May 28, 2014

Learning the Bible

I have noticed an encouraging trend. That being the urge to provide high quality Biblical education to anyone who wants it, either free of charge or for a very minimal cost.
The traditional paradigm of going to Bible college or seminary if you want to learn about the Bible or pursue ministry is either impractical or impossible for many people.
If this is you, here are three links you may want to check out

Biblical Training

Bible Training Center

Contenders Bible School

I'm a graduate of the Bible Training Center, so my bias is there. However, my main encouragement to you would be to plug into something like this (if your church offers similar classes, so much the better!). If you can go to a brick and mortar school, that is wonderful. Many can't or won't. Don't let that stop you from pursuing a deeper knowledge of God and His word.

As I said, this trend toward providing as much training as possible for minimal to zero cost is a very encouraging one to me. The harvest is plentiful, the laborers few. Let's not restrict potential workers to those who can afford to take on debt or pay for school out of pocket. Let's make it available to any who want to put the sweat, hours, prayer, and effort into becoming equipped.

May 13, 2014

Michael Sam, Matt Walsh, and the rest of it

Before we dive in, I think a slight preface is in order. I try not to comment too often on current events, for a number of reasons.
First of all, I spent several years of my life totally wrapped around what was current, and the reality of this age is that what is current today is obsolete tomorrow. Even stories that get run for a week or more will be long forgotten by this time next year. Why become wrapped up in what is transient?
Secondly, it is often hard to see enough of an issue to make intelligent comment upon it when the issue is still upon us.
There are more reasons, but those two will suffice for now.

So why am I writing now? Well, I am angry.

Last week Michael Sam was taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft, becoming the first openly homosexual player to have had this honor. Unless something goes terribly wrong in training camp or preseason, he will become the first openly homosexual man to play in the NFL. This of course is no small feat considering the hyper-testosteronised (yes, I made that word up) culture of all football, and professional football in particular. The machoism associated with this sport has lent itself to an anti-gay spirit perhaps stronger than the culture-at-large, even when being opposed to homosexuality was still the in thing. That the culture in general, and football culture in particular, have shifted to the point where Michael Sam is not only accepted, but celebrated, is no small thing. Why is this necessary to point out? Because apparently Matt Walsh doesn’t think it is a big deal. Many folks in the ol’ Facebook newsfeed are sharing this piece, to the celebration (er, uh, liking) of some and the chagrin of others.

Before I rip into what I perceive to be the errors in this blog post, let me first say that I like most of what Walsh writes. I find him generally to be a keen observer of culture, one who is generally very engaging and entertaining to read. That his mile-long posts get read gives me hope for my own blog. I also agree with some of the points he makes in this particular post, most especially the point that anyone who claims they want to be evaluated by their on-field performance and then purposefully seeks attention for who they are off the field is probably someone disingenuous in their statement. The logic there is rather irrefutable. However, he misses the mark in two ways that I find particularly egregious.

First, his head-in-the-sand approach to the event. To state that “none of it matters” is to totally miss the obvious fact that it does matter. This would not, could not, have happened 20 years ago. Were there openly homosexual men 20 years ago? Yes. Did any homosexual men play in the NFL 20 years ago? Most likely. But you sure didn't see the coming together of those two, because he would have instantly become a social pariah and been run out of town by all the macho “men” around. That we have seen this much shift, not even in 20 years, but more like 10, is pretty incredible. I personally don’t believe that it’s all for the good (it is good in the sense that people, regardless or "sexual identity" or any other identity, ought to be able to participate in athletics; professionally at that. Good grief.). My position on homosexuality is well-documented on this blog and in other forums. If you have any questions about where I stand you may consult Romans chapter one. But whether or not something is necessarily for the better does not change whether it is relevant, important, or even monumental. This culture has rapidly shifted from a particularly American version of nominal pseudo-Christianity to a progressive, postmodern, post-Christianity in very short order. We need to know this and wrestle with how to relate to this world we live in, not ignore it’s realities.

Second, and more importantly. Would someone please please please please please ban any Christian from the internet who complains the Christians aren't treated fairly by the media?

The double standard is so obvious, so inevitable, and so common that I’m bored with pointing it out. Tell Tebow to stop praising his Lord and Savior, and the country will laugh and cheer along, but tell Sam to stop trying to turn his sex life into international headlines, and you’ll be bound, gagged, and tossed into a river. (From Walsh's blog)

Well, let’s see. Tebow’s Lord and Savior happens to be someone who spoke things that were so offensive that people killed him for them. And we’re surprised when the secular media isn't a fan of Tebow talking about Him? Really? Sam’s lifestyle is one that our culture (increasingly, not totally) accepts and celebrates, and the media supports him. Again, should this really catch us off guard? More to the point, why in the world should this offend us? I fail to see why  people, who claim to follow the Christ of Scripture and believe a New Testament which teaches that we ought not count it strange when fierce trails and accusations come to us, are dismayed and shocked when someone publicly mocks their beliefs. What else did you expect?

Let me again be clear. I do not condone Michael Sam’s lifestyle, or that of anyone practicing homosexuality, or any other sexual sin. These other sins would include (but are not limited to) cohabitation, premarital sex of any sort, divorce without Biblical cause followed by remarriage, adultery, and using pornography. I know and love people in every single one of those categories, and spent multiple years in the last one. I hate sexual sin because it is rebellion against God, and unlike other sins, Paul tells us it is against one’s own body. There is something particular about sexual sin that harms us in ways that other sins do not. But none of these sins are beyond the grace of God. This emphasis is totally lacking not only in Walsh’s blog, but in the responses of many Evangelicals to the world around us today.

We think that because America is changing that the sky must be falling. No. America is changing, and it is simply becoming more clear where people stand with God. It’s becoming a little less comfortable to hold to the historic, Biblical truths handed down. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, a significant thing.

I want to end on this final point, which really tails back into my second point. American Christians are particularly susceptible to the idea that there is a “Christian culture” that is crumbling around us. But what we need to realize is that American culture never has been, and never will be, truly or totally Christian. And so we aren't losing some bastion of hope in the world. All we’re losing is comfort. We need to know this, because if we think we’re losing a precious culture and become afraid of this reality, we will see the perceived takers or changers of said culture as our enemies. This is not so. We don’t battle flesh and blood! Our enemy is spiritual. Individual sinners and groups of sinners aren't our enemies. They are the ones Christ has called us to display His love towards, and to tell of His love. He didn't just die for your sins, He died for their sins too. Do we want to hold up a Biblical view of sexuality as better, more lovely, and more freeing? Yes. But this won’t happen if our mindset is “us vs. them.” Our position is distinct from the world, yes. But it is not against the world in anger or fear. It is toward the world in love.  Love tells the truth, calls for repentance, holds the Gospel out freely. It doesn't whine that their being mean to us.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (