Saturday, June 6, 2015

My Response to J.D. Hall

J.D.,

I am writing, as you likely assume, because you included a screenshot of my tweet regarding Bruce Jenner in a recent post of yours on the same topic.  My tweet simply stated, “Grace won’t let me treat Bruce Jenner like a freak.  Truth won’t let me treat him like a girl.”

I stand by every word of that tweet.  Every one of them.

While you seem most bothered by the word “freak” and my refusal to treat Mr. Jenner like a “freak,” you must see the word “freak” in light of the other words in the tweet.

GRACE

As a fellow pastor and Bible student, I know you don’t need an explanation about the unmerited favor of God.

I would simply point out for the sake of my readers that grace and truth are not opposing forces that need to be balanced.  Too many in this debate seem to think so.  Our Master was filled with grace and truth (John 1:14).

All grace is truthful.  All truth is full of grace.

I do not believe there is any such thing as truthless grace or graceless truth although I know how those phrases are commonly used.  If it's not the truth, it's not gracious.  If it's not overflowing with the grace of the gospel, it's not Biblical truth even if it's factually accurate.  For myself, I've been guilty of sharing a lot of graceless facts through the years.

On this subject, it's important to note, we don't ultimately show grace to Bruce Jenner (or anyone else in the LGBT life) by withholding truth.

WON’T LET

When I’m walking in grace, there is an inner compulsion that simply will not allow me to act certain ways, at least not without conviction.  As a fellow believer I know you’ve experienced those times of brokenness and repentance where the indwelling Spirit made His displeasure known.

It’s not that we are incapable of sinful actions but rather we are incapable of acting in an ungodly way without conviction and chastisement.  As much as the chastisement hurts at the time, I appreciate the fruits of peace and righteousness that it yields in the end.

ME

I can’t speak for everyone.  That’s obvious.

I can’t speak for the lost church member who quotes Scripture all the while putting a black eye on the gospel.  But grace won’t let ME…

I can’t speak for the political conservative whose moral deism is leading him straight to hell.  But grace won’t let ME…

I can’t speak for a fellow believer whose hasty use of social media does more harm than good.  I’ve been guilty of that myself more times than I’d like to admit.  But when I get alone with the Master, His grace won’t let ME….

TREAT

The Christ that lavished grace on me did not treat me as I deserved to be treated.  The very nature of my sins might not have looked “freakish” to an on-looking world but they were every bit as repulsive to our holy God.  I deserved damnation and eternal punishment.  I get forgiveness and eternal life instead.

Now He calls me to a life of paradox.  A life of grace.  A life that treats my enemies with love.  That blesses those who curse me.  That prays for those who spitefully use me.  A life that doesn’t treat people the way I believe they deserve to be treated.

That doesn’t mean I roll over dead and ignore their behavior.  I just love their person.  I am to love the child molester but I’ll never let them within reach of my kids.  I am even to love the false teacher although I’d never ask him to lead silent prayer at the church I oversee.

I wish I were better at this grace-life than I am.  My tongue has wounded both friendly critic and sworn enemy alike over the years.  I request your prayers in that regard.

God will one day treat sinners as they deserve.  In His righteousness, He will do so.  But even on that great and horrible day, treating sinners as they deserve to be treated will be His place and His place alone.

BRUCE JENNER

I join you in exhorting Bible-believers to not call Bruce, “Caitlyn.”  Far different from a more typical legal name change, such as “Fred” to “Bill,” the name change from a male name to a female name in this case is inextricably linked to the transgender behavior itself.  I believe to embrace the former is to normalize the latter, even if unintentionally so.

I am grieved beyond measure that leading voices in my denomination seem to lack enough Biblical discernment to make this simple distinction.  I even wrote a lengthy satirical post to address this troubling trend.

Truth restrains me from calling a man a woman.  It’s just not true.  And therefore, it's not gracious.  Hence, my second sentence.  But that’s not the line that troubled you.

