Christian & a Transgender Dialogue

In these two videos, Ryan Haines engages in a conversation with Seraphim Step. They are good friends. Seraphim identifies as a transgender individual and Ryan is a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

My purpose in sharing these two videos is because, as Christians, we are called to share the truth of God’s Word. 1 Peter 3:15 reveals that we should be ready to give an answer to anybody who asks us for a reason for the hope that is within us. Peter continues though by clarifying that we are to do so with meekness and fear. Belittling those who live under the judgment of God does not show them the love of Christ. We do not have to love, like, or endorse any actions within the LGBTQ community, but we can and should share that Christ came to the earth to save sinners.

In the first of the two videos, they discuss the terms about what transgenderism is all about, and how Seraphim came to the opinion that he was trapped in a male body and has made the decision to have surgery. This surgery is for the purpose of supposedly completing the transformation from male to female.  Unless your children are older, this may not be an appropriate video for them to see even though the two do not discuss anything explicit.

The second video is an open and Biblical explanation by Ryan sharing lovingly about the God of creation. He tells the viewer why and how God created two genders – male and female, and covers the Biblical mandate for marriage and the sexual relationship that was created for good.

One of the areas that I appreciated hearing from Ryan is the defining of Biblical terms such as “abomination” and what qualifies as an abomination before a holy and just God. If the term abomination is used just to define sexual immorality, the person using the term is not being faithful to Scripture. Ultimately, ALL sin is an abomination before God.

The bottom line is that true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should be willing to reach out to those who have chosen a path that goes against the holiness of God. We can show friendship toward those who are searching for truth. God does forgive sin and He also brings healing.

Superman Goes to Church?

Yesterday evening, I posted this on my Facebook wall. No, this was not some off the wall church, but a long-established church considered well within the realms of evangelicalism. Some preachers of old came from this particular denomination and would probably roll over in their graves if they knew what was being spoon-fed to gullible sheep.

“Well that church visit was a one-timer only! We knew we were in for a treat when the sermon notes had a picture of Clark Kent / Christopher Reeves with a big Cross in place of the “S” on his chest. The sermon title says it all, “Super Christian, A Fat Woman, and an Old Camera.” Wow, two hours of our lives we will never get back.

During the message inspirational talk, the first large chunk of the time was taken up trying to get the hearer to see how they relate to the Superman of the movies. Basically, we each have our Kryptonite and the reality is that we are far from being SuperChristian. However, if we work hard, in 5 years, we can become closer to the SuperChristian ideal than we are today. It only takes a desire on our part to use our willpower to change.

Here were a couple of quotes from the person who was tasked with delivering the whole truth of Scripture, but failed miserably:

“Love is the most powerful change agent in our lives. So we must love God and love ourselves. The change process includes asking Him to be your Lord and GIVE Him authority for what you become in the future.”

Shades of Joel Osteen. How much biblical knowledge does a person have to unlearn in order to spout these kinds of comments to a listening congregation? Even worse, how shallow does a believer have to be in order to accept these comments from the pulpit?

Let us clarify a few things here. 1) Yes, love is important and is the greatest of faith, hope, and love. However, for believer and unbeliever alike, only God can be the most powerful change agent in our lives. An unbeliever cannot truly love with a biblical love unless he or she is completely and powerfully changed by the God of the universe. For the believer, we are called to renew our minds and to die to self daily, not to love ourselves.

This kind of thinking quickly devolves into the false teaching that we must forgive ourselves and there are even churches that are teaching that in order to move forward in our lives, that we must learn to forgive God as well. This is blasphemy. God has nothing for which He can be forgiven. Only a sinful creature needs to be forgiven, and this comes from God for our wickedness against His holiness.

Here is another quote –

“God loves you just how you are and will love you completely EVEN if you never change.”

Excuse me while I get sick. My stomach should be ok in a few days, but my head will struggle for awhile. This is absolute drivel to coin a good Greek word. Is it true that God loves each of us? First, John 3:16 makes it clear that God loved the world that He gave the ultimate gift of His Only Begotten Son. However, in that same passage, Jesus continued and said in verse 36 that for those who do not believe that the wrath of God abides on them even now. God hates sin. God detests sin. God loathes sin.

This is the problem with much of evangelicalism. It wants to focus so much on the love to the complete, or almost complete, exclusion of the wrath of God. God is equally a God of love and a God of wrath. If there was no wrath, there could be no love exhibited. God had to hate sin infinitely in order to love infinitely.

Further, this last quote smacks of a complete misunderstanding of Biblical truths, and here is why. 1) God does NOT love you just how you are for you and I were once dead in trespasses and sins. The wrath of God bore down upon our heads and we were bound for destruction. God could not place His love upon that which rises in ultimate rebellion against His holiness because He accepts you the way you are. No, no, NO! If God loves you the way you are, then there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to have become the ultimate sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 5:17 makes this abundantly clear. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

God will be glorified in all things and one day, every knee will bow down before Jesus Christ. This will be true of those in heaven, or earth, or in hell. However, the Bible is clear that when God sets His love upon you and redeems you from the slave market of sin that you WILL NOT remain the same. You CANNOT be the same person and choose to abide in your sin with no discipline or correction.

