Posts Tagged With: First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Modern-Day Elijahs I: The Person God Calls

In a chapter title in his classic book, Why Revival Tarries, Leonard Ravenhill asked, “Where are the Elijahs of God?” The question is a slight twist on the prophet Elisha’s question, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). Ravenhill observed that, although God has not changed and is still on the throne, the church fails to have a powerful impact because there are few godly men of Elijah’s character:

To the question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” we answer, “Where He has always been‒on the throne!” But where are the Elijahs of God? We know Elijah was “a man of like passions as we are,” but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was. One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men‒not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents our stumbling blocks!

Ravenhill’s question is probably more relevant now than it was in 1959, when he first posed it. God raised up Elijah at a time when Israel had drifted far from Him‒so far that it could no longer be recognized as a nation in covenant with Him. It was a nation under godless rule.

As I write this post, it has been about two months since the United States Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage should be allowed throughout the nation. A county clerk, who is a Christian, is in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples with her name on them. Freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by our Constitution, has been trashed in favor of a man-made right to sin. Thousands of babies continue to be slaughtered in the womb, and now we find that their body parts are sold for medical research.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a series of articles based on a Bible study series I taught when I was serving as assistant pastor. The series, inspired in part by Ravenhill’s insight, was entitled “Modern-Day Elijahs,” and was intended to challenge believers to emulate the life of Elijah. We need such men and women in 2015.

Let us begin with a brief introduction to the man, his times, and his ministry. Elijah first appears in 1 Kings 17:1:

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

The name Elijah means “Yahweh is my God,” pointing to his complete devotion to the one true God of Israel. He lived in troubled times. Ahab was ruling as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. The previous king, Ahab’s father Omri, was an evil man who “acted more wickedly than all {the kings} who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25). It is interesting that, beginning with Omri’s reign, the northern kingdom was less frequently referred to as “Israel” and more often referred to by other names. In secular sources from those times, the nation is often called the house or land of Omri, instead of Israel.

Ahab was not much better. According to 1 Kings 16:29-31, he started by following in his father’s footsteps. Then, things became worse after his wedding. His wife Jezebel, a daughter of the king of Sidon and worshipper of the false god Baal, brought massive change to Israel. She established Baal-worship as the state religion, appointed prophets and priests to serve her deity, and executed as many prophets of Yahweh as she could (only Elijah and a few who had been hidden and protected in caves survived her reign of terror).

Elijah rises up in these dark days. The Bible tells us little about his background: It tells us he is a settler of Gilead, which was a region populated by members of three Israelite tribes: Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. We do not know if he was a member of any of these three tribes: while the word “Tishbite” may refer to his ancestral clan or his hometown, some scholars suggest it may mean “stranger.” If that is the case, Elijah could have been a non-Israelite who had converted to faith in Yahweh.

However, none of this is certain. Scripture is not too concerned about Elijah’s background or ancestry. It is concerned about his zealous faith in God. As Ravenhill said, “One praying man stands as a majority with God,” and Elijah was that one man! Because he knew the one true God and had spent time with him, he could say with certainty that he would say when it would rain. Even though Baal may have been viewed as a nature deity who controlled the rain and agriculture, Elijah would be so bold as to say he knew when the one true God would act.

Such are the people who God is looking for in America in 2015. He is looking for men who will stand before Him, not bowing to the false gods of American culture. Although Baal worshippers may have bowed before idols made of wood, gold, or silver, Americans often bow before other gods: our political elite, money, economic power-brokers, entertainers and other celebrities, false religions (atheism, New Age, watered-down versions of Christianity), media, etc. God is looking for committed believers who will stand before Him in prayer, instead of kneeling to our culture’s false gods for brainwashing.

The man who stands before God can stand against anything that the flesh, the world, or the devil may throw at him. We will see how God provides for and protects those who answer His call in our next study.

NOTE: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
This post copyright © 2015 by Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Same-sex Marriage: How Should the Church Respond?

It has been over a week since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage must be allowed in all 50 states. I have waited until now to post, in part to avoid making the sort of knee-jerk responses that have flown around the Internet. To listen to some people, you would think that every Bible-following church in America will be forced to lock its doors next week, and that Jesus has retired as King of Kings and turned all authority over to Satan.

There are a number of reasons for Christians to be concerned about its ruling in the case, Obergefell v. Hodges. One is the likely “normalization” of homosexual marriage. Judging from previous history, it is likely that children born 20 years from now will not have a clue that same-sex marriage was ever considered unusual, let alone illegal. It will probably be as socially acceptable in 20 years as inter-racial marriage is today. Whereas there is nothing in the Bible prohibiting inter-racial marriage, Scripture is unanimous in its condemnation of homosexuality. It will become increasingly challenging for the church to teach a biblical view of marriage in a society where same-sex marriage is commonplace. However, this is nothing new; we have faced this challenge with the issue of premarital sex over the last couple generations.

