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A Fellow Christian’s Advice to the Kleins

July 13, 2015

The following is a statement posted by the Kleins on their Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page:

“The final ruling has been made today. We have been charged with $135,000 in emotional damages, But also now Aaron and I have been charged with advertising. (Basically talking about not wanting to participate in a same-sex wedding) This effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights. According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech. We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God’s truth, God’s word and freedom for ALL americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!”

The Kleins will probably never see this post of mine, but pretending for a moment that I could talk to them, here is what I would say:

Mr. and Mrs. Klein, forgive the presumption, but you are missing the real opportunity here. The Lord is not giving you a chance to win some battle for Him in a pointless culture war. Nor is He looking for you to proudly maintain your integrity as you lose such a battle. He is giving you the blessed opportunity to know Him and show Him simply in being persecuted for His name’s sake.

If I were in your position, I would have said the same thing to the young woman who wanted a cake for her (so-called) same-sex wedding. I would say, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that. I hope you can understand that my answer is coming only from love, but in any case, I’m afraid I can’t participate.” And then I would seek with all my might to be used by the Lord to bless her and her friend. I would seek to befriend them personally. And if the response was still the legal attack, I would lovingly accept it.

Take your stand, yes. But for the sake of the Lord Jesus who, while being reviled, did not revile in return, do not “fight” for your American “religious” “rights.” It is not the US Constitution or Oregon law that gives you freedom; it is Christ who sets you free. Free from sin. Free to follow Him. Free to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings.

If you feel that making a cake for a (so-called) same-sex wedding would be a participation in something wrong (a conviction that I, for one, share with you), by all means, politely, kindly explain that you cannot do so. Then accept the consequent hatred of a world that does not Him who is the Truth.

I sincerely believe you should drop three words from your vocabulary: “fight,” “rights” and “religion.”

Be Christians and let the world be the world. Stop acting as if it’s not okay with you that the world acts like the world. Stop acting as if it is a shock and a scandal that the world hates you. You actually have apostolic instruction not to be surprised (I Peter 4:12-19). What good does it do to take a stand against the wrongfulness of homosexual practice and then go against the Scriptures which tell you to glorify God in suffering for His name?

I write to you as one who has, in the past, also missed opportunities to endure attacks for the Lord. Believing in the righteousness of my cause, I have made the mistake of fighting to defend myself. But in the process, I missed out on knowing Him more deeply in humbly playing the loser.
As one who understands this, I am praying for you.

I’ll finish with some extended words from John Piper:

American culture does not belong to Christians, neither in reality nor in biblical theology. It never has. The present tailspin toward Sodom is not a fall from Christian ownership. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It has since the fall, and it will till Christ comes in open triumph. God’s rightful ownership will be manifest in due time. The Lordship of Christ over all Creation is being manifest in stages, first the age of groaning, then the age of glory….

But Christian exiles are not passive. We do not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of immoral culture. We weep. Or we should. This is my main point: Being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.

Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky that our country has been taken away. We don’t whine about the triumphs of evil. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. This is not new….

The greatness of Christian exiles is not success but service. Whether we win or lose, we witness to the way of truth and beauty and joy. We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with broken-hearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.

You Can’t Go Home Again, But…

July 8, 2015

I am a native Greshamite. My wife and I both grew up in and around Gresham. I loved my home town. From the time I was very little, I was drawing maps of it and memorizing every little spot on every street.

When I was about 19 years old, I scheduled an appointment with the mayor and met with her in her office. Though I had recently dropped out of Gresham High School and was, by all external measurements, not worth a darn, I told her I wanted to have her job someday. She was kind and gave me some good advice and information (e.g. the mayoral position was unpaid!). At the time, I was a proud GCE (God and Country Evangelical) and had dreams of making Gresham nationally famous for patriotism of the GCE sort.

Much has changed. I have not lived in Gresham for many years. And I am very much against the idolatry of the GCE spirit, preferring rather to ground my citizenship in the kingdom of God. But my love for Gresham has not changed. And my yearning to return there gets stronger and stronger all the time.

PDX Lion KingIt is quite a different dream now, though. Gresham is not the suburban retreat it was when I was a kid. Much of it is now more of a rough suburbia. The Rockwood area, a strip of land between Portland and Gresham proper, was annexed by Gresham some twenty-five years ago and is now considered a “sketchy” part of town. The Gresham Police are kept pretty busy dealing with crimes there. Most of Gresham has become less attractive to American dreamers (white picket fence, RV pad next to the house, etc.). Many people, when they hear of our family’s desire to get back to our Gresham roots, think we are crazy. One friend actually found a Lion King meme making fun of Gresham and posted it on Facebook to make his point.

