How to respond to the “Marriage Equality” issue

I just  read an excellent article from Ryan Anderson about how the church can respond to the issue of marriage equality. Anderson frames his response by speaking about the role of ‘the church’. I get this, although I see the response in terms of the task of all Christians as the church, not some church hierarchy. Even so, Anderson makes a couple of great points:

  • we need to present a case for Christian sexuality which is attractive, appealing and engaging. We need to capture the moral imagination of this and the next generation
  • we need to develop sensitive ministries for same sex attracted people and those with questions around gender identity
  • we must learn ways to defend religious liberty in an age when one social agenda becomes non negotiable public policy
  • we must live out the truth of marriage and human sexuality

You can read the article at ABC Religion

Coping with Change?

St Georges Terrace

St Georges Terrace

[Jesus’] message, and the message about him that the early Christians
called good news, was not about how to escape that world.
It was about how the one true God
was changing it,
radically
and for ever.

Tom Wright, Simply Good News

It got me thinking about all those discussions around ‘change’ about 20 years ago. How it was something to be resisted. Seen as negative.

I think we got the whole change thing the wrong way around. People were worried about changing the church, how we did things, and traditions long held and valued. Sure, some things about church need to change. Semper reformanda and all that.

What we missed is that Jesus is all about change. Changing people. Changing his world. Doing this through the power of his death, rising and rule. Living in people. As he changes people, they bring his change into his world.

…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too me live a new life (Romans 6:4)

I am too slow to bring this change in my life. No wonder my impact is minimal. And as a pastor, I don’t see to much change in others. They struggle to see their faith bite into life reality, except for a few hours on Sunday and some quiet time every other day.

You’re a follower of Jesus? Then he’s living in you through his spirit. He intends to empower you and enable you to live the values of his Kingdom today, in whatever you’re doing. How you drive. How to treat people. How you love your kids. How you treat your body. How you stand up for the friendless and the forsaken.

What change are you living today? How will people get an idea about Jesus and heaven by how you behave, and speak, live and love?

The cliche is ‘be the change you want to see.’ That’s a bit self centred and short sighted.

I would rather say ‘be the change God wants people around you to see.’

If God would change your context, where you are right now, how would he do that? What would need to happen?

Go. Do.

U.S. Supreme Court, ‘Marriage Equality’ and the Christian Voice

SCOTUS

Many Christians have already weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which has allowed gay marriage in all 50 states of the USA. The Christian voice on this subject is wide and varied: opinions run the whole spectrum. Those who listen to this amalgam of comment may be wondering just what to think and what to say about the matter. This post, rather than comment on the issue per se, calls Christians to think carefully about how to respond, before we even get to what we should say.

So as we think about how we should speak, remember the following:

Be humble. We are all sinners. We are failed, fallen and failing people. None of us deserves God’s grace. The Supreme Court ruling evidences our broken and fallen world and the sin of the human heart.  God is grieved by any human action, thought or disposition which does not honour him. This decision, as with myriad other human decisions done in defiance, ignorance or indifference to God, is a powerful reminder of how our world needs God and his grace

Be gracious: Christians everywhere must respond in love and grace, even while disagreeing. This is not the time for hot headed statements, cynicism, or fear. The world watches how we react to this development. Words of ignorance, anger or spite will not advance the cause of Jesus Christ. Make a commitment not to demonise or marginalise those who express their sexuality in a way that you would not. Do not mock the judges who handed down this ruling. Reacting with hatred or judgmental attitudes only deepens people’s prejudice against the Gospel. Nick Wolterstorff reminds us: “a community that shuns the broken can never be whole, or holy”

Submit to Scripture. People will quote lists of Bible texts. Here are some to keep on the top of your stack. Let these verses govern everything you say and do:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12)


 

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.  They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:8-17)


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


 

Keep your perspective: Remember: no Supreme Court decision changes what the Supreme Being reveals in his word. No need to be dismissive, pompous or arrogant, but the word of God stands forever. Never forget this. While the Supreme Court interprets law, it cannot change the human heart. Only the Supreme Power of God can bring the restoration, healing and transformation we need. Only the Supreme Grace of Jesus can cleanse from the deepest sin and restore the most abject brokenness.

Keep the right end in mind. The Supreme Court’s decision will disappoint and disturb many who love Jesus, but it is not the end of the world. Christ is still on the throne. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Remember his words

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

Be an example: There is no better time to uphold the beauty of marriage as God created it. So, husbands and wives, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, love each other as Christ loved the church: selflessly, sacrificially, beautifully. Do this to Christ’s glory.

As I said, there is need to process this, but I cannot think of a more important time to live the winsomeness of the Kingdom of God and the grace of Jesus than a time when things are running against us. History shows when Christians do this, the tide of opposition will slowly change.

Trust God, friends, to do his work in you and through you.

Grace and peace,

Dave.

Sex – The Relationship Challenge

How do we manage the sexualisation of our culture?

How can we help our kids develop healthy relationships when they see sexual imagery at every turn and mouse click?

