Learn From the Rabbi Who Is the Author of All Scripture

UMC Split

Learn From the Rabbi Who Is the Author of All Scripture

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

The three stages of education within Judaism during the time of Jesus were Bet Sefer, Bet Talmud, and Bet Midrash. Each stage included specific age groups of Jewish boys. Girls also participated in Bet Sefer.

Bet Sefer means “House of the Book.” Education usually took place in the synagogue where the focus was on readingwriting, and memorization of the Torah (Pentateuch): Bereshit/Genesis, Shemot/Exodus, Vayikra/Leviticus, Bamidbar/Numbers, Devarim/Deuteronomy. This is how many today use their devotional time. The individual reads a passage of Scripture, listens as specific words and phrases speak to them, and writes such verses into a journal. They then pray the verse.

Bet Talmud means “House of Learning.” Boys ten to twelve focused on studying the rest of the Jewish Scripture and the oral interpretations of the Torah. Students learned to answer a question with a question and to cite other passages to support their points. Today such study might involve examining Bible commentaries that examine the verse in its original language and review how certain words or phrases are used in other parts of Scripture.

Beth Midrash means “House of Study.” Boys studied under a famous rabbi. Rabbi’s selected their students and only those boys believed to show great potential were selected. The focus was on understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to daily life in a more intense way. The student, usually called a “talmid” (disciple), would attach himself to (be yoked with), and travel with, the rabbi as part of his education. His goal was to become like his rabbi and learn his “halakoth” (to walk, go) until he internalized it. This continued until he became a full-fledged rabbi or scribe at the age of thirty. Without training at the Beth Midrash, a man could not be recognized as formally educated. Though the first two stages (elementary schools) were probably affordable and accessible to the average Jewish boy, the third stage (higher schools/rabbinic academies) were probably for boys who were intelligent, talented and from well-to-do homes.

We can assume that Peter, James, John, and the rest of those Christ called to be his disciples failed to make the cut for Beth Midrash. No rabbi called them to be a talmid. So when Jesus says to those who failed to make the cut, “Take my yoke upon you,” he is offering all who will follow a chance to become a talmid disciple and learn his halakoth, his way of walking.

Imagine you were one of those young men who failed to make it past grade school and then one day, while you are mending your father’s fishing nets, you are called to follow a rabbi. Would you go? Would you abandon the family business? What would you tell your wife, your kids?

Imagine you were one of those young women who never had the chance to learn the finer points of Scripture, never learned to banter with a rabbi, never learned to walk in the way of a rabbi because you were sent back home to be trained as a wife, mother, and caretaker for a family. Would you walk away from your husband, children, and home in order to become a disciple?

“My coursework is only an hour or so a day,” says Jesus. “The study guides are easy. Learn from me. I am a gentle teacher. I am humble. I am here if you need help. My door is always open. When you study with me your soul will rest and be refreshed. Will you come and learn from me?”

 
This is the call of a disciple of Christ. May we learn from the rabbi who is the Author of all Scripture.

In One Generation a Church and Denomination Can Lose Its Way

UMC Split

All who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. – 2 Timothy 1:15

Turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that is no good news at all. Does your church stand with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, or with men and women who have turned away from the sure foundation of the good news of Jesus?

Imagine opening a letter from the Apostle Paul and finding that you have been identified as one who turned away from Paul, away from Christ, away from God. This is the rebuke Paul gives to Phygelus and Hermogenes. Though we know almost nothing about these men or their differences with Paul, we have some insight into the outcome of their desertion.

Paul’s second letter is believed by many to be his last known writings, and one of Paul’s key points to Timothy was be not ashamed.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Do not be ashamed of me, our Lord’s prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

“I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” (2 Timothy 1:16)

Peter also calls us to stand firm in the gospel.

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Christ calls us to be ashamed for turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that removes the need for a savior. When sin is no longer sin, why would we repent and be saved?

“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

There is no shame in standing with Christ, the Father, and those who wrote through the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. Though we may face ridicule, persecution, slander, and be falsely accused, we have no need to be ashamed.

So what became of Phygelus and Hermogenes and all in Asia who turned away from the gospel. Though they are not mentioned by name we know the influence they had. Some thirty years after Paul warned Timothy to stand with him and his teaching, Jesus himself wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, and the news was not good.

“I know of your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

The church Paul founded and Timothy pastored worked hard. Its members endured. Perhaps they soon planned to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. They refused to tolerate the wicked. Apparently their leadership team held to strick hiring practices. They endured a measure of persecution for holding to the name of Christ. And yet Christ was prepared to shut the doors and sell off the property because they had ceased to love him.

