Reality: A Friend or an Adversary? The Decision Is Yours

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

—Edward Mote1

In session two of the DVD series The Truth Project from Focus on the Family, instructor and host Del Tackett presents a clip featuring apologist Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias related this experience.

iu

Some years ago I was speaking at Ohio State University. And I was taken to see the Wexner Center of the Arts. They wanted me to see it, and I wondered why. And when I walked into that building I said, “What is this building all about?” There are staircases that go nowhere. There are pillars that serve no purposes.

And the man [showing me around] said, “This is America’s first postmodern building, and the architect said, ‘If life has no purpose, why should our buildings have any design or any purpose?'” So he built it at random, without any purpose, as it were.

I said, “I have one question for you.…Did he do that with the foundation as well?”2

Reality is our friend if and only if we cooperate with it and conform our perspectives and actions to it. We have many problems in our world today, but one of the most serious and consequential is that many and perhaps most people are building their lives on foundations that do not align with reality or with the truth. Yet there is hope. If an individual has started building in a bad place, he or she does not have to continue. Relocation is possible! Furthermore, anyone intending to build his or her life on bedrock truth can reassess current progress and make appropriate adjustments.

At the end of what we now know as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a powerful illustration of the practical results of obeying Him versus the disastrous consequences of ignoring Him.

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” (Matt. 7:24-27)

This translation is adequate. However, in verse 25, the word foundation is very interesting. While the translators of the Holman Christian Standard Bible rendered this word as a noun, it actually is a verb in the original Greek. In this instance the translators of the King James Version rendered it in English as a verb as well.

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

We find this verb five additional times in the New Testament.3 Here are the verses in which it appears. In each instance we present it in the King James Version, and we have underlined the English word or words representing the Greek term.

  • He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock (Luke 6:48).
  • That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17).
  • If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister (Col. 1:23).
  • And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands (Heb. 1:10).
  • But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Pet. 5:10).

In considering Matthew 7:25, we do well to keep in mind that the original word was a verb. When we understand it to be a verb, we see it pointing to actions taken on the part of the one listening and heeding Jesus’ teachings. Foundations, you see, don’t just show up arbitrarily. They’re chosen, and the choice brings forth either benefits or severe consequences, just as Jesus said.

Foundations don’t just show up arbitrarily. They’re chosen, and the choice brings forth either benefits or severe consequences, just as Jesus said.

This is an important lesson for us as we stand on the cusp of 2016—a new year that is sure to present a great many challenges for us as Christians. With the challenges, however, will come unprecedented opportunities to demonstrate Christ’s love and to uphold His truth. There’s no better time than now to make sure you are building your life on Christ and His teachings.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Notes:

1http://www.hymnary.org/text/my_hope_is_built_on_nothing_less

2Focus on the Family, The Truth Project (Colorado Springs: CO), session 2: “Philosophy & Ethics: Says Who?” (The Truth Project website can be accessed here.) Also see http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2014/01/13/ravi-zacharias-on-postmodern-architecture-at-ohio-state/

3http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2311&t=KJV

 

Who Is He, and Why Has He Come?

Can you imagine that the most wonderful message that has ever been given at any time in history, or in any part of the world, came to…shepherds sitting in their rough robes around little fires, on the rough ground of the very ordinary hills above Bethlehem? Don’t you suppose they were excited? They…would be full of amazement that the promises of the Old Testament were being fulfilled right then. You see, they were Jews, and they would have known what was written in Isaiah and Micah. They would have known many of the promises about the Messiah. Can’t you imagine them hitting each other on the backs, and saying, “Oh, wow, imagine that we have been chosen by God to be told these things! What a night it is, isn’t it? It is the night the promised Messiah has been born.”
—Francis and Edith Schaeffer1

Christmas is a birthday celebration, one that has occurred annually around the world for many centuries. That alone makes it unique among birthday celebrations. Just whose birthday is it? Answering this question surely will help us hone in on the main point of Christmas. Surely it would be tragic if we got caught up in the trappings of Christmas but missed the main point!

We find many places in Scripture where the Baby’s identity is given, but perhaps the most appropriate place in the Bible to look is in the Christmas story itself—Luke 2:1-20. On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to startled shepherds watching their flocks in fields near Bethlehem. The angel announced the birth and identified the Baby clearly and precisely. He declared, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David” (2:10-11). The titles the angel used to refer to the Baby contrast sharply with His lowly, primitive surroundings. Those titles also inform us to a large extent about why this Baby has come into the world.