If there has never been a change or if you never change, the wrath of God will remain upon you and one day, in the pits of hell, you will find yourself cursing God with all of your being.

If you are a true believer, then you will not be able to keep from changing anymore than a baby can by willpower choose to remain an infant.

So, while the sheeple were being entertained, the Holy Spirit must have been grieved. The music and announcement time comprised right at 60 minutes of the total service time. Many swayed and clapped with the music driven by the band at the front, but few sang. People laughed at the jokes and little anecdotes, and I presume they went away feeling like they had accomplished something special by filling in the Church/God box of their lives for another week. Yet, there was no change.

It was a very sad commentary on what happens when the pulpit gets away from the Bible as the standard, and a very sad commentary on what happens when the people in the pew have no clue whether what is being said is actually in the Bible or not. We were grieved at the realization that here was another full church full of people who had no clue what it means to biblically worship a holy, righteous God.

Superman is not real, but God is real. Superman does not belong in church, but God does (Rev. 3:20). Our God came into the world to save sinners and to change them. He doesn’t turn us into SuperChristian, but His Holy Spirit guides us into all truth so that we become more like an image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

LOST – The Holiness of God in Churches

Preaching about the love of God as if He is like the friendly grandfather is a false gospel. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life is a false gospel. The true gospel is one that exalts the holiness of God, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and the total depravity of every person who has ever lived.

Scam Into Blessing – Part 7

Ruined vehicles, burned out buildings pockmarked with bullet and rocket holes, and destroyed bridges marked the highway as long-lasting evidences of the recent war. However, what kept the images alive were the road blocks every so often manned by UN troops sitting in their sandbagged positions carefully watching every person going by and maintaining a presence that was deemed necessary for the fragile peace.

Pastor Togba shared that much of the fighting was the result of Muslim incursions seeking to take more control for the sake of Islam. Ironically, while the Muslims did not win, Liberia is today surrounded by countries that are predominantly of the Islamic faith. With the advent of the UN troops though, Islam has gained an addition through attrition as the vast majority of the troops allocated to Liberia (supposedly for its protection) are from Muslim countries.

Having never seen UN troops previous to my trip to Liberia, I was appalled at what I saw. While there is much that could be debated in regards to their roles, one thing was clear – the UN was a synonymous term with greed. Everywhere I went during my trip, the troops always held themselves aloof from the local population as a whole while driving around in their very expensive vehicles. I learned from the pastors that the UN came into the country with a blank check and 15,000 troops making it the largest peacekeeping force anywhere in the world at that time.

As we passed through another of the endless parade of roadblocks, I was reminded again that only when the Prince of Peace returns will peace ever be able to reign. Men, kings, and governments can plan and scheme, but they would do well to hearken to the words of a wise pagan king found in Daniel 4:34-35, “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”

Shortly before arriving in Gbarnga, I was trying to stay cool with a fan in the back seat when my thoughts were interrupted by Pastor Togba swerving near a huge black branch in the middle of the road. I was surprised as it looked to me like he had deliberately tried to hit it – until I saw the branch move! It was a huge snake that had been sunning itself in a most convenient spot and almost paid for its poor choice of location. Outside the safety of thick glass in a zoo, I had never seen such a large snake. Fortunately, Pastor Togba decided not to stop so we could make its acquaintance! LOL

Moving through thick forests and patches of rice paddies, we entered Gbarnga and drove directly to the AFBM mission clinic. AFBM stands for African Fundamental Baptist Mission and is a group of about 20-30 churches scattered throughout Liberia. They operate a medical clinic in conjunction with medical missionaries who are serving with ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelization). Coming up the driveway, a hand painted sign on the side of the green building greets each visitor with, “We treat patients, but only God heals.”

It was a privilege to meet the staff of this clinic as they struggled to daily meet the needs of dozens of patients every day. Their goal was not just to meet the medical need, but also to provide spiritual guidance and assistance. These individuals fully understood the need of not providing just a social gospel for a person who goes to bed with a full stomach and a healthy body will still die and go straight to hell if he or she does not place their faith in Christ alone for their salvation.

Liberia is an interesting study in syncretism, which is the mixing of religions with the end result being that which only serves to satisfy the worshipper that he is doing what is necessary to protect himself from the evil spirits. Roman Catholicism allowed this to be perfected (and still does today) in many countries where natives were permitted to worship their own gods of wood and stone provided they showed lip allegiance to the religion of Rome. Liberia is no different in that many of the tribes still practice secret rituals mired in paganism while statistics claim that over 50% of the population are “Christian.”

