Monday, February 6, 2012

Gambling, Honosexuality and the Commands of God

One of the senior journalists in my country, Ian Boyne, who has access to, and powerful influence on, the minds of many Jamaicans, through the many facets of the media - radio, television and print - and who is also a Pastor, " took on" the church today, in a scathing attack on its limited appreciation of how much of the world's economy is based on nothing more than " gambling", the so called "casino economy", in The Daily Gleaner in the ongoing and raging debate about Gambling and Horse racing on a Sunday. It's a piece well worth your time reading wherever in this global village you are located, once you have an interest in matters of morality in these changing times. Just google and go to In Focus or Commentary. On another related and equally current moral issue, a well respected Educator and Christian apologetic, Ester Tyson, also in the same newspaper today, in the Commentary section, cautions the society about the homosexual lifestyle, the agenda of the homosexual lobby and the inherent dangers for a society which may be led astray by the attempt to locate the discussion within the "attractive" and therefore entirely justified context of " human rights". I also found it interesting that on the day that I write these messages, another article appeared in the same newspaper, although I am yet to find it online, written by a well known theologian and lecturer Rev. Clinton Chisholm, on this subject of homosexuality. He argues, with the help of some scholars, against the " born so" or genetic understanding of homosexuality and produces evidence that some homosexuals have been " cured". Interesting indeed! Even more interesting, is the fact that all of this is taking place during the week when members of the Anglican community from three different countries are meeting in Jamaica to engage in a " conversation" of the Indaba African style, on , among other important matters - social justice and youth alienation - the issue of gay and lesbian lifestyle. It's part of the Church's response to the raging controversy over the ordination of gays and lesbians which has threatened to permanently divide the Worldwide Anglican Communion. And the Lord led one of the members of the group right into my house. So my wife and I have been engaging in our own conversations with this very pleasant, jovial and learned brother in Christ, who is a senior member of his church in North America, and Caribbean man. It's been a great privilege and joy to host him in our home and we almost feel that even now, we already know well his wife and two wonderful sons, and look forward to the day when can visit with him in his home. So what did the Lord, who orders the very footsteps of His children, where they go, with whom they converse, and what they read, say, in the midst of all of this discussion on moral issues of the day? First He led me, very dramatically, to read a passage of Scripture that I had no intention of reading, as I was searching for another section, but the Bible opened at 1 Kings 18:21, " Elijah went before the people and said, " How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him." Following this revelation, and the reading of what took place after Elijah challenged King Ahab and his prophets, who had " abandoned" the Lord's commands, I was reminded by the Spirit of God about this statement made by St. Paul. " For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power". 1 Corinthians 4: 20. NIV When one reads carefully, as the story develops in vs 23-38, how Elijah proved, by the power of the Almighty God, that the King and his prophets were following an impotent and helpless god, Baal, and remembers it in association with the word from Paul, the message from the Lord in this context of endless talk about whether or not homosexuality is of the God "of Elijah", or of the god of Baal, is very clear. And folks who are trained in theology and find the issue intriguing and worthy of study and debate, and seek, quite rightly, to respond in a compassionate and caring Christian way, engaging others who hold "another opinion" in pursuit of an amicable resolution, ought to be aware that God may very well choose to act in a dramatic " Elijah" way to instruct those who " waver between two opinions". The same message ought to concentrate the minds of those like Boyne, who would "pour scorn" on the lack of understanding of the ways of the world by defenders of the faith in the matter of horse racing and gambling on a Sunday. Journalist Boyne may very well be correct in his analysis of the lack of logic applied by the men of cloth, but Rev. Ian Boyne must be aware of, and be prepared to warn those who continue to " abandon the Lord's commands", that judgment will one day overtake those who, like Elymas, continue to " pervert the ways of the Lord". As the problem, perhaps in part, is that all of these discussions and talk on moral issues which once ,seemed so clear, stem from the fact that mankind no longer fears God. And history has shown for those who would learn, that such a philosophy is dangerous in the extreme. As I am reminded as I refer again to the " fearsome" passage from last week's message: "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on earth had become, and that every thought of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said , " I will wipe mankind, whom I had created, from the face of the earth......". Genesis 6: 5-8 NIV This of course led to the flood and the building of the Ark, and the profound comment that: " But Noah found favor with God"". But if one read further, right after the flood, wickedness entered the heart of the younger of Noah son's, Ham, who " exposed" his father's nakedness, but the other two, Shem from whom the Blessed father Abraham came, and Japheth " protected" the dignity of their father. Interestingly Ham became the father of the Canaanites - about whom the OT is filled with stories of evil. This matter of evil, and the constant " abandonment" of the Lord's commands and how to deal with this matter of the fallen human heart, was the subject of the passage of scripture for which I was searching before "Elijah happened". As more importantly, as St. Paul announced, " Jesus happened", and therefore we should: " Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these..." ( and Paul goes on to add more things to the list) Colossians 3: 1-6 NIV What we have here is a God who has provided a way out for sinful mankind. Adam's " helpless race" according to John Wesley. So we who have been " washed and sanctified with the blood of Christ", need to actively " put to death" and " rid ourselves" of these things that once ruled us. Including sexual immorality of all kinds and greed, which fuels gambling. And which instructions if not followed, will lead to " the wrath of God". And God has provided for the very difficult task of " putting to death", and " ridding ourselves", of these things, by promising the same power, for those who believe, that raised Jesus from the dead : " For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in all my prayers. I keep on asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.......and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead...." Ephesians 1: 15-20 NIV So yes, Chisholm is correct when he says that homosexuals and by extension, anyone who gambles or anyone of us who is struggling with a particular sin, be it lust or greed, or anger, or rage or idolatry, can be cured. As God has provided this incomparable great power in Christ to overcome any temptation and any sin. That's good news indeed. Not only for the Anglican community and other churches struggling with this question of homosexuality, but for all nations caught up in the consequences of the current philosophy of " moral relativity" which threatens to erode our social fabric, and more importantly, provoke the wrath of God. It's time indeed to choose between two opinions. That is, no doubt, one of the central message from the Cross of Calvary. We should choose well, regardless of our felt needs and especially in the light of our " sophisticated" thinking, who really has power in this world. And who really loves us. The author and perfecter of our faith, even Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us n the Cross, though He was God Almighty in human form. Or Mankind. God or Baal. Because in choosing we are following. One leads to life and life more abundantly. The other to destruction, as Ahab and his prophets were to discover. Thank God for Jesus indeed!