“I tell you, whoever has been forgiven little loves little. Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.” (Luke 7:47)

Paul, a man who knew God’s word from beginning to end, never got over the fact that Jesus forgave him.
Paul, a man who counted himself among the most righteous, never counted God’s mercy as trivial.
Paul, a man who thought he did not need a savior, never stopped loving his Lord and Savior.

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how much more do we?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, should we not also affirm God’s words, will, and call to repent?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how dare we turn away, turn aside, and turn to a strange gospel that denies our need to be saved from sin?

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church of Pergamum became The Church of Balaam with a new religion, new rituals, and new ways of worship.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Thyatira tolerated a prostitute and false prophetess who, claiming to hear the Holy Spirit, taught secret doctrines.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Sardis was dead.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the rich, self-sufficient Church in Laodicea tolerated such shameful behavior that Christ threatened to vomit them out of his mouth.

In one generation a church and denomination can lose its way.

Be not ashamed of God.
Be not ashamed of Christ.
Be not ashamed of the inspired writers and writings preserved for our salvation.

For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season (Session) And Out

UMC Split

For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season And Out

“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2:1

Before the divorce comes the separation.

Before the separation comes the cold shoulders.

Before the cold shoulders comes the harsh words.

Too many of us reading UMC news stories and adding our comments are comfortably planted in the “harsh words” phase. Perhaps we have not realized divorce is inevitable. Maybe we retain hope that we will not separate. Could be we continue to rub shoulders with fellow members and hope, even pray, the marriage can be saved. Peter guides us on how we should address all brothers and sisters and those who are not our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Rid yourself of all malice.
Rid yourself of all deceit.
Rid yourself of all conceit.
Rid yourself of all hypocrisy.
Rid yourself of all envy.
Rid yourself of all slander.
Rid yourself of all boasting.
Rid yourself of all lying.
Rid yourself of all falsehood.
Rid yourself of all mocking.
Rid her self of all scoffing.

When making our points let us not spear others. God is watching. The press is watching. The lost are watching. For the sake of the children, let us reflect the character of Jesus both in season (session) and out.

Slavery and Methodism Today

Slavery and Methodism Today

An excerpt from “Slavery and the founders of Methodism

In 1774, John Wesley published his “Thoughts Upon Slavery.” The founder of the Methodist movement insisted that the concept of enslaving other people was based on “false foundations.” He described the horrific evils of the slave trade. He denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner. For Wesley, merely tolerating the existence of a system of enslavement was an accommodation with evil.

In 1780, the American Methodists required preachers to deliver sermons against the evils of slavery. Church leaders declared that the enslavement of other persons is “contrary to the laws of God.”

In 1785, the first Book of Discipline published by the Methodists included a piece of church legislation that any church member who buys or sells slaves is “immediately to be expelled” from membership, “unless they buy them on purpose to free them.”

In 1800, the General Conference issued a “Pastoral Letter on Slavery.” It said “the whole spirit of the New Testament militates in the strongest manner against the practice of slavery.”

That pastoral letter directed annual conferences to appeal to the legislatures in their respective states for the emancipation of slaves. And it called for “the universal extirpation of this crying sin.” So the documented history of Methodism makes clear that the founders of the church considered slavery to be “evil.”

Forty-four years after the General Conference enacted church laws to demand that Methodists free their slaves or leave the church and to insist that Methodists take public antislavery steps, the denomination decided to divide. Rather than require a slave-owning bishop to emancipate the people whom he considered his property, Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

This is the legacy of Methodism in the United States with regards to human slavery.

But what of slavery of a man or woman’s soul?

The irony of the pending UMC split is that a great many are focused on making atonement for the sin of slavery by others, while they themselves are promoting a form of slavery that leads to a never-ending darkness.

As the above article makes clear, John Wesley,”Denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner.” In our day, we might say, “Yes, she or he is a slave to sin, but what is that to me?” Worse, we call slavery, freedom.

If we do not believe sin leads to slavery and death, then we should love our neighbor as ourself and affirm our neighbor’s behavior.  Each of us must give an account to Christ for every word and act. The costs of our beliefs, whatever they may be, is great. 

Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

Methodists are on the verge of another split, this one along the boundaries of those who affirm the good and perfect law of our Lord (Psalm 19:7) and those who deny the liberating and transforming power of Christ.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)

Do we believe the perfect royal law of our Lord as found in Scripture (James 2:8) is of man or God? Slavery to sin and the author of Scripture marks the line of demarcation for the UMC split. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

If we do not believe sin is slavery then we deny Christ, for it is because of sin that he came and died.

The legacy of Methodism today will last, not merely for a few centuries, but eternity. May God have mercy on us if we fail to feed the sheep of Christ with the words of his–and our–Father.

Can We Serve God and Caesar?

Can We Serve God and Caesar?

Can we serve God and Caesar? In many ways “our rights” go to the heart of the impending split within the United Methodist Church–and for that matter to the divisions within the Body of Christ.

We speak of surrendering to Christ. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23. When they hurled their insults at Christ, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, Christ entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24.

Though Christ was the Son of God–in fact God himself–he waved his rights in order to save us. We are called to do the same.

And we claim that we have, that we follow Jesus above all others.  Until we are offended. Until we are persecuted. Until we are threatened. Then we claim our God-given rights awarded to us in the Kingdom of Man.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day claimed loyalty to God. Then their position and power was threatened. Turning away from God, they claimed their rights under Caesar. With the force of Roman Law, they demanded the execution of Jesus.

There are but two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man. If we truly are dead in Christ then we have no rights in the Kingdom of Man. We’re dead. If the cancel culture has proved anything it is that the dead have no rights. The dead cannot defend themselves, protect their reputation, or prevent the living from slandering them.

If we wish to test our pulse, to see if we are still living in the Kingdom of Man, read these verses and see if our blood boils.

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Jesus said, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” – Matthew 5:38-40

Jesus said, “If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”  Luke 6:34

Jesus said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together.” Matthew 5:25

You must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Romans 13:1-2

Those living in the Kingdom of God have no rights in the Kingdom of Man other than the right to follow the example of Christ.  If in reading any of these verses you think, “Yes, but. . . ” then you are still living in the Kingdom of Man. There is no “but” in the Kingdom of God except, “But God. . . “

But God remembers the righteous.
But God has seen our hardships.
But God meant it for good.
But God has gives us peace on every side.
But God redeem us.
But God remains the strength of our hearts.
But God is compassionate and gracious.
But with God all things are possible.
But God gives us the free gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
But God raises us from to life.
But God show his love for us.
But God is rich in mercy.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.
But the word of God cannot be chained.

Any time we claim that the Bride of Christ must adapt to the Kingdom of Man in order to. . .  be relevant, grow, be more inclusive, be more loving, stand up for. . . , we are asking that we relocate from the Kingdom of God and move back into the Kingdom of Man.

The Bride of Christ will only be relevant when she is married to Christ. The Bride of Christ will only grow, welcome and love all when she is married to Christ. The Bride of Christ will only be worthy of Jesus when she waves all rights and submits fully to him.

God is Jesus. Jesus is God. This God-Jesus-Savior has asked for your hand in matrimony. Will you say yes?

We All Believe Something

UMC Split

We should all thank Christ our Lord who has given us his strength and considered us faithful, appointing us to be writers, teachers, and preachers in his service. Too often we have been violent men and women, if not with fists, with our words. We have persecuted those who disagreed with us. Called them names, filed lawsuits against individuals and businesses and, without love, used the Sword of the Spirit to stab those with whom we disagree.  – The Apostle Paul paraphrased from 1 Timothy 1:12-13

Our goal in writing, speaking, teaching, and preaching should come from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. – The Apostle Paul paraphrased from 1 Timothy 1:5

God has charged us to be diligent, warning that if we ignore his call, he may remove the gift entrusted to us. We are not called to rebuke harshly. Rather, we should come to others with tenderness, urging all to invite the Spirit of Christ to live within, to work within, and to transform our minds and character.

We do not simply read God’s Word. God’s Word read us.

We do not “get into” God’s Word. God’s Word gets into us.

If we persevere in both reading and doing the words of God and watch our doctrine closely, we may save not only ourselves a great deal of harm, but also save those who hear God’s message of love in our lessons, lectures, and writings.

“Save those who hear God’s message of love. . . ” This is the issue dividing the United Methodist Church over same-sex marriage.

It is hard to allow someone you love to become lost. If you know a family member or close friend caught in a cycle of addiction, then you understand the pain that comes when all your efforts to rally the individual and turn them back towards sobriety fail. Who of us, in such a situation, would encourage more addictive behavior? Who of us would enable those we love to rush further into darkness?

And yet this is where the United Methodist Church is today. There are two sides who claim the mantle of love.

