Friday, September 6, 2019

Drew Brees Controversy

      I read in the Advocate this morning about the controversy surrounding a recent video by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, encouraging children to bring their Bibles to school on October 3 for Bring Your Bible to School Day. The event is sponsored by Focus on the Family. And herein lies the controversy. Focus on the Family is openly pro-family and pro-marriage. They teach and promote the Biblical teaching on marriage—that marriage is between one man and one woman.

      The controversy is over the backlash from the LGBTQ community because of Focus on the Family’s support of traditional marriage. Because they oppose the position of the gay community they are labeled a hate group, and thus Drew Brees by association.

      The position of Focus on the Family is stated clearly on their website: “Focus on the Family believes that sex is given by God as an expression of love to be shared and enjoyed exclusively between a husband and wife. Further, we are convinced that the Bible leaves no room whatsoever for confusion or ambiguity where homosexual behavior is concerned.”

      In response, Drew Brees is distancing himself from any association with Focus on the Family. In response to the criticism against him Brees responds: "Unfortunately, (there are) Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing and to me that is totally against what being a Christian is all about, Being a Christian is love, it's forgiveness, it’s respecting all, it’s accepting all." He goes on to describe what it means to love your neighbor: “It means love all, respect all and accept all. So that is actually how I live my life. That is what I try to do with my family, with my teammates, with people in my community, with my friends, all people. No matter your race, your color, your religious preference, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, it doesn’t matter.”

     It is certainly true that love demands looking upon all people with mercy and forbearance. It demands living in humility, knowing that all of humanity shares in the curse of sin and all of us are equally in need of God’s grace. To demonize one sin over another is to ignore the reality of our own sin and the greatness of salvation through Jesus Christ. All of us can claim Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

     But there is an idea today that “acceptance” demands receiving every belief and orientation as being equally valid. To accept another person’s religious preference in terms of toleration is not the same thing as accepting it as a valid option. I can be tolerant of a Muslim, but at the same time express clearly that Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God. There is salvation in no other way. I can look upon the homosexual with love and compassion while at the same time condemning the sinfulness of his lifestyle. A declaration of another person’s sin is not a statement of hate. It is actually a statement that I love him and care about him.

     It seems a bit nonsensical to encourage children to bring their Bible to School but deny what the Bible has to say. The Bible is not a merely an object of adoration or a symbol to be carried with us to identify ourselves with other Bible carriers. That makes it no different than wearing a Saints t-shirt to declare our allegiance to a particular football team. The Bible is the Word of God. It is absolute truth. It makes demands upon our lives. God sets forth His Law and demands obedience. All men will stand before Him to give account.

     I applaud Brees encouraging children to bring their Bible to school but am disappointed to see him closing his eyes to what it teaches, and for condemning those who would dare follow what it says.

Vanity and Vexation

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes1:2 NASB).      

      For years the humanists have assured us that all we need to improve life upon the earth is greater education, higher income and the distribution of wealth, greater advancement in technology, and the end of war. If they are correct, we must surely be entering into a golden age. We are spending more on education than ever before and greater attention has been placed on the distribution of wealth through the taxation of the wealthy. Never in the history of the world have we seen such technological advances. The internet has brought us incredible advances in the spread of information. Our smartphones have technology at our fingertips that couldn’t have been imagined fifty years ago. It would seem that every day we hear of some amazing new invention. Modern medicine has greatly increased the length and quality of life. We live in larger homes and enjoy all of the pleasures money can buy. And we are enjoying a season of relative peace. We must be happier today than ever before, right? Wouldn’t this be the reasonable conclusion of the humanist?

      There is only one problem with such a conclusion. The facts show otherwise. Modern man is more unhappy than ever before. World Magazine recently published a statistic that must baffle the minds of those who believe happiness can be gained if we are placed in the right conditions. For the first time in the past 100 years the life-expectancy of young adults has decreased. This is despite better diet, better healthcare and greater sanitation. What is causing the increase in mortality rates? Suicide rates are at all-time highs and the rate of drug overdoses has increased 3.6 times over the rate in 1999. What can explain these symptoms of dissatisfaction and unhappiness?

      Hundreds of years ago Solomon described the futility of life without God. He observed, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind” (Ecc. 1:14). Apart from God all of life is empty. What most men call happiness is really nothing more than a lust for pleasure. True happiness is the blessedness of a life in Christ. Only in Christ can we find genuine contentment. Apart from Him there is only misery and discontent. Apart from Christ the quest for happiness only ends in futility. Is it any wonder that we find an increase in the suicide rate? For far too many conclude that despite every modern advancement life is not worth living. Many turn to drugs in order to mask the emptiness. Others wander aimlessly searching for some meaning in life.

       What is the solution? Is there any hope? Solomon gives the answer, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is; fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc. 12:13). The hope of the world is only in the Gospel of Christ, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1 NASB - "The LORD is my shepherd . . .”
One of the great metaphors of Scripture is God as the Shepherd of His sheep. This is carried into the New Testament where Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God’s people are sheep in need of a shepherd.
This is an amazing metaphor. Human beings are made in the image of God. We are the most intelligent of all of God’s earthly creatures. We have a wonderful capacity for creativity. We design and build whole cities and there seems to be no end to our resourcefulness. And then we think of sheep. Sheep are not intelligent, they are not resourceful; in fact, they are just plain dumb. They are prone to wander off and have to be under constant surveillance. They have no natural defenses, no fangs or claws, so if they are left to themselves, they are easy prey to other wild animals. They need a shepherd to guide them, protect them, and care for their needs. They are probably unaware of the watchful eye of their shepherd. They are content to feed in the security of the flock as the shepherd leads them to “green pastures” and “still waters.”

Why is it that God describes us as sheep? It crushes our pride and independence. It reminds us how dependent we are upon God’s provision, leadership, and protection. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd who continually leads, feeds, and defends us and will safely bring us home.

It also reminds us of the importance of the local church. We are a flock under the gracious protection of Christ who promises His unfailing presence among us. He has also blessed the church with pastors, Christ’s under-shepherds. Peter writes to pastors, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1). This is humbling for human pastors. How can those who need shepherding possibility shepherd others? The answer is encouraging. Because Jesus Christ is our High Shepherd. Weak, human under-shepherds merely point men to Him. He has provided us with the food of His Word and filled us with His Spirit to lead and guide us.  Earthly pastors merely have to feed, lead, protect, and love Christ’s people.