A Brief Response to the Recent Supreme Court Decision on Marriage

abcTwo Sundays ago, I read a brief statement about my reaction, as your pastor and spokesman for our leadership, about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to make same sex marriage the law of the land. I’ve been asked to reproduce it here, and other than some corrections and brief expansions of my “talking point” notes, here is what I said.

1. We respectfully disagree with the decision of the majority—both its legal reasoning and its conclusions.

2. We are against discriminatory practices toward any person or group in society, but we cannot agree that marriage is simply a legally defined relationship, but rather it is what it has been from all time—the union of a man and a woman, in a covenant meant to be permanent, and carrying specific rights and responsibilities. It is not invented by society, but created by God.

3. We will continue to recognize only those marriages that fit this biblical definition, and we will not perform or host any marriages that do not.

4. We will joyfully accept God’s sovereign plan for us now to be what the Church often is, a minority voice, a counter-cultural community, and a winsome witness to truth, even if we must someday suffer misunderstanding, disadvantage, or even persecution.

5. We will continue to love those sinners who face the temptations of same sex attraction, opposite sex lust, pride, gluttony, lying, and every other sin. No sin except unrepentant unbelief puts anyone more than one prayer away from the foot of the cross.

6. The landscape has changed, and what we will face is uncertain. But as Russell Moore has said, the church cannot be afraid of its mission field. In fact, we can look forward with great joy. One quote I saw captured it well.

“The first century church did not look around and say, “What is this world coming to?” They said, “Look what has come into the world!”

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Pastor’s Update | One Generation Ago…

One Generation Ago…

Where were you, if you were alive 40 years ago? I trust it was not Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. Because this was the first full day of Communist control after what was the capital of South Vietnam fell to their antagonists from the North. It was just a month before my high school graduation. Many of my friends’ older brothers or fathers had fought (and some had died) in Vietnam, and my peers and I had all registered for the draft that had taken so many into the service and to Southeast Asia. We had rejoiced when peace talks yielded an agreement a few years before, but in what was a stunningly fast collapse, the forces of South Vietnam fell before the North Vietnamese army and their guerrilla allies, the Viet Cong. It was a sobering sight to watch a nation we had fought for over ten years to protect fall so quickly, and you could not help feeling that we had been defeated. The images of a helicopter preparing to lift off from the top of a Saigon hotel with people crammed inside and many more standing helpless and abandoned below was etched in a generation’s memory, and has haunted Americans when it comes to foreign military commitments ever since.

But one photo that was even more powerful from the war came from a few years before, when a village was bombed using napalm, an incendiary substance that burned the area where it hit. Four such bombs hit this village, and sent people fleeing in panic and pain. One young girl whose clothes literally were burned off her body was seen screaming and running away in a photo that went viral before the internet. This little girl, Kim Phuc, grew up into a young woman whose scars were a constant and painful reminder of the war and who was used by the new Vietnamese government as a propaganda tool. By her own testimony, she was a very angry and bitter person.

Interestingly, I heard her interviewed this past week, and discovered that, in 1992, in a time of great personal despair, she read the Bible and became a Christian! She now leads an international foundation seeking to help children who are victims of war. She said that the message of Jesus was the message that could stop such suffering–finding his love, peace, and forgiveness. She’s right, and I rejoice for her, even as similar carnage continues around the world. Kim Phuc was in an image that turned a nation against a war. She was a casualty of the war and the life that followed. But now she is an ambassador for Christ and his power to change lives.

The Vietnam war shaped a generation. We came to learn of PTSD through its aftermath and political fault lines that formed then have only gotten worse. But out of that war also came stories like that of Kim Phuc, and of Christians who endured terrible tortures and imprisonments after the war in Vietnam and who now lead a growing church movement there.

It’s May Day! Poles or Baskets, Anyone?

This spring (or summer) day has quite a history

Well, it’s the first of May, and our little community is in its normal upheaval.

  • Students from Cedarville University are taking their last finals (whoever thought that having classes on Monday of finals week was a great educational idea, and that having some students wait until Friday to take their finals was beneficial for preparation was, well, wrong).
  • Seniors are not only moving out of the dorms, but getting ready for graduation. A few of them are getting ready for weddings–some on this very weekend. I hope they make it through it all!
  • Couples are taking those last walks around town, trying to get in all the time together that they can, and the famed “awkward couples” seem to be multiplying! Someone said the new motto was “Ring by this weekend.” We’ll see. The tradition of “laking” engaged men continues, and has become a revenue stream for the school as fines are imposed on the “lake-er” and in some cases the “lake-ee.”
  • Stores and businesses are gearing up to get slammed Friday and Saturday, and then have to get used to the slower summer pace. Seats will be easier to find in our coffee houses, even if hours are shorter. We all go to bed early around here anyway.
  • Speaking of “summer,” it is officially a ways away, but being a college town, most things here move to what we refer to at Grace as “summer mode” or “summer schedule.” After ten years here, I’m still a little freaked out by having “summer” and “Mother’s Day” on the same weekend.

It is graduation weekend for Wright State University as well, and while I’m sure that households gearing up for that are very busy, the fact that the campus is in a metropolitan area probably means that the effects are a bit less pronounced than they are here. (Central State and Wilberforce wait a week for their graduation festivities, which means driving down U.S. 42 may be an unusual traffic adventure as they have their baccalaureate services, other special events, and graduation over that weekend.)

In much of the world influenced by Europe, May Day is a big deal–a holiday, but also either a spring festival (it finally feels like spring) or the beginning of summer.