This is the first of the new series The Relationship Challenge, and it’s all about sex. You can read it here
 
This is the first in the latest series, looking at various cultural dynamics impacting on relationship formation.
 
Feel free to comment on the blog.
 
Much love,
 
Dave

Relationships are not easy

Why are relationships so hard?

We have two people, a man and a woman, who have feelings for each other. While they are on cloud nine, life is good. For a while. The closer they get, the easier it is to misunderstand each other.

It’s probably true that no two people always see eye to eye. Open communication means times of laughter and joy, but also times of honesty and accountability. These are times of growth and challenge.

I’ve been thinking recently that our culture does not make it easy for relationships to thrive. Here are some reasons:

* we have a skewed view of sex

* we have this idea that the ideal partner will just present herself, and it will be love at first sight, and the green grass will grow all around

* we believe this lover of our dreams will finally make us happy and meet all our needs

* people preparing for marriage face the financial Everest of their wedding day. With typical celebrations running into tens of thousands of dollars

* good communication skills do not come hard wired in our DNA. More often than not, god communication is a learned skill. If healthy communication has not been a feature of our parents, we’re already starting behind the eight ball

This is why my next teaching series is focussing on the things in our culture which make doing relationship harder than it needs to be.

My first instalment focuses on how our culture’s view of sex does not lead to freedom, but generally to significant complications with how we do relationship. You have to wonder: if our kids modelled their relationships on Hollywood, what sort of families we will have.

So, we’re focussing on these things in an effort to uncover what Scripture teachers. We want to hear God’s word and live God’s life. The prayer is that we ourselves, and the coming generation, will have healthier relationships and be better equipped to bring Jesus’ new life to expression.

Following each Sunday, each sermon will be published at Sermon & Study

A Sermon & A Study

I have decided to publish my weekly sermons on a new blog site, and provide a study for Home Groups with each sermon I post.

It’s what I am doing anyway: here at Gateway I write my sermons in the form of a full manuscript, and I also prepare weekly Home Group questions, so it’s only a little editing and they are ready to go on the blog.

I started this for a few reasons. One, there are plenty of people who like to read messages. I believe the Word of God is used by the Spirit to lead his people. And if my messages can be used like that, even beyond their typical Sunday context, I am all for it.

A second reason is that some people don’t have much access to word ministry. This blog, and others like it, might be an encouragement to them.

Third, the Home Group or Bible Study questions can work for groups of Christian meeting in a variety of contexts. They are designed to assist with applying the word to personal and communal situations, and encourage all who engage to be transformed by God’s word.

Feel free to sign up for the new feed!

I am keen to hear how these work for you. Please feel free to leave feedback and suggestions.

Grace and peace,

Dave

Pentecost

20060809  New York  PA 004

Initially, I felt like an outsider. I was different to everybody else. I was from a different country. I spoke a different English. Most obvious of all? I looked different: my skin was a different colour. All of this was a totally new experience.

A few of us were visiting the Christian Cultural Centre in Brooklyn, N.J. and we were like fish out of water. Five white Australians amongst thousands of African Americans. We had visited other churches on our trip, but here the racial divide was more evident than ever.

I don’t recall wondering whether we would be accepted or not. I didn’t have time. We were greeted warmly, we walked in, found a seat, and the service began. As people sang they moved with the rhythm. Their gestures full of praise and emotion, lyric and feeling in one organic expression.

…we felt like we belonged

We had found seats among a throng of regulars. No great skills of perception were required for them to notice we were ‘from out of town’. None of that seemed to matter. And surprisingly, when we were encouraged to join prayer with the people around us, they drew us into their prayer and into their hearts like we were old family friends. They were sharing their struggles, their joys, their lives. We shared who we were, and some of the things on our heart, and they prayed for us like we were just one of them.

Here’s the thing: the fact that we were visitors was immaterial. Our different culture was invisible. Not an issue. Irrelevant. We were brothers and sisters in Christ, and for that hour we felt like we belonged. No one had to tell us we were welcome there, or to make ourselves at home, we were so warmly embraced, we were prayed for, we were loved, we were accepted. Community happened beyond any words that might have been spoken.

…when God’s Spirit is present, genuine community is formed

In the book of Acts, there are several key times when the church expands and receives people who had previously been on the outer. Samaritans are drawn in (Acts 8), as are non Jewish peoples (Acts 11). I know there’s debate about some of the ways the Holy Spirit is manifested in these passages, but I actually don’t think those things are the focus of those passages. The real point is when God’s Spirit is present, genuine community is formed. People who had been broken, marginalised, despised and forsaken are by this Spirit drawn into community. Jesus breaks down all those barriers, overcomes all the chaos, dissolves fear, people come together, and God’s new community is born.

A pentecost church is a church where new community thrives. Where people are drawn in and where they feel like family. Where barriers are crossed, and Jesus’ transformation bring people together. Restored. Accepted. Forgiven. Renewed.

Q: How could you bring the new community of Jesus to expression in your church?