Talking Baptism

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He went to John the Baptist by the Jordan River. John had been preaching a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Crowds had come to express their regret about moral failures, to receive a sense that they had been forgiven and to commit to following God. John told them about One who was coming who would baptize them, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. And now here He stood before John, insisting that John baptize Him.

At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Acts records example after example of new believers repenting and being baptized, from the 3,000 baptized on the Day of Pentecost, to the Ethiopian eunuch, to the Philippian jailer and his family, to the believers at Ephesus in Acts 19.

Jesus clearly considered it to be important, it was a regular practice of the early church, and believers today continue the legacy. What is baptism, and why has the church practiced it for 2000 years?

First, it’s an important step of obedience to God. Jesus instructed believers to baptize, and Peter on the day of Pentecost declared the promise to those who would believe and be baptized: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sinse; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Next, it’s a picture and reminder of what happened when we gave our lives to Christ. We are allowed by baptism the physical picutre of ourselves being lowered into the grave with Christ, then being raised out of death with Him to new life. Infinite meditations may flow from this picture that will strengthen and encourage the baptized believer!

Finally, it is a reminder of our unity with all believers, in every place and throughout all time. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) So right now, little old Pentecostal me has brothers and sisters in every nation on earth, and in every denomination that names Jesus as Lord. I am one with a grandmother in an AME church, and with a coptic believer in Egypt, and a persecuted pastor in China, and an Iranian girl who worships Jesus at great risk to her life.

May the Lord continue to build His church in our day, and may believers receive renewed strength and encouragement through baptism.

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The Heavens Declare His Glory

This morning as I was taking a predawn walk, I noticed the planet Mars almost directly overhead, gleaming orange near the pale moon. They were like jewels set on a black cloth. Lower in the sky toward the east, brilliant Venus shone in a topaz field, greeting the burning horizon and the sun that hovered beyond it. As I walked, and the sky went from black to steel to pale blue, I watched the planets and the moon grow dim in the sky. Psalm 19 came to mind: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

And these thoughts struck me. The planets and the moon give off no light of their own, but they reflect the light of the sun. At night they seem to sine bright, reflecting the sun’s glorious rays. As the sun rises, its brightness conceals the presence of the planets and only the moon, so near and so large, remains faint but visible. The fact that I can’t see the sun at night or the planets during daylight hours does not negate the fact that they are there.

There are times when my Lord illuminates things in His word. In a time of darkness, we may see a truth shine brighter as He helps us understand a challenge we face, or endure a season we are going through, or stand in the face of trouble. A time of darkness doesn’t mean God has left us; rather, He May be helping us see Him through truth we hadn’t recognized. “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

And the reverse is true. The fact that I don’t perceive His truth is at work in the daily grind of my life doesn’t change the fact that it is true. There are times when I forget about the peace and freedom from anxiety He promises in His word, and that I only need to come to Him in prayer to have it restored. But the anxiety doesn’t negate the promise, for He who promised is faithful. The truth has not ceased to be true, but the One who is Trustworthy and True is teaching me to remember, to stand firm, and to walk by faith instead of sight.

So, “One day tells the next, and one night lets the next night know.” Frequent reminders of His presence and His truth are necessary to carry us through as many days and nights as He gives us, until we see His glory face to face.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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Good Friday 2020

Remember, everything Jesus did, He did for you.   Everything He endured, He endured for you.  Overnight He was sold (for thirty pieces of silver), betrayed, arrested, abandoned and assaulted.  In the morning He was turned over to the authority of an occupation force as a political maneuver.  He was judged guilty even though He was innocent.  A villain was released while He was condemned to die in his place.  He was tortured to the edge of death, then forced to carry the means of His execution to the place of His execution.  There He was nailed to a cross to die between two common criminals.   All this was for your benefit.  You are the villain whose place He took.

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What is the Gospel? (Part 2)

“Gospel” means good news. In the last post, we covered the bad news. You need to know there is bad news so that you can grasp how very good the good news is! You and I are fundamentally flawed with a thing called sin; sin must be punished by a just and holy God; but because of His amazing love, Jesus bore the just penalty for our sin.

Read Romans 5:6-11, then we’ll draw out some points that show us just how very good the good news is:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

