Cries of the Poor

Comedian Steven Colbert made this statements:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

Now I am not one who believes that the United States was ever a “Christian Nation” in any true sense.  While it is evident that through our history our forefathers were guided by Judeo-Christian morays, and that the vast majority of citizens have traditonally recognized some expression of Christianity as the prevailing or most permeating faith in the land, the nation itself has held a different set of standards from than the gospel of Christ…

As to what solutions Colbert has to offer, I do not know.  But I know he has a valid point.

In a paper titled, Gospel-driven Principles, Dick Kaufmann, of Harbor Church in San Diego, makes these suggestions about our engagement with the poor:


The poor are mentioned over 200 times in the Old Testament. But who are the poor?

  • The Poor Are Needy. They have little or nothing of what the world values and as a result the world discards them. Now the Bible does say that some people squander the world’s goods and end up poor as a result of irresponsibility. But what is striking is this—80 to 90% of the passages on the poor do not say they had wealth but were irresponsible. On the contrary, there is reference to the fact that irresponsibility is a result of poverty not the cause of poverty. For example, Proverbs 10:15: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.” Frequently crime, addictions, irresponsibility, and unrest are a response to poverty. The Bible says by and large the vast majority of people who are in misery are born and come up having nothing of value so they are thrown away.

What is to be our response to the poor who are needy? Mercy. Overwhelmingly, the passages on the poor are not a rebuke to the poor but a call to God’s people to show them mercy. “Do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother…Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

  • The Poor Are Powerless. As a result they are oppressed. They have little that the world values but the little they have the world takes away. “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away” (Proverbs 13:23). “A poor man is shunned by all his relatives—how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found” (Proverbs 19:7). You see it is not just a matter of irresponsibility. Things are broken. The poor are powerless; as a result, the little that they have is taken away from them.

What is to be our response to the poor who are oppressed? Justice. God calls us to defend the cause of the oppressed (Psalm 82). “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). But the problem goes much deeper than any social program can deal with. And so the Bible not only exhorts us to do justice but also to look to the day when God will come and make all things right. “The needy will not always be forgotten (Psalm 9:18)…’Because of the oppression of the weak and groaning of the needy, I will arise,’ says the Lord” (Psalm 12:5). And so Jesus begins his ministry reading from Isaiah 61 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus is to bring relief to the poor through mercy and justice. The Gospel helps us to know the poor and the Gospel helps us to…


In Matthew, Jesus does say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). The Gospel comes to you only if you get rid of your middle-class spirit and get the spirit of the poor. That means three things:

  1. Acknowledge That You Are Needy. The middle-class spirit says: “If I live a good life then I will have something of value to present to God. If I give to the poor, show mercy and do justice I can present something to God that he will value. I can do it.” But the Gospel says: “No one is good, no not one.” Even our good deeds are filthy rags. They stink of self-righteousness. Because they have been done to feel superior to others and to get leverage with God so that He owes us a good life. They have absolutely no value to God.
  1. Acknowledge That You Are Powerless. The middle class spirit says: “Okay, if I have failed I will just pick myself up and try harder. I will turn over a new leaf. I may be down but I am not out. I’ll double my effort. Never say never, think positive, visualize success—I can do it. I will do it!” But the Gospel says: “Not only are you spiritually bankrupt with nothing of value to present to God but you are totally incapable of reversing the situation.” It is like a drowning man trying to pull himself out by his own hair. No, it is worse. It is like a dead man trying to dig himself out of the grave. The Bible says: You are spiritually dead and totally powerless to do anything that would merit God’s approval.
  1. Acknowledge That Your Only Hope Is A Poor Man. Trust in the King who became a poor man. He was born in a feed bin, in a cattle shed. At his dedication, his parents gave the smallest offering possible. He was raised in a poor family, in a poor community. All his life he was poor. “Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, had his last meal in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave. He died naked. He had little the world valued and the little he had was taken away. He was discarded, thrown away. And only because of Him do you we have any hope. Your only hope is a crucified poor man. If this offends you, you are middle class in spirit and you cannot be saved. You must become the poor. And finally, the Gospel calls us and enables us to…


To the extent that the Gospel works in your heart you will love the poor in three ways:

  1. You Will Identify With The Poor. You will see that they are just like you. You will see their dirty, tattered clothes and think: “All my righteousness is a filthy rag, but in Christ we both are clothed in his white robes of righteousness.” You don’t pity them. You have empathy for them, but you don’t look down on them. You respect them. Instead of serving them in a paternalistic way you see them as partners in ministry—people from whom you have much to learn.
  1. You Will Be Generous To The Poor. Does the Bible call us to give everything away? No. Does it call us to stay rich? No. The Bible calls us to become incredibly contented and daringly generous with what we have because our riches are in heaven.
  1. You Will Stand With And For The Poor. That’s what it means to do justice for the oppressed. The Gospel frees us from our obsession with our reputation and our comfort and enables us to so identify with the poor that we are willing to stand with and for them against injustice and oppression.

