The Romance of Homosexuality

As I look out the window in my office I see that the weatherman’s prediction was right. It’s snowing. The coming storm came.

Rachel Holt, from KMVT, came by on Tuesday to get some thoughts from me on the same-sex marriage discussion going on in the region. I don’t know how the end result, post edit, context statements will come across yet, but I’ve been pondering the critical moment the church is in today (as she always has been.)

The apostle Paul told Timothy to be a pillar and buttress of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). There is always a need for the church to be this voice.

If we allow emotion to rule our lives we will always lean toward being an enemy of God. Today, many are advocating for states to recognize same-sex partners as the “same as” heterosexual marriages. This is complex isn’t it?

This is a definition issue, not a rights issue.

There is no place for anyone to treat a homosexual as a lesser person or less than. This is the complexity of the matter. To speak against homosexuality is interpreted as equal to racial discrimination. This is not the same topic.

Marriage is unique. It is all about differences; books are written, studies are conducted, conferences are held, and the bible declares the two – male and female – are one.

Now, I’m distracted from the reason for writing today.

The matter on my mind today is about the future of the church. I’m not worried about the future of the church, Scripture says that the church will prevail. My interest is in regard to Paul’s argument to Timothy about why he tells him to be a pillar and buttress of truth.

There is no reason for Paul to instruct Timothy to be this unless there is a present and a future need. Paul picked up the architectural illustration of weight supporting elements that cause buildings to be safe today and remain into the future. Without them, everyone is at risk of being injured.

There is little romance when it comes to talking about absolutes. People are won over with stories the pull on emotionalism, but the church is instructed to be mindful to “structural” (truthful) integrity. A building’s integrity is depending on the integrity of the architect. Marriage, if it is to survive, must find its stability in the integrity of its architect. The church is blessed with the responsibility to both know and speak this truth into her culture.

Let’s be honest about this…

There is a clear and bold agenda in our land today to redefine the term “marriage.” The way the enemy of the Lord is doing this is with winsome stories that pull on emotional strings of caring people.

The Lord’s people are caring people.

The enemy knows this about our design, it’s our character. We care about people. We meet peoples needs. We seek ways to pull together and help struggling people. Look at our history.

In caring for people, we must never compromise our place in our communities. Our duty to the city is to be a pillar and buttress of truth, not the carnival atmosphere non-profit organization that many have become. This is why, when we abandon this role and blind ourselves with emotionalism, we become a danger to our community rather than a truly safe place.

The state of Idaho may soon travel down the same path as other states; but church, you must not abandon your duty.

We are no longer safe harbors in dangerous windstorms, we no longer safely navigate ships to port if we put the light out of the lighthouse, we can no longer rescue a perishing soul when we rule the day with un-directed emotion.

Yes, we are still emotional beings. We care about people. But when we care about them, we love them enough to plead with them from the safe place of truth.

Is the church prepared for the coming storm? Have we prepared our children to prepare their children to be the pillar and buttress of truth? Or have we simple taught them how to change with the times and keep the numbers up? Will we really turn to the survey conducting arm of our denominational publishing houses? Or are you prepared to steadfastly keep your gaze on the King of Glory?  Has the church forgotten? Her duty is to her Savior.

Twin Falls… Idaho… United States of America… If you want to build a society with a redefined definition of marriage, you are surely going about it the right way. But are you prepared for God to turn you over to your sinful cravings?

Church of the Lord Jesus Christ… are you going to speak into this matter with truth-less ‘caring’? Oh, arise church! Don’t turn that lamp of truth off as the storm approaches. Keep it on, do the unromantic thing and keep the light on. It’s your duty. Do it even when the culture complains about how the lamp keeps them up at night. Arise, church, and teach truth. Arise, church, and give helpful compassion to a spiritually ‘homeless soul’ in the raging blizzard of our day, and be a safe-haven that will provide lasting refuge as well.

Vance Havner put it this way: ”Perhaps we do not sharpen the ax because it means work and hard, unromantic effort. Our lives need a going over now and then and the flesh does not relish it.”

 

Discouragement, That Leach Draining Me of My Hope

If disappointment is an un-caged beast then discouragement is a leach draining me of my hope.

