Embrace the Weirdness!


I want to introduce a new Sunday morning Bible study that I will be leading for the adults at Harbins starting this Sunday, January 10th.  The study will use Russell Moore’s new book, Onward, to guide us as we consider what Biblical Christianity looks like in a culture that is rapidly changing. With the ever-divisive “culture wars,” increasing terrorism fears, and rapidly approaching elections, this Biblical study is certainly designed for such a time as this!

As our culture changes, it is no longer possible for Christians to pretend that we are the moral majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be very good news for the church. Nominal Christianity won’t work anymore. Nor can Christians double-down on the status quo or retreat into isolation. Instead, the church must boldly speak to the defining social and political issues of our time with a much bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Christianity seems increasingly strange–and even subversive–to our culture, it’s time to embrace the distinctiveness of the Christian faith and to be marginalized for the sake of the gospel.

Here’s a short word from Russell Moore:

I hope you can join us this semester as we push onward with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Pastor Steve


Churches, please stop hating gays. Love them as Jesus loves.

I hear about it on the news, on blogs, on social media.  Churches are showing hatred to gay people and it’s time for the church to change course and love them as Jesus loves people.

In response to this, many churches thomas_std_t
are now, in an attempt to show love and not hate, moving to support and affirm gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle.  A steady stream of pastors have come forward, changing their beliefs on this issue.  Entire denominations, such as the PCUSA, are embracing the lifestyle of homosexual couples and instead of morally judging their behavior, they are accepting it.  The cry of an increasing number of churches is that Christians need to evolve from their antiquated positions on sexuality, stop hating gay people, and love them as Jesus loves.

I wholeheartedly agree that it is high time for the American Church to get with the program and end hatred towards our gay friends and neighbors and liberally lavish them with love.

thomas_std_tBut when I hear people throw around words such as “love” and “hate”, I often feel like the Princess Bride’s Inigo Montoya who said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

thomas_std_tTypically when the culture talks about how Christians need to “love” gay people, what they really mean is that they need to endorse their lifestyle.  Indeed, there is enormous pressure to affirm, support, and applaud our gay friends and neighbors in their homosexuality.  To do otherwise, especially to say that their behavior is morally wrong and to call them out of that lifestyle, is seen as hate.

Again, I identify with my old friend Montoya.  When did we begin to think love and hate meant something different than what it actually means?  When did “love” become an endorsing affirmation and when did calling something morally wrong become hate?

So, to quote the cheesy 90’s hit pop song from Haddaway, “What is Love?” The Bible gives a clear answer.

“…this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

God is the ultimaimageste standard of love.  And God demonstrated His love through painful, redemptive, self-sacrifice.  God gave up His Son, Jesus Christ, to take God’s punishment on behalf of sinners, so that whoever believes in Him will escape eternal destruction in Hell. (John 3:16)  Therefore love, in its highest form, is acting towards another in such a way that the action is for the benefit and well-being of the other person, even if it’s at great cost to yourself.  It is, to not only look to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil 2:4)

So if loving means self-sacrificial service that benefits someone else, then a refusal to do such is hatred.

If you claim to be a Christian, than surely you believe that the most beneficial thing to a gay person, or any person, is not affirming, agreeing with, supporting, or applauding their lifestyle.  Instead, the most beneficial thing for any person is that they be in right relationship with God and spend eternity with Him in heaven and not in Hell.

thomas_std_tThese so-called churches that are coming out of the closet are endorsing and affirming gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle and they think this is being loving.  Instead, what they are actually doing is encouraging people to blissfully stay in a lifestyle that will send them to Hell.  There are only two ways to live.  God’s way which leads to life, or our way that leads to death.

The apostle Paul says that,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 )

I cannot think of a higher form of hatred than a church or a pastor, who, through broad smiles, pats on the back, and warm affirmations, supports a person in their commitment to living a life that will cause them to miss out on inheriting God’s glorious kingdom, and not inheriting the kingdom means inheriting Hell.

