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All posts for the month August, 2013

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Today I left my first born at LIFE Pacific College in SoCal. As I was driving away I couldn’t help but compare the feelings I was having as similar to a loved one passing.

My thoughts were immediately directed to all of the wonderful memories I have of Chase from his birth, to his first steps, to tee ball, to learning to live in a foreign country, to playing his guts out to Jesus on our worship team, to making the decision to go to LIFE, etc etc etc.

There’s obvious differences. I will see Chase in a few weeks during the holidays and I am so grateful for that opportunity. But there is still a transition happening that is not unlike someone moving from this life to the next.

There is sadness, but there is also great joy. Chase has made good decisions throughout his life, none so powerful as his decision to follow Jesus. That decision has guided every other decision. He’s made mistakes just like all of us, but he has crossed over to another realm: adulthood. He has passed from childhood to adulthood in one afternoon. But really, the last 18 years has been preparation for this moment and I’m so confident that he will continue to make wise decisions as he walks with Jesus in this next season.

Action: So have you prepared for the BT (big transition) from this life to the next? We don’t end, but continue on in a new way. Set your heart towards Christ today and see how He might help you bridge into whatever next season He has for you. I can guarantee you it will be full of adventure and wonder.

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Part of me hates writing about my vacation. Does anyone really care what I’m doing and why I’m doing it? At any rate here it is and hope you enjoy it.

First and most important, the purpose of this time away: to take my oldest to college. I’ll write on that more Saturday. Suffice it to say I’m excited for him and sad for the rest of us. He is an amazing young man who has brought a great deal of joy to our home.

Second, I’ve been reading some books by Dallas Willard on spiritual formation. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

As a young kid in church I was strongly motivated to live a “holy” life. That meant doing and saying all the right things. What I would later realize is that these actions were closely linked to how I thought God approved or disapproved of me. When I got it right God was happy, when I got it wrong He was mad or sad or disappointed. The past seven years I’ve had a transformation in my thinking. I no longer connect God’s love and acceptance of me with what I do. That comes from both a proper view of God’s word and a loving reality of relationship that He has with me. I am loved by God.

So as I’m reading these books on spiritual transformation God is reminding me that the way I live my life is extremely important, not for Him but for me, my family and my world. So is my character, the inward force that controls my conduct, at the center of God’s transforming work? I am a new creation in Christ so are old things passing away?

Action: in what ways has your character changed over time because of your relationship to Christ? Post a comment to encourage others in their spiritual journey.

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This weekend Pastor Ken shares about what Jesus might say to LeBron and really what he would say to us.

It got me thinking about playing basketball in college. I wasn’t a high scorer, but there was this one game where I scored 37 points. I remember the gym, the shots I took, the domination that occurred:). I’ve tried to imagine what it would feel like to do that every game. I would have such a big head. It would change the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I present myself. Talk about self-confidence.

Here’s the rub: that kind of success doesn’t really change anything. It could depending upon what I did with it, right? If it’s just for my benefit and my pride, what value is it really?

I’ve found that if I play the game God has for me, success becomes a bit of a non-issue. Making God famous becomes the driving force in my life. If it’s really not about me, then it sets me free to experiment, to try new things, to live with a willingness to risk it all for Him and His name.

I want Jesus to say to me one day…”well done, good and faithful servant.” Translated: good game son. You played your guts out, you gave it all you had and left the results up to me. I’m proud of you. I hope you hear those words some day too.

Action: How have you dealt with success in your life? How do you define success? Would love to hear from you!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NKJV)

So God made a man. Now that word “man” is the Hebrew word ‘adam’ which simply means human, earthling, one who comes from the ground. It does not denote sexuality. It is gender neutral.

In verse 27 it repeats that God created ‘adam’ (human, earthling) in His own image and then the verse adds “in the image of God He created them male and female.” Now these two words are the hebrew words that denote sexuality – male and female, man and woman.

What’s important here is to see the connection between our sexuality and God’s image – they are tied together. Animals have sexuality – they are both male and female – but we don’t get our sexual ethics from them (thank goodness). Rather there is something else happening with humanity – a sexual ethic that comes from God’s image.

As a result, we humans, male and female, can efface the image of God based on our sexual preference. That’s why Paul speaks so strongly against sexual immorality. It’s not because he’s disgusted by it, but rather he understands the deep connection God built into our sexuality as image bearers of Himself.

Also verse 27 points to a normativeness that God instituted at the very beginning. One could say that the fullness of God’s image is seen in the uniting of male and female together. Later I will answer the question, “then why are some born with homosexual tendencies?” But first let’s look at more of the creation story.

Genesis 2:18-24 (see below for full scripture).

It’s saying that it was not good for ‘adam’ (the earthling) to be alone, so God made a helper which is translated “counterpart or complement.” What’s important here is that God did not make another of the same kind but one that was sexually distinct. Matter of fact when God creates the woman, the earthling (Adam) starts referring to himself as “male”. Up to that point he is referred simply as the earthling.