Reflecting on February 11, 2010–

Most of that day was waiting! I did laundry, talked, laughed, read, sang, read, napped, wrote, re-read notes from Renee and waited. This day reminded me of how selfish my outer man is unless the Spirit gives direction. I find that if direction is not given to my feelings, I begin to feel sorry for myself and the cloud of great unknowns lay like a blinding fog on top of everything.

The only place I could be alone was in the bathroom area for any length of time, and even then not left alone for long. I walked through the damp sheet that separates the hallway from the bathroom and immediately begin to splash through the poorly drained floors that must be filled with everything that doesn’t drain. I splash my way to a stall and begin to weep with my face to the wall.

I pondered; Why do I have to hide my emotions from the others? Why can’t I keep discouragement from latching itself upon me like a leach and draining me of my hope? Why did I send word on to Silas to come with me? Why this fear? Can I endure a conviction of guilt? What has happened to my name? Will anyone ever respect me again? Can I live the rest of my life separated from Renee? Why does the proof of our innocence have to go through this agony? Why do they have to continue putting beans in my rice?

I found myself complaining to God, thus proving my completely selfish nature that plagues me all the days of my life. Is this my ‘thorn in my flesh’? I can’t believe I’m complaining to you God. You graciously provided. You are not unjust to give me Hell, yet you have chosen to receive glory from me. And look at me, complaining. I’m suffocating in my selfishness.

I would weep to hear from God.

Then… the Psalms would lodge themselves in my mind. I would begin to preach to myself a non-disappointing hope in Christ. And the answers to my questions began to be answered with satisfaction. Where does my help come from? “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” I deserve Hell and God has given me his word to read every day while in this pit. I deserve Hell and God has allowed me to use my shoes and my Bible as a pillow at night. I deserve eternal separation from God and God has fed me every day. So I must lift my eyes off of this wall of filth and look to the Lord, the King of Glory. If conviction is lowered upon us, and it will be within the pleasure of God for His name’s sake, then He will not be unfair to do so. I will be in need of You dear God, to help me point You to the nations to show them from where my hope comes from.

God what does hope in you look like in a dark jail cell? How have you carried countless others through much worse than this? Will I be able to say, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth?” With or without freedom?

1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. 4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. 5 The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. , 6 The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. 7 The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. 8 The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.      Psalm 121:1-8 (HCSB)

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May the grace of God give strength to his servant Saeed Abedini in Iraq, today.

Don’t Waste Your Disappointment

Following is an excerpt from my journal entries from 2010. The date was February 4, 2010. It was our first day in court with a lawyer. There were so many things for me to learn about God during those ordained days, but this one was of significance.

Disappointment is a suffocating monster. I nearly missed the right work that God intended when he released that caged beast. There would be much more for me to learn about disappointment and the focus of my hope; but on that day, I began to learn a needed lesson for what was still to come.

Contact me for a free .pdf copy of the entire journal from January 12 – February 17, 2010.
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Journal Date, February 4, 2010: Port-au-Prince, Haiti  

We are told that release is sure to come today because we now have a lawyer. We have yet to talk to this lawyer and find out what his plan is. We are only aware that this lawyer has been secured [by] connections with people who know [him].

We are scheduled [for] a meeting with [another judge] in a higher court today. That seems to indicate a release may come today. Our hope is high.

We are transported from the jail to the court house around 11:00am.

We gather all of our belongings and make our way to [the police vehicle.] We are mostly in one vehicle. Laura and Charisa are transported in a 2nd vehicle.

The media is pressed [in] upon us with insulting comments about our faith and probing for any nugget of information from us to make a headline of. The ride from jail to court was fast, wild, and unbelievable. The media is on the chase after us on motorcycles, cameras in hand, nearly crashing multiple times. It’s as if the police are trying to out race the media to the courthouse.

CourDayNikki

photo reference: Associated Press

Our meeting at court today was with a prosecuting judge of some kind. This prosecutor has the ability to declare us innocent if he decides [we are.] He questions us for about two hours. Nikki and Silas are by far the best in dialog with the [judge]. Both are pleasant, respectful and articulate.