Note that the angel cast his announcement in the present tense. Jesus was Savior, Christ, and Lord today—the day He was born. He did not become any of these things later. Indeed, He has been all three of these from eternity past. In one sense, of course, He would become our Savior when He died on the cross; and at the time of His birth, His crucifixion had not yet occurred. Yet when He was born and throughout eternity, no one else ever would qualify to die for another’s sins. In this sense He already was the Savior.

This is the One whose birthday we celebrate year after year! He was and is God’s Son, yet God gave Him to us that first Christmas (see Isa. 9:6). What a Christmas gift He was and is! Our response can only be to give ourselves to Him! How are you celebrating Jesus’ birthday this year?

Note:

1Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Everybody Can Know: Family Devotions from the Gospel of Luke, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1973, 1984), 31.

 

Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

photo credit: www.lumoproject.com

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

 

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?” (update)

Note to all Word Foundations subscribers:

Yesterday’s post included an embedded You Tube video that wasn’t picked up and carried in the email. Because of its importance to the content of the post, I wanted to send you this revision. I apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for receiving and reading Word Foundations emails!

Merry Christmas!

B. Nathaniel Sullivan

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?” (update)

[Today] you will hear people say, “The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.” Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St. Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St. Joseph obviously knew that.

C. S. Lewis

Among the top 25 Super Bowl ads of all time is this Xerox ad, which aired on Sunday, January 18, 1976.

superbowl-xerox-jpg_224042

Of course, the “punch line” of this ad is the Father’s concluding exclamation, “It’s a miracle!” Especially today, nearly 40 years later, the ad reminds us of a host of now commonplace occurrences that would have been considered miraculous centuries ago, a hundred years ago, and even just a few decades ago. Indeed, technology has brought us to a world where amazing things happen. For example, we have instant messaging through email, cell phones, and video platforms like Skype. And surely both Brother Dominic and the Father would consider it miraculous that many people have copy machines, in the form of printers, in their own homes. While to some extent these innovations may seem miraculous even to us, we know there are scientific explanations for them.

Some things have happened in history, however, that science simply can’t explain. These events could not have occurred unless God intervened. We see this over and over in the Christmas story, which is rich with evidence of God’s work even before Jesus was conceived in Mary’s body. If we could ask Zechariah and Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5-25,57-80), they doubtless would confirm God’s intervention—but let’s learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus herself. She was directly involved in one of the biggest miracles ever to have happened!

When Mary received a visit from Gabriel and learned that she would give birth to God’s Son, she naturally had a question. “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?’” (Luke 1:34). It was a great question! Gabriel “replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God’” (v. 35).

The mystery of the incarnation—God’s becoming a man without ceasing to be God—must ultimately be accepted by faith, for it can never be fully understood by human minds. Yet Gabriel gave Mary—and he gives us—a glimpse of some of the things that were involved in Jesus’ conception.

  • The baby would be conceived and would begin to grow in Mary’s womb as a result of the Holy Spirit’s activity and God’s power. This does not mean Jesus’ life would begin in Mary’s womb. No, this wasn’t the case at all, for Jesus has existed from eternity past. (Note what John the Baptist, who was born at least several months before Jesus, said when He saw Jesus at the onset of His—Jesus’—ministry: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me’” [John 1:30]). Instead of beginning to exist at the point of His conception, Jesus would, to put it rather primitively, relocate or move into a human body, tiny though it was when the conception occurred.
  • “The power of the Most High will overshadow you,” Gabriel told Mary (Luke 1:35). The idea of overshadowing or enveloping in a shadow has caused many to recall manifestations of God’s presence in the Old Testament when the Israelites were led by God through the wilderness after being freed from bondage in Egypt (see 25:2240:34-38; also see Gen. 1:21 Kings 8:10-11Isa. 60:2Ezek. 1:28Matt. 17:5Luke 2:9Heb. 9:5). While it probably is appropriate to make this connection, we must acknowledge that when God overshadowed Mary, He performed a miracle of creation and transcendence that was unparalleled in all of history.
  • “Therefore,” Gabriel said, “the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The birth that would result would not come because of Joseph’s actions or because of any human influence whatsoever. This was God’s doing, and the One to be born would be God’s own Son.