That’s okay. We like Gresham now more than ever. We have no desire to live in the more gentrified parts of town. Our desire is to “enjoy the company of ordinary people” (Romans 12:16, NLT).

In the last couple of years, Gresham has become famous for something else. In fact, something happened a couple of years ago in the heart of Gresham, just a block away from the apartments where my wife and I met.

A woman went into a bakery owned by a Christian couple and ordered a wedding cake for her “same-sex wedding.” The owners explained that, because of their beliefs, they couldn’t participate by making a cake for such a “wedding.” What has ensued has been a major battle in the courts and the culture wars. It has made national—and, I’m told, international—news. The owners of the bakery had to shut down their business and the Oregon Labor Commissioner has ruled that the bakery owners must pay the homosexual couple $135,000 in damages (emotional distress, etc.). For those in the “same-sex marriage” camp, this has become a sort of Rosa Parks story. For GCEs, it signals the plunge over the cliff of an American society which has abandoned its Christian roots. (My own perspective is different from both of these, but that will have to wait for another post.)Heart of Gresham

This is my home town. It may be a very challenging place to live for the Lord. But if He calls us there—and it seems very much that He is doing so—we will go. It is where my family and I want to be. If He lets us return there, we will serve Him and seek the shalom of the city (Jeremiah 29:7).

Best Thing I’ve seen So Far on the Issue

July 3, 2015

Since the Supreme Court decision last week, I have seen and heard a lot of good stuff helping to sort out the issues.
But this is perhaps the best thing I’ve seen. It’s simple and to the point. Whoever you are, do yourself a favor, and check it out.

The only thing I would say is the that, as good as this is, it still will not convince many people who disagree. But the real power of it, I think, is not its ability to win those folks over, but rather the great way it reminds people like me of what is really true.

This little message is what’s in my heart. Really.
Now the part that I need to work on is living and loving well so that people can see it.
Lord Jesus, forgive and help me…

Some Progressives Will Be Coming Back

July 1, 2015

This morning, I read a very interesting post by Kevin DeYoung. I would encourage anyone at all interested in the church’s response to the recent SCOTUS decision to check it out.

It got me thinking about another wrinkle in this whole thing.  Like many other Christians, I believe the Lord is going to use this whole turn of events in some pretty wonderful ways. In a lot of ways, this will be very good for the church in America. And in this connection, another realization has come to mind:  Some Christians who already were or are now becoming progressive on the so-called “same-sex marriage” issue will end up coming back to a more biblical point of view.

Years ago, I heard Os Guinness tell a story about a man who was shaken from his atheism when he went to a movie theatre in New York during the early years of WWII (I think he said it was W. H. Auden). The United States was not yet in the war, but newsreels were being shown as pre-feature trailers in movie theatres here. This theatre was in a largely German area of New York, and when the newsreel showed the persecution of Jews in Germany and Poland, the crowd cheered and yelled hateful, anti-Semitic epithets. The man left the theatre stunned. As he walked around thinking about what he had just seen, he found he could not deny that human beings were evil. It was the death of his atheism.

Over the next few years, there will certainly be a huge rise in the venomous vitriol, social ostracism and legal persecution of evangelicals who stand by a traditional, biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality. And some heretofore progressive Christians will find themselves so revolted by it that they will come to see the whole thing in a different light.

These progressive-minded folks are currently embracing the popular ‘rainbow flag’ revolution, but that embrace is largely based on the feeling that this is mostly about good people finally winning the right to live like other good people. But when they see the bare-toothed attack—and be assured, it will come—of those good people upon Christians who do not agree with them, they will experience a revulsion in the pit of their stomachs. And some of them, like the man in the movie theatre, will find themselves awakening to a reality that there are great, dark spiritual forces at work here.  (BTW, I am not equating homosexual people with Nazis or anti-Semites. If you think that’s what I’m doing, you’ve misunderstood me.)

Undoubtedly, in the coming heat-tests, many traditional Christians will defect to the secular, progressive camp.  But there will also be some who go the other way.  I think it will be very interesting, then, to hear from them.

John 15:20 and Modus Tollens

March 27, 2015

For millennia, logicians have recognized a number of basic argument forms that are inherently valid based on their structure.
According to the form called Modus Tollens (‘by way of taking out’),

If p, then q.
Not q.
Therefore, not p.

Or to put it in a clear example,
‘If I am in the shower, I will be wet.
I am not wet.
Therefore, I must not be in the shower.’

In the middle of John 15:20, the Lord gives a simple conditional statement which makes for a perfect example of the first premise in such an argument.
“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” says Jesus.

If we follow this out and apply Modus Tollens to it, it would read:
If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.
They are not persecuting you.
Therefore, they did not persecute Me.

In other words, if the world does not have a problem with us, it must not have a problem with our Jesus.