Our lawyer has done little and speaks little on our behalf. He spends a good bit of time on his mobile phone. I found his involvement interesting. He left the room with the prosecutor and they are gone for about 10 minutes. When they returned the prosecutor told us that he finds our story believable and wishes he could release us. Instead of release however, he informs us that we now have two charges against us. This is a shock. First charge is illegal trafficking of children. Second charge is kidnapping. Because we have two charges now he does not have the legal right to release us. We will have to go back to jail and go before the next prosecutor above him.

We are still on a ‘roller coaster’ ride of encouragement and disappointment all day long.

As we board the [police vehicles] to return to jail, the insults from the media begin again. Some are asking how we are doing but mostly insulting comments of our faith. This causes me to internally consider many things. Yet I have to pray against my flesh to second guess our task and purpose here.

I must discipline my mind to stay the course. I must discipline my mind to weigh everything against His word.
I have to fight my mind to stay the course, meditate upon His word, live from the nourishment of the Bread of Life. Disappointment comes like a dart; striking fast and penetrating deep. I must discipline my mind. I must put on the Armour of Truth to know and determine how to take in all things.

Paul Thompson, Carla Thompson

Photo: Associated Press

It is clear on the ride back to jail that we begin to irritate each other. The disappointment was nearly crushing.
The Haitian inmates were in as much shock as we were when we returned. I gather the men together to pray for each other and especially as we hear some verbal arguments among some of the women. I’m sure it is founded in disappointment.

I ask God to use our disappointment to drive us to Him. I don’t want to waste my disappointment. I want to use it for the purpose that it appears God is allowing it. Take me to Your throne of grace that I may glorify Your name.

It is also becoming apparent that the other inmates are becoming agitated that we get so much attention and that we are still here. Our prayer remains focused, our resolve to stay the course grows stronger.

We have now begun to hear reports that nine of us will be released on Monday and Laura will remain in custody. This rumor about release is appealing, but the idea of Laura remaining alone here is troubling.

Prayer:
1 Lord, I seek refuge in You;
let me never be disgraced.
Save me by Your righteousness.
2 Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mountain fortress to save me.
3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
You lead and guide me
because of Your name.
4 You will free me from the net
that is secretly set for me,
for You are my refuge.
5 Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;
You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

6 I hate those who are devoted to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love
because You have seen my affliction.
You have known the troubles of my life
8 and have not handed me over to the enemy.
You have set my feet in a spacious place.

9 Be gracious to me, Lord,
because I am in distress;
my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow—
my whole being as well.
10 Indeed, my life is consumed with grief
and my years with groaning;
my strength has failed
because of my sinfulness,
and my bones waste away.
11 I am ridiculed by all my adversaries
and even by my neighbors.
I am dreaded by my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street run from me.
12 I am forgotten: gone from memory
like a dead person—like broken pottery.
13 I have heard the gossip of many;
terror is on every side.
When they conspired against me,
they plotted to take my life.

14 But I trust in You, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 The course of my life is in Your power;
deliver me from the power of my enemies
and from my persecutors.
16 Show Your favor to Your servant;
save me by Your faithful love.
17 Lord, do not let me be disgraced when I call on You.
Let the wicked be disgraced;
let them be silent , in •Sheol.
18 Let lying lips be quieted;
they speak arrogantly against the righteous
with pride and contempt.

19 How great is Your goodness
that You have stored up for those who •fear You
and accomplished in the sight of •everyone
for those who take refuge in You.
20 You hide them in the protection of Your presence;
You conceal them in a shelter
from the schemes of men,
from quarrelsome tongues.
21 May the Lord be praised,
for He has wonderfully shown His faithful love to me
in a city under siege. ,
22 In my alarm I had said,
“I am cut off from Your sight.”
But You heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried to You for help.

23 Love the Lord, all His faithful ones.
The Lord protects the loyal,
but fully repays the arrogant.
24 Be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord.[44]

Psalms 31:1-24 (HCSB)

New Horizon Home (tBC005)

Today’s broadcast is a recorded interview with Alex Veillard, director of New Horizon Home in Port-au-Price, Haiti. Renee and I just returned from a trip to Port-au-Prince.

