Archive | Christianity

Florist takes her case to the Supreme Court… again

If you aren’t familiar with Barronelle Stutzman’s case, you need to be (watch above). Barronelle is a 74-year old grandmother and florist who was sued by Washington State and by the ACLU after she declined to participate in a gay wedding. She serves gay people in her store. She has even hired gay people to work in her store. But she is a Christian and cannot in good conscience lend her talents to help celebrate a gay wedding. So when a gay man whom she had served for nine years in her store asked her to participate in his gay wedding, she told him that she could not because of her relationship with Jesus. She was apologetic, but she nevertheless did the right thing according to her Christian conscience.

Word got out on social media about what happened, and the government and the ACLU sued her for violating anti-discrimination law. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the court ruled in her favor, vacated the Washington State court’s decision, and ordered the State court to come up with a decision that respects the constitution. The state court refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s directive and ruled against her again! Now Barronelle is making an appeal (again!) to the Supreme Court for help.

The Tri-City Herald reports:

A Southern Baptist, [Barronelle] has argued that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment.

“Barronelle serves and hires people from all walks of life. What she can’t do is take part in, or create custom floral arrangements celebrating, sacred events that violate her religious beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom’s U.S. legal division, said in a news release Wednesday.

“Because of this, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling that threatens Barronelle with personal and professional ruin,” she added.

“Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions. That’s why we have taken Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Progressives constantly gas light Christians and claim that we are crying wolf about being mistreated for our ancient beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The next time you hear them gas light us, I want you to remember Barronelle Stutzman. Both the state and the ACLU won’t leave her alone but are trying to ruin her financially unless she agrees to violate her religious convictions and to participate in gay weddings. It’s an abhorrent, ugly thing that they are doing to her. It’s hard to believe that this is still going on after all these years (and even after a Supreme Court ruling in her favor!), and yet here we are.

I hope the Supreme Court rules once and for all on the constitutional principle at stake in Barronelle’s case. This case is about more than her. It’s about all of us who believe what the Bible teaches about marriage. If the government can coerce her to violate her conscience, then they can do it to anyone. And that’s the issue.

Hearing God’s word on the first Sunday after September 11, 2001

I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. My wife and I were in our second year of marriage, and we were living in Louisville, Kentucky while I was working on my Ph.D. On the morning of the attacks, I was in our apartment, and she called me from work to tell me to turn the television on. I think both buildings had already been struck by the time I tuned in, but I was watching live television as the towers eventually crumbled to the ground.

The emotion of that day has left an indelible mark on me. The uncertainty. The questions. The very real concern that more attacks were imminent. The threat of a larger war. The horror of watching all those people die. The specter of gas shortages and economic collapse. I think everyone felt something like that, and that is why the churches across America were filled on Sunday September 16.

If you want to know something about a preacher’s theology, go and listen to what he preached on September 16, 2001. The two most memorable September 16th sermons that I heard were preached by John Piper (audio, transcript), pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and by Tommy Nelson (audio), pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. In some ways, these sermons were very similar. They both built on the theological foundation of the sovereignty of God over all things, which includes His sovereignty over calamities like the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Both sermons also expressed the grief appropriate for the occasion.

Yet in many other ways, the sermons were very different. On the one hand, Tommy Nelson exuded a sense that America would rise up in its righteous might to settle accounts with its terrorist enemies. Nelson is a dispensationalist and offered the assurance that America would prevail in the coming military conflict because God supports nations that support Israel.

On the other hand, John Piper called his listeners to turn away from their implicit trust in American military might and national prosperity. Americans by and large had taken for granted their own security in the world. Piper said 9-11 proves what the Bible already teaches—that such security is an illusory fiction. Our hope is not in the military and its ability to protect from all danger. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

As I remember the tragedy of 9-11 this week, I also remember these messages. I am thankful for the reminder that I serve a God who is sovereign over all things, that I serve a Christ who once looked into the cold eyes of at a heartless Roman governor and said, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.” I am thankful that while we have no basis for confidence in military might (Psalm 20:7), we have every reason to be confident in King Jesus who has promised to come again and to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). I am thankful for a Christ who loves sinners and who will one day banish evil from the new heavens and the new earth.

Calamities will come, and calamities will go. But God’s word will never pass away. In some ways these sermons are a study in contrasts, but they are nevertheless the same in the most important ways. I encourage you to take some time to listen to both of them and to set your hope completely on Christ.

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“9-11” by Tommy Nelson

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“A Service of Sorrow, Self-Humbling, and Steady Hope in Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ” by John Piper

How feminism treats heterosexuality as a problem

If you’ve ever wondered about the connection between feminism and LGBT identities, a recent article by Marcie Bianco at NBC News clears things up. Among other things, Bianco says this:

Men need heterosexuality to maintain their societal dominance over women. Women, on the other hand, are increasingly realizing not only that they don’t need heterosexuality, but that it also is often the bedrock of their global oppression.

Patriarchy is at its most potent when oppression doesn’t feel like oppression, or when it is packaged in terms of biology, religion or basic social needs like security comfort, acceptance and success. Heterosexuality offers women all these things as selling points to their consensual subjection.

Historically, women have been conditioned to believe that heterosexuality is natural or innate, just as they have been conditioned to believe that their main purpose is to make babies — and if they fail to do so, they are condemned as not “real,” or as bad, women.

