The Church In A Secular Society (A Response to Current Events)

Let me say up front that this post may upset you, though that is certainly not my intent. I love our country. We are a privileged people to live in the good ol’ US of A! But, as believers, our ultimate allegiance is not to this country. Our ultimate allegiance is to our Savior and his kingdom.

We are witnessing a major shift in our society. As a student of history, I know without a doubt that our country was founded on Christian principles. It is impossible to study our founding fathers without encountering within their writings a Judeo-Christian mindset concerning government and morality. Some were not believers (this is well documented – just look at the Thomas Jefferson bible) but even the founding fathers who were non-believers argued that the best form of government and society would follow biblical principles. The shift is towards an increasingly secular society. Believers, who were in the majority for much of our nation’s history, have increasingly become the minority on social issues.

Here is what I believe we will see in the coming years unless something changes dramatically:

1. Same sex marriage will be legalized in all 50 states. This week President Obama (who originally personally opposed same sex marriage and then changed to personally agreeing with same sex marriage) has declared that he believes same sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Recently, the Supreme Court decided not to take up this issue thereby upholding a lower court’s ruling that same sex marriage was legal in certain states. Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriage while 26 states have laws against same sex marriage. At some point the justices will have to rule on this issue and I personally believe they or Congress (through enacting a federal law) will make same sex marriage legal across our nation which is approved of by the majority of Americans.

2. Christian businesses will choose to close their doors or face lawsuits, fines and jail time. This week a couple in Idaho who run a for-profit wedding chapel were told that they must conduct same sex weddings or face fines and possible jail time due to violating non-discrimination laws (this previously happened with a baker, florist, and photographer). In my opinion, the courts will rule that the wedding ceremony must be allowed to happen at the chapel but the Knapps will be able to recuse themselves (because of religious conviction) from performing the ceremony. Another person (licensed to perform marriages and who does not have this religious conviction concerning same sex marriage) will be brought in to conduct the ceremony. Christian businesses (bakery, florist, wedding chapel, etc.) operating in the secular marketplace will be increasingly required to abide by secular laws. They can stand up against these laws because of religious conviction but will likely face lawsuits, fines and jail time.

3. Pastors will be removed as agents of the state in regards to performing weddings. Currently ordained pastors operate as agents of the state when it comes to conducting wedding ceremonies. This is why at the end of a wedding service a pastor will say, “By the authority invested in my by the state of ______________, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” While churches are exempt from non-discrimination laws currently with regards to marriage, I believe this will be the next thing challenged. The argument will be made that ordained pastors, as agents of the state, must abide by state laws regardless of religious conviction. The likely result will be that pastors will not be able to act as representatives of the state. They will be able to do Christian weddings in the church but the couple would then need to go to the court to be officially married in the eyes of the state.

Here is how I think we should respond:

1. Pray. Unfortunately, prayer is often thought of as a last result. We attempt to do things to affect change until we feel like there is nothing else we can do…then we pray. Our temptation in this society will be to busy ourselves doing things and fail to pray. However, prayer should be our first response – we need to hit our knees! We need to ask God to move in a powerful way in our churches and in our culture. We should intercede for those lost in their sin. We need to ask God to search our hearts and our motives. Prayer is not the spare tire in our lives; it must be the steering wheel that drives our lives.

2. We, as believers, should seek to defend our religious liberties both in the ballot box and in the courts. We do not need to bow down and retreat at this point. We need to take a stand through both the courts and the ballot box. I believe religious freedoms need to be preserved. Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up our responsibility, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” We cannot and must not remain silent as religious liberties are stripped away. Houston has given us a glimpse of what is to come and we must be prepared to stand together.

3. Recognize that God may be allowing persecution to come so that his church would be purified and more effective in reaching people with the gospel. I have been preaching through the book of Habakkuk recently. Interestingly, Habakkuk begins the book asking why God has failed to turn His people’s hearts back to him and bring revival. God responds that he is at work but it will not be what Habakkuk expects (God will bring in the Chaldeans to take Judah captive and lead them into exile). He then tells Habakkuk “the just will live by their faith.”

Have you considered that God might be allowing persecution to come upon the church to purify it (when it costs to follow Christ, you find out who the true believers are)? Could it be that this world needs to grow darker so that the light of the gospel can more effectively shine through the church? Throughout church history, the gospel has exploded when Christians were persecuted. We, as believers, are called to live by faith…trusting God is at work to bring about his glory and our good regardless of what happens around us!

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“The Journey” – A Poem Written To My Wife

journey

“The Journey”

Days come and go, yet I long to see your face and simply touch your hand,

God has joined us for this journey; you are my partner as we journey this foreign land.

Storms rage and the tides rise all around us as we walk step by step.

We wonder and we question, “Will the promises God has made us be kept?”