GE

00:00 – Introduction
03:00 – A friendship born in adversity
08:43 – Why start New Horizon Home?
11:48 – the Schedule at New Horizon Home
22:15 – More information about New Horizon Home
26:25 – Singing

GE GE GE

 

Interview with Jeff Norton (tBC004)

Listen in to a recent conversation with Jeff Norton (recorded on January 22, 2014) pastor at NorthRidge Fellowship in Jerome, Idaho. This interview was conducted at our favorite place to meet, Chick-fil-A. Enjoy!

00:00 – Meet Jeff Norton
03:00 – Meet Jeff’s Family (the Norton Clan)
05:30 – Conversion (Ephesians 2:1)
09:16 – Inward Calling and Outward Calling
11:53 – Go West, Young Jeff, Go West!
17:53 – Significant Books

22:02 – Advice to Young Preachers
28:46 – Sermon Preparation
30:45 – Romans 8:28
32:22 – It’s A Good Day to be the Church
35:36 – The Gospel
41:35 -Conclusion

Thank you Jeff Norton and NorthRidge Fellowship. Share this interview with others

 

Encouragement Came Like This Today

As Eastside Baptist in Twin Falls, Idaho continues to ask God for help in the ongoing work in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we find that our dependence upon the Lord increases as we pray. February marks the tenth month of obeying the Lord to fully support a church plant, a home for abandoned, orphaned, and neglected girls, and a school to educate the girls. I am thankful to the Lord for a believing people who will trust the Lord. This is not easy. It is not natural to the natural man to do when he doesn’t see.

I post today, to encourage the Lord’s people who pray. We do not ask for financial help from anyone or anywhere to fund what God has called us to do. Yet God is pleased to prompt His people from many places to encourage. Renee and I will depart soon for another trip to Haiti. We will be blessed to see the girls and the faithful caregivers at New Horizon Home.

GiftsFromGodLast week, before we were aware of the need, God prompted two people from different parts of the United States to send Eastside Baptist Church money for New Horizon Home. Today, after praying this morning for what appeared to be a financially tight month for funds the mail man delivered two envelopes with provision enough and encouragement to press on.

To the Lord’s people, be encouraged…

 

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread? 2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.
Psalms 27:1-3 (NASB)

When Helping Feels Like Hating

the Haiti Archive: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A good night [of] sleep has been escaping me for nearly two weeks. Last night [in] the compound I [only] slept about 10 minutes at a time. The hard floor was difficult on my body but good for my spirit as I prayed for Haitians often.
[This morning] we secured three interpreters. I think they are sincere in motive. They know the area and are aware of orphanages in the area. We are to pick up paperwork from the Dominican Republic Embassy today. So after we leave the school compound we head for the Dominican Republic Embassy.
While Laura is walking toward where we think the embassy is, a man approached her about why we are here. After discovering that we are here to help orphaned children he told her about a group of people living under tarps and in tents next to his church. We go to investigate.
After walking through the court yard of the church we immediately walk into a sea of tents and tarps. The face of hunger is angry and desperate. Lord, how in all of the world will we be able to help anyone? To help one, feels like hatred to [the] masses. How and who do we choose to help?

  • The need is great.

  • the crowd is pressing

  • the touch is pleading

  • the hunger is clear

  • the thirst is unavoidable

  • the children are trusting

  • the adults are desperate

  • the aroma is death

  • hope is still present, yet waning fast

  • the city is in ruin, yet business continues.

  • Communities are forming from under the collapsed buildings.

  • There is joy and sorrow for life and death.

     Today I was blessed and yet have an aching of my heart to walk through the tent city. The tent city is filthy, yet there is an understood organization. The pastor of the church had already heard of our coming for this reason of ministry to the displaced orphan and invited us into the gates of the tent city housing approximately 2,000 people.
     The crowd is hungry, thirsty and wondering when and where help will come. They have yet to hear word about relief.
     While making arrangements with the pastor to receive seven orphans; we meet, who I am convinced, is a messenger from the Lord named Leonard. He works for the police and tells us we need to do a few other things before we could cross the border. So with great disappointment we return the orphans to the pastor so we can obtain proper documents. Disappointing but clearly the right thing to do.

Plurality of Elders

Guest Blogger today: Jeff Norton, pastor at NorthRidge Fellowship in Jerome, Idaho. NorthRidge Fellowship gathers for worship at 9:30AM at 2 Ridge Loop, Jerome, ID, or call 208-324-4962.