LIKE A FREAK

You make your case that you believe Jenner is a freak.  For the record, I firmly believe his behavior is sinful, strange, odd, unusual, and even freakish.  I agree with you on that point.  I didn’t say his behavior wasn’t freakish.

But grace doesn’t treat freaks like freaks. It doesn't treat jerks like jerks.  His common grace even presently treats the unrepentant far better than they deserve.  Thankfully, God’s grace didn’t treat His people like the sinners we were before His grace came.

Far from treating us like we deserved, He pressed His way up a blood-spattered path to a skull-shaped hill.  There He took my sin upon Himself and suffered under God's wrath for me.  In that moment of holy justice, God treated the Sinless One like I deserved that He might treat me as the Sinless One deserved.

The essence of the gospel involves God treating people like they do not deserve to be treated.  Should God save Bruce Jenner, it won’t be because God treated him like he deserves to be treated.  That grace, like the grace given to Mike Stone and J.D. Hall, will be unmerited to its core.

And when God’s grace is at work in me, His grace won’t let me treat Bruce Jenner like a freak any more than His truth will let me treat him like a girl.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Be Careful on the Caitlyn Issue

NOTE:  For those who do not understand satire, this article is a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing a simple issue.  Leading voices in our own Southern Baptist Convention are urging us to address LGBT issues in a way they would NEVER ask us to address any other issue.  When you replace LGBT issues with any other sin, such as animal cruelty, the flawed argument becomes obvious to most people.



It’s been all over the news this week.  From USA Today (1) to the LA Times (2) news outlets have bombarded the nation with stories about her.

Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.

All of my social media accounts have been buzzing about this story.

Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.

Some have recoiled in disgust.  The photos are particularly troubling for many.

Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.

Many Christians say, “This is not what God intended.”  Even moralists say, “This just isn’t right.”  It’s obvious that surgery will be required to address the damage done to the body.  But the real issue is a heart issue.

Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.  Caitlyn.

I’m talking about the strange and sad story of Caitlyn, the dog.

According to a June 2, 2015 story in the LA Times, “Caitlyn, a 15-month-old chocolate staffie, was found wandering along the streets of Charleston, S.C., seemingly looking for her former home. The dog probably had wandered for at least a day, or even two, seeking safety and security after being horribly abused. Her jaw was bound so tightly in thin black electrical tape that the blood flow had been cut off and her tongue was trapped between her teeth, officials said.”

41-year-old William Leonard Dodson has been arrested on various felony charges related to cruelty to animals.

But as strange as the case is, I want to issue a gentle but firm plea to my fellow believers.  Please be very careful how you address the “Caitlyn issue."

Pastors, your friends, neighbors, and church members are watching.  The way you address this matter will give them a clear insight into how you will address any issues of animal abuse subsequently revealed in their lives.  It is a gospel issue at its core.

Animal abuse is much more common than most people think.  The National Humane Society is forced to acknowledge that, “Most cases are never reported, and most animal suffering goes unrecognized and unabated. Cruelty and neglect can also cross socio-economic boundaries.” (3)

That means that statistically, you have an abuser on your Facebook feed.  It’s highly doubtful there’s no animal abuser numbered among your Twitter followers.  And pastor, you are very likely to have an animal abuser in your congregation this Sunday. 

And I don’t just mean you mega-church pastors.  I’m talking about the secret abusers who teach Sunday School at New Ebenezer #27.  I’m talking about the choir member at Mountain Look Primitive Baptist Church and the usher at Greater Macedonia AME.  I’m talking about US.

I beg you, be careful how you speak, tweet, and post about animal cruelty. Be aware that the testimony of the gospel in the animal-abusing community is at stake with every word, click, and keystroke.

Animal abuse takes on many different forms and expressions.  Of the nearly 2,000 cases reported in the last statistical year, about 65% involved dogs, 18% involved cats, and a full 25% involved horses, livestock, and other domesticated animals.

