Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Open Our Eyes, LORD

We actually have two issues to face today:
A.    Homosexuality as a chosen lifestyle
“Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.     Leviticus 18:22 (NLT)
It is not my desire to attack anyone today.  As such, my sincere hope is to encourage the Biblical, middle-way between keeping a clear witness of the sinfulness of homosexuality as a chosen lifestyle, and unquestioned respect for all persons who choose homosexuality as their pathway.  All persons are of unquestioned and inestimable worth in God’s eyes.  That is why He died for us…all of us.
B.     Covenant-breaking by a bishop 
There are six things the LORD hates— no, seven things he detests:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.    Proverbs 6:16 - 19 (NLT)
Breaking of Covenant

A timeline concerning retired Bishop Talbert’s actions:

·        Gen Conference 2012….Bishop Talbert spoke on the floor in support of full inclusion of LGBTQ[1] and promised to officiate at same sex unions/marriages if asked.
·        Oct 7, 2013 – announced plans to conduct a same sex ceremony; subsequently asked by (North Alabama Conference) presiding bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett to reconsider.
·        Oct 26 – Bishop Talbert defied Bishop Wallace-Padget’s request and broke church law by officiating at the ceremony.  In this he broke covenant with all clergy who have covenanted together to abide by orders and Discipline. (In this particular instance, among those of the United Methodist Church).
When God declares something (homosexuality) detestable…who is an earthly bishop to “correct” God?   The Bishop in question purports to have done this out of a sense of moral conviction that the overwhelming majority of United Methodists who affirm homosexuality to be sin – are “wrong, immoral and unjust.”[2]
Moral convictions are supposed to cut in every direction, including prestige, salary & benefits.  I do not read where Bishop Talbert surrendered such in protest.
The Good News (unofficial) UMC reported on their website[3]:
In an egregious act of defiance, Bishop Melvin Talbert has publicly and flagrantly violated the covenant that binds United Methodists together by officiating at a service of holy union between two men in Birmingham, Alabama.  We understand the emotional and sensitive nature of the sexuality debate within The United Methodist Church.  At the same time, same-sex marriage is not legal in the state of Alabama, nor is it permitted by the United Methodist Discipline.  Not only did Bishop Talbert defy church law, he ignored the urging of both Bishop Wallace-Padgett, bishop of Northern Alabama, and of the executive committee of the Council of Bishops not to preside over the service.  Elected and sworn to an office of unity, Bishop Talbert has instead chosen to use his position to foment greater division within the UM Church.
As Bishop Michael Coyner has recently stated, “A bishop of the church, whether active or retired, has a special responsibility to teach the faith, to guard the church, and to order the administration and discipline of the church… I don’t think we can be ‘church’ together without a commitment to such order.”
Good News calls upon the Council of Bishops to exercise discipline and hold Bishop Talbert accountable, as they have publicly promised to do on several occasions.  A failure to hold accountable Bishop Talbert and other clergy who are flaunting our church’s policies will result in the unraveling of our church’s covenant and order.  Formal separation may not be far behind.

How do you feel about homosexuality?

Feelings (pro & con) about homosexuality are subjective and beside the point.  What is in the foreground of concern for the created order is what the Creator intended.  And, only God can speak for God.  Fortunately, God does speak.  In Scripture God has given us ample understanding that sexual relationship is intended for only heterosexual, monogamous persons.  For those who are unmarried, sexual abstinence is required.

Truth forever on trial

Humans (even Bishops and other clergy) obscure the truth because of their own guilt:
Sara Thompson Tweedy is an elder in the New York Conference.  Charges are pending for being a practicing lesbian.  Indeed she was married to a woman in Canada in 2008.  This after being ordained in 2006 – with full knowledge that homosexuality is a “chargeable offense” (meaning she can be dismissed, her credentials withdrawn).
Tweedy said of the impending church trial:
What kind of ‘just resolution’ can come out of an unjust process?[4]
How is a process unjust if it is known and accepted?
Sometimes truth becomes a victim of rationalization because of lust; people sometimes blame their sin on God for making me this way.
Bishops sometimes get it wrong because of pride.
3 Statements about homosexuality