We are reminded here of John’s inspired words in John 1:12-13: To all who welcomed Jesus into their lives, “He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, [and here we see a truth that parallels Jesus’ conception and birth] not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” The miraculous conception that took place in Mary’s body, as unique as it was (a once-in-history occurrence), parallels the genesis of spiritual life in otherwise spiritually dead people today! As Ravi Zacharias has noted, “Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”1

Mary knew that within herself she had no power to generate divine life, so of course such a thing could happen only as a result of God’s power. Mary simply would be a willing participant in the process. So it is with us when we exercise faith in Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Through God’s power, we become His children—not divine ourselves, but born to new life by divine power. These are authentic miracles!

Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Explore various aspects of the first Christmas with a new Word Foundations feature: Breaking Bread. Visit http://www.wordfoundations.com/breaking-bread-the-birth-of-jesus/

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Note:

1Ravi Zacharias, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 219.

A Christmas Study: “How Can This Be?”

[Today] you will hear people say, “The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.” Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St. Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St. Joseph obviously knew that.
C. S. Lewis

Among the top 25 Super Bowl ads of all time is this Xerox ad, which aired on Sunday, January 18, 1976.

Of course, the “punch line” of this ad is the Father’s concluding exclamation, “It’s a miracle!” Especially today, nearly 40 years later, the ad reminds us of a host of now commonplace occurrences that would have been considered miraculous centuries ago, a hundred years ago, and even just a few decades ago. Indeed, technology has brought us to a world where amazing things happen. For example, we have instant messaging through email, cell phones, and video platforms like Skype. And surely both Brother Dominic and the Father would consider it miraculous that many people have copy machines, in the form of printers, in their own homes. While to some extent these innovations may seem miraculous even to us, we know there are scientific explanations for them.

Some things have happened in history, however, that science simply can’t explain. These events could not have occurred unless God intervened. We see this over and over in the Christmas story, which is rich with evidence of God’s work even before Jesus was conceived in Mary’s body. If we could ask Zechariah and Elizabeth (see Luke 1:5-25,57-80), they doubtless would confirm God’s intervention—but let’s learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus herself. She was directly involved in one of the biggest miracles ever to have happened!

When Mary received a visit from Gabriel and learned that she would give birth to God’s Son, she naturally had a question. “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?’” (Luke 1:34). It was a great question! Gabriel “replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God’” (v. 35).

The mystery of the incarnation—God’s becoming a man without ceasing to be God—must ultimately be accepted by faith, for it can never be fully understood by human minds. Yet Gabriel gave Mary—and he gives us—a glimpse of some of the things that were involved in Jesus’ conception.

  • The baby would be conceived and would begin to grow in Mary’s womb as a result of the Holy Spirit’s activity and God’s power. This does not mean Jesus’ life would begin in Mary’s womb. No, this wasn’t the case at all, for Jesus has existed from eternity past. (Note what John the Baptist, who was born at least several months before Jesus, said when He saw Jesus at the onset of His—Jesus’—ministry: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me’” [John 1:30]). Instead of beginning to exist at the point of His conception, Jesus would, to put it rather primitively, relocate or move into a human body, tiny though it was when the conception occurred.
  • “The power of the Most High will overshadow you,” Gabriel told Mary (Luke 1:35). The idea of overshadowing or enveloping in a shadow has caused many to recall manifestations of God’s presence in the Old Testament when the Israelites were led by God through the wilderness after being freed from bondage in Egypt (see Ex. 25:22; 40:34-38; also see Gen. 1:21 Kings 8:10-11; Isa. 60:2; Ezek. 1:28; Matt. 17:5; Luke 2:9; Heb. 9:5). While it probably is appropriate to make this connection, we must acknowledge that when God overshadowed Mary, He performed a miracle of creation and transcendence that was unparalleled in all of history.
  • “Therefore,” Gabriel said, “the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The birth that would result would not come because of Joseph’s actions or because of any human influence whatsoever. This was God’s doing, and the One to be born would be God’s own Son.

