Marriage is What Drives Us Apart Today

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’ll just get right down to it.

I do not plan to revisit this in future posts. This is not going to become a theme. However, since I have long placed my words on the public buffet table, there’s really no way to avoid the topic. Before we get any further along, allow me to quote John MacArthur, who I don’t agree with on many points of theology, but who expresses it best when he says:

Marriage is not the ultimate battleground, and our enemies are not the men and women who seek to destroy it (2 Corinthians 10:4). The battleground is the Gospel. Be careful not to replace patience, love, and prayer with bitterness, hatred, and politics.

So here we go.

I’m not going to go protest at a gay wedding. I’m not going to refuse to associate with gay people. I wouldn’t shun a gay couple if they moved in next door. I don’t feel the need to bring up the topics of gay marriage or homosexuality in every conversation, Facebook comment or blog post. I’m not going to seek out gay people so I can shout at them. These actions are not only pointless, they are caricatures of what it means to be a Christian.

I’ll keep behaving as I have behaved all along, thanks.

But none of that requires that I say that gay marriage is blessed by God. I’m not going to say that He “created” same-sex unions anymore than He “created” heterosexual promiscuity, the point being that He does not call us to continue living in what He defines as sin. Yes, God loves us as we are and He sent Christ to save us while we were still sinners. Praise Him for that! But that love? It is transformative. It does not say, “Oh, you just go ahead and keep doing what you want.”

The fact that I believe marriage is a God-designed institution made for one man and one woman doesn’t make me a bigot. It doesn’t make me hateful. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than other people. It doesn’t make me sick or twisted.

All my stance on this issue means is that I am striving to be consistent in my doctrine.

My denomination has issued a statement affirming that which is laid out in our manual of practice. We also stand with the National Association of Evangelicals:

Statement from the Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene –

Societies across the globe are engaged in conversations to redefine marriage. Media debates, election-day balloting, and governmental court rulings have provided the platform for this redefinition. We believe a biblical view of marriage involves a monogamous, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus said, “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6NIV).

Today the United States Supreme Court, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. We remind our people that while the civil law of yet another country has changed, divine truth has not changed. We will learn how this civil definition functions within the context of our constitutional and religious freedoms. Our commitment to the orthodox biblical Christian faith remains the same. We continue to call Nazarenes around the world to a life of holiness, characterized by holy love and expressed through the most rigorous and consistent lifestyle of sexual purity. We further call our people to a generosity and graciousness of spirit that extends kindness to those who do not share our belief. We pray that God will help us be examples of His truth in a world that needs to see God’s love demonstrated in word and deed more than ever.

Jerry D. Porter
J. K. Warrick
Eugénio R. Duarte
David W. Graves
David A. Busic
Gustavo A. Crocker

Statement from the National Association of Evangelicals –

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people.[1]

While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6:

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

In its role as a moral teacher, the law now misleads Americans about the true nature of marriage. Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.

As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage. Those who continue to embrace biblical teaching on marriage will increasingly appeal to the First Amendment protection not just for abstract belief, but for the practice of their faith. The National Association of Evangelicals calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

More –

In the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) regrets the court’s shift away from the historic understanding of marriage, but recognizes that the truth about marriage has not changed.

“At the beginning of the Bible, God defined marriage. In the New Testament, Jesus described marriage. Neither asked the Supreme Court for a new definition or description,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

The NAE today released a statement about marriage in light of the court’s redefinition, which says in part:

Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.

Anderson said, “As evangelicals, we look to the Bible — not the courts — for guidance on life. Marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. May this court decision be a clarion call to American evangelicals to proclaim and exhibit the good news about biblical marriage.”

The NAE recognizes that governments at times adopt policies that do not align with biblical values. However, those policies should not require those who follow the clear teachings of the Bible to change their beliefs or practices.

Anderson said, “As we respect a legal ruling with which we do not agree, we ask others to respect our faith and practices even when they disagree with us.”

The NAE calls on evangelicals to be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage and to also advocate for liberty for all who desire to live out their faith. The NAE calls on Congress to enact laws, on the president to implement policies, and on the courts to render judgments that uphold the freedom and human rights of all Americans.

I look to God for direction in all things. His word tells me that the faith has always been counter-cultural. Following Christ has always meant being out of step with the world at large. He defines what is right and what is wrong and will never be knocked off of His throne. Additionally, I am to navigate life with both sobriety and joy, treating everyone I come into contact with as a person, a human being, an image-bearer – whether they agree with me or not.

Nothing else needs to be said.

My journey to faith. (15)

His Fragrance Surrounds Us

Now thanks be to God who always leads us (5)

Gentle Reader,

Do you realize how good the Lord is?

I’m not sure we think about that often enough. He’s just plain good. He has no dark side. He doesn’t need therapy. He’s not messed up. He’s never stepped wrong or made a bad decision.