I know what some of you are saying.  I grew up in the church.  I know all the clich├ęs.

Yes, the Bible says, “The righteous man cares for his animals.” (Proverbs 12:10).  But we must also be careful that we do not become unloving, needlessly dogmatic, and hurtfully judgmental in declaring what the Scripture says about animal cruelty.  Saying that righteousness requires a man to care for his animals is, well, awfully narrow.  Such statements necessarily imply that animal cruelty is unrighteous.

Now, as believers we understand that animal cruelty is not righteous.  But people in your realm of influence may have taken a different view.  We will never convince the modern, culturally-savvy animal abusers of our day that animal abuse is unrighteous if we tell them that animal abuse is unrighteous.  If we declare our message, we will lose the credibility to declare our message.

See, this post isn’t even really about Caitlyn.  It’s about the William Leonard Dodsons of this world.  The William Leonard Dodsons of your town.  The William Leonard Dodsons in your church.  Honestly, it’s about the William Leonard Dodson that lives in each of us.  In those dark, quiet, hidden places that you don’t talk about at your Sunday School social.

It’s so easy for us to share a post, write a tweet, and click the “like” button as we arrogantly exalt ourselves above the Caitlyn issue.  For a small minority, it’s about their hatred of animal abusers.  For others, it’s a subconscious desire to deflect attention from the animal hater that lurks in each of our depraved hearts.

I mean, who among us can honestly say we’ve never wanted to harm the neighbor’s screeching cat?

Who among us can say we’ve never wanted to shoot the neighbor’s barking dog with a BB gun…or worse?

Who among us has never considered contacting the dog catcher or the local pound with a reckless disregard for the euthanasia that most certainly awaits the culprit?

When the neighbor’s dog poops in your yard or their cat leaves claw marks on the hood of your mini-van, who among us hasn’t muttered under their breath, “I’d like to get my hands on that varmint?”

When you said it with your mouth and thought it with your mind, you are as guilty as the nationally-vilified Mr. Dodson.

If you dare say, “I’ve never wanted to harm an animal,” then that’s all the more reason you should speak slowly…and tweet even more slowly.  If you’ve never known the inner confusion and struggle from animal-abusing desires you tried to hide and suppress, you have no business speaking to this issue.

Simply put, if you have EVER wanted to harm an animal you have no room to speak.  If you have NEVER wanted to harm an animal you have no place to speak.  In either case, only God can judge William Leonard Dodson.  And we’re not God.

Rather than throwing around our Proverbs 12:10 verses, we should remember Matthew 7 and John 8.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Ye without sin cast the first stone.

Without grace we'd be just like him.  Cat-killers, dog-deserters, and maybe even bird-beaters.  Our animal-hating depravity may not have manifested itself in full measure but if we recognize its presence in the ugly corners of our soul we will speak more softly and much more slowly about another man taping a dog's mouth shut and leaving her alone to die of starvation and heat exhaustion (an act I chronicle here only in the most loving and compassionate way).

William Leonard Dodson is created in the image of God.  Be careful that in your denunciation of his actions that you don’t lose sight of the Imago Dei that resides even within Mr. Dodson.

Pray for Caitlyn and William.  And pray for yourself.  Especially that self-righteous part of you that wants to declare animal cruelty is wrong with reckless disregard for how your words hurt those who live in the animal-abusing community.

Perhaps Providence has allowed this issue to come to the forefront of our national consciousness to remind us all of a simple truth:  We are all broken and depraved William Dodsons in desperate need of grace.







Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Destruction of Sodom


Tom Strait’s recent column in The Blackshear Times, “What Do You Think Jesus Would Do?” is filled with numerous errors both explicit and implicit.

He errs regarding the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia.   He errs with his implications about the character and conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible.  And he errs about the historical Biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Theologically, this third mistake is the root cause of the first two and is therefore the subject of this post.

