is the nature of righteousness spoken in the public square. To those who are willing to listen, righteousness brings peace. To those whose hearts are hardened, righteousness proclaimed in the public square brings persecution to the righteous.

Unfortunately, the fear of persecution is driving Christians out of the public square. The fear of turning people away from the gospel message of salvation is keeping Christians away from speaking in the public square.

Never does the Bible tell us not to speak righteousness, but it does tell how we should speak.

Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

We will always be vilified — count on it — but let’s be sure it is the Word of God that is offending, not the messenger.

This series has been one of the most challenging I have written. I hope it has been helpful to you.

In my next post I am going to examine the 1962 Supreme Court decision, ruling student-led prayer in public schools unconstitutional and the impact that ruling has had on our country.

Together, let’s re-enter the public square. Together, let’s start, serve and stand!

Gay Marriage Part 7: Rip Van Church

In the 1950s and 60s, when our American society was racing away from Christ and our American founding values, the church was silent. When the Courts were ruling against prayer (1962) and the Bible (1963), the church was silent.

With good intentions we sent our kids off to public schools, then to state and private colleges and universities, ignorant of the fact that many of the teachers/professors were guiding our children away from God and their parents.

As a nation, we have lost our way because:

  1. Overwhelmingly, Christians no longer care about America — maybe we never did.
  2. Doctrinally, we have come to embrace a theology where it is practically “unchristian” to care about our culture and our country.
  3. Instead of Christians shaping the culture, the culture has shaped those who call themselves Christians.

For whatever reason or reasons, America has lost her way because the church in America has lost her right to be heard.

For the purpose of this post I want share with you the condition of the church in America and how we got to where we are today.

I was born on July 3, 1959 — I know, I’m old.

I remember a time in America when the church and pastors were respected — even by those who weren’t Christians. I remember when businesses were closed on Sunday, in honor of the Lord’s Day. Any of you old fogies remember the old “Blue Laws”? I remember when community recreation departments would never schedule a game on Sunday or on Wednesday night.

Divorce was unheard of in my community. Every one of my friends had a mom and a dad — at home. Teachers were respected and discipline in our nation’s schools was the order of the day. Most, if not all, of my teachers were also Sunday school teachers at their church.

As Christians, we sat on our “blessed assurance”, and let our children and our country slip away. You know, like the frog in the kettle. You remember this one, don’t you? If you place a frog in a kettle of boiling water, he will quickly hop right out of it. However, if you place it in cool water and turn the temperature up slowly, the frog will sit there and boil to death.

Welcome to the New America.

It’s as if the church in America is Rip Van Winkle.

The story of Rip Van Winkle is set in the time just prior to the American Revolution in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Rip is a fine man, liked by all, but unfortunately he had a knack for avoiding work. His wife was constantly nagging him about his chores. Eventually, his house and farm began to slip into disrepair.

Tired of his wife’s incessant complaints, Rip took off with his dog, Wolf, for greener pastures. He came upon a band of travelers who offered him some of their moonshine. Rip drank it and quickly fell asleep.

He awakens to discover many shocking changes. His musket is rotting and rusty, his beard is a foot long, and his dog is nowhere to be found. Van Winkle returns to his village where he recognizes no one. He discovers that his wife has died and that his close friends have died in some war or moved away.

When Rip returns to his favorite drinking hole he discovers that the portrait of King George has been replaced with one of George Washington. After a fair amount of investigation, Van Winkle discovers that he had been asleep for 20 years. He slept through the American Revolution and awoke to find an entirely different world.

Rip Van Winkle was asleep for 20 years. To the best of my recollection, the church fell asleep some time during the late 1950s to early 60s and now we are waking up from a slumber of fifty-plus years to an America that is vastly different from the America we once knew.

The changes in our country have been vast and, frankly, too numerous to mention in this one blog post. We awaken from our slumber to find that society as we knew it in the early 60s has been redefined. As we wipe the crusty “sleep” from our eyes, we notice that is no longer Christ’s picture we see hanging in our local schools and court houses; it is Charles Darwin’s, Albert Einstein’s and Sigmund Freud’s.  Dad is no longer the bread-winner and mom is no longer at home to raise the kids. As a matter of fact, most children do not have a dad in the house, period. If there is a dad, he is most likely working hard to make the ends meet. Mom works, too. The government is now raising the children.

Our church houses are nearly empty and no one cares what we have to say any more.

When we fell asleep, it was Elvis who had left the building — now, it is God who has left the country. And we wonder why they are not heeding to the Word.

No one forced the church to fall into our 50-year stupor. We weren’t given cosmic sleeping pills. No one pushed us into the corner in which we now find ourselves.

What are we, as the Church, to do?  What do we do about what we know?

Next Post: Developing an Action Plan. Hint: We must learn to C.A.R.E.