One shows love through affirmation. The other shows love through transformation. One shows love through inclusion. The other shows love through the exclusion of sin and its power. One shows love through a message of liberation. The other shows love through the death of The Messenger who came to set all men free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:1 & 13

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31

Christ is that truth. And that truth sets us free from sin through his death.

We know that our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. – Romans 6:5-6

So let us put aside this notion that one side hates and the other loves. Both sides love, but in different ways.

Now as to the matter of the desires of the flesh, consider how God dealt with such immorality.

The men of the city called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” – Genesis 19:5

There is much that could be said about Sodom and Gomorrah, little of which is good, but there can be no denying that their rampant sexual sin had become so grievous in the sight of God that the plea for help from its victims had reached his throne.

The Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20

In much the same way pornography enslaves so many today, unbridle lust for sexual gratification controlled the lives of those living in Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Look,” said Lot, “I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” Genesis 19:8

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves ,nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – I Corinthians 6:9-10

We would do well to remember that our lust of the flesh, if left unchecked, can drive us to act in ways that harms not only ourselves, but others. One sin often leads to others. This is especially so within the Church. Once the Church tolerated the sin of slavery. Today the history of that sin is used to justify our tolerance for sexual sin. Sex before marriage, divorce, and adultery has led to the death of millions of aborted children.

With free will we are free to believe any number of things. We can believe there is no God, and many do. We can believe that human sexuality has changed over time, and many do. We can believe that God changes over time, and many do.

And yet God says he, “Does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

As to the specific matter of same-sex relations, God says:

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is an abomination. – Leviticus 20:13

We know that the law is made for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine. – I Timothy 1:10

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. – Romans 1:26-17

Of course we know these verses. They have been shared countless times as proof that God hates ____ and here we add names, labels, letters, and lifestyles. But is “hate” the best adjective to describe God’s view on this matter?

While it is true that God calls the act “an abomination” תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה, might his purpose not be for “setting apart” for correction rather than destruction.

“The law is made for those who practice what is contrary to the sound doctrine.”

Let us not forget that for 10 righteous individuals he would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah. God goes to great lengths to spare us, even to offering his only son as payment for our sins.

This Hebrew word תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה is found sixteen times in Scripture and is always associated with separation, rejected, or set apart for destruction.
“Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה able to Egyptians.” Genesis 43:32
“Do not bring a תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה it, for it is set apart for destruction.” Deuteronomy 7:26.
“Her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה in the eyes of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 24:4
“Do not eat any תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה thing.” Deuteronomy 14:3
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה.” Proverbs 28:9
“Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה to me.” Isaiah 1:13
“But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; whoever chooses you is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה.” Isaiah 41:24
“Are they ashamed of their תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.” Jeremiah 6:15 & Jeremiah 8:12
“They were haughty and did תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” Ezekiel 16:50
“In you one man commits a תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה offense with his neighbor’s wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father’s daughter.” Ezekiel 22:11
“You rely on your sword, you do תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה things, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?’ Ezekiel 33:26

God’s purpose seems to be to put out of his presence those who are תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה  in order that they might be motivated to turn back to him. This is in keeping with God’s persistent call for us to repent. A parent who places their child in “time out” does not do this out of hate, but love. Mom or dad is simply trying to instruct the child in what the parent believes to be acceptable behavior. Should we not allow God to deal with us in a similar manner?

Now as to the matter of marriage Jesus says:

“At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9

No longer two, but one. A new creation. This union is both mysterious (two becoming one), but also holy, for it is not we who couple the man and woman but God. He joins them together. This union is of such value in God’s eyes that Christ later says:

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

Christ seems to be saying that if a husband and wife choose to live apart, they remain united in a way that cannot be altered. It is as if Jesus is saying that we cannot uncreate what God creates. Certainly, throughout nature and all of creation this is the case. We can care for our planet, animals, people, but we cannot uncreate our planet, animals, people. We can destroy, but we cannot uncreate what God has established.

At this point some might ask: “But couldn’t God change his mind regarding marriage, and specifically, same-sex relationships?” After all, God seems to have changed his mind when it comes to what we can and cannot eat.

Jesus said, “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) – Mark 7:18-19

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” – Acts 10:9-15

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:14-17

Paul wrote in his letter to the Timothy, “Hypocritical liars forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:3-5

Peter said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” – Acts 10:28

If God nullified the Levitical laws regarding food, can he not also nullify his commands regarding sexual immorality? If, as Paul says, “everything God created is good,” then is not all marriage between two people in love also good?

