Thursday, August 24, 2006

Anna Turned 6 Months

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Are We Giving Clear or Confusing Invitations?

I have sat through many invitations times over the years and I believe we sometimes get stuck in a tradition instead of offering a Biblical truth to those listening.

Over the past few years while speaking at children's ministry events, I've tried to stress the idea of keeping things simple, real, & true when teaching children. Children have such a literal mentality.

A few days ago I spoke at a seminar and was discussing the topic of words that we use when teaching children.
As an example, I gave phrases that are commonly used during the invitation time in our churches.

Lets look at the list:
Will you invite Jesus into your heart?
Will you surrender your life to Christ?
Will you promise to commit your life to Christ?
Will you confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you?
Will you make Christ the Lord of your life?
Will you give your heart to Jesus?
Will you accept the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as your personal Savior?Will you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose from the grave?

The group of 70 agreed that all were fine invitations, but are they?
How did you do? I broke the questions down below.

Let look at each phrase.
Will you invite Jesus into your heart?
This one is confusing! Children picture a literal asking Jesus to come into their Valentine shaped heart.

Will you surrender your life to Christ?
This one is confusing. This one puts the focus on man's actions. We give nothing to Christ. We must accept what He has done.

Will you promise to commit your life to Christ?
This can be confusing. Salvation is based on God's Grace alone and not our actions. Once saved, the commitment will come.

Will you confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you?
This one is confusing. Repentance is involved with Salvation. Confession is involved with your daily Christian walk once you are saved. There is no way a lost person can confess every sin they have commited.

Will you make Christ the Lord of your life?
This one is confusing. This one I like the least. Jesus is the Lord of Lords and who are we to make Him anything. We must accept that He is Lord and submit to His Lordship.

Will you give your heart to Jesus?
This one is confusing. Children take this literally and gives an idea that we must do something rather thnn accepting a free gift.

Will you accept the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as your personal Savior?This one is clear. Each person must personally trust in Jesus alone.

Will you believe that Jesus Christ Died for your sins and rove from the grave? This one is clear. We must place our trust in what Jesus did.

I believe that we must examine how we share the Gospel. We are commanded to share this Good News, and we must do it accurately. If not we may be sharing a false hope.I would enjoy reading your thoughts on this subject.

If you have other phrases that you’ve heard, feel free to share those.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Homosexuality, A Sin?

I read an interesting sermon today entitled “Conflict in the Church: Is Homosexuality a Sin?” The sermon was presented on January 29, 2006 by Betsy Singleton, pastor of Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR. She is also the wife of Arkansas Congressmen Vic Snyder.

This was her fourth sermon in a series of “Difficult Questions Christians Face.” She begins with how she developed her thoughts and ideas. She referred to “four basic tools to help us listen for God’s living word to us today” and they were “the primary one is Scripture, in addition to tradition, experience and reason.”

If you allow me to do so, I’d like to quote her definitions of the four tools above. These quotes are taken from another sermon that I will post later.

“1) Scripture. The first is scripture. While it does not and cannot specifically answer questions about which its writers knew absolutely nothing thousands of years ago, scripture is the story of God’s promises to us, not a rigid rule book. Like some Christians, we could pick apart its contents and find one or two lines to support almost any position, but that violates the integrity of its historical formation over thousands of years as people evolved in their relationship and understanding of God. The story contained in Genesis to Revelation, particularly the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is our primary guide.

2) Christian tradition is another tool. It includes church teachings over the last 2000 years: the accumulation of creeds, liturgies, prayers, hymns, as well as church history. For United Methodists, it also includes the Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions, our own laws and official positions that guide our Christian actions. For example, our church has an official statement on inter-religious dialogue that should help guide our discussions with persons of other faith traditions. We may not always agree with these (and I do not always), but we do believe that God’s Spirit is working with human leaders to speak anew to the church today.

3) Experience is a third tool we bring to answering difficult questions. Experience refers to how the Spirit of God is at work in our lives as a community of faith for one another and for the world. It is not merely about how you or I experience something, but how God’s Spirit is at work through us, our prayers and our mutual witness.

4) Reason is another tool. Along with experience, John Wesley, our founder, believed that we must apply our ability to reason using the other tools, so that we can make a reasonable statement of our beliefs, and know why we believe what we believe.”
(Taken from “Is Christianity the Only Way?” – Betsy Singleton January 8, 2006)

She also uses personal stories of people she has met over the years who struggle in homosexuality and how they came to their conclusions.

Below are a few quotes taken from her sermon:
“The other two passages in the Old Testament refer to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: “a man shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”

Why is this?

In ancient Israel there are two kinds of evil: 1) sin and 2) uncleanness. “Sin” is an intentional rebellion against God. Yet “uncleanness” comes from contact with some physical object—animals, foods, corpses, pagan rites, sexual process, etc. In other words, it’s contagious. Thus ancient Israel understood cleanness to be about wholeness, perfection, and completeness, so that this requirement of completeness means that classes cannot be mixed: cattle are not to be bred to a different kind; fields are not sown using different seeds, etc. Thus homosexual behavior is understood similarly as mixing what should not be mixed; it is uncleanness, not sin”

“Now to the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul provides a list of those who are living lives in opposition to God’s plans including male prostitutes and sodomites. There is debate about what these two Greek words actually mean. Some believe the words constitute a reference to any homosexual behavior, and some believe the text is only citing a specific vice called “pederasty,” a practice of male adult domination over a submissive minor male for sexual purposes. In Romans 1, Paul addresses our fallen human nature, including examples of same-sex relations by both genders. For Paul, this behavior is a result of sin because it is chosen behavior. The problem for readers today is that we also take into account that homosexuality may be “natural” for some and thus not chosen, sinful behavior. Neither passage recognizes a possible committed homosexual relationship as reality because that was not understood to be normative for some.”

Through her teaching we can see that she believes that Scripture alone is not enough. You find yourself in trouble when you start using the thoughts of man to base your beliefs on. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible is inspired and sufficient for all teaching, reproof, correction and training. I guess she missed the “all” part of the verse. I also didn’t see an asterisk pointing me to a note at the bottom of the page that says “this will not apply in 2000 years.”

Scripture on homosexuality is just as relevant today as it was then. That’s why Paul was addressing the issue above. It was rampant then as it is now. The same Word applies to then and now. You cannot take the unchanging Word from an unchanging God and interpret your personal beliefs into them. The opposite is true. Our beliefs, actions, and life should be derived from God’s Holy Word. It’s either right in all aspects of life or no part at all.

I also wanted to comment on her “natural” thoughts. Lets say that she’s correct in saying that homosexuality is natural and cannot be wrong. Ok. I said it. I believe it’s natural for people to lie, steal and lust. But the Bible teaches that these are sins as well. So we can’t say it’s ok to lie just because it’s natural. The Bible teaches that the natural man must die. A believer is a new creature bought with a price. And with His strength in us we can say no to the natural things.

Now, should the church raise the sin of homosexuality above any other sin? No, but that’s another post.