1. Christ died for sinners, including you and me, while we were still sinning. Before we knew to ask for help, God intervened. (Verse 5, 8)
2. Because of that sacrificial death we are NOW justified. (Verse 9). Now, before you do anything else good or bad, you have been justified, or declared innocent. This is not because God is an unjust judge, but because you were guilty and condemned and Jesus volunteered to serve your sentence for you. What sensible person would refuse such an offer?
3. Much more we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Verse 9). This refers to the theological term “propitiation”, which means a turning aside of wrath by payment. Jesus, by His death on your behalf, has ensured that God is not angry at you. There is no wrath in your future if you are in Christ. None. You might think you’ve done something that will make God want to cut you off. But the clear message of the Gospel is that He is not looking for a way to toss you out; He is looking for a way to lift you up.
4. We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. (Verse 10). The death of Jesus on our behalf reveals to us that God does not consider Himself to be our enemy. Think of when you were a child; were there times when you did something you shouldn’t have, and you would say, “My parents are going to kill me!” This is how we viewed God before we heard the gospel. We thought He was a parent who was going to kill us, or send us to hell, and He was our enemy. Perhaps you are a parent now. You have no intention of “killing” your child when they misbehave. You want to correct them for their protection and benefit. So it is with God. Somewhere it is written, “I held My hands out all day to a stubborn and rebellious people.” You might have considered Him o be an enemy, but He considers you to be a friend.
5. Much more, we shall be saved by His life. (Verse 10). The word saved is translated from the Greek word “sozo”. It includes in its meaning rescue, provision, healing, and wholeness. Jesus did not only die on our behalf, He rose from the dead on our behalf. He took the death we deserved so we could receive a life we didn’t deserve. In reality, we have been saved, we are saved, and we shall be saved. It is already accomplished by the work of Jesus at the cross, but it is not yet fully manifested in our lives.
6. We are empowered to rejoice when we receive the reconciliation. (Verse 11). Once you realize that Jesus is not a dead and distant God, but a very present living person who wants the absolute best for you, in every sense of what the “BEST” is, you can start rejoicing as you go through life.

The gospel is free for all; Jesus has already done so very much.  All that remains is for you to respond to it.

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What Is the Gospel? (Part 1)

In Romans 1:16, Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”  The gospel has miraculous, life-changing power in the life of anyone and everyone who believes it.  I have experienced its life changing power, and I believe that those who knew me back then who also know me now can also attest that I have changed for the better.  (Still not perfect, but certainly better than I was!).

But what is the gospel?  What is this message Paul described as having dunamis, dynamic power?  Before we go further, let’s note that the word gospel means good news.  If there is good news, we need to understand what the bad news is.  After all, there must have been some well-known bad news o make this good news seem “good.”

So, here is the bad news.  As Donald Trump would say, you are a disaster.  I too am a disaster.  Mankind is deeply and fundamentally flawed.  If history doesn’t make this obvious, listen to the evening news.  If that doesn’t convince you, do what Darth Vader told Luke to do:  “Search your feelings; you know this to be true.”  The Bible gives us example after example of human frailty, even in the so-called heroes of the faith.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  Psalm 14:3 tells us, “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is no one who seeks after God.”  Isaiah 59;7-8 reports concerning those who should know better, “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood.”

Consider this: even those who reject God as a source of universal truth have some sort of moral code by which they live.  But even those who claim (for example, atheists) that they live according to their own set for morals FAIL TO LIVE UP TO THEIR OWN STANDARDS.

Romans 3:23 puts it this way:  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  For a working definition of sin, let us say that it is anything that falls short of God’s perfect standard of character and conduct.  If you are not perfect as God is, then you are flawed and broken.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death.  There must be a just penalty for sin, and the just penalty is death.  God cannot be called just if he merely ignores the wickedness of the human heart.

Death, by the way, does not refer to immediate physical death.  The alternative to the wages of sin (death) is God’s gift of eternal life.  When God created humans, He created us as eternal beings.   If God created us as eternal beings, and those in Christ will enjoy eternal life, then the consequence of rejecting Him is eternal death; that is, an eternity of corruption and separation from God.  Yes, this seems hard. But Jesus, full of grace, spoke of eternal consequences.  In Mark 9:43-44 He said, “Better for you to enter life maimed, rather than having two hands to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched, where, ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'”  In Matthew 8:12 He refers to, “Outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Can you imagine the misery of an eternity tormented by the memory of your worst decisions, agonized by your most shameful desires — there very ones that fail to satisfy you now when you give in to them?

So, you are fundamentally flawed and have sinned against yourself, others, and a holy and perfect God.  For that sin, there is an eternal penalty.  And God, who is just, must execute that penalty, which is death.

So where is the good news n all this?  Back to Romans 3:23 for a moment: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” There is a gift; you didn’t buy it, you didn’t earn it, and you don’t deserve it.  To be worthy of it, you must be unworthy.  Are you prepared to admit that you are unworthy?

Beginning/in Romans 5:5 the gospel is expressed thus:  When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The gospel is that God loves you despite your sin and failures, and He has satisfied the debt that guilt demands of you through the blood of Jesus, His only begotten Son.  Through that sacrifice He invites you to share His life eternally.  Admit you need it.  Receive what He did for you.  Invite Him in to your heart tonight.

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Sunday Service Time

We will be returning to our regular service time of 10:30 a.m. this Sunday, but feel free to come early!

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This Month at LWC

Saturday 8/15:  ladies’ prayer at 8 am.

Saturday 8/22:  men’s prayer at 8 am.

Sunday 8/23:  Special guest minister!

Saturday 8/29:  combined prayer at 8 am.

