Pastoral Notes for Sunday, October 14, 2018

The text before us today is one of the most scandalous in all of Scripture. Two angelic visitors arrive in Sodom to warn Lot and his family of the coming judgment. While staying with Lot, the men of Sodom show up at the door and demand that Lot hand over the visitors that they might have sex with them. It’s clear from the text that homosexual activity is in view, and, horrifically, that of a forcible kind (see Genesis 19:1-29). 

In recent years, the public opinion in America on homosexuality has shifted. It’s now widely believed that as long as two people love each other, even if they are of the same sex/gender, it’s acceptable for them to “marry” and to engage in homosexual behavior. In some cases, this popular line of thinking has found inroads into the church, especially among a younger generation of professing Christian that are growing up in a time where homosexuality is treated culturally as an acceptable norm.

Can we with certainty say that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin? In short, the answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.” There are several key passages we could turn to show this, but none more detailed or significant than Romans 1:18-27.

In Romans 1:18-25, Paul argues that every person has access to the general revelation of God through creation, and that the law of God is written on our hearts. He goes onto to say that though we know God, we don’t honor Him as God; that in unrighteousness we suppress the truth and become foolish and futile in our thinking and worship the creature rather than the Creator (i.e. idolatry).

Then, in verse 24, Paul says, “Therefore.” Meaning, the suppression of the truth, foolishness, and futile thinking expressed idolatry leads to this: “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…” The word “impurity” can refer to ritual uncleanness, but it’s very often used in the New Testament to describe sexual immorality (see Rom. 6:19, 2 Cor. 12:21, and Gal.5:19). In context, it’s clear that Paul intends the language of impurity to be understood in that way, for he immediately qualifies the term impurity with the phrase “dishonoring of their bodies” (v.25). 

Further, Paul continues in vs. 26-27, “For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Notice the parallel Paul is making. The Gentiles exchanged the worship of God for the worship of man, and so God gave them over to what Paul calls “dishonorable passions” which he defines as exchanging “natural relations” (heterosexuality) for those that are “contrary to nature” (homosexuality).

We could quibble here and there about how to understand certain terms Paul chooses, but it’s impossible to read Paul’s main point in any other way—that a consequence of “exchanging” the worship of God for the worshipping of a creature is we are more and more given over to dishonorable passions leading to the “exchanging” of natural relations  (heterosexuality) for those that are contrary to nature (homosexuality).

Lest we fall prey into thinking that Paul is singling out homosexuality alone as some particularly egregious affront to God, he goes on in vs. 28-31 to give a laundry list of other sins spawning from our idolatry—“…envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” All our sins—not just the sexual ones—require the reconciling work of the gospel. Whether disobedient to parents or murders, our only hope is Jesus Christ.

Well, this brief walk through Romans 1 doesn’t come close to answering all our questions about homosexuality, especially the many pastoral questions related to someone who experiences same-sex attraction. I wish space would afford for me to take up those matters presently, but that will have to wait for now. I’ll return to this subject over the next few weeks in order to grow in our understanding of the Scripture’s teaching and the wonderful grace of the gospel.

Pastoral Notes for September 9, 2018

I bought my first day timer when I was fourteen. I had just started a yard care business, and I needed something to help me keep track of appointments and tasks. It had a brown leather-like cover with a place for pens and business cards on the inside. I loved that day timer. I carried it everywhere, like a child who carries their favorite blanket for comfort. It made me feel organized, on top of things. It made me feel important. I had places to go, things to do, people to see. I was in high demand, so to speak.

That day timer is long gone, but the belief that a full schedule is a full life stayed with me a lot longer. I can see now that I bought into a notion of time, life, and importance that was shaped by the world rather than by Scripture. In a word, I had not yet understood that time was a gift to be received from God. At that point, I saw time as something to be managed, rather than a gift to be stewarded and redeemed for God’s purposes. I didn’t understand that time was something to be treated with sanctity. That the days and hours allotted to me were precious and deserved to be received and responded to with grace; that I could say of everyday, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

It took years for me to realize that there wasn’t an equal sign between a full calendar and a full life. It would take even longer for me to begin unlearning the habits that were formed by believing this, and still longer to relearn a new way of engaging with time. I’m not where I used to be on this, but I’m still far from well. Maybe that’s true for you, too. Maybe that’s true for us as a community.

If we began receiving every moment as a gift of God, how would that change us? What would we make time for that we’re not making time for now? How would the tempo of our life together shift? More specifically, what if every one of us saw this morning—right now—as God’s grace for us (Lamentations 3:23)? What difference might that make for the way we worshipped? How would we spend the 3-5 minutes after worship? What would our afternoon and evening look like?

Let’s not be deceived. Today is the day the Lord has made. The question is: will we treat it as such? Let’s open our life to receive the gift of today, and rejoice in it.

Pastoral Notes for September 2, 2018

Midweek @ Cornerstone

Learning Contentment: The Secret to a Satisfied Life

We tend to think that our happiness is tied to a certain set of circumstances. We say to ourselves, “If I could find that perfect man or woman, then I’d be complete. If I could alter my physical appearance in some way, then I’d be confident. Or if I could just make a little more money, then I’d be at peace.”

The problem is when we find the spouse we’ve always dreamed of, or get Botox or a new haircut, or finally get the raise we think we deserve, we find that we’re still discontent—maybe even more so. What we thought was the secret to our happiness proved to be a dead end.

Whenever that happens, a burning ache deep inside surfaces. It’s an empty, terrible feeling full of fear and desperate questions like, “Is contentment a mirage that will only ever keep disappearing before my eyes? Is the search for contentment a vain, meaningless pursuit like chasing after wind? Am I doomed to live out my days defeated and dissatisfied, never finding what I’m looking for?”

Wednesday nights this fall, we’re going to stare this struggle in the face by turning our attention to the hope and direction that Scripture provides for weary and dissatisfied hearts like ours. Over the course of ten weeks, we’ll explore…

·      The struggle to find contentment

·      The true source of contentment

·      Biblical strategies for pursuing contentment

·      Spiritual practices for sustaining contentment

Midweek @ Cornerstone begins September 12th. Go ahead and mark your calendars. Invite your friends and neighbors. Let’s come together and learn the secret to a satisfied life!

Dinner at 5:30pm

Vespers/Teaching at 6:15pm

Youth Group at 6:15pm

Children’s Choirs at 6:15pm Adult Choir at 7:15pm

Sign up for dinner at www.cornerstonepresfranklin.org

“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”—Philippians 4:11-13