We are reminded here of John’s inspired words in John 1:12-13: To all who welcomed Jesus into their lives, “He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, [and here we see a truth that parallels Jesus’ conception and birth] not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” The miraculous conception that took place in Mary’s body, as unique as it was (a once-in-history occurrence), parallels the genesis of spiritual life in otherwise spiritually dead people today! As Ravi Zacharias has noted, “Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”1

Mary knew that within herself she had no power to generate divine life, so of course such a thing could happen only as a result of God’s power. Mary simply would be a willing participant in the process. So it is with us when we exercise faith in Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Through God’s power, we become His children—not divine ourselves, but born to new life by divine power. These are authentic miracles!

Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Explore various aspects of the first Christmas with a new Word Foundations feature: Breaking Bread. 

Breaking Bread: The Birth of Jesus

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Note:

1Ravi Zacharias, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 219.

Good News About Obergefell

People used to blush when they were ashamed. Now they are ashamed if they blush. Modesty has disappeared and a brazen generation with no fear of God before its eyes mocks at sin.1 I’ve quit saying civilization’s going to the dogs out of respect for dogs. I wouldn’t want to insult the canine kingdom with any such remark as that.2 [Yet] it makes a difference when you’re looking up instead of when you’re looking down, like you’re going by what you read in the paper and see on television. May the Lord help you! Get your sights up! Your vision’s bad. Maybe you need your glasses cleaned. You can’t be optimistic with a misty optic! Get your eyes cleared up, and let the Lord open your eyes, and you’ll see things you didn’t even know where there. The outlook’s bad, I grant you that, but the uplook’s good—as good as ever!3

[The account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel demonstrates that] there had to be a confrontation on earth before there could be an intervention from heaven.…Elijah poured 12 barrels of water all over that sacrifice.…He wanted to make it perfectly clear to those people that there were not tricks about this thing, that nothing was going to happen unless God moved onto the scene.…I tell people all over the country it’s the drenched altar that God sets on fire.4

Christians, like snowflakes, are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic.5

—Vance Havner—

A couple had two young sons who were like night and day with regard to their outlooks on life. One was consistently positive and upbeat while the other was unwaveringly pessimistic. One morning the two awakened and discovered a massive pile of manure in their front yard. The pessimist wondered who would do such mean and cruel thing to their family—but the optimist went straight to the garage and grabbed a shovel. He promptly ran to front yard and began shoveling through the manure. “There’s got to be a pony in here someplace!” he exclaimed.

Of all people, Christians should be decidedly optimistic. Of course we must temper our optimism with realism, because we understand we live in a sinful world. In the language of our illustration, there really is a pile of manure in our front yard. Obergefell, the Supreme Court ruling that redefined marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples, underscores this. In saying this, we do not mean that those who fought for and celebrated the marriage ruling don’t deserve to be treated with dignity or respect. Surely they do, for they, like all human beings, have been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). However, they are blinded and unable to see clearly the dangers of getting what they think they want (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; John 3:16-21; 2 Cor. 4:3-6). We must be burdened for them and seek to help them come to know Christ, but our responsibilities do not end there.

As Christians, we have been given the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:19-20) and the Cultural Commission (see Gen. 1:28). As Chuck Colson so eloquently said, “Christians are agents of God’s saving grace—bringing others to Christ. But we are also agents of His common grace: We’re to sustain and renew His creation, defend the created institutions of family and society, and critique false worldviews.” Defending man-woman marriage, even after the Obergefell ruling—perhaps especially after it—is part of our job, our duty, as believers.

Today I have some good news about Obergefell. As we resist this ruling—and we must resist it—we will be well served to remember these five things.

First, Obergefell rests on lies, propaganda, illegalities, a false view of reality, and injustices on many different levels. Put another way, we can say that the marriage ruling, like the seat on a three-legged stool, rests on three legs: judicial activism, a faulty worldview, and bullying by militant homosexual activists. I plan in the future to discuss this idea more fully; but for now, be aware that in previous entries, I have written about each one of these. The good news we must understand is that each one of these supports is illegitimate.

Second, we can work to point out the illegitimate nature of each of Obergefell’s supports. If we keep at it, then over time God will use our efforts to effectively weaken these supports, not just in the legal arena, but also in the public’s eyes. We have seen similar things happen with abortion because of the pro-life movement, and they can happen with marriage because of the protect-marriage movement as well.