Gay Marriage, Epistemology & Righteousness…”What?!” Part Five

Part Five: Why Gay Marriage is Bad for America

In my last post, I laid out a Biblical epistemology, or worldview, of marriage and family and their importance to God. The coming together of man and woman as “one flesh” in the context of marriage is the most intimate expression of love and oneness two humans can experience. God made us where we fit together — literally — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Marriage is the perfect expression to illustrate God’s perfect fit with us, as His creation, made in His image. The scripture tells us that as believers we are Christ’s bride, that God is a jealous God and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church. The biblical examples go on and on.

It should come as no surprise to us that sexual sin is emphasized so much in scripture. Biblically speaking, there is just something different about sexual sin.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, the Apostle Paul clearly specifies that there is something different about sexual sin. In verse 18 Paul writes, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Paul compliments the people, and then issues this instruction in the form of a warning. I have included verses 3-8, below.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes what the scripture doesn’t say tells us a lot. Take this first phrase of verse three. Why didn’t Paul say,

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid murder“?

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid telling lies”?

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid stealing“?

Could it be that when we sin sexually, that this is the first sign of more sin to come; the first sign of moral decline within ourselves and in the culture?

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul certainly indicates this. In these verses it is evident that sexual sin and specifically same sex relations are unnatural and are the first visible sign of a people who have turned their backs on God.

Let’s take a close look at Romans 1:18-32 and the seven steps to cultural chaos.

  • Step One: Suppress the truth, verses 18-20.
  • Step Two:  They didn’t glorify God nor did they give thanks to Him, resulting in futile thinking and a dark heart, verse 21.
  • Step Three: They claimed to be wiser than God and began to worship themselves, verses 22-23.
  • Step Four: God gave them over to their sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies.verse 24
  • Step Five: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. verse 25
  • Step Six: Women and men exchanged natural relations for unnatural relations, verses 26-27.
  • Step Seven: They received the due penalty for their perversion, verse 27.

And what is the penalty? Take a look.

  • A depraved mind to do what should not be done.
  • A mind filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
  • Envy, murder, strife, deceit, cruelty.
  • Gossip, slander, God-hating, disrespect, arrogance, boastfulness.
  • They invent ways of doing evil.
  • They disobey their parents.
  • They are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

The Apostle concludes his remarks in verse 32.

“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.”

Folks, from a biblical epistemological approach, to what conclusions can we come? What are we, as Christians, to do about what we know to be biblically true?

Stay tuned for part six.

Gay Marriage, Epistemology & Righteousness…”What?!” Part Three

Part Three: What is Epistemology and Why Should I Care?

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who writes and speaks on various topics relating to science and the defense of the Christian faith. His blog post on epistemology is excellent. For the purpose of this post, I borrowed greatly from Dr. Lisle. I highly recommend that you subscribe to his blog at www.jasonlisle.com.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Epistemology helps us answer the question: how we know what we know.  When a person has a belief, it is reasonable to ask the person “how do you know this?” The way in which a person responds to this kind of question will reveal his or her original source or epistemology.

Everyone has an epistemology because everyone have some beliefs, and they have reasons for their beliefs. However, not all reasons are good reasons. If the reason isn’t very good, then there is a good chance that the belief is wrong.

Epistemology is very important if we want our beliefs to correspond to what is real — to truth.

I believe it is safe to assume that most people have not consciously reflected on their own epistemology.  According to Dr. Lisle, when we think about what we believe we know, we need to ask ourselves three questions.

  1. How do I ultimately know anything?
  2. What are the standards by which truth is determined?
  3. Are these standards biblical?

Before we continue with this discussion, you may be asking yourself this question: “Why should I be concerned with epistemology?  It is enough that I do know things?”

Our epistemology is crucially important because if it is wrong, then many of our beliefs derived from that faulty system will also likely be wrong.  In other words, if our epistemology is wrong, then we could be wrong about everything we think we know!

Biblical Epistemology/Worldview

Only a Biblical worldview makes it possible for us to answer our questions and have genuine knowledge.  This is because knowledge stems from the nature of God. Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

A Biblical worldview gives us rational justification for all the things that we rely upon in order to have knowledge. As I stated in the last post, human beings are made in the image of God.

Now, as Christians, let’s consider these additional facts.

God’s mind is perfect by His nature.  At salvation, God gave us — Christians — the ability to pattern our thoughts after His.  For our benefit, God has commanded us to pattern our thoughts after His, so that our thoughts will be truthful.

In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 — please take the time to read these verses yourself — we read that God has given Christians two amazing gifts to enable us to discern the spiritual truth in all situations.

First, God has given us His secret wisdom. Vs. 9-10

However, as it is written: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’–but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

Secondly, we have the mind of Christ. Vs. 16

“‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Friends, as with any issue or situation, the “gay” issues we face today can only be righty discerned by Christians accessing the secret wisdom of God through our right mind — the mind of Christ. This is accomplished by way of the only reliable record we have, the Bible.

The Failure of Secular Epistemologies

Dr. Lisle writes in his blog, “Non-Biblical worldviews makes knowledge impossible.”

That doesn’t mean that non-Christians can’t know anything.  Clearly they can.  But this is despite their worldview and not because of it. When you ask a non-Christian why they know what they know, it ultimately leads back to themselves as the basis of their knowledge.