And yet more and more churches are showing the worst form of hatred by not pointing out to people that their lifestyle is in rebellion against a holy God.  More and more pastors do not have the backbone to say that an unrepentant person practicing homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom.

thomas_std_tAnd my fear is that one of the driving factors behind this is not that churches and pastors desire to love homosexuals as much as they desire applauds and approval from the culture.  Christians dread being called intolerant bigots.  They dread being “on the wrong side of history.”  Perhaps some dread losing their jobs or their tax exempt status.  Sadly, many of us dread being kicked out of the cultural “in crowd.” And yet, as God has shown us, true love is self-sacrificial and may come at great expense to ourselves.  Therefore, if we really love our gay and lesbian neighbors we will dread them going to Hell more than we’ll dread being called bigots.  We’ll be willing to suffer the cost of being ostracized and marginalized because we love our neighbors more than we love “likes” on Facebook.  We’ll be willing to tell them the truth.  That doesn’t mean we are to be obnoxious jerks about it.  Instead, it means that we compassionately tell the world the tough truth that all of us are sinners (homosexuality just being one of a million different expressions of rebellion against our heavenly King).

thomas_std_tThere’s been a lot of talk about “equality” for gays. Well, the truth is that all of us equally deserve eternal condemnation (aka Hell) for our treason against God.  Someone who is committed to the gay lifestyle should not see himself as morally superior to the drunk person or the self-righteous religious hypocrite or the thief or a greedy man or anyone else who won’t inherit God’s kingdom.  We’re all equal.  We are all guilty before God.  We are all wicked sinners and there is none who do good, not one. (Rom 3:12)

imagesThe good news is that this same God of justice who created Hell for wretches like me and you, is also a God of mercy.  Therefore, if any sinner, whether that be a homosexual, a heterosexual adulterer, a drunkard, a thief, a Satanist, a gossip, a prideful jerk, or whatever else, receive Christ and Christ’s payment for sins through a faith evidenced by repentance, they will be saved and declared “not guilty”, with a guaranteed home in heaven with God because our sin debt has been paid in full.

But there’s more.  Unlike these so-called “affirming churches”, God,
thomas_std_twhile loving people where they are, loves them too much to let them stay as they are!  Jesus didn’t die for people to grab a “get out of Hell free” card so they could go on living as they always have.  Instead, the Scriptures say that,

…he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Jesus died not just so people might be forgiven, but actually changed! The Bible says that anyone who is in Christ is a New Creation.(2 Cor 5:17)    That doesn’t mean immediate perfection.  Saved Christians may struggle against and even succumb to homosexual desires just like they may battle against temptations of drunkenness, gossiping, idolatry, pride, anger, and any other sin.  Any honest Christian will tell you he falls flat on his face regularly!  Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean immediate perfection (that won’t come till heaven), it does, however, mean a new and better direction as God lovingly draws us away from the old lifestyles that were killing us thomas_std_tand moving us into a new way of life that is for our good and His glory as He conforms us to the image of His sinless Son. (Rom 8:29)

God knows that there is a better way for His people to live.  If churches are not going to call people out of the homosexual lifestyle, then to be consistent they should not call people out of being thieves and drunks and swindlers and idolators.  Those sins and more are all on the same list.  But God’s goal for His people has always been more than just forgiveness, but also transformation.  God, in His wisdom, has determined that getting drunk, or being a thief, or being an arrogant blowhard, or being a pornographer, or practicing homosexuality are included among the things that do not reflect the truth, character, and holiness of God.  True Christians, while perhaps struggling withomas_std_tth a multitude of sins, seek to not repeat the mistakes of Adam and Eve, who tried to determine what was good and evil apart from God’s revelation. Instead, genuine Christians seek to humbly agree with God and trust Him that He knows how best we can be conformed to the image of Christ, regardless of how hard our hearts and hormones may pull us in another direction.  New Creation people fight against those old pulls because they have a new identity.