And this good God, this holy Lord, responds to us.

I’ve been reading the Book of Ezra. Unfortunately I don’t have time today to get into all the richness I’ve discovered, but six chapters in I marvel at how tender God is toward His people. The people of Judah (at this point their religion begins to be referred to as Judah-ism, or Judaism, and the people as Jews) return to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile and captivity. The city is in ruins. The Temple is a wreck. Despite the passage of time, no rebuilding or restoration efforts have taken place. Men with names like Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead their people across the long miles into the mess.

God’s activity is everywhere. He moves Cyrus to set them free (in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 44:28). He grants them favor with their neighbors, who shower them with precious materials like gold, silver and livestock. The sacred items of the Temple, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, are returned to them. They have all that they need to begin the process of rebuilding.

Almost immediately, they face opposition. They are harassed, tempted into bad alliances and falsely accused. Officials in the Persian government send letters to several monarchs, pointing out the past rebellion of the Jews. Why should they be allowed to restore their city?

Discouragement. Defeat. Exhaustion.

Onto the scene step Haggai and Zechariah, prophets of God. They spoke His truth to the weary remnant. They were “with them, helping them” (Ezra 5:2). The Lord knew what He had called His people to do and what it would take. He knew what hardship they would face.

He did not leave them to do a single thing on their own.

Because He is good.

He always leads us to victory. We may not choose to follow, but that’s His direction. That’s His path.

If we have a mind to, if we ask Him to grant us the perspective, we can see Him even in the toughest of times. We can hear His voice. We can even smell Him as the fragrance of His presence lingers. There is no opposition that can stand against Him. There is no plan of His that can be thwarted. He will see His plan through to completion. He will accomplish His purposes.

How humbling it is to realize that He does this for and through us! He doesn’t walk the triumphal parade route alone. He leads us on it. He equips our hands to do the work. He opens our mouths to speak His world. He uses us as atomizers, dispensing holy perfume throughout the world.

We are too quick to dismiss and avoid dwelling on the immense and even insane goodness of God toward us. That the infinite and majestic Lord would see our tears and send us comfort; that He would soothe our frustration; that He would remove roadblocks in His perfect timing because He wants to be good to us is too much for me to contemplate without tears of thankfulness and praise rolling down my cheeks.

He knew how these people had rebelled in the past and how they would rebel in the future. He knew all their faults and failures. He knew how overwhelmed they were, how big the project was. He knew they would face opposition and that the resentment of their neighbors would be palpable. Out of the richness of His goodness and grace, He covered them. He provided for all their needs.

So too with us. With you. With me. He knows each one of us so well. Better than we know ourselves. He knows how we rebelled and sinned yesterday and He knows how we’ll do it tomorrow. But He never lets up. He never abandons us.

Because He is good.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: World

Along the Way@ mlsgregg.com (3)

Gentle Reader,

Didn’t really get to connect with my fellow writers this evening. Little things got in the way, like stopping by the store for milk and getting distracted by all the pretty ice cream.

It’s that time again. Kate. The sisters and brothers. Connecting across the miles and through the internet to write about: world.

Go.

It’s getting to me this week.

The world.

And all the junk in it.

I know to expect a dip in my mood with the first blast of summer’s cruelty. Though born in August, I despise this season. As I tweeted the other day, saying that you like the heat is basically saying you like being sweaty and lethargic. I don’t understand that at all. People that willingly live in the desert have to be a little touched in the head.

Already prone to scowl, I began to dwell on some things. Broken relationships. An upcoming CT scan to check on my sad, dysfunctional liver. (Seems like that road will never end). The cancer that’s eating away at my grandfather.

Crabby, thy face is mine.

Sunday was unpleasant.

Monday, out of nowhere, I had a desire to read the book of Ezra. I knew it was a prompting of the Spirit because…well, it was urgent. A deep, aching hunger. For Ezra? Sure, I’ve read it before, but nothing was sticking out in my mind. Why on earth would I be moved to read about the ancient priest and his people? What words did God have for me there?

If I listed everything I learned from just three chapters, this post would far exceed the five minute mark.

The people in exile return to the ruin of their home, the once-great city of Jerusalem. They take back with them all the precious items Nebuchadnezzer had stolen. The pagan community around them practically throws valuable items at them. They have no idea where to start, how to proceed. But they go.

The Nethinim. The Temple workers, who labored behind the scenes. The men who did the grunt work. Out of the spotlight, beyond the glory.

Chapter Three, verse three:

Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. (NKJV)

They did what the knew was right, despite their fear.

I was reminded: I cannot take my eyes off of the Lord. Not for a moment. Not for a fraction of a moment. I will be swallowed up by woe and worry, rack and ruin if I dare. Yes, I face ongoing health problems. Yes, my grandfather is in his final days. Yes, there are troublesome people and issues.

None of that is bigger than God.

And so this, the cry of my heart:

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)