Now this “joining” is extremely important as well. It means “to be attached to, to be stuck to (not “stuck with”), to be united.” This same word is used in other places in the Bible to refer to “being glued together” and literally “becoming one single flesh.”

There is this powerful “completeness” that comes when a male and a female are united together in one flesh. As mentioned earlier, it is the fullness of the image of God seen through our sexuality. Jerry Macguire was more right than he knew: we do “complete each other.”

To add emphasis to this, Jesus quoted these passages when he said: “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9 NKJV)

So all this describes a normativeness that God initiated from the very beginning, before sin entered the world. God’s best for humanity is that male and female would come together, literally and physically, and bear the image of God together in unity.

What about those who are now born with homosexual tendencies? Many Christians are holding to the fact that people aren’t born this way, but through circumstances, upbringing, abuse, etc young people are “forced” to become homosexuals. But we don’t have to stand on that shaky ground. The Bible clearly shows us that ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God that “sin entered the world.” We are now all born into sin. We all have an orientation, a “tendency” away from God’s best. For some that shows itself in same-sex attraction. It’s not some special “sin” that deserves more recognition nor a stronger oppositional stance.

We all need love and grace. We all need forgiveness. We all need to rediscover our God-created best. We all need a community where we can talk openly about our struggles, our confusion, and our uncertainties. Let’s be that kind of community because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted, to bind up wounds. Let’s be Jesus right we where are.

Action: How can you show love this week to those who don’t share or live your values?

GENESIS 2:18-24:
And the Lord God said, “ It is not good that man (‘adam’) should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam (‘earthling’) to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam (‘earthling’) called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam (‘earthling’) gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam (‘earthling’) there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam (‘earthling’), and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man (‘adam-earthling’) He made into a woman (‘female’), and He brought her to the man (‘adam’). And Adam (‘earthling’) said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman (‘female’), Because she was taken out of Man (‘male’).” Therefore a man (‘male’) shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (‘female’), and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24 NKJV)

Sorry everyone. I had a glitch in my WordPress app that deleted all my comments from yesterday:(

Also I decided to post my second blog on homosexual practice today rather than tomorrow.

Thanks for all your insights and thoughts. This is a tough and sensitive issue and I’m thankful for keeping the tone of love and grace in our comments.

I’m down in Southern California dropping my son off at college and taking some vacation time. That may result in me not responding to every comment until I return. FYI.

As I mentioned this past weekend, I would blog on my own biblical interpretation as it relates to homosexuality. It’s important that these blog posts are connected to my heart which I expressed this past weekend. You can view my message at westsidelive.org.

So what does the Bible say about homosexuality? There are really only 8 verses that speak directly to this issue. The Genesis 19 and Judges 19 passages are really talking about sexual perversion. In my opinion these men would not be “homosexuals” but rather sexual predators that don’t care about gender. If that’s true then the passage in Jude also describes these same men in Genesis 19 and not what our culture deems homosexuals.

What about the other five verses? The Leviticus passages are difficult for me because the book of Leviticus is full of regulations that we don’t follow today. So to single out one or two that we might agree with is potentially bad biblical exegesis and I prefer to not build a theology around one book of the Bible that was written very specifically for the Israelites who were wandering in the wilderness and needed a strong set of guidelines to help them survive for 40 years in the desert.

So what about the remaining three written by the Apostle Paul?

Romans 1:26-27 – key phrase that I will come back to: “God gave them up to…” Now some Christians have used these verses and the phrase “receiving in themselves the penalty of their error” to describe AIDS as the judgment on the homosexual community. That is not what Paul was talking about. It had nothing to do with a physical illness but rather a spiritual and emotional disconnect from God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 – what’s astonishing about these verses is not that homosexuality is listed, but that it is listed with so many other things. So we must stop using these verses to condemn homosexuality while ignoring the rest of the rebuke. Paul is making a case that we are all in the same boat. We ‘were’ something but now we’re not. It’s our commonality that is highlighted not a particular sin in the list.

If you are tracking with me so far you can see why some pastors and denominations are moving away from the traditional view that homosexuality is a sin. Many of these men and women love God’s word and are trying to interpret it as best they can. I’m open to honest dialogue about why people interpret certain scriptures a certain way. So why do I still believe homosexuality is not God’s best for humanity nor the normative for any society seeking to live according to God’s will?

It really has very little to do with these eight scriptures, but has everything to do with two other scriptures: Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-24. I’ll blog on these Wednesday.

Action: How are you processing this so far? Are you frustrated, angry? Why or why not? Would love to hear your thoughts.

SCRIPTURES FROM ABOVE
And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally. ” (Genesis 19:5 NKJV)

As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally! ” (Judges 19:22 NKJV)

as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7 NKJV)

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22 NKJV)

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13 NKJV)

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26, 27 NKJV)

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV)

knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, (I Timothy 1:9, 10 NKJV)

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So how did Jesus interact with everyday people, not the religious who thought they were sinless or those who were anti-Jesus, meaning they wanted to live however regardless of his teachings. But what about honest people who were really interested in being in a relationship with Jesus – how did he treat those people?