Rationality

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a rational person and an irrational one? A rational person has a good reason for his or her beliefs.  An irrational person does not.

A Biblicalworldview allows us to have good reasons for our most basic beliefs. Apart from the Bible, any reason that we offer for any belief cannot be ultimately justified.

Folks, it would appear that there are only two options for a person to hold.  One can either be a consistent Christian, or one can be irrational.

Epistemology is important because we live in a post-Christian America. More than ever, it is essential that, as Christians, we ask ourselves these three question about what we, think we know. Then, we ask others.

  1. “How do we know what we know?”
  2. “What are the standards by which truth is determined?”
  3. “Are these standards biblical?”

In my next post, I am going to present a biblical epistemology/worldview of marriage.

Again, I want to express my thanks to Dr. Jason Lisle for his work on epistemology.

I sincerely hope this series is a blessing to you. I would love to know what you believe the Bible says. Got any stories or reports? Please share.

~Pastor Gary

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

This blog series is a Christian response to “gay” marriage and the same-sex issues we are facing. I hope this isn’t only a one-way conversation. In a real sense, this issue needs to be a discussion, not a proclamation from me, or anyone else. On some level, all of us are dealing with this issue — nationally, locally or personally.  You may be dealing with this issue at home within your family. You, yourself, may be struggling with same-sex tendencies.

Also, I realize that many people passionately oppose a biblical worldview. Several of those opposed have made their way into our Reach America web orbit. For those of you who choose to disagree, I ask that you listen. You are welcome to respond in the blog section of our website.

Let’s talk ground rules: This discussion needs to take place in the context of the essence of God’s nature and his message to us all, as described in the Bible, God’s Word, not our personal experience or current perceived reality.

The essence of God’s nature and message

First — God is love and God loves all people — regardless of their personal issues. The most quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Love so much exemplifies the awesome nature of God that the Apostle John wraps up the essence of God in three short words, “God is love”. (1 John 4:8b)

This amazing three-word declaration is written in the context of John’s admonition to those who claim to know God — “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.

Secondly — every person is a creation of God, made in his image. In Genesis 1:26-27, Moses writes, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Thirdly — God’s will is that none perish, but all people come to salvation in Christ. The Apostle Peter is clear in 2 Peter 3:9 when he says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” [Italics mine]

Let me make three more biblical points as we lay out the ground rules of our discussion.

Ground rule #1: This discussion will take place within the context of the Word of God. We will agree with the Apostle Paul and his position concerning God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Also, we will agree with the writer of Hebrews, placing our lives under the authority of God’s Word for life guidance. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Ground Rule #2: Jesus, thus God’s Word, is truth. As we stated earlier, the Apostle John acknowledged that the essence of God’s nature is love. (1 John 4:8) If we are to be consistent in our biblical discussion, we must also believe the Apostle John’s description of the essence of the nature of Jesus Christ. John, who actually walked with Jesus for three years and was known as the “beloved” disciple, quotes Jesus. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6, Italics mine)

If we agree with John when he states that God is love, we must also agree with John that Jesus, thus God’s Word, is truth.

Ground Rule #3: We all must treat one another with the love of Christ, respecting one another. When we speak, we must do so full of grace and seasoned with salt, as Paul directs in Colossians 4:6. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

I am looking forward to sharing with you as we begin this discussion.

FYI: unless you have been previously approved, your comment will be screened before it is posted.

God Bless!

Pastor Gary

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?

Establishing the Right Foundation

Are the people you are leading, establishing the right foundation?

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Most Christians are being raised with the presumption that they are building a godly foundation. However, many of these Christians, while thinking their godly foundation is being developed, are actually building a different foundation off their own desires and wants.

Think about it; when you attend a Christian teaching lesson (like church, small group, etc.) how much of your time there is spent listening and considering what the teacher is thinking? How much time is spent thinking about your own desires? Are you being lead to believe that a godly foundation is being laid but instead your other thoughts are building a completely different foundation?

This is one of Satan’s subtle tactics. He knows that people have a tendency to not pay attention to the important things so he expands on that fact to lay a different foundation.

What kind of foundation is laid then, when the godly one is ignored? Sometimes these new foundations are based off of distracted thoughts; innocent but not focused on the information at hand. Other times, the foundations are based off of sin or immoral ideas. This is why most of the youth in America are not following the Lord Jesus Christ when they leave home.

So, how do we reach America and make sure the right foundations are being laid?

At Reach America, Christian teens are taught how to lead people. But, these teens could still be laying down the wrong foundation so, to counter this, the ministry teaches teens while having them walk with other teens.

These teens are led to walk with other Christians and help each other lay down the right foundation.

This year, Reach America is going to focus on teaching teens how to lead teens by walking with them through Christ. One could summarize this as, “Reach America teaches teens how to run a baton race but, instead of the focus being on passing the baton (or dying and leaving your legacy), they focus on the time when both of the runners are running with each other, because this wins the race!”