Byron Shearer wrote yesterday from Russia that he was watching tanks going down the main street in the city where he is (I think it is Moscow right now). No, there wasn’t a coup or a war, but May 1 is the day that Russia (and the Soviet Union before that) marked their “International Workers Day” by parading all sorts of military hardware through Red Square in front of reviewing stands of generals with more medals than troops soberly saluting. He mentioned he thought it strange to celebrate workers with tank parades, but that’s what they do. And he said it was quite interesting to add tanks to the mix during rush hour!

Of course, nobody around here that I know of has a “May Pole” or dances around it, or knows anything about crowning the “May Queen” or “May baskets.” The last of those was an activity in elementary school when I was very young, but the rest are trappings of celebrations from Britain and northern Europe, where “May Day” was the first day of Summer (February 1 was the first day of Spring and our first day, the solstice on June 21, was called “Midsummer.” Frankly, that makes some sense). When children dance around the May Pole correctly, their ribbons make a pretty pattern. I’m sure it would be banned in our schools since children might accidentally tie themselves or others to the pole, or might choke when an errant ribbon was carried by too closely and caught them by the neck.

And what were “May baskets?” They were small baskets with flowers or candies that one would leave anonymously at the door of a potential sweetheart. You would “ring and run” the doorbell. The person receiving the basket could decide to chase after the person who left it, and tradition was that if you caught him (or her), a kiss was exchanged.

England still has May Pole dances, but they must be tamer than they used to be–Puritans were so outraged at some of the May Day observances that they banned the pole and the celebration during the time of Oliver Cromwell! Britain still has lots of observances of the day, has used it as a bank holiday, and it used to be a common school holiday as well.

In Finland, it is called “Vappu” and is the country’s one day of street fairs and carnivals. In Ireland, it was the end of “Beltane,” a pagan festival that was later “converted” into a feast for Mary, the mother of Jesus. And Germany and Sweden celebrate St. Walpurga’s Day, who is credited with bringing Christianity to those nations.

In the U.S.A., the traditions from Europe followed their immigrants here, but generally have died out over the last 50-75 years or so. The lack of strong significance has meant various groups have tried to claim it–labor movements and environmental groups have claimed it, and most recently it was claimed by those opposed to the “Illegal Immigration Control Act” as a day to protest for greater immigration. Those aren’t the kinds of holidays most of us care about, and I haven’t seen any Hallmark Cards that let us wish others a “Happy Pro-Immigration Day” yet.

May Day is an apt example of how time and circumstances change cultural patterns. What many peoples used to celebrate isn’t celebrated anymore. What some people choose to celebrate has nothing to do with what used to be celebrated. And even today in some parts of the world, celebrations are taking place marking the day but for reasons that have no connection to each other. May Day isn’t the official first day of summer. Its ties to “workers” in the Socialist/Communist movements has no real point. Its innocent “May Pole” and leaving of “May Baskets” on the porch of someone you “fancy” are largely forgotten.

These are not necessarily bad developments, but a lesson that cultural patterns shift when attention is not paid and value is not assigned. Perhaps it is a lesson for our times.

Odds and Ends

Another Great Opportunity! We are going to host an event for Jim Blumenstock and Asia Biblical Theological Seminary in June. This is meant to promote the seminary for support by churches and pastors here in the U.S.A. The speaker, Dr. Scott Carroll, is a great scholar and presenter who specializes in ancient manuscripts and antiquities, and he brings some with him!

We have been offered the chance to host an event for our church the night before the ABTS event with Dr. Carroll on Sunday night, June 28. It would be structured for the whole family to learn about discovering and preserving manuscripts that tell the story of the Bible. I’ve been in his presentations, and they are amazing. If you think this is a good idea for us to pursue, and you would hope to be there, would you let me knowhere? Thanks.

Pastoral Internship Available! [Repeated from last week, since I didn’t get any responses then] As many of you know, Grace has a pastoral internship program that allows young men headed to ministry to serve closely alongside me in day to day pastoral work as a means of training and learning the nature of the pastor’s role. We have been blessed over the years by some of the men who have filled that role around here (Michael Strawser, Stuart Olley, Tyler Kirkpatrick, and Wade McComas are the last four). We are looking for candidates who might want to serve in this role beginning in the fall. If you know of an upperclassman or recent graduate who believes they are called to pastoral ministry and would be a good candidate, have them email me here for an application.

One last look at Philippians! I’ve decided we can’t leave the book without one final look to consider four “takeaways” we should carry with us from our study. I hope they will be helpful for you in your pursuit of joy.

That’s it for now. See you Sunday, Lord willing. Love you, Grace family!

A New Blog

This week we want to introduce you to something new. A Grace Baptist Church Blog. This new blog will serve to be the main location where we will post updates about what’s happening at Grace. The desire with this new blog is to centralize communication, one place where you can go for many of the important updates related to Grace Baptist Church.

Some things you might see there

  • Events
  • Staff Updates
  • Topical Blogs
  • Ministry Highlights
  • Volunteer Needs
  • And More!

Our goal with this blog is for it to be focused, intentional and meaningful. We want it to be focused on all things Grace to keep you always up-to-date. We want it to be intentional, not just a blog done on a whim, but a wisely managed point of communication for you! Finally, we want it to be so meaningful that you will come and check it out and act on the things you learn and read.

One thing this means is that this newsletter will change. It won’t change from the Monday sending date but It will instead be a conglomeration from the posts from the blog through the week. You will receive the same information, if not more and you will get a more accurate picture at what’s actually happening at Grace! Due to privacy concerns, the things that will stay on this newsletter only are birthdays and anniversaries . We will also not share addresses, phone numbers or any financials on the blog.

We are truly excited about this move forward and all that will come along with it. Our desire is to continually improve our communication in order to serve you better.