The Gospel of Jesus is for the poor and only the poor—the spiritually poor and especially the materially poor. For the Gospel to come to you, you must become poor. When that happens the Gospel enables you to know and love the poor.

Repenting of “Biblical” Manhood

Abstract Balance (Sutton)

The following was written by Kyle Worley, from Village Church in Dallas, and was posted on CBMW‘s web.  I thought about editing, but realized there is nothing I could add, nor is there anything for me to delete.  So I post it here in its whole, as one who shares this complimentarian  perspective (here, here) and sentiment.  ~ WDG


As we have been reflecting on some of the corruptions of biblical manhood, I think that it is high time that we take an opportunity to apologize for the impact and influence any of these corruptions have had on the home, the church, or the culture. Without a doubt it is one of the most perverse aspects of sin that it can take the truth of scripture and bend it to the will and the ways of man. Like God in the garden, who enquires “who told you that you were naked?” What corruptions have you swallowed? What lies do you believe? Who told you that ‘biblical’ manhood looked like that?

While we firmly believe that God has ordained complementarianism as the governing sexual and marital ethic of the Christian life, we acknowledge that a corrupt complementarianism and those false ways of living that some may have treacherously called ‘biblical’ manhood have led to the perversion of the wonderful truth that God has laid out for human flourishing in the home, in the church, and in the culture.

So, in the vein of those prophets who pled for the sins of their kinsman, it is time that we corporately repent and lament the perverseness of a manhood that has been shaped by sin and not by the authority of Scripture.


We confess that we are broken and are in need of your grace. May you draw our gaze to the God-man Jesus Christ and the full scope of scripture as the authoritative revelation for what biblical manhood should resemble.

We repent for the sins of our passive brothers, unwilling to lead when it counts.

We repent for the sins of our chauvinist brothers, covering up abuse in the name of authority and male leadership.

We repent for the sins of our brothers who refuse to grow up, Lord would you call them to greater maturity.

We repent for any machismo that has seeped into our churches , may we be disgusted with misogyny in all its forms.

We repent for men who are trying to escape from the responsibilities you have entrusted to them, may they find joy in their stewardship.

We repent for men who are attempting to “lone wolf” their lives, Lord may they find your church as beautiful as you do.

We repent for men unwilling to sacrifice their control and comfort to lead in all spheres of life , may they look to He who laid down His life for His bride.

We repent for men who are so jaded with cynicism that they lose love for the King and hope for his coming kingdom.

We pray that you would rescue women who are trapped in abuse and that you would crush the purposes of abusers who treacherously call themselves “complementarians” or “biblical men.” Bring them to repentance and comfort those who have been bruised and broken beneath their hands.

We pray for those men who are trapped in sexual immorality. Lord, would you break the chains of pornography in the life of the church. Those wicked chains that place men in shackles next to the sex trafficking victims, pornographers, and orphaned.

We pray that you would continue to renew a movement towards good, beautiful, and true complementarian practice. May the witness of those men and women who have been created in your image, given distinct roles in the world, and who treasure the gospel tell the true story of complementarianism. May the lies that creep in under the banner of complementarianism in churches, homes, and communities across the world be crushed by this witness.

Comfort the woman abused, the child orphaned, the widowed mother, the widowed father, the church filled with faithful women.

Comfort the young woman not righteously pursued, the young boy with no father to learn from, the wife who serves the belligerent and lazy husband.

Confront those trapped in sexual immorality, confront churches filled with passive men, confront the young men unwilling to grow up.

Crush abortion, crush the movement to undermine the beauty of Christian covenant marriage, crush the porn industry, crush abuse at home and in the church.

Come, Lord! Come, Lord! Come, Lord, would you come?