No accurate and complete reading of the Scriptures would indicate that an inhospitable attitude “sealed the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah,” as Strait suggests.  The fact that Strait’s theory finds sympathy among liberal revisionist theologians is irrelevant.  Repeating an error has never made it true and it doesn’t do so in this case either.

Were the men of Sodom inhospitable toward the visiting men who were, in fact, angelic messengers of grace as described in Genesis 19?  Absolutely.  But that wasn’t Sodom’s ultimate offense.  It isn’t even close.

References to the city of Sodom appear throughout the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelation.  A good Bible student would examine each instance to get a full understanding of the issue.  To do otherwise is the ultimate example of “sound biting” God and taking His comments and actions woefully out of context.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 states, Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.  Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

The economy was good in Sodom.  The Gomorrah-Jones Industrial Average rose every day.  In this environment of prosperity and blessing the wealthy forgot about the poor and they oppressed the needy.  There is surely a strong word of warning and rebuke for the modern church and its focus on institutional growth and financial prosperity.  But that’s not why God destroyed Sodom.

The people of Sodom forgot about God.  Their eyes and hearts were filled with pride and they turned away from God.  That’s why verse 50 above says, “THUS they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.” (emphasis mine)  The pride and prosperity led to wicked abominations.

Their propensity to do whatever gratified the flesh and lined their pockets led them to commit unspeakable abominations.  But what were those abominations?

Could it have been the inhospitable actions toward the visiting angels in Genesis 19?  Well, considering the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was determined in the mind of God back in Genesis 18, it seems unlikely that an event in Genesis 19 prompted the wrath of God.  To say that chapter 19 prompted chapter 18 is anachronistic at best.

Further, 2 Peter 2:8 describes the destruction of Sodom and references their “lawless deeds” that occurred “day after day.”  It is clear that the destruction of Sodom was not due to a single event of inhospitality or any other single event for that matter.  Well, what were those “lawless deeds?”

2 Peter 2:7 calls their sin, “sensual conduct.”  Verse 10 of the same chapter describes the actions as “indulg(ing) the flesh in its corrupt desires.”

Bible students have long recognized that 2 Peter and Jude are parallel books.  So it’s not surprising that Jude 7 describes the same issue.  “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Neither of these passages requires the reader to be a Bible scholar or have an advanced degree in ancient Greek to understand their clear meaning.

Strait turns the Bible on its end to reach his flawed conclusions.  Did Jesus reserve harsh criticism, perhaps His very harshest criticisms for the religious leaders of His day?  Yes.  But to imply that Christ’s criticisms of first-century dead religious Judaism would necessarily require contemporary Divine criticisms of those who hold a Scriptural view of homosexuality as a perversion is an exegetical error of Biblical proportion.

If you don't know what it means to make "an exegetical error of Biblical proportion" let me make it simple:  People who make such a claim don't have a clue as to what the Bible is actually teaching.

Was the riotous mob at Sodom inhospitable toward the angels?  Certainly.  The Sodomites were so inhospitable they tried to gang-rape the angels who they mistakenly thought were mortal men.  Lot in his compromised spiritual state offered his daughters to the crowd all the while emphasizing they were biological virgins.  The historical context of Genesis 19 is utterly steeped in immoral passions and saturated with ungodly sexual desires.

If a visitor to a modern home is accosted and threatened with gang-induced sodomy, it is highly doubtful any of us would dial 9-1-1 and report a case of inhospitality.  To suggest otherwise stretches common sense to its breaking point.

Both 2 Peter and Jude reference the destruction of Sodom in connection with the return of Christ and the wrath He will pour upon the ungodly.  By God’s grace, the wrath is not poured out on the basis of sexual purity or sexual pasts but on the singular basis of a person’s relationship with Christ Himself.  It is Christ’s death on the cross that provides the escape from God’s wrath.  And His forgiveness is available to anyone who will repent and believe the gospel.