Saturday 8/29:  James Island Outreach 9:30 am.  Meet at the Outreach (behind Bethany Methodist Church on Maybank Highway).

Summer service hours continue, Sunday morning worship at 9:30 a.m.

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Summer Service Hours

During the summer we will begin our Sunday morning worship services at 9:30 a.m.  Join us and beat the heat!

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Comprehending the Bible

The key to understanding the Bible is understanding its context.  The Old and New Testaments can seem totally unrelated at first glance.  It may also seem that the Bible, like any other world religion, is conveying a set of moral attributes people are expected to live up to in order to please God and gain His favor.  When read with the context in mind, the Bible reveals the redemptive plan of God.

Jesus is the context.  In Luke 24, Jesus is speaking to two depressed disciples after His execution and resurrection:  Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭25-27‬ NKJV)

Again we read:  Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, (‭Luke‬ ‭24‬:‭44-46‬ NKJV)

Notice that Jesus expounded how all the scriptures — the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms — spoke of Him.   In John 5:39, Jesus speaks to religious people, saying, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭39-40‬ NKJV)   The Scriptures, all of them, testify of the Christ

If you read a passage and do not discover in it the redemptive work of Christ in His birth, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, and imminent return, you do not have a correct understanding of the passage

The Old Testament reveals the effort of God to redeem fallen mankind by convincing them that they are fundamentally flawed and in need of a heart transformation    It records man’s unceasing insistence that he can redeem himself through his own efforts. It reveals God’s antidote for sin in the suffering servant, the Messiah.

If you read the Bible as a list of rules to follow, you will find frustration.  If it is read as the story of God’s loving effort to redeem you, you will find salvation.

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Thank You For Your Support!

Thanks to our wonderful community for supporting our Fireworks Fundraiser!  Due to the overwhelming support, we did not open again after New Years’ Eve.  This allowed our hard-working volunteers to get some much-needed rest.  Come see us again on July 4!

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Never Miss a Chance to Give Thanks!

I recently caught myself in a bout of grumbling and complaining about a variety of things in my life that were  not meeting my expectations.  I even through a small pity party; number of guests invited: one!  Perhaps you have thrown such a party yourself.   As I was beginning a particularly busy day with lots of hard physical work and running around on the agenda, and being tired already, words bubbled up in my spirit.

“Never miss a chance to give thanks.”

It was these words that brought conviction and repentance to replace a vague sense that I needed to adjust my attitude.  It was these words that began the transformation of my attitude.  It was these words, echoing in my heart, that would be tested by the events of the following weeks and keep me in peace in the midst of challenges.

Thankfulness is hard to find in our culture; ingratitude is everywhere.  I believe this flows from a sense of entitlement (and I am not just talking about social programs).  If a person believes that they deserve to have everything go their way all the time, and that hardship is injustice, then they have a sense of entitlement.  It’s hard to be thankful when you are simply getting what you believe you deserve.

In Acts 16, we find Paul and Silas in Philippi being followed by a woman with a demon problem.  Now, this woman’s employers were profiting from her problem, so they were thoroughly upset when Paul cast the demon out of the woman.  (Pay attention, friends; doing the will of God will make someone angry!)  As a reward for their good deed, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten with rods until many great welts striped their flesh, and imprisoned in the maximum security section of the local prison.  They had good reason to be bitter.  Their response to all this injustice?  About midnight they were singing hymns and praising God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Ingratitude leads to corruption.

Years later, Paul would write to the church in Philippi.  In Philippans 2:14-16 he writes, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Do things without complaining and disputing and become blameless and harmless!  This implies that if you spend your time complaining and arguing, there will be blame and harm.

Jude in verse 16 of his epistle, speaking of people who cause trouble in the church, says, “These are grumblers complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words.”

Paul describes the progressive degradation of human society in Romans 1:21-32.  “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him, nor were thankful. . . .  For this reason, God gave them up. . . .”  All the undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, unforgiving behavior had its foundation in unthankfulness.

On the other hand, thankfulness paves the way for the Presence of God.

“Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:14-15).  The idea here is that thanks are being offered as a sacrifice, even though the circumstances do not appear to warrant thanks.  No matter how bad things look, there is reason to give thanks!

Think about this:  somewhere out there is the unluckiest person in the world.  Statistically speaking, you are probably not that person.  Somewhere out there is the unhealthiest person in the world, the ugliest person in the world, and the poorest person in the world.  Again, statistically speaking, the odds are in your favor that you are not that person!  Be thankful!   (My point is this:  no matter how bad things appear for you, they could be worse.)

God’s response to this sacrificial offering of thanks is to answer you!

“Whoever offers praise (thanks) glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conversation aright I will show the salvation of God.”  (Psalm 50:23)  Get a mouth full of thanksgiving and expect a heart full of revelation.

Psalm 100 tells us to, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving. . . be thankful to Him and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His faithfulness endures from generation to generation.”

This brings us back to Paul