Kyle Worley is Connections Minister at the Village Church in Dallas, TX. He is the author of Pitfalls: Along the Path to Young and Reformed and blogs regularly at The Strife. You can find Kyle on Twitter @kyleworley.



Turning Consumers Into Missionaries

In this video, Hugh Halter offers some helpful suggestions about turning church consumers into people who live on mission for and with Christ. While this is a long video, in the current climate of American church culture, I found it worth taking the time to consider.  I broke it up into viewing sections – watching 15-20 minutes at a time, making note of the point at which I stopped, and picking up again as I had time.  While I don’t embrace all of Halter’s ecclesiology (i.e. ways we govern and do church), I am hungry to chew on any ideas in-line with the compelling mission of the gospel.  Halter has proven to have both an appreciation of the gospel and good ideas for missional mobilization.

Spiritual Chrysalis


In preparation for  this past Sunday message from Galatians, I again marveled at the insight and passion of Martin Luther concerning our Union with Christ:

“So far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvelous way of speaking!

Because He lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ’s; nevertheless, it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment that are through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit.

Since Christ lives in me, grace, righteousness, life, and eternal salvation must be present with Him; and the Law, sin, and death must be absent. Indeed, the Law must be crucified, devoured, and abolished by the Law—and sin by sin, death by death, the devil by the devil.

In this way Paul seeks to withdraw us completely from ourselves, from the Law, and from works, and to transplant us into Christ and faith in Christ, so that in the area of justification we look only at grace, and separate it far from the Law and from works, which belong far away…

But faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever and declares: ‘I am as Christ.’

And Christ, in turn, says: ‘I am as that sinner who is attached to Me, and I to him. For by faith we are joined together into one flesh and one bone.’

Thus Ephesians 5.30 says: ‘We are members of the body of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones,’ in such a way that this faith couples Christ and me more intimately than a husband is coupled to his wife.”

~ from Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4

Valley of Vision

Foggy Fall @ Cades Cove

Having spent the bulk of my years in ministry residing and serving in mountainous regions, this Puritan prayer, from which the Valley of Vision collection takes its title, has always carried deep meaning for me. For not only was it descriptive of my geographic and topographic surroundings, but even now that I am living a long way from any of the mountains I love, this prayer vividly depicts the state of my soul and reminds me of my hope.


Lord, High and Holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine;

Let me find your light in my darkness,
your life in my death,
your joy in my sorrow,
your grace in my sin,
your riches in my poverty
your glory in my valley.

Valley of Vision

Gospel vs. Legalism

Gospel vs. Legalsim

What is the difference between legalism and the gospel?

  • Legalism (or Moralism) says God looks at how well we keep the law.
  • The Gospel says we are hidden in Christ. So God sees how well Jesus kept the Law (perfectly), all his works, and his death on our behalf.  Consequently, because we are hidden in Christ, God sees the work of Jesus when he sees us. The gospel says that, because of God’s grace, all that Jesus is and did is credited (imputed) to us, through faith.  (Colossians 3.3, Ephesians 2.8, Romans 5.2, Galatians 2.20)

So what is the difference between the gospel and legalism? It is the difference between Christianity and every religion in the world.

Ministry Diagnosis Questions

Country Doctor

As a pastor it is not only requisite to be a student of God’s Word, but it is also essential to be a student of the people to whom I preach and teach.  This is true for any church or ministry leader.  If we do not know the Bible, and sound doctrine, we have nothing to offer. But even if we have voluminous knowledge, if we do not know the people with whom we are called to share these truths, then we will not know how to apply these truths.  It would be as ineffective as a medic possessing all the medicines but without enough biological understanding to make a valid diagnosis.

In a recent post, 9 Questions for Ministry Leaders, Paul Tripp identifies nine helpful questions to ask ourselves, and to discuss with the other leaders in our churches or ministries, as we attempt to become effective students and exegetes of our people:

  1. What are the cultural idols that are particularly attractive to my people?
  2. Where do they tend to buy into an unbiblical worldview with its accompanying hopes and dreams?
  3. Are there themes of spiritual struggle that I need to speak to?
  4. Where do they tend to get discouraged and need the hope of the gospel?
  5. What is the level of their biblical literacy and theological knowledge?
  6. How many of them are actively involved in service, and how many are “ecclesiastical consumers”?
  7. What do they tend to struggle with in the workplace?
  8. What do they wrestle with at home?
  9. What are they reading, watching, and listening to, and how are they influenced by it?