That’s why the apostle Paul, after mentioning homosexuality along with a whole host of other sins, says to the church in Corinth,

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Notice the past tense.  Such “were” some of you.  God loves people where they are, but loves them too much to leave them where they are.  For the people of God, He has a better plan, and a new and better identity.

In closing, I suppose there can be many reasons for churches to encourage unrepentant homosexuals to stay on their Hellbound path, but one thing is certain, those reasons don’t include love.

Thank God that Jesus doesn’t love like we “love.”  Thank God Jesus was willing to accept mockery and ridicule at the hands of a hostile culture in exchange for loving God and loving the sinners He came to save.  Thank God Jesus loved us enough to preach the truth, to call us out of our rebellion, and command thomas_std_tus to repent and follow Him.  Thank God Jesus didn’t look at the cross and say, “You know what?  This price is too high to pay.  I guess they’ll all just have to rot in Hell forever.  They do deserve it after all”

Instead, Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2)

Forgive us, Lord, for failing our gay friends and neighbors, and for failing all fellow sinners by withholding from them your truth.  God was kind enough to show us how our former lives were destroying us and He gave us the faith to trust Christ and walk in repentance.  If we call ourselves Christians, how dare we withhold that same kindness from others?  Lord God, give us the courage, the boldness, the compassion, and the selflessness to truly love as Jesus does.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer






Making Our Way Through the Cultural Fog

It was a trip that I will never forget. I was in the backseat of our Isuzu Trooper (an early forerunner of the SUV) as my father drove through the Andes Mountains on a very, very narrow road covered by very, very thick fog. We were on our way to Manglaralto, a quiet beach on the coast of Ecuador, for our missionary year-end-retreat. We had made the trip many times before, but due to the weather conditions this particular trip was scary.

FogAheadThe weather got so bad that my dad had to pull over at one of the little villages that populate the roadside. I remember him entering a small tienda (store) and a few minutes later coming out while conversing with a heavy-set Ecuadorian man. I watched the man get into a large truck parked a few yards from our car as my dad hurriedly entered our car. My dad then announced that this man was going to help us navigate the fog and get down the mountain. How was this to happen? Well, the man told us to stick to the rear of his truck and keep our eyes on his tail-lights and he would guide us down the narrow, winding roads.

My first thought was, “What if he goes off the side of the mountain?” But dad trusted him, and I had no say in the matter, so for the next few hours we slowly and carefully stayed glued to the rear-end of that truck. Dad kept his focus on the truck’s tail-lights and needless to say, we made it safely through the fog and down the mountain.

I am reminded of that incident when I consider the thick cultural fog that we have drifted into as a nation. You could feel the fog thickening as our culture celebrated the “gender-transition” of one our country’s most iconic Olympic athletes.That event was closely followed by the landmark decision by our Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage. Those developments should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any sort of attention to our nation’s consistent cultural drift toward the idolatry of absolute sexual autonomy, but they were troubling none-the-less.

crossroadI sat down last week intending to write some reflections after the Supreme Court decision, but I really found that I had nothing to add to the conversation. There were plenty of resources and websites already available to help people think through these issues (like those listed here). So, I deleted all that I had written and decided to think about my local church. How can I help Harbins Community Baptist Church navigate these murky days? Certainly I can point them to some of the resources that I linked to above, but what basic Biblical truths will serve as the tail-lights that will guides us through this fog? I zeroed in on five things we must do:

  1. We must rest in God’s sovereignty. I have often said that the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty its he sweetest doctrine that I hold to. I feel that even more intensely during days like these. The only way the true church will endure this moment in history, just as it has endured worse moments in the past, is to rest in the clear Biblical truth that our God rules with absolute and unquestioned sovereignty and that there is nothing happening in this dark world that is outside of His perfect and providential purposes. We must believe that! Our faith will not survive unless it is anchored to a rock-solid belief that our God rules absolutely. Now, the type of sovereignty I’m talking about is not the namby-pamby, weak-kneed “sovereignty” that most evangelicals embrace which treats God like a absent Landlord in need of a good PR firm to make up for the evils that seek past his notice. No, I’m talking the absolute sovereignty that the Apostle Paul embraced when he said that, “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). I’m talking about a God who “does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3), who says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 43:10). I’m talking about reading and believing verses like Lamentations 3:37 which proclaim, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” I’m talking about pastors standing in the pulpit of God’s true church urging the people to believe in the God who says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). God is holy and just and good and loving and absolutely sovereign over good and evil, including the evil fog of our day.
  2. We must recognize man’s total depravity. The doctrine of the total depravity of man is key to both understanding and being compassionate toward those caught in up in the various expressions sexual brokenness that are celebrated in our culture. The view, commonly held by Christians of our day, that all men are in their heart-of-hearts essentially good may be well intentioned but it’s Biblically ignorant. The Bible clearly teaches “that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Biblical view of man’s spiritual condition is outlined in Romans 3 where we read that, “no one does good, not even one.” It’s only when we believe what the Bible teaches about depravity that we can understand how and why the world becomes futile in it’s thinking and why it embraces and even celebrates unnatural relationships. But the scriptural understanding of depravity also helps us see that every single one of us are lost and broken, and apart from the saving and transforming grace of God, we would remain in our spiritually-dead, totally-depraved state: 1Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” So depravity helps to understand the fog and have compassion for those still lost in it.
  3. We must return to the church’s mission. If people are indeed depraved and in need of radical transformation, then the church must stay on mission. I’m afraid that the church in general has experienced some significant mission creep over the past couple of decades. Somehow the mission of the church shifted from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to social justice. The church certainly should be engaged in social good and seeking justice, but the problem with affixing the church’s mission to social justice is that social justice is a moving mark. The moment same-sex marriage became a matter of social justice in the eyes of the world, was the moment many in the church found themselves confused and straying off-course. The result for many wasn’t a course correction, but a capitulation. But the Bible makes clear that the mission of the church isn’t social justice, the mission of the church is the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. The gospel message will certainly fuel good deeds, but it will also anchor us to the unchanging truth of God’s Word. To show true love to the world is to speak the good news of grace, but a grace that doesn’t overlook sin but instead overcomes it: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The gospel message is the only means of lifting the fog of sin that settles on every human being.
  4. We must remember our citizenship. If we truly have experienced life-transforming grace, then we have also been given a new citizenship. A couple of days ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day, and as I watched fireworks and enjoyed a Fourth of July rodeo, I found myself experiencing a weird mixture of national pride and deep lament over where our nation is currently heading. For many the lament over our nation direction can sometimes border on despair and fear. But I was reminded that no matter how far this nation drifts from its Christian roots, no matter how pervasive secularism becomes, my ultimate citizenship is that of a different kingdom. I am a citizen of heaven first, and The United States of America second. I am thankful that I was saved out of the domain of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). When Christ returns we know that the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord (Revelation 11:9) and that includes America, but until that day we must remember that we are strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). We lay hold of our true citizenship by looking to a lasting city, a city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14). And we stand strong by being grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). Only when we understand our higher citizenship will we endure the deep sorrow we feel about this nations’ trajectory.
  5. We must realize who our true enemy is. With the animus that is now aimed at those who oppose the secular doctrine of absolute sexual autonomy it is easy to forget who our real enemy is. Though the world may hate us and even harm us for our beliefs, the Scriptures are clear that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Keeping these truths in mind will allow us to maintain a winsome witness in the midst of pervasive persecution. These truths will allow us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders (Colossians 4:5), and they will drive us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We must not forget the Apostle Peter’s words given to a generation of Believers who were living in much more perilous times than we do: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). We must allow God to be our defender while we loving fight the good fight of faith.

I know there is much more to say, and much more has already been said by men and women much smarter than me, but these are at least some of the foundational Biblical truths that I want to encourage our church to hold tightly to if are to make it through the fog. I pray that God will give us grace to be faithful during these challenging days.