Before retiring for the evening, we were invited over to visit one of the ABWE missionaries and were treated to a real American style meal: real mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs, and a host of other foods that was a welcome treat. While they have since moved to serve the Lord in another very needy part of West Africa, I still remember the Lippys with fondness for their hospitality. Her parents were visiting from the USA, and it was a wonderful time of fellowship as we spoke about the need for more missionaries and the joys that came in serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pondering what we had seen, we stayed the night in the clinic. Gbarnga is in a more hilly region and quite some distance from the Atlantic Ocean than Monrovia and it made the nights quite a bit cooler which was nice. However, it had to be one of the most uncomfortable nights I had as my bed was similar to a hospital gurney. The mattress was less than one inch of foam on top of the metal tray. While I might have slept better on the floor, I was happier with my uncomfortable bed than I was in getting acquainted with the critters that came out at night looking for fresh victims!

The next morning was an early rise as we spent more time visiting with Stefan, who is a missionary pilot seconded to ABWE. He oversees the helicopter flights throughout the region making life so much easier for other missionaries in the area. At that time I visited, he was building a house at the edge of the AFBM medical clinic and it was a privilege to see the quick progress aided by so many of the local believers. Some were cutting mud into brick form and laying them out to bake in the sun. Some were clearing more of the land from the huge trees and shrubs. Others were laying bricks that had long been curing, while others were being an encouragement to the others.

‘ABC’ was one of those who provided encouragement along with doing smaller odd jobs. ‘ABC’ rode a special tricycle that he was able to pedal with his powerful arms. His legs did not function and his head barely made it to my waist. He was smiling from ear to ear as he shared with me how much the Lord had blessed him through his life. Shuffling around the work site, he shared with me how one prayer is that the Lord would allow him to eventually get a small motor to help him get up the hills around Gbarnga as it would enable him to get more things done.

My curiosity eventually got the better of me when some of his friends egged me on to ask him about his name. Although not wanting to break any cultural taboos about such an odd name, I must admit that I was curious. Another huge grin accompanied the response. “My friends see me pedaling all around and everywhere I go, from the time I was little, they would always say, ‘Always Be Careful!’ After awhile, it just got shortened to ‘ABC’ and that has been my name ever since.

Leaving ‘ABC’ behind, I could not help but be keenly aware that the West has been blessed with abundant mercies when it comes to wealth. In fact, the majority of the world’s wealth is controlled by the West. Yet when it comes to sharing with other countries, it normally finds its way over in the form of loans or as a means to gain something from the exchange.

Sadly, the Church at large is rarely the exception to this rule. The Church in the West controls vast amounts of finances and yet seems more interested in bigger and better building programs instead of laying up treasures in heaven. Churches spend millions every year for the next fad while congregations in 3rd world countries struggle to even offer a teaching pastor/elder a living wage of $100 per month.

The humility I found throughout Liberia was embarrassing to me as I was reminded of times that I had been less than generous with what God had given so freely to me. These people gave out of the abundance of their poverty. It was not done with the intention of earning any extra credit or kudos with the American/British missionary, but was simply loving a foreigner the way Christ loves us. They gave above and beyond and I am certain that at times it was at the expense of things they could use or need.

Willingly sharing of what they owned was another reminder of what true Christianity is all about. Loving others more than you love yourself is supposed to be a characteristic of a servant of Christ. I would be seeing more examples of love in action over the next few days that would remain with me for a long time.

Driving back down towards Monrovia, we saw an accident which is a common occurrence in Liberia. The roads are terrible and many drivers have little to no regard for the rules governing automobile usage. The accident we saw involved one of the conspicuous yellow taxis that had been traveling at a high rate of speed and hit a bridge. Sadly, there was nothing to be done for several of the passengers who had entered into eternity.

It was certainly a sobering sight and one that reminded each of us of our roles as ministers of the gospel. We never know who will be listening and it is vital that we approach each message as though it were either our last or the last for the hearer. I could not help but wonder whether the people who had been crowded into the car on their way up to Gbarnga had ever heard the missionaries speak or whether they had heard and remained in the depravity of their lost condition while loving all that was diametrically opposed to the holiness of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived safely back at Pastor Togba’s home. Walking outside of the home, I saw Pastor Femi who served at Maranatha Baptist speaking with a friend. I sat down with them and learned that the friend had been a rebel soldier during the civil war. This young man struggled with many concerns in his heart and life, especially the things he had been involved in for about 14 years. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. He had too many questions that he was demanding an answer of God and felt that God owed something to him before he could place his faith in Christ alone. We spoke for about 3 hours eventually continuing on conversation in the darkness of the African night.

I called my wife that night and shared with her the conversation concerning the young man. I relayed to her how this former child soldier told me he had not even been to a church service since he had first been coerced to become a soldier. Our prayer began that night for P__________, but little did we realize that the Lord was going to perform another miracle in very short order.

(…to be continued…)

Contrasts.

Observe the contrast between heresy and biblical teaching. The first quote comes from a rank heretic of the first order. The second quote comes from a man who faithfully exposited the Word of God in England for years.

schuller“I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” Time, March 18, 1985 – Robert Schuller

martyn-lloyd-jones1“Evangelism must start with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the demands of the law, and the eternal consequences of evil.” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, pg. 225