Jeff has been the pastor at NorthRidge for just over a year. I have the privilege of fellowship with this brother in the Lord on a regular basis. Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, sponsored this work over 10 years ago and has had an ongoing relationship with the dear people. I’ll broadcast an interview I had with Jeff on BridgeCast, February 9, 2014. Be sure to listen in.

Jeff wrote this for me and gave me permission to post it here for your consideration. Thanks Jeff.

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Elder Polity by Jeff Norton:

Elder polity has been a cause of discussion among various Southern Baptists in the last few years. As a pastor of an elder led SBC church, it is my intention to make a brief case for elder led polity, while at the same time not pigeon holing other Christ-like, Word-centered, grace-based, diaconal-led or even congregationally-led SBC churches. I will show who elders are, the qualifications for an elder, what elders do, show that elders and pastors function similarly, and finally, show the advantages to a church holding to elder led polity.

  • First, who are elders? The Greek word for elder is presbuteros, and it means an older, wiser man. Also, the word episkopos in the Greek means overseer. Though presbuteros and episkopos are different Greek words, they are synonymous in function. For example, in Acts 20:7, the apostle Paul calls the “elders” of the church together for a meeting before he departs. Later in verse 28 of Acts 20, Paul calls these men “overseers”. So elders are older, wiser men and they oversee the running of the church.
  • Second, what are the qualifications for an overseer / elder? We see those qualifications laid out in I Tim. 3:1-7: The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

So for a man to serve as elder in the local church, he must fit these qualifications.

  • Third, what precisely are elders to do? Elders perform multiple functions. They keep watch over and shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28, I Peter 1:2). Elders also have authority among the congregation and are called to exercise spiritual oversight (I Peter 5:2, Heb. 13:17). Elders must teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). Also, the elders are to set an example in their lives that the congregation would desire to follow (I Peter 5:3).
  • Fourth, do elders and pastors essentially perform the same function? I believe they do. In Ephesians 4:11, we see that God gifted the church with the shepherds and teachers. We see in the Scriptures that elders shepherd (I Peter 5:1-2), elder and overseer titles are transposable (Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5, 9) and overseers are to feed the flock (Acts 20:28). Therefore, the elder can do what the overseer can do and vice versa. In other words, the function of an elder, pastor and overseer seem interchangeable!
  • Fifth, do we see a pattern or a norm of plurality of elders in the NT? Unquestionably, we do:
    • Philippians 1:1- To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
    • 1Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
    • James 5:14 – Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church.
    • Acts 14:23 – And when they had appointed elders for them in every church,
    • Acts 21:18 – On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
    • I Peter 5:1 – So I exhort the elders among you.

These scriptures prove there is a consistent plurality of elders throughout the New Testament.

  • Sixth, if elder equals overseer equals pastor, then is single elder / pastor polity acceptable? What are the advantages of a solo pastor polity? Here are potential arguments for a single pastor / elder polity:
    1. With one single pastor, there is a clear leader in the church.
    2. Depending on church size and church finances, it may be best to have a solo pastor.
    3. There is nowhere in the Word of God where plurality of elders is commanded.
    4. If there is only one man qualified for the office of elder or gifted as a pastor (Eph. 4:11) in the church, then the body should not force unqualified men to be elders for the sheer sake of plurality.

Based on these, we can see there is legitimacy for a single pastor / elder polity.

  • Seventh, conversely, what are the advantages to having a multiplicity of elders in the local church? Here are the arguments:
    1. With multiple elders in the church, there is a wisdom in multitude of wise heads. Pro 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
    2. Having multiple eldership eliminates a “possible” one man show by a solo pastor .
    3. Having a manifold of elders / overseers takes the pressure off one single pastor from performing the various duties and responsibilities needed in the local church.
    4. The norm in Scripture seems to be a plurality of elders (Acts 11:30, 14:23, 15:2, 16:4, 20:17).

I would certainly love to see more SBC churches enact elder led polity in their body. However, I know well meaning brothers who are serving in non-elder led SBC churches. The polity that is arranged in the local church is between that church and the Lord.
However, we ought to be zealous to know what God’s Word has to say, and I believe that the normative polity in the NT is a plurality of elders.