His love is true and his faithfulness endures even when we are blinded by despair,

There is no one else I would want to travel this road with – this I will forever declare!

So we run, walk and at times crawl along the dusty and bumpy path,

One day we will hear from our Lord, “Well done good and faithful ones at last.

Let us enjoy the mountaintops and rejoice in the valleys as we encounter each,

And be ready and willing to receive everything our Savior desires to teach.

9 Things I’ve Learned In 9 Years Of Marriage

Today, my wife and I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. On December 18, 2004 I watched a beautiful lady walk down the aisle at my home church and we promised to love, honor, serve and cherish one other until death do us part.

wedding

Over the past 9 years I have learned a ton about marriage (yes, I know I have a lot more to learn) and thought I would share 9 specific things that jump out to me as I reflect over the past 9 years:

1. A Great Marriage Takes Work. I know this does not sound romantic but it is reality. If you want a great marriage you must work for it! Professional athletes become great because they put in the work it takes to get there. Successful professionals do well in their business endeavors because they work hard to make it happen. Every fairy tale might end with, “And they lived happily ever after” but the only way this can be true is for the couple to work their tales off to make it happen. Great marriages take work!

2. Allow Room For Growth In Your Spouse. One piece of advice I was given by my father-in-law, before he passed away, was to allow space for Janie and I to change and grow through the years. I married Janie when I was 21. I still had one semester of college to complete and I was playing baseball, which took me away from home every other weekend. Janie was 23 and had a full-time job.  From there we went to seminary where, again, she worked full-time while I worked part-time and was in school. Fast forward to today and I am the one working full-time outside the home while she is working as a stay-at-home mom and part-time accountant. Our lives are much different today than when we first married. We have changed and grown over those years. Give your spouse room to change and grow through the years!

3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!!! If you want a great marriage you must communicate about everything; kids, church, jobs, finances, taking out the trash – everything. Turn off the TV and talk to your spouse. Stop checking your Facebook account and listen to your spouse. Effective communication requires both spouses to talk to one another and listen to one another. Janie and I have found it helpful to set aside a night every few months to sit out on the deck by the fire pit and communicate with one another. We talk about our dreams and our concerns. We listen to one another’s fears and failures. We communicate and this must be a priority in every marriage!

4. Spend Quality Time Together. Find out what each other likes to do and spend time together doing those things. I know Janie loves to shop (especially for clothes for her and the girls) and I make it my aim to help her as much as I can. Also, since I am off on Fridays and both our girls are in school, we go to breakfast each Friday morning. This gives us uninterrupted time together to talk about various things. Let’s just be honest – quality time does not happen in front of the TV or when kids are running around the house. You must make an intentional effort to spend quality time with you spouse without your kids! Set aside a weekly or monthly date night. Schedule a weekend to be away with just your spouse. Spend quality time together!

5. Forgive & Move On. When your spouse hurts you, and they will (intentionally or unintentionally), be quick to forgive and move on. We must always remember, as believers, that we married a sinner and the Holy Spirit is still conforming them into the image of Christ. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to say mean things. We are going to hurt one another. But we can control our response when we are hurt. We can do exactly as Jesus did to those involved in his crucifixion – forgive. Be quick to forgive your spouse and then move on!

6. Apologize. When you are wrong say, “I’m sorry” – not “I’m sorry…but if you would have…” Just say, “I’m sorry.” You may not even feel like you are in the wrong but apologize anyway. This goes a long way with your spouse. They realize you are less interested in defending yourself (which is a sneaky way of saying “I am right”) and more interested in their feelings and concerns. I’m still working on this one! J

7. Make Life Fun. Life is difficult and every day is definitely not Friday. But you can choose your attitude and the way you approach your spouse and family. Choose to be happy and to make life fun. There are days when it will take more effort than others but do everything within your power to make life fun. Often, we will take spontaneous trips just to communicate to our family that we want life to be fun. Go to the park; make a visit to the local pet store and pet the puppies; head out for ice-cream. Making life fun makes Janie happy – she loves to see smiles on her little girls’ faces

8. Pray For & With Your Spouse. I pray for Janie daily and I know she prays for me. I treasure this – my wife is truly a prayer warrior! We pray together during family worship and let our kids see us pray for one another. The old adage is “The couple that prays together stays together.” I truly believe this. Pray for and with your spouse!

9. I Am Blessed Beyond Measure. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good things and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). In God’s providence he brought Janie and I together and for that I am blessed. I thank the Lord daily for this good and precious gift he has given – I truly have obtained “favor from the Lord!” Thank God for your spouse and tell your spouse you believe they are a blessing from the Lord!

**There are tons of other things I have learned over the past 9 years of marriage but I would love to hear what you have learned in your marriage. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section!