After describing the destruction of Sodom (don’t miss that), Simon Peter’s second epistle tells us three things about the vengeful and victorious second coming of Christ and the rejection of this doctrine by future generations.  He tells us THAT the doctrine would be rejected, WHY the doctrine would be rejected, and HOW the doctrine would be rejected.

THAT it will be rejected
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking…

WHY it will be rejected
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts…

HOW it will be rejected
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Simply put, the day will come that people will deny the coming wrath of God against present sin.  To further their case, they will seek to deny that the God of the Bible ever poured out wrath against sin.  At least, if He did, it wasn’t for any of the sins we commit today.  God's wrath against sin is ironically reserved for those who speak of His wrath against sin.

And the rejection of the wrath of God will be because men want to do whatever they want to do, pursuing their owns lusts, with no consideration for the righteous laws of God.  To defend their immoral desires, they will monkey around with the book of Genesis.

The American culture does this on a regular basis.  But for a clear example of this doctrinal error, one need only read the guest column in the April 8, 2015 edition of The Blackshear Times.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Desperate Need for Careless Leadership

The following manuscript contains the prepared notes for the address I brought to the Georgia General Assembly on Monday, March 23, 2015.  It was my privilege to serve as Chaplain for the Day at the House of Representatives.  I was invited by my state representative, Chad Nimmer.  I call him, "Brother Chad," because he is a member of my church and a faithful deacon.

There was much I wanted to say in the 5 minutes allotted for the morning devotional.  Therefore, I chose to write out the text of the my message.  I am confident I did not deliver it word-for-word so this is certainly not a transcript of the actual address.


Thank you, Representative Nimmer, Speaker Ralston, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Georgia House.  I am both honored and humbled to be your chaplain for the day and to thank you for your service to the citizens of this great state.

I am well aware of the time and the limitations of my assignment today so I want to get right to my message and speak to you for a few moments on the subject of “The Desperate Need for Careless Leadership.”

Speaking of careless leadership, I am reminded of the story of two US Congressmen who were arguing about a particular revenue bill.  One believed in higher taxes and a redistribution of wealth.  The other one believed in lower taxes, private business, and personal industry.  Both representatives were also farmers who came from agricultural districts.

So one farming congressman said to the other,  “Do you mean if you had two farms you’d worked for and I hadn’t worked at all, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those farms?”

“Why yes, I do.”

“You mean if you had two combines you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those combines?”

“Why yes, I do.”

“You mean if you had two corn silos you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those silos?”

“Why yes, I do.”

You mean if you had two cows you’d bought and paid for and I didn’t have one because I hadn’t worked, you believe the government should require you to give me one of those cows?”

The liberal replied, “That’s not a fair question!  You know I have two cows!”

Well, that’s not the “careless” leadership I have in mind this morning.  I am using that word to describe leadership that is free from care, trouble, and unnecessary anxiety.  Leadership that is care-less.

My Scripture text involves 3 of your favorite Bible characters: Hannaniah, Azariah, and Mishael.  You probably know them better by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Daniel 3, these boys are in a fight for their life and it involves a fight for religious liberty.  They are being persecuted by their culture and their government for their faith in the True and Living God.

And they emerge from this persecution with flying colors because they are care-less.  Again there is a little play on that word “careless” because the Bible describes how and why these three Hebrew boys were care-less instead of care-full.

Notice first the command of Babylon

Daniel 3 tells the story of a wicked command that came from Nebuchadnezzar.  He was the dictatorial despot who ruled the ancient Babylonian Empire with an iron fist.  His was a wicked and torturous kingdom.  The modern Islamic terrorist group, ISIS, would have little on the murderous activities of Babylon.

And the Bible records a Babylonian decree that these monotheistic Hebrew slaves would have to bow in idolatrous worship before a golden statue erected by governmental edict.  Anyone who refused to bend and refused to bow would be cast alive into a blazing furnace of fire.