1.          Homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle

 “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. “A man must not defile himself by having sex with an animal. And a woman must not offer herself to a male animal to have intercourse with it. This is a perverse act. “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for the people I am driving out before you have defiled themselves in all these ways. Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out. You must obey all my decrees and regulations. You must not commit any of these detestable sins. This applies both to native-born Israelites and to the foreigners living among you. “All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled. So do not defile the land and give it a reason to vomit you out, as it will vomit out the people who live there now. Whoever commits any of these detestable sins will be cut off from the community of Israel. So obey my instructions, and do not defile yourselves by committing any of these detestable practices that were committed by the people who lived in the land before you. I am the Lord your God.”"   Leviticus 18:22-30 NLT
Do not!  This is not a suggestion; the Bible not vague here.  When the Bible is silent, leave room for interpretation.  When the Bible is definitive, proclaim its truth like your life depends on it.
Greco-Roman culture accepted homosexuality; many emperors were homosexual.  But although it has been culturally and legally pushed in our culture so that a majority tolerates equal “rights”, have you noticed that there is now a new quest? 
The next frontier is conquering moral legitimacy.  In short, now we are in a battle for the church, unquestioned bastion of moral authentication.  What signs are there signifying this new front?

Shift from 70’s to present…

Sexual preference alternative lifestyle  sexual orientation sexual identity
Language helps us understand what people attempt to communicate in more than words.  The terminology of a generation defines how it sees morality.  Note the way referring to “other than heterosexual sexuality” has shifted in the last 4 decades:
“Preference” and “alternative” (which presume choice) gave way to “orientation” and “identity” a more I-was-made-this-way-don’t-blame-me friendly label.
The battle for the church

From without the church

Most attacks center on typecasting believers as intolerant, uneducated and bigoted.  The main strategy is to make the church look bad…perception creating its own reality. 
The most common tool is to twist Scripture out of its contextual direction to support the premise that to be “conventionally-Christian” is to be anti-everything.
For instance, when Jesus said “judge not”, he meant it; we are not to arrogantly judge others’ intentions or their heart.  When it is used by enemies of the church it is more likely to mean:  leave me alone so I can sin without your helping of guilt.
This is nothing new.
A larger problem however is…

Decay from within the church -----

Bishop Talbert’s letter:
On May 4, 2012 (during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference), I declared that the church’s official position is wrong and evil …it no longer calls for our obedience.” [5]
With all due respect, Bishop Talbert does not speak church law into existence for the United Methodist Church.  He may have stated it, but that does not make it a declaration of independence for anyone but himself.  It only convicts him of the premeditated act of willfully-violating his ordination vows, his promises to the church and God.
Officiating at same-sex unions is a chargeable offense under the Book of Discipline. Clergy convicted in a church court can face a loss of clergy credentials or lesser penalties. However, church law does not censure those who disagree with church teaching on this matter — only those who take actions that violate church law.
Again, respectfully – what Bishop Talbert did was break covenant with all (particularly) UMC clergy; he is free to speak for or against any issue (as am I and all clergy); he is not free, according to his vows of ordination and commitment as a bishop to break the church laws. 
Agree or not, I have trouble with his subsequent, almost cavalier statement:
“I have openly spoken out against my own church,” he said.  “What they do, I can’t begin to say.  Personally, I’m not losing any sleep over it.”
I believe I would lose sleep over what threatens the church’s fellowship and future…no matter which side of this I feel compelled to follow.
Bottom Line:   Homosexuality is Not acceptable to God whose authority sets our boundaries.  Moral legitimacy or “tolerance” means progression down that track to accept other behaviors lumped (by Scripture) together with homosexuality:
(Bestiality, Sadism, Polygamy, Child sacrifice, Euthanasia)
It is not acceptable to God because it is harmful to humans!  In Romans, writing of those who stood against God, in favor of personal choices, Paul charges that God gave them over  -(to reprobation)-  God withdraws when man insists!  The natural consequence of homosexuality is moral moron syndrome - when you will not make Godly choices, the time comes when you cannot make Godly choices

2.          Homosexuality may or may not be “natural” but either way presupposes choice  

"So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done."    Romans 1:24-28 NLT    
There are two prevalent strains of thought today.  Homosexuality is extant because of sexual identity (DNA), or because of personal preference (sociological peer pressure).  
Genes?  God does not intentionally create evil or vileness. (Note the highlighted scripture above - v.27)
So, is it sociologically-induced behavior “against the natural”?  Are people who have a vile nature drawing others into the lifestyle?  It’s not DNA, but rather evil design?
It hardly matters.  Either way all of us inherit Adam’s sinful nature.  Whether genes or social conditioning the result in us is that we follow our inner proclivities towards chosen behavior.  
As an example, I must consider that it is unnaturally human for me to want as much chocolate as could be used to construct a Buick….but I want it nonetheless.  In the end it matters not whether my genes force me to lust after Hersheys by the wagonload, or if some evil chocolate dealer got me hooked – God has other rules…about gluttony…eating that much chocolate is bad (even for a preacher). 
I have a choice about how I will behave and God requires us to “choose holy”:
"For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”"    1 Peter 1:16 NLT        