Third, the church, which has been a sleeping giant on this issue, will be compelled to address it head-on. The good news is that the church has a strategic opportunity to take a stand for biblical truth, yet in ways that demonstrate respect for proponents of same-sex marriage (SSM). SSM proponents still may accuse the church of hate, but we must remember that regardless of appearances, it never is loving to look the other way when a fellow human being is being led astray by a lie.

Alliance Defending Freedom has a website that helps pastors address issues from the pulpit that many may consider controversial. When we’re tempted to think that preachers and churches need to “stick to presenting the gospel,” let’s remember that we must obey the Cultural Commission as well as the Great Commission. If we ignore the Cultural Commission, we’re also disobeying the Great Commission, for Jesus affirmed the importance of obeying “all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Jesus’ teachings address not just spiritual matters, but every area of life, including marriage (see 19:4-6). When it acts as it should to fully represent Christ in the world, the church is indeed a powerful force. Jesus said of His church that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Fourth, God is sovereign over all of life, and, despite appearances to the contrary, He remains in control. Proverbs 21:1 declares, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” In Psalm 11:3, David asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” If we assume the answer to this question is in the next verse, then in times of moral decay we have a powerful reminder that will help us with every action we must take: “The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (v. 4). Many more verses also speak to this issue, but we’ll cite just one more. Proverbs 15:3 states, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Fifth, prayer is a powerful, forceful weapon in spiritual warfare. It is not mentioned as a specific piece in the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-17, but in verse 18 Paul writes, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” As James wrote in his letter, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Thus, the Obergefell ruling offers Christians and the church opportunities to stand out for Christ and to represent Him effectively before a watching world. If we take advantage of these opportunities and remain faithful, we will marvel at how God will use us! (See Eph. 3:20-21.)

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4li2FS2jg

5 http://likesuccess.com/author/vance-havner

 

Confronting with Resolve and Tenacity

Resist the Bullies, Part 3

The primary battle is a spiritual battle in the heavenlies. But this does not mean, therefore, that the battle we are in is otherworldly or outside of human history. It is a real spiritual battle, but it is equally a battle here on earth in our own country, our own communities, or places of work and our schools, and even our own homes. The spiritual battle has its counterpart in the visible world, in the minds and hearts of men and women, and in every area of human culture. In the realm of space and time the heavenly battle is fought on the stage of human history.
—Francis Schaeffer1

Part 1 is available here.
Part 2 is available here.

In the wake of student protests at the University of Missouri and in other places where students have brought unfair accusations of racism and have made various demands of school administrators, Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, has written an open letter and posted it on the school’s website. Dated November 23, 2015 and titled “This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!” the letter reads in part,

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.…

iu

I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience.…The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness.…

If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.

If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.…

Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.

This is not a day care. This is a university.

Thank God for Everett Piper and His courage! Certainly his tribe needs to increase, but his is not the only voice crying in the wilderness. Dr. Carol Swain is a conservative law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She also is black, but apparently some students can’t respect an articulate, black conservative. Swain has been the target of liberal student protests, but she counters protestors with clarity and resolve, saying they “don’t get to decide whose speech is more valuable than someone else’s.”

Vibrant glow

Drs. Piper and Swain have given us tremendous examples to follow in our quest to combat the bullying we’ve seen on the part of militant homosexual activists. You may recall that previously,2,3 we pulled back the curtain on numerous ways extremists in the homosexual rights movement use bullying to get what they want. We acknowledged that not all homosexuals take this approach, but militant gays do. How can we effectively combat the bullying? In the following list of 14 items, you’ll see some of the qualities evident in Dr. Piper’s and Dr. Swain’s responses to students who bully others to get their way. Other necessary qualities will be highlighted as well. Together, the items on this list hopefully will show us how to respond to unfair and unethical tactics from militant gays.