This speaks of the external pressures placed on them by their fallen society generally and their fallen government specifically.

Of course, in America, we have yet to strike a match to light the pilot lights on fiery furnaces but I’m afraid to tell you we are increasingly living in days not completely unlike Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.

The ways in which our culture pushes, promotes, and even prefers ungodliness are nearly too numerous to mention.  So in the interest of time let me just say a word about the life cycle of sin within a society.

A righteous society’s view of sin begins with prohibition.  “You cannot!”  Government, rightly understanding it has been ordained by God according to the Bible to punish evil and reward good also understands that rights flow from God, to individual people, and then to the government.  Not the other way around.

So righteous governments and righteous societies, ones that understand, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people,” realize they cannot condone evil or allow evil to go unaddressed because neither the society nor the government have the right to do so.

But if left unchecked, sin in a society moves from prohibition to permissiveness…From “You cannot” to “You may.”  In this stage people, especially leaders, either turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the evil or actually seek to codify the right to do wrong.  Long gone are those antiquated ideals that you should not do wrong.

But that’s not the last stop.  It moves from prohibition (You cannot) to permissiveness (You may) to preference  (You ought).  In this stage of the cycle society actually PREFERS to promote and further the causes of those involved in evil rather than run the risk of actually calling right “right” and wrong “wrong.”  In this dangerous stage, the only wrong is to call anything “wrong.”

Finally, if left unchecked, the cycle moves to punishment.
Here the societal and governmental view of sin has run full circle from you CANNOT to you MAY to you OUGHT to you MUST…OR ELSE.

You will either bend the knee to the new order, even violating your own conscience and religious liberty, or you will suffer the consequences…and they might even come from the hand of your own government.

That’s what these boys are up against.  But the pressure not only comes from without, from the pagan governmental system, it also comes from within, from among their own number.

We see not only the command of Babylon but the compromise of believers

The pressure to bow and bend didn’t just come from the Babylonian king.  These Hebrew boys faced peer pressure from their fellow Hebrews…from those of their own clan and kind…from those who were supposed to BELIEVE like them, THINK like them, ACT like them and DECIDE like them.

They had ALL been raised better. 

They had EACH been taught better.

There were thousands of Hebrew slaves in ancient Babylon.  And as best we know, only three exercised their God-given unalienable right to LIBERTY.

I can see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing up to the wicked king, “We aren’t going to bow…none of us…are…we…guys…”

And to their shock and dismay, they turn to see all of their colleagues with faces turned to the ground…bowing, bending, and balking.

If you’ve ever been surprised by who stands and who bows, you can relate to the shock these boys must have experienced.  If the vote has ever been called and you found yourself standing alone while people who claimed to share your beliefs were bowing, you can relate.

These boys learned a hard life lesson that day…There’s no practical difference between a Babylonian on his face before the golden statue and all the Hebrews who claimed to denounce and disdain that golden statue but in the end bent and bowed as well.

They learned that Jewish boys and Babylonian boys all look the same when their heads are down, bowing before the golden statue.

They learned that your titles and labels don’t matter in the end.  If Hebrews live like Babylonians, you may as well be from Babel as from Jerusalem.

So the Hebrews were brought before the king and examined.  The king did his job.  He wanted to know if what he had heard was true.  You do understand that everything you read in the paper or the blogs isn’t true don’t you?  So the king wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.

Once again in Daniel 3, the Bible says,

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Did you catch that?  They are facing immediate death and told to make an instant decision.  Yet they say, “We are not careful.”  Literally, we are not filled with care.  We have no stress at all about this matter.

So what’s the answer?  How can I be free of anxiety when facing such a decision?

We see not only the command of Babylon and the compromise of believers but the conviction of the boys.

The king brought them in and gave them a final command.
The command was immediate.  There was no time to think.