Some might argue that when God gave Moses the Law, mankind behaved in certain ways that seemed unnatural but now, with science and our enlightened examination, is considered normal.

If such is the case, then we are left to ask: How can an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God fail to see future events. How is it that God failed to take into account for genetic predispositions that prompt some to be attracted to members of the same sex?

Perhaps at this point we should turn to the words of Jesus to get his perspective on marriage and sexual relationships.

Jesus said, “You have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” – Revelation 2:6

The name Nicolas is associated with the Greek root word meaning “conqueror” or “destroyer”–an apt label when one considers the current split within the United Methodist Church. In later letters to the churches, Jesus seems to link the practices of the Nicolaitans with the practices of those who listened to Balaam.

According to theopedia.com the, “Nicolaitans were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum.” Revelation 2:6,15. “Irenaeus identifies them as followers of Nicolas, one of the seven chosen in Acts 6, and as men who “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans appears to have been a form of antinomianism, which makes the fatal mistake that man can freely partake in sin because the Law of God is no longer binding.”
https://www.theopedia.com/nicolaitans

Jesus said, “I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” – Revelation 2:14-15

Balaam encouraged Israel’s enemies to use sexual seduction to weaken God’s people. Through compromise with the society around them, God’s people committed sexual immorality and defiled themselves with foreign women. Moses called it the “Peor incident” (Numbers 31:15–16). By sleeping with the Moabite women, some of Israel’s men brought God’s judgment on the camp.

Jesus said, “I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” – Revelation 2:20

Once more Jesus cites sexual immorality as a reason for why he, “will make those who commit adultery with [Jezebel] to suffer intensely.” He will do this so that all the churches will know that “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Finally, we find Jesus concluding the end of all things with this warning.

Jesus said, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” – Revelation 22:15

Who are these “dogs” Christ speaks of? This word for “dog is κύων (kuón) and only occurs five times in the New Testament and always in unflattering ways. The term is meant to symbolize things that God hates, are impure, sinful and disgusting.

These “dogs” κύων are fixated on outward appearances, in this case genital mutilation.

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. – Philippians 3:2

These “dogs” κύων prey on the weak and helpless.

In the Parable of the Rich Fool Jesus said, “Even the dogs came and licked his [Lazarus] sores.” Luke 16:21

In the eyes of Jews, these “dogs” κύων are comparable to pigs. These dogs serve as an example of someone who is saved and later rejects the salvation found in Christ and returns to their old way of life.

“For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.

“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for  people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it (worldly desires) and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

“Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit, and a sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” – 2 Peter 2:18-22

These “dogs” κύων “are vicious.

Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” – Matthew 7:6

According to Jesus, these “dogs” κύων “ will remain outside the new Jerusalem and have no part in the Kingdom of God.

We all believe something, but what we believe has eternal consequences. This is especially so for those in the Church who serve as leaders, deacons, elders, pastors, teachers, preachers, and even writers and authors. Anytime we council others on the ways of God we should do so in holy fear.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.” – Luke 17:2-3

A runner stone might weigh up to 3,300 pounds. Hung around a person’s neck, it would take them down so fast there would be no chance to escape.

If anyone’s teaching does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have been robbed of the truth. 1 Timothy 6:3-5

For certain individuals have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. – Jude 1:4

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:17-18

What we believe is, to a large degree, the intrinsic nature of who we are. Our beliefs determine our actions. Our actions determine our destiny. Wherever you are going, that’s where you will be.

Plot your course carefully.

Can Same-sex Marriage Be Consecrated by the Word of God and Prayer

UMC Split

Hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron, forbid people to marry. For everything God created is good. Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:3, 4-5

If nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, then can same-sex marriage be consecrated when bathed in the word of God and prayer?

If clergy–who are ordained, set apart, and elevated above laity, consider a couple to be united in holy communion–then on what grounds could a believer possibly object to the wedding of a same-sex couple?

Finally, is it hypocritical for heterosexual believers who live in ungodly ways to prevent same-sex couples from marrying?

With these few verses to Timothy, the Apostle Paul seems to suggest that those in the church of Ephesus needed to check their own spirit before preventing others from marrying. Do these verses support same-sex marriage? 

Worms fer thought. What says you, mate?

Have we stretched this passage ter far? Sailed over tha edge? Be fer ya keelhaul me, think on how some others might see this verse and ponder how ya might respond in kindness ter thar way of thinking things.