  1. Be confident. Refuse to be intimidated.
  2. Become informed and stay informed. Pro-family organizations that courageously speak out on homosexuality include Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s Family Talk, and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. The following organizations also speak with great credibility and authenticity on the subject, although more from professional and in some cases academic perspectives: The American College of Pediatricians, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (Pfox). From cultural and legal perspectives, Peter LaBarbera’s Americans for Truth About Homosexuality is extremely informative and helpful, as is Linda Harvey’s Mission: America.
  3. Stand up and speak up.
  4. Stand up, but don’t stand alone. Be sure to network! Support and partner with pro-family organizations such as those we’ve cited above.
  5. Be consistent, and have a consistent message.
  6. Don’t just play defense. Take the initiative and get on the offensive. Dr. Everett Piper’s open letter addresses a subject different from the one we’re discussing here, but his approach is a wonderful example of going on the offense. Ben Shapiro provides another example of how to make the case for reality in this clip from HLN’s “Dr. Drew On Call.”4 Notice that Shapiro speaks forthrightly without being hateful—even though other panelists accuse him of hatred. Watch the clip and judge for yourself who really is engaged in hate. In addition, specifically on the issue of same-sex marriage, here’s a tremendous point made by the offense for the team contending for man-woman marriage: Chuck Colson said the argument made by advocates of same-sex marriage “is that to deny homosexuals marriage is manifestly unfair. But it’s not unfair. Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.” Marriage, you see, is what it is because of the differences between the sexes!
  7. Speak of reality, not just of the truth. The principles that are absolute and unyielding make up the truth, but reality is the hard consequence that hits when a truth principle kicks in. Here’s an analogy. If you jump off a 7-story building, you’ll hit the ground—that’s a truth. The ground you hit—that’s reality. Reflect on this example. The first item on this list of “Ten Arguments from Social Science Against Same-Sex Marriage” is the truth that “Children hunger for their biological parents.” Hear about the corresponding realities from several adult children of same-sex parents in this YouTube video. Learn even more about the cruel realities of counterfeit marriage at marriageisourfuture.org.
  8. Appeal to people’s hearts and emotions. Facts are important, but personal stories often will connect with people in ways that facts cannot.
  9. Remember we are fighting for the rights of innocent individuals who have no voice. Consider, for example, that same-sex marriage isn’t nearly as much about giving an adult the right to “marry” whomever he or she might love as it is about potentially depriving a child of a mother or a father. What about children’s rights?
  10. Show compassion and respect, not only to the victims of homosexual propaganda, but also to its perpetrators. It always should be clear that we deplore bullying of homosexuals, not just bullying by homosexuals. At the same time,
  11. expose their bullying! Kirsten Powers, a liberal, has written a book that does just this. It’s titled The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. Listen to John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Biblical Worldview interview Powers. Ben Shapiro makes the same case from the right side of the political spectrum in this video. Bullying exposed is bullying severely weakened.
  12. Be prepared to be accused of hate (see John 3:18-20; 15:18-21).
  13. Pray especially for pastors to take a bold stand on homosexuality and to help their congregations understand the need for Christians to collectively resist bullying by militant gays. To ignore this problem actually is unchristian and unloving, especially to those being bullied. Christians have a responsibility to defend those who are innocent and helpless (see Ps. 82:3).
  14. Never give up.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a British citizen and a Member of Parliament. Against overwhelming odds, he fought against slavery, an institution that was very much a part of the fabric of his country at the time. Wilberforce was ridiculed and mocked, and his efforts were repeatedly rebuffed in the House of Commons. Yet he fought on—and not just in the legislative arena. He worked diligently to change England’s culture as well as its laws. In 1797 he wrote a book that was republished in 2006 under the title Real Christianity. Its original title was A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.5

Wilberforce-590x405

Eventually, Wilberforce saw the changes he’d work so hard to bring about. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished in Britain—but it wasn’t until Wilberforce was on his deathbed in 1833 that slavery itself was abolished. Three days after the law passed in the House of Commons, Wilberforce died.

Think of the hurt, harm, and heartache that Wilberforce’s work averted! Because William Wilberforce maintained a long-term perspective, he was able to persevere. It may be an oversimplification of Wilberforce’s life’s work, but essentially, he stood strong against the bullies of his day. So must we stand to resist the bullies of our day. As we do, we also will spare our country and individuals within it a great deal of pain, hurt, and heartache. May God give us strength and courage in this noble and worthy cause!

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 25.

2http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/11/13/five-ways-promoters-of-the-militant-homosexual-agenda-are-bullying-the-public/

3http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/11/19/two-realms-of-american-life-rife-with-gay-activists-bullying/

4http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/07/29/the-high-cost-of-denying-the-obvious/

5William Wilberforce, Real Christianity, paraphrased by Bob Beltz, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2006), title page.