Sometimes there is no time to table the issue or call for a subcommittee or blue-ribbon commission.

I mean, there’s no time to discuss what impact will heating the furnace 7x hotter than ever have on the red-breasted Babylonian hoot owl population.

No, the king said, “Here’s what is going to happen…right now.”  There’s no time to think.  There’s no time to study.  The time is now.

You experience these pressures as lawmakers.

Sometimes a matter is tabled as well it should be.

Sometimes a matter is delayed and perhaps it should be.

But sometimes, the motion has been made and seconded.  There’s been lively discussion and debate.  Now the question has been called and it’s time to decide.  The clock is ticking and your vote must be registered.

In that moment of decision, when the heat is on and the pressure is rising, a person discovers NOT ONLY what they believe in that moment…but what they really believed the entire time

You must understand that pressure doesn’t create leaks.  It only reveals them.  In a similar way, when the pressure is on to stand for right and liberty, what you do in THAT MOMENT reveals who…you…really…are.  Not just who you were in that moment of decision but who you have been the whole time.

So, how can I…how can you face life’s big decisions without worry, anxiety, and stress?  On moral, ethical, and convictional issues of the conscience, make up your mind now.  Then when the time comes for a decision you don’t have to wring your hands or wrinkle your brow.  Your convictions and conclusions were already established long ago.

Then when the pressure is on and the clock is running, you can be as care-less as care-less can be.  You can tell the king to fire up the furnace if he must…I’m not going to bend.  I’m not going to bow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On Personhood and the Sanctity of Human Life


Earlier today, I was honored to serve as a messenger from my church to the 2014 Georgia Baptist Convention.  In honor of my two older children, adopted at birth, and the two brave and courageous young women who chose life, I sponsored the following resolution.

WHEREAS, the Bible affirms the personhood, sanctity, dignity and value of every human being from the moment of our individual creation, as evidenced by the fact that we are created in the Image of God and our being known by God while being formed in the womb (Genesis 1:26-27, James 3:9, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:13-15,35,36); and


WHEREAS, God alone is the creator and giver of life and the one distinguishing feature between humanity and the rest of creation is that God created human beings in His image and likeness (Job 10:8-12, 12:10, 31:15, 33:4; 1 Sam 2:6, Psalm 100:3, 139:13-16, Isa 64:8, Col 1:16); and

WHEREAS, members of the human family originate ultimately from the laws of nature and of nature’s God, who created human life in His image and protected it with the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13); and

WHEREAS, all innocent human life must be respected and protected regardless of race, sex, age or condition of dependency and regardless of manner of conception or creation, and are persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity (2 Kings 24: 3,4, Psalm 106:37-39, 1 Corinthians 10:20); and

WHEREAS they must be recognized and treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status (Leviticus 18:21, 30); and
WHEREAS, the Declaration of Independence, states, “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,” and that governments are instituted in order to secure these rights (Romans 13:1-7); and
WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law" (Micah 6:7,8); and
WHEREAS, the Georgia Baptist Convention believes that the Scriptures are totally true, trustworthy and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried (Psalms 19:7-10, 2 Tim 3:16 Heb 4:12); and

WHEREAS, the Georgia Baptist Convention has a long Biblical tradition of strong support for traditional family values including the right to life for all persons from fertilization to natural death; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Georgia Baptist Convention will work to assist the Church as it seeks to affirm the personhood of every human being; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Georgia Baptist Convention expresses its support for a personhood amendment to the Georgia Constitution which would specify that the protections guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution apply to preborn children; and be it further

RESOLVED, that all Georgia Baptist pastors and churches be encouraged to emphasize the Scriptural principles of this resolution as part of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 18, 2015; and be it finally


RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention meeting in Macon, Georgia on November 10-11, 2014 encourage all believers to pray that God will continue changing the hearts and minds of Americans on the issue of the sanctity of human life and the personhood of all individuals, both born and preborn.