Thoughts on Patriots Deflate-gate

Deflated Balls

Listening to Bill Belichick this morning, addressing the scandal arising from the use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game this past weekend versus the Indianapolis Colts, one gets the sense that this allegation has him all choked up. He seems quite emotional about it, almost on the verge of tears.  Far from a mea culpa, Belichick is claiming a Sergeant Schultz-like “I know nothing“.  He sounds somewhat like Captain Renault, the police chief from Casablanca, in feigned disbelief: “I am shocked, shocked! … to find that gambling is going on in here!”  (Following which a croupier hands Renault a pile of money, saying: “Your winnings, sir.”  Renault responds: “Oh. Thank you very much.”)

For full disclosure, I am not a fan of the New England Patriots.  I appreciate the excellence they have exhibited over the past decade, but I do not root for them to win.  Being a Philadelphia native, I am a fan of the Eagles; and having lived in Pittsburgh for several years, I became a fan of the Steelers – which makes it almost inappropriate to ever want to see the Patriots win any game.   But even though I am not a fan of the Patriots, I am inclined to think of this Deflate-gate much ado about nothing.  Nevertheless, there does seem to be a pattern with the Patriots attempting end runs around the secondary rules of the game.  And Belichick’s emotional denial aside, it is difficult for me to accept that he has no idea about what is going on. He’s too good for this to be the case.

Earlier this week ESPN commentator, and former NFL QB, Trent Dilfer suggested that a deflated ball is more difficult to throw.  I have to differ with Dilfer to some degree.  Having played QB, in high school and in college, I will say Dilfer is correct that a truly deflated ball is more difficult to throw. However, a slightly deflated ball is easier to grip, and no less difficult to throw – especially for the shorter routes. And a slightly deflated ball is much easier to catch.

Deflation to this level is probably not noticeable to most. Perhaps only QB’s, Kickers & Punters, Receivers, and maybe Centers, would notice.  It does not feel like a deflated ball. But it is like the difference between the harder grip on a well-aired basketball and the slightly sqeezeable grip on a fresh tennis ball.  And on a cold, wet, day, this can be an advantage.

If this is the case, and there is an advantage gained, why would I say this is much ado about nothing?  Because it is simply a trick of the trade. It is the kind of thing that almost every QB or Kicker does, or wants to do, to gain some small advantage.  It is akin to the baseball pitcher scuffing the ball a little to gain a little more movement and control.  At worst it is like the baseball pitcher throwing a spitball – against the rules, but hardly a capital offense.

Against the rules it is, however.  And because there seems to be a pattern with the Patriots, under Belichick’s watch, I am not unsympathetic to calls for some kind of repercussion.

I find the NFL imposed $25,000 fine upon the Patriots to be a joke.  If the choice is between paying $25K and going to the Super Bowl, $25K is chump change as compared to the amount of money to be made as a Super Bowl participant – and especially if you end up the Super Bowl champs.  Ask any NFL owner, executive, or coach, if they could pay $25K to enhance their chances of reaching the Super Bowl, I’d doubt there would be any who would not cough up the cash.  The only thing that would keep some from doing so under this kind of circumstance is an integrity that would preclude them from ever willfully violating the rules.

On the other hand, the suggestion that the Patriots should be disqualified from playing in the Super Bowl is absurd.  As much as I would have preferred to see any other team get to the Super Bowl over the Patriots, not only is this suggestion absurd because it just won’t happen, but it should not happen.  It is overkill.

Still, because of the pattern by Belichick’s Patriots, some sort of discipline seems warranted – both for the Patriots, and to send a message to the other teams; as well as for the benefit of kids still developing in sportsmanship ethics.

As I suggested earlier, this offense might be seen as akin to the baseball pitcher throwing a spitball.  What happens when a pitcher is caught red handed in this illegal maneuver?  He is immediately ejected from the game.  What would be interesting, and I think might be appropriate, would be to suspend Belichick – or Tom Brady – from the Super Bowl.  Unless Brady is found to have been the culprit behind the deflation, and Belichick is shown to truly have known nothing, I would not see suspending Brady from the game.  But because of the variety of previous offenses, and because as coach all these kinds of things fall under his domain, suspending Belichick would be severe, but reasonable.  I would not suspend him from preparations. But suspend him from the actual game – no sidelines, no phone or computer communication during the game. This would be a seeming just punishment, and a strong statement by the NFL.