Bianco goes on to tell the stories of two female celebrities—Miley Cyrus and Julianne Hough—who have recently turned from heterosexuality to LGBT identities. Bianco contends that Cyrus and Hough are in the vanguard of feminist liberation. Continue Reading →

Apostasy and Pastoral Preparation for the Conflict Ahead

David French has an insightful column analyzing the apostasy of yet another Christian celebrity. French writes:

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

French is certainly correct that people are falling away in large part due to a failure of moral courage. There is no question about that. Nevertheless, I would take exception with one part of his analysis. When it comes to “catechesis” versus “fortification,” it’s actually not an either/or but a both/and. There are lots of churches failing at catechesis, and there are lots that are failing at preparing people for the cost of discipleship. Both of these things are happening all at once all across evangelicalism. Continue Reading →

I have no hot-take, only grief

Last week Joshua Harris announced that he is divorcing his wife, is no longer a Christian, and has embraced LGBTQ+ views on sexuality.

I don’t have a hot-take on this. Only grief. I am not surprised that apostasy exists in the world. Jesus warned us that it would happen (Matt. 13:20-22) and so did the apostles (Acts 20:30). And yet it is so painful and heartbreaking to witness. I resonate deeply with what Heath Lambert has written:

The author of Hebrews warns, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Think about this verse, and consider that Joshua Harris—the man who summoned an entire generation to purity—has now left his wife, publicly rejected Christianity, and embraced the LGBTQ+ agenda.

Let that sink in.

Let that sink in, and be sobered. If this can happen to Joshua Harris, how much more do I need to heed the warning of Hebrews, and take care to avoid an evil, unbelieving heart? How much more care do you need to take?

No one plans on apostatizing when they come to Christ. Life happens. Troubles come. Faith is tested. The soil is eventually revealed for what it is (Matt. 13:20-22). What will time and trouble reveal about you? About me?

God, be merciful to me, the sinner! (Luke 18:13).

Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me… Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer (Psalm. 19:13-14).

Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:11-12).

Apostasy is real. And there is nothing in our flesh to keep us from it. We are just as dependent upon God’s grace today as we were the first day we tasted it. If we stand, it will be by the power of God alone.  Apart from grace, we would all be careening to our own destruction.

Perhaps this story isn’t over yet. I hope it isn’t. I hope that there is a renewal to repentance. In meantime, we should pray and look to ourselves, lest we also be tempted (Gal. 6:1).

A. T. Robertson on Women Preaching

A. T. Robertson is without question the greatest scholar of New Testament Greek that the Southern Baptist Convention has ever produced. Indeed, he is one of the greatest scholars of New Testament Greek that has ever lived. In 1906, Robertson wrote a sharp critique of the practice of women preaching in “mixed public assemblies.” His brief remarks appear in the introduction to W. P. Harvey’s booklet Shall Women Preach (Louisville, KY: Baptist Book Concern, 1906). I recently came across this short essay and thought it worth highlighting here. See below. Continue Reading →

Ten Thoughts about the “Billy Graham Rule”

Earlier today, I saw an interview on CNN about a Christian politician who practices the “Billy Graham Rule” (watch above). It is an awkward interview to watch, but it illustrates the cost to men and women who are making a good-faith effort to avoid compromising situations. This is by no means everything that can or should be said about the so-called “Billy Graham Rule.” Nevertheless, I thought I would update something I wrote previously on this topic. I personally believe that the rule is wise and ought to be pursued with rigor by Christians who are serious about holiness and witness. So in that spirit, here are ten brief reflections on this particular discipline: Continue Reading →

Spurgeon on the “Business” of Prayer

“Some brethren get up in our prayer meetings, and say some very good things; but what they really ask for, I am sure I do not know. I have heard prayers of which I have said, when they were over, ‘Well, if God answers that prayer, I have not the least idea of what he will give us.’ It was a very beautiful prayer, and there was a great deal of explanation of doctrine and experience in it; but I do not think that God needs to have doctrine or experience explained to him. The fault about the prayer was, that there was not anything asked for in it. I like, when brethren are praying, that they should be as business-like as a good carpenter at his work. It is of no use to have a hammer with an ivory handle, unless you aim it at the nail you intend to drive in up to the head; and if that is your object, an ordinary hammer will do just as well as a fine one, perhaps better…

“When I pray, I like to go to God just as I go to a banker when I have a cheque to be cashed. I walk in, put the cheque down on the counter, the clerk gives me my money, I take it up, and go about my business. I do not know that I ever stopped in a bank five minutes to talk with the clerks; when I have received my change, I go away and attend to other matters. That is how I like to pray; but there is a way of praying that seems like lounging near the mercy-seat, as though one had no particular reason for being found there. Let it not be so with you, brethren. Plead the promise, believe it, receive the blessing God is ready to give, and go about your business.”

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Two Guards, Praying and Watching” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 38 (London: Passmore & Alabaster), 206-207.

Amazon bans books on “conversion therapy”

I am a Christian. I hold to what Christians have always believed about sexuality—that the only legitimate context for sexual activity is between one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage. Any other kind of sexual activity—including the homosexual kind—is against God’s design for His creation and is prohibited by scripture. I also believe that we are all sexual sinners of some sort. 

Nevetheless, I affirm that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. I deny that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

This is all standard fare Christian doctrine. It is the unbroken testimony of the Christian church for its entire 2,000-year history. And I think—if I understand this news story correctly—it is a perspective that Amazon has banned (or is about to ban) from the books that it sells on its site. Let me explain. Continue Reading →

How a Christian Patriot Might Love His Wayward Country

I love G. K. Chesterton’s reflections on what it means to be a Christian patriot. If you have never read it, I encourage you to read “The Flag of the World” in his classic work Orthodoxy. Chesterton contends that love of one’s homeland is not like house-hunting—an experience in which you weigh the pros and cons of a place and choose accordingly. He writes:

A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.

We do not choose our homeland. It is something that we are born into. Thus our acceptance of our home is not like a house that we can leave when we tire of it. It is like the love we have for our family: Continue Reading →

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