Another major factor is the implications of this ruling for freedom of religion. I do not fear that allowing two men to marry will somehow harm my own marriage. However, I am concerned that a government which legalizes gay marriage will one day require me to accept and approve of it. Will my church be prohibited from “discriminating against homosexuals” by refusing to violate Scriptural teaching and church tradition to perform homosexual weddings. Many proponents of the Supreme Court’s ruling say this is not the case, and that the ruling includes a “conscience clause” for religious organizations. The Court’s majority ruling reads as follows:

“Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

On the surface, it sounds good. The ruling says that religious groups and persons may continue to “teach” or “advocate” their beliefs; however, it really does not go further than that. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissenting opinion: “The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise‘ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” Judging from previous landmark rulings by the Supreme Court, the lack of this word could lay the foundation for future erosion of religious freedom in same-sex marriage.

So, how should we as Christians respond to the ruling?

We must remain faithful to God and His Word. When ordered by the local authorities to stop preaching Christ, the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Even in the face of persecution, the early Christians chose to obey God’s will when it conflicted with the laws of man. We must do likewise.

Second, we must focus on the entire Gospel, rather than emphasizing one sin. While the Bible teaches against homosexuality, it also condemns many other sins. Yes, the Bible does say that homosexual behavior is “an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). However, it also identifies several other sins as abominations. On the basis of Proverbs 6:16-19, are we willing to excommunicate liars, people who create strife among brethren, or those with haughty eyes? Many Christians will have nothing to do with a homosexual, but if someone has pride we will probably appoint him to a place of leadership in the church.

As Christians, we should not endorse any sin. Yes, we live in a world filled with sinners, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The proper response to all sin is confession and repentance, not endorsement, excuses or approval. On the other hand, our first responsibility is to confess and repent from our own sins. Far too many Christians are eager to complain about the Supreme Court’s ruling while making excuses for their own lust or other sinful behavior.

Third, remember that Jesus Christ came to save all sinners. Homosexuality is often listed with other sins:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NASB).

All of these are sins that Jesus came to forgive. None are beyond His grace of power to deliver. Our job as Christians is to preach the Gospel and introduce them to Jesus. It is our responsibility to proclaim Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to transform sinners’ lives when they repent and come to Him.

I would like to close with what may be my most radical proposal in this post. It came to me probably within 24 hours of hearing about the Supreme Court’s ruling, but I have heard similar proposals from some politicians since then. A few states even considered eliminating state-issued marriage licenses in response to the Court’s ruling.

Let us, as the Church, eliminate the connection between civil marriage (which requires a license) and holy matrimony (which is a sacrament or ordinance performed by the church or other religious body). If a couple wants a marriage license so that their union can be recognized by the state, let them go to the courthouse and have a ceremony officiated by a justice of the peace or other government official. If they want their union blessed by God, let them come to the church and receive the sacrament of holy matrimony (or whatever wording your religion prefers—different religious bodies prefer different terminology and even many churches dislike the word “sacrament”). If they want both, they are free to do both and then decide which ceremony really matters for the purposes of consummating their relationship or defining anniversary celebrations. This will allow civic officials to grant legal benefits to people under state and federal laws, while allowing religious bodies to continue to determine who is eligible to receive a religious ceremony that implies divine blessing.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will not be the last word about same-sex marriage. States will revise their ordinances based on this ruling. Religious bodies will have to decide how they will respond. Public debate will continue, as it has for abortion. The challenge for Christians is to remain faithful to God and learn how to follow Him in a society that is increasingly hostile to our faith.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stop Online Censorship

You may notice the “STOP CENSORSHIP” ribbon in the upper-right corner of this blog’s page. I urge all readers to click on that ribbon and take a stand for freedom of expression in America.

Normally, I would reserve more politically-oriented commentary for my other blog, but freedom of expression is important to me. (Actually, take a look at my other blog; I took more drastic action there!) I believe it is important for Christians to speak our minds, and I am grateful to live in a country where we have freedom of speech.

I have half-jokingly referred to the First Amendment as every American’s “right to be wrong” or “right to sound stupid.” In all honesty, though, it is really every American’s right to openly and publicly express ideas which may be radical, controversial, or unpopular. It allows us to oppose the status quo, to speak out when our government and society has gone awry. Whether it be evangelism or social activism, we need freedom of expression to make a better future for those who will come after us.

I urge anyone who reads this to do the following:

  • Go to http://wordpress.org/news/2012/01/help-stop-sopa-pipa/ to learn more about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, both of which are racing through Congress.
  • Click on the “STOP CENSORSHIP” ribbon on this page and sign the online petition. If you care about your right to speak your mind in this country, let your congressional representatives know.

That ribbon will be on this blog until January 24 and “Mike’s Blog” will be blacked out until then as well. I pray that Congress does not pass drastic legislation which can be abused to shut down websites and rob ordinary people of their voice in society.

Categories: Current events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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