But clearly, the Jesus of John’s gospel was persecuted. The world definitely had a problem with Him. So it forces me to ask:
If the world does not have a problem with us, could it be that we are not showing it the same Jesus that John shows?

A Sad Distinction

January 30, 2015

I was just listening to NPR in the car, and some reporter was doing a local human interest story about how the public library is going to be hosting a big screen Super Bowl Party. Referring to the remarkable diversity of the people who were coming to reserve seats, he said, “I talked with one guy who is a conservative evangelical. Then I talked to another guy who is an advocate for low-income housing.”

The Drawn-Out Knight Rises

November 30, 2014

So, apparently, Moses is now a violent revolutionary.
Moses the Revolutionary
I haven’t seen the new movie Exodus: Gods & Kings. But I’ve seen the commercials. Christian Bale plays Moses in the latest Bible-character-action-hero blend. And from all I can see, he is a version of Moses that looks more like Muhammed than the shepherd from Midian. Once again, we see that problems are solved by faith and prayer …plus the sword!

The same thing was done with the movie A Beautiful Mind 2… er… uhhhh… I mean… Noah. (Sorry. I sometimes get confused between movies where Jennifer Connelly plays the loyal and patient wife of a driven psychotic played by Russell Crowe.) The whole idea of a man of faith who quietly obeys and sees GOD do the amazing is lost amid the noise and chaos of “good” violence.

One of the most fascinating aspects to this whole thing is the lack of intelligence and imagination it betrays. Movie-makers obviously can no longer deliver an epic plot that doesn’t involve explosive action scenes and in which evil is only overcome by force. Which means, of course, that movie audiences can no longer handle such plots.

My chief complaint about Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies is the sad pandering to moronic audiences who need every film to be louder and more explosive than the last. He had a perfect opportunity to show a quieter, slower, more considered story from Middle-Earth (all he would have had to do is stay within two or three miles of the book), and he forsook it for a comparatively insipid cash cow. But this is apparently what movie-goers now expect for their ticket money. Give us shows that go BOOOOM! I wonder when they’ll make a new movie about Gandhi which shows him as a violent revolutionary. If they did, people would probably pay big money to see it… provided a sufficient amount of bullets and bombs making carnage in the streets of Calcutta.

I shudder at the thought that many Christians will probably think it’s cool that Moses is portrayed as a warrior—the same Christians who seem to think that the point of the temple-cleansing scenes in the gospels is to show that Jesus was a manly, muscular butt-kicker who got in people’s faces and said, “Oh no, you ditn’t! Not in MY house!”

In all of the commercials and pictures from the Exodus movie that I have seen so far, Moses looks grim and angry while Pharaoh looks thoughtful, painfully concerned, and a little taken aback by the rage of Moses. I wonder what that is supposed to signify. Maybe that the prophetic types who hear from God tend to need to get the job done by going a little over the top, and so those who represent the system will likely feel attacked by mean-spirited jerks?… I don’t know.

At any rate, without having seen the movie yet, it is already clear that we will be treated to another colossal study in missing the point. Sure, Moses did the good violence thing once. He smote and killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. And the narrative of Exodus is written to show us that this did not succeed in bringing about God’s good end. As James puts it, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (1:20). Following Moses’ attempt to use violent means to address injustice, God brought him out into the wilderness to tend sheep for forty years. Then he sent him back to Egypt to draw out Israel, not to draw out a sword. (“Drawn-Out” is the meaning of the name “Moses.”)

In the great scene in which the newly free Israelites find themselves caught between Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea, it is not violence which secures their deliverance. It is not ANY human machination whatsoever. Here is what Moses actually says to Israel at that moment:
Waht Moses Actually Said
It is not our weapons, nor even our courage, nor even our faith in God which delivers us. It is GOD who delivers us! All by Himself, without any help from us, He will bring us His Yeshua (salvation). He wants all the credit for Himself.

Maybe this new Exodus movie will feature a scene like this:

Moses: “Let my people go!”
Pharaoh: “I will. I swear to God!”
Moses: “Swear to ME!”

[Rolled eyes and tired sigh go here.]

Okay. So here is the good news.
Christians, this is our time to shine like stars in the world, holding out the word of life. This is exactly how we should be different from the world around us. It’s not that the world is violent and we are non-violent. That is the outward sign of the Truth. The point is that world cannot imagine a faith that does not need to secure the good by force. But we can show them that… Can’t we?…

I mean it when I say this is the good news. The good news we share with the world is about how we were powerless to do anything about our plight and God stepped in, sending His Yeshua to save us. And now, amid the scariness of a world wherein the violent threaten us, financial security is a vanishing dream and our own sins threaten to destroy us, we can, by faith, stand still and watch the salvation of the Lord!

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