Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shrewd as Serpents, Gentle as Doves

The following blog WILL BE quite offensive to many of my fellow brothers and sisters in the Faith. I am going to take the side opposite of what main Christian media is taking. But I ask that you read the thought with an open mind and listen to my argument.

In Matthew 10, around verse 26, Jesus is sending out his disciples to preach in the surrounding communities, perhaps the nation. He gave them the advice that they should be as shrewd as serpents, but as gentle as doves. It means that they should be serving, not self seeking.

That verse popped into my mind when I heard of a photographer was being sued because she would not shoot a same-gender wedding. It then spread to a bakery over a cake for another same-gender wedding. It seems that both businesses have lost this fight. And perhaps, rightly so.

Yes, you read that correctly. I believe that they were wrong to NOT make the cake or take the pictures. There is a better way to make your opinion known without being labeled hateful in the process. This is where Matthew 10.26 comes into the real world.

As a teen, I remember going to California. One of my cousins was getting married. At that time, I had a hobby. I loved photography. But I didn't pursue it because I had other commitments that kept my schedule too full for anything more serious. I mean, all I owned was a point and shoot. I had just bought it, too. My first Polaroid™ 35mm. And I took it to the wedding.

I also had 4 rolls of film. I wanted to catch all the shots that I could. After the wedding and reception were done, I let my aunt develop my pictures. All I asked for were the duplicates in return. She could even keep the negatives, which she did. She sent me a gift for what I had done, and with the words I shall never forget, for my simple point and shoot. All the important shots “were better than the professional photographer's!”

So what does that have to do with the lawsuit? As a business owner, the idea of having sign at the door that says, “We refuse the right to serve you” is rather misleading. Under the last administration, a suit clearly pointed out that restaurants could not turn a person away if they had the means to pay, unless the person's hygiene posed a threat to public health statutes.

For the Christian business owner, he must remember that he is first a Christian. Second, once he hangs that “open” for business sign in his shop, he can't really turn anyone away. Why would he want to? By standing for his rights, he missed the opportunity to share the gospel with a non-Christian, or the chance to turn an erring sister from her sin. He missed the opportunity to be God's instrument of Grace.

What would have happened with Lydia and the church in Philippi had Paul immediately said as they arrested him, “Hands off! I am a Roman citizen!”? Sure it was wrong for the officials to flog him, much less lay hands on him. He could have done that. That was his right.

But we'd have missed one of the greatest churches of the early world. We'd miss the best letter of encouragement in the New Testament. No, Paul didn't cling to his right because he saw an opportunity to share God's love and grace with a non-Christian, the jailer and his family.

So how would the photographer have better witnessed? “I will shoot your wedding, but I must tell you that I am a Christian. I believe that what you are doing is morally wrong. Given that, shooting your wedding with my beliefs, I may not get the 'magical' shots you are hoping to see. You should consider another photographer.” To my knowledge, this was not tried. She refused outright, as was her “right” to do so.

It's like the man who drives his European sport car into a mechanic's shop for some engine repair. Now the mechanic's forte is domestics. There's not even a single Toyota or Nissan in the area, just the big 3. Would the mechanic flat out refuse to work on the sport car? No. He would tell the driver that he's only good at working on domestics, and he would probably give the driver the directions to the nearest garage that could be of service to him.

Perhaps the Church of America has been too polluted with our rights that we have forgotten to seek first His kingdom. As a nation, we fought to have our freedoms that now freedoms have become a new idol in our sea of idols. It has infested the Church, poisoning her.

Christians expect to see Christian behavior from non-Christians. But Paul tells us that we are not to judge those who don't know Christ. Christians expect Christian behavior from corporate America. But Jesus didn't come to save Home Depot™. Christ came to save you and me from our sins and the Hell we deserve. He calls us to become Children of God, brothers and sisters to Christ. He didn't call Dr. Pepper. He didn't call the Denver Broncos. You and me.

And this doesn't even begin to address the flip side of the argument. I will ask, how many ceremonies were shot of non-Christians, man and wife? How many cakes fed non-Christian couples? Let us be smart with how we deal with our neighbor.

Now I know that these lawsuits have been old news. What prompted this? A discussion on a minister's forum that I belong posted an article about churches revamping by-laws and articles of incorporation to protect themselves from potential lawsuits of same-gender weddings. The mainstream media says that the churches doing this are being alarmist when there is no threat, nor likely to be one.

Again, let us remember that we are to be as smart as snakes, but as harmless as doves. Let us start thinking about this outside the box. Fact is 13 states along with DC, according to the article, allow for same-gender marriages. I don't agree with it, but man has been redefining marriage since the time of the Patriarchs of the Bible. There will be a time that a couple will come to your church and inquire about either the preacher performing the ceremony or the rental of the property. How should you respond?

It is wise to rethink the wedding ceremony. As beautiful as it can be, it is now corrupted. It could be prudent for the church to no longer allow ceremonies outside the congregation. Rent it for anything but weddings. Or perhaps, don't rent it at all. Allow people to schedule use of the facility, except weddings. Except any and all weddings.

For the couple who are part of the congregation, make their ceremony a justice of the peace, or county judge for the State requirement, and then as part of the “worship meeting”, have the ceremony that is before God. Many ceremonies have been separated from the general meetings. Even the baptisms are usually held at the end of the service, more most likely after the service is over. I prefer to celebrate milestones in my brothers' and sisters' lives.

How else can we become as smart as snake, while remaining as harmless as doves? Remember, look for the opportunities to advance and to seek His kingdom first.

Thanks for thinking with me!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Little Fort - Where I am

The Little Fort (When a Ministry Comes to an End)

This is a story that I am sharing with you, my reader, with permission of the author.  It echoes his sentiment. It echoes mine. His situation is not too far removed from my own. Seasons of transition, change, and ending are never easy for the minister or for the church. But even in this, "I do know that God will work this to the good of those who love Him and are called by His name."  

The following post IS NOT written by me. Here is today's guest post, "The Little Fort":

I find myself covered in dust as I glance over the small group our Lord has placed me to lead. They are a ragtag bunch, some bold, some timid, some cultured, some country but all of them are experienced veterans of the war. All of them have been in the war longer than I have been alive. These soldiers have been holding this position for fifty years. The battlements are burned and scarred from the assaults by the enemy. 

Once a proud bastion of light and wisdom, the little fort has become nearly forgotten in the war. Reinforcements and supplies have stopped. We have just enough supplies and warriors to last mere weeks or months at best.

A wave of melancholy washes over me as I look down at the orders in my hand. I look back at the veterans and back to the new orders. They read “You are needed north.”

My troops trust me and they want me to remain with them. For several years I have raised my shield with theirs and withstood the blows of the enemy. We have gathered in victory feasts and praised our king and shared our joy. We have mourned as we watched the enemy carry off some of our own. And we shared the mixed feelings of pride and sorrow as the King transferred our forces to new posts, leaving us behind.

What's wrong friend?” my sergeant asks me. A soft faced old man of eighty winters, whose gentle demeanor hides his true spiritual power and resolve to hold his position no matter what.

I hand him the orders. He reads it in silence, his merry smile faltering into grim determination. He looks up with tears in his eyes. “So you are leaving the fort?”

It seems so,” I say. “but I don't know when or where.”

He nods and gestures to the others who are still beyond earshot. “You know you are probably our last captain. This is probably the end of the fort.” I watch the history of the fort play over his face. I can see him recalling the fact his father and mother were soldiers and helped build this fort, carving it from the wilderness and defending the those who were lost and wandering from the wolves and beasts of the forest and field. I know he was remembering the day his own children were made the King's soldiers in the very hall of honor that stood behind me. But mostly I could see his pain at the loss of his wife who was the equal warrior to him in every regard. That had been transferred to the King's castle last year leaving the old soldier with an empty tent.

A dryness not cotton filled my throat. “I can only say the Lord knows what he is doing.”

Yes he does,” the old veteran replied and walked back to the others. 

I crumpled the orders in my hand. Turning away from them I looked up toward the skies and whispered “Why does it hurt so bad for things to change? Why do these forts rise and fall? What's the point of fighting for a hundred years to just watch it crumble and die because it just withers?”

“Captain,” An ancient voice cracked behind me. I turned to find the oldest of our veterans, a woman so old neither she nor any of the other soldiers knew how old she actually was. Her helmet was so battered and bent it was hard to tell what the original shape had been. This old warrior had fought some terrible battles. “I just wanted you to know I think his little fort is gonna grow. I think the Lord is gonna bring us some new recruits and help us to fix these old walls. I know because you are here.”

It was like a knife had slipped into my guts. “Oh sweet lady,” I said. “The Lord has his own plans for us.” I handed her the crumpled orders.

She read them. “Well I don't want you to go. I like you as our captain and I know this fort will grow so you just forget those orders.”

I want to cry. This little fort and it's soldiers mean much to my heart. But my orders are in my hand. I hear the screech of the messenger hawk. I can see the new orders coming on the wings of the Lord's hawk. I don't know to be happy or to cry. Why does change have to hurt so bad?