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NIV)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

Jesus wasn’t afraid to be with people far from God. He knew that the closer people got to Him, the closer they got to God. According to the ministry of Jesus, life transformation didn’t happen by going to church, being part of a Bible study, praying more (all important spiritual disciplines by the way), but by time spent in His presence.

So, when it comes to Ellen, what would Jesus say? “Come to me.” It’s really that simple. I think Jesus would invite himself over for dinner at her house. And the question you have to ask, if He did that would you criticize Him for it? If you would, who are you aligning yourself with in the stories we read? Or would you, like His true disciples, go with Him, even if it was really uncomfortable for you?

This weekend I will talk about turning the tide of how the church has responded to the homosexual community, so that we can begin the conversation afresh with the life of Jesus in mind. I hope you can join me and open your heart to the grace-filled work of Jesus in and through our church.

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This weekend I will speak on one of the most controversial topics of our generation. Jesus never spoke directly about homosexuality. He did talk about marriage. He talked about sin. He talked about relationship with God. He talked about grace. Depending on your point of view, you will focus in on one part of His teaching to justify your viewpoint on this issue.

Since Jesus did not speak directly to the issue, we must look at his ministry holistically to determine how he would respond to Ellen.

First, you have to decide if homosexuality is the result of sin entering the world or if it’s part of God’s plan? For me I’ve done a lot of research and have come to the conclusion that homosexuality, like greed or envy or lying, are all part of a fallen humanity. Paul says that we “were born into sin” (Romans 5:12). Not every Christ follower agrees with that statement, but that’s the first question you have to wrestle with.

Second, you have to ask the question, can a homosexual be a Christ follower? This answer is a little more tricky. Jesus said that anyone could to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). Paul writes that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we deny entry into relationship with Christ based on how someone chooses to live, then we are all in trouble. We get stuck if we think people of a certain lifestyle can make it but others of another lifestyle can’t.

Third, if you believe homosexuality is part of the fall, if you believe that a homosexual can become a Christ-follower, the third question if you have to wrestle with, is how does someone live out their faith when they struggle with any sin?

The answer to this one is to watch how Jesus interacted with everyday people, not the religious who thought they were sinless or those who were anti-Jesus, meaning they want to live however they want to live regardless of his teachings. But what about honest people who are really interested in being in a relationship with Jesus – how did he treat those people?

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NIV)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

Action: Read these two stories and jot down your thoughts. I will blog on these Saturday.

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When I think about Lance Armstrong coming clean (Scott McBride preached a great message this weekend on what Jesus would say to Lance) and confessing that he actually did use steroids, I thought it was interesting how people responded. Most people responded as those who have been betrayed. They were angry and slow to extend forgiveness. I think of Bill Clinton’s confession and how he tried to justify his lies by redefining words. People were slow to believe him or trust him.

So, let me ask you, how do you want people to respond to you once they find out what you’ve been hiding? You may deserve the same kind of response that Lance or Bill received, but what would happen if, when you came clean, people responded differently?

I think people believe that embracing someone in their sin and confession empowers them to continue sinning. Does it? Maybe it empowers them to keep confessing.

When you read Psalm 86 (below) you see a God who is slow to get angry and quick to love.

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. (Psalms 86:1 NLT)
– Confession of our desperate need for God.

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. (Psalms 86:3 NLT)
– His mercy may be connected to our consistency in confession.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalms 86:5 NLT)
– God’s character. Am I like this?

Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. (Psalms 86:11 NLT)

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Psalms 86:15 NLT)

Action: Pick one area that you need to confess, pick one trusted person to confess to, and tell me how it went. I would love to hear your stories of confession and how it went, the good and the bad.

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This weekend Pastor Scott McBride is sharing on what Jesus might say to Lance Armstrong. Really it’s about what he would say to you and me.

Lance’s story is one of the most well-known of our time. Much of it was shrouded in lies.

Let’s be honest, like really honest: most of us hide stuff in our lives. We hide things from our spouses, we hide things from our kids, we hide things from our boss, we hide things from our pastors, we hide things from our friends. Why is that?

As we launch this series of what Jesus would say to you and me, the underlying theme is that we have an opportunity to create a culture in our church of honesty and transparency. If you are like me and most people, that will scare you to death. But what I’ve found is freedom as a result of living in a culture like that.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

You know the weightiest thing you can carry is your hidden sins. That stuff begins to weigh you down. You have to keep telling lies to keep it secret. You cover yourself up. You hedge your bets. It’s tiring and weighty. It’s time to come clean. I’m not suggesting we get up in front of everyone and tell it all, nor am I recommending you go on Oprah (that didn’t go so well for Lance). What I am encouraging you to do is 1) come clean with yourself first – admit you’re hiding stuff; 2) come clean with God – he already knows but you need to confess it; 3) come clean with one other trusted person. I know this won’t be easy, it won’t be easy for me either. But if we can create a community where we don’t judge people who confess, but instead wrap our arms around them in love and tell them, “you are accepted by God and by us”, it will change everything.

Let’s go for it. Let’s find rest for our souls.