Result (consequence) of choosing other:

There is “cause and effect” for every part of God’s created order.  Choosing sexual immorality is no exception:
"But I will tell you what will happen to cowards and to everyone who is unfaithful or dirty-minded or who murders or is sexually immoral or uses witchcraft or worships idols or tells lies. They will be thrown into that lake of fire and burning sulfur. This is the second death." Revelation 21:8 (CEV)

3.          Christ provides THE way out of homosexuality

"Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 18-20 NLT           
There are reasons why many homosexuals never hear this:


Being “washed and made holy” presupposes a prior filth.  Pride won’t admit to needing the salvation of anyone.

Spiritual blindness  

Sometimes we don’t see because we refuse.  Those who choose pride over surrender to Christ fail to see because they won’t back off from their spiritual sickness long enough to engage with the Healer of Galilee.
There is a couple who are dear friends of mine.  We served together in a little church in north Florida.  Their son, Danny got trapped early in the gay lifestyle.  Their hearts were broken, but they kept the lines of communication open, and the prayer line hot.
Years went by and their teen became a twenty-something, then early thirties.  Danny had AIDS and this was before many of the sophisticated drugs we have today, so it was a death sentence.
Danny’s Mom had never led anyone to Christ before, and had that as one of her heart’s desires.  Nearing the end, Donna and Dan spent many hours and days in the hospital with Danny. 
On the night before he died Danny began to ask questions about life after death.  He had watched his Mom and Dad’s faith and certainty of Christ’s love over the years.  He wanted to know!
In the wee hours of the morning Donna led her son to the throne of God’s grace, and Danny prayed to receive Jesus.
Both fell asleep, Danny, frail, pale and simply skin, bone and spirit; Donna, exhausted, hurting and filled with joy. 
In the early dawn, Donna woke to the strangest sight; Danny was smiling.  She hadn’t seen his sweet smile in weeks…but there it was.  She wasn’t really sure, so she asked him, “Danny, are you all right?  Do you hurt, son?”
“I’m fine, mama.  The man said it will be all right.”
“What man?  Danny, there’s no one here; what man are you talking about?”
“Him,” said Danny, pointing to the end of his hospital bed.  “It’s the man with the wings.  He said I’m going to get to go home this morning.”
A few hours later, hope and seeing through a glass darkly became a reality for Danny. 
There is a way out of homosexuality.  In those last hours it was not Danny’s hundreds of partners he wanted – only his family – and a forever family!
What should I do?
The saying attributed to too many to know who said it first is:
In essentials – unity, in non-essentials – liberty, in all things - charity

Essentials – sin is sin. 

Christians are not called to argue with everybody over who’s right; we are called to witness.  Don’t walk around condemning everyone’s actions.  Rather live the good news until you earn the right to share it with your neighbor.


Don’t get bogged-down in outward appearances or even others’ behavior.  Remember you were once a condemned sinner also. 

Charity in all things

Be ready to meet needs, love like Jesus who gave himself
As for Bishop Talbert and all who would tear the UMC apart with their love of false doctrine – why not start your own denomination?
God hates those who cause strife and division in the family.

Source References
Throughout this message, direct quotes have been attributed by footnote, however, I acknowledge hybridization of a number of concepts, joining the thoughts of (sometimes) several authors, and here list my source-file which contained many pages of reading.
Proverbs 28:25, James 3:14-16, 1 Timothy 6:1-5, Galatians 5:20
Wayne MajorHomosexuality and the Push for the Church, on SermonCentral.com
Doug Raymer, What About Homosexuality, on SermonCentral.com
Bishop Talbert http://umcconnections.org/2013/10/26/bishop-talbert-performs-alabama-wedding-two-men/

[1] Acronym for persons of Lesbian-Gay-Bi-sexual-Trans-gender and Queer lifestyle choice
[2] Talbert’s statement (see sources) concerning the UMC Discipline

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