It won’t happen. But that’s OK. It’s just a thought.  And somewhere deep inside it may be more driven by my desire to see the Patriots lose than it is a longing for genuine justice.

5 Obedience Killing Lies

Colorful Confusion

No doubt in my mind, it is one of the more difficult aspects of living in line with the gospel. Is it about grace, or is it about obedience?  If I say “both” – which I do – then how does this not add a requirement of works to the gospel requirement of faith alone for our justification/salvation?  If I say obedience is not necessary to our salvation – which I also say – then are we not very close to the precipice of anti-nomianism (lawlessness)?  No wonder people scratch their heads, and then revert back to patterns learned or to personal instinct – both of which are often wrong.

To avoid confusion, I answered “Yes” to both grace and obedience for a reason.  Let me clarify.

I must say that our obedience is not necessary to our salvation, because we are incapable of perfect obedience – and perfect obedience is what the Law demands.  To add any measure of obedience to our justification would be to minimize the law and deny the gospel at the same time.  Christ became like us, and lived in perfect obedience to his Father, and then died in our place, because we are not and cannot be perfectly obedient.  And it we are not perfectly obedient, we are not obedient.  But by faith, we are counted as righteous – credited with Jesus’ righteousness as if it were our very own.  But part of what we must believe, as part of that faith is that we are disobedient.  In a real sense the admission of being disobedient is requisite to be saved. How then could we say that obedience is required for salvation?

On the other hand, God does demand obedience – and he is worthy of our total obedience.  But two things occur here, in some ways simultaneously.  First, the demand for what we do not and cannot do highlights our brokenness and our dependence upon grace – the grace of a savior.  The demand, coupled with our lack of obedience, drives us to either despair or to the cross. Those driven to the cross find, not condemnation, but forgiveness and love, through unmerited grace extended to us by God, because of Jesus.  This breaking, because we become aware of our disobedience, is a necessary step toward healing and wholeness.  But second, God’s demands are not a mere bait and switch. When he commands obedience, he means it.  Inability it no excuse.  He commands because obedience not only pleases him, we find that his ways are the ways the work, that lead us to the greatest joy.  In short, we find in both obedience and our failures to obey that God’s commands are really a tremendous gift of his love.

While I hope the reader will see the dichotomy – the two distinct tracks – I also hope all will be able to see how these two tracks work together.  Obedience cannot be required for salvation, because it denies both our reality and the necessity of the gospel.  But in walking with God, obedience is expected – though we fail, and are reminded of our continual need of grace – but it is expected, demanded, because through obedience we are able to bring joy to both God and ourselves.  Failure, or disobedience as a Christian does not cause the forfeiture of our salvation; but as Job discovered, we can forfeit the grace of joy that would otherwise be ours – and rob God of the joy that we would give to him.  But if that drives us back to the cross, we find grace anew, and we are renewed in faith, strength, to experience the joy that comes through gospel-prompted obedience.

Because this can be such a dizzying subject, I was appreciative when I recently read a short piece by Brad Watson, titled 5 Obedience Killing Lies.  Watson rightly notes:

Our ability to quit and become sidetracked is great.

I believe we get sidetracked by the confusion of the place of obedience, as well as by many other things that creep into our consciousness that hinder our pursuit of obedience.  Watson focuses on the more practical issues, rather than the confusion of the relationship of Law vs. Grace.  As he says in his article:

Our hearts are constantly being attacked by lies that keep us from persevering in faith. These five lies are particularly successful. They are deceptive and effective in killing our conviction to follow Jesus and trust in his work.

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Galatians For You & Other Resources

In the present sermon series in our church I am working through Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  Rather I should say “we” are working through the book of Galatians, as while I am preaching the bulk of the messages I am sharing the teaching with my Associate, Camper Mundy, and a couple of other pastors who are part of our church.  But in my preparations for each message there are a few non-technical resources I am uising that would also be beneficial for anyone who is studying Galatians – whether a seminary graduate or a typical church member wanting simply to deepen his/her understanding of this letter.

One of these resources is Tim Keller’s Galatians For You.  In the video above Tim introduces his intent in developing this book, and offers some suggestions of how it might be used beneficailly.  And though perhaps to those hearing my message may assume seeming little of Keller’s words may be overtly expressed my messages, without question the depth of Keller’s insights has helped shaped my understanding of this book and how the message applies to us today.

Below is a short list of some of the non-technical resources I am reading (or re-reading) during this series, Freedom: A Study of Galatians.

Hurt People Hurt People

There is an old expression that has long stuck in my mind: “Hurt people, hurt people.”  In other words, those who are hurting often lash out in some way and hurt others around them; and those who lash out are often themselves hurting on the inside.  Sometimes the offending individual is self-aware, but often the hurt person who is hurting others is neither conscious of their own pain nor of how they are effecting others. It is a viscious cycle.

In this video, Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte area, and former Indianapolis Colt & Carolina Panther Defensive Back, touches on this very issue. The gospel addresses this issue, freeing the one who has been hurt from hurting others, and freeing those who are being hurt to understand and forgive.

Heaven Peeper Recants His Story

Stairway to Heaven (B&W)

Not long ago I wrote expressing my skepticism about the claims depicted in the heart tugging film Heaven is For Real.  I have no doubts about the reality of heaven, it is just the claims of the boy who claimed to have visited heaven that I found dubious.  It is nothing personal about him.  I am highly suspicious of all of those charlatans making claims of peeping into heaven.  I think John Piper expressed it most succinctly:

“If books go beyond scripture, I doubt what they say…”

Interestingly, one of those who has been marketed as a heaven peeper, Alex Malarkey, has come out publicly with an open letter to LifeWay, criticizing the Publisher/Bookstore chain for selling his book.  Malarkey, who was the co-author and the central figure of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, has recanted his story, and ironically is challenging LifeWay to use better theological judgment in the materials they produce and promote.

To read the story click: Boy Who ‘Came Back’ Rebukes Christian Retailer

For those curious about Heaven – what God has revealed to us about Heaven in the Bible, I find Randy Alcorn‘s simple titled book, Heaven, to be the best I have read. I recommend it freely, and give it away often.


To Stop It or Not to Stop It, That is a Question

Street Lights at Night

The ministry web site,, reported news of an unfortunate event in Colorado, and then asked the provocative rhetorical question: “How would you have handled it?” After a little thought I decided I would take a stab at taking the question, taking it beyond the mere rhetorical, and actually trying to answer it – albeit purely hypothetically.

Here’s the situation:

Pastors of a church in Lakewood, Colo., halted a funeral service in their church for a lesbian woman on Saturday, January 10, because the tribute video the family prepared showed photos of the woman kissing her partner. Fifteen minutes after the service was to begin, lead the pastor canceled the event when organizers would not edit the footage out of the video. Mourners, which numbered more than 150, then re-loaded the casket into the hearse, gathered the flowers and proceeded across the street to a mortuary, where the service continued.

Whether this account gives sufficient accurate details, I do not know. Assuming that it does, I still think I would have reacted differently than the pastor of the church.  But lingering questions also make my response conditional.

First, I would want to know if the deceased woman was a member of the congregation or not.  It would make a difference.  I am assuming that she was not, since there is no mention of any connection with the church. And what is stated would seem to suggest she was not; that this was simply a business arrangement the church had with the local funeral home.

New Hope Ministries was chosen for the memorial service because of its location – close to where Collier and her friends grew up, friends said.

So my first thought is that, to the degree it us up to me, I would not likely have voted to approve the service at our church in the first place.  However, since the service had been approved, I am uncomfortable with the decision of the pastor to stop the service in progress.

Someone might be curious as to why I would not have voted to approve the service in the first place.  Perhaps there may even be an assumption of my motives – whether one would be inclined to agree with or chafe at those presumed motives.  But my answer is in one sense simpler, and in another more complex, than might be assumed.

I would not have voted to approve the service, not because of the sexual orientation of the individual, but simply because it would require an unusual circumstance for me to vote to use the church building for a service for someone with no connection with the church.  I would not say never, but rarely – and only with very good reason.  This is both a practical and communal issue.  Practically, funerals and weddings take a lot of manpower.  I would prefer to respect the time demands upon the deacons of our church, and our other volunteers, and not embrace a service for mere commercial reasons.  If, however, it is someone who is part of the church family, well then I think every reasonable effort ought to be made to honor the person and support the family.

Would sexual orientation have any effect on my decision?  No, not really. At least not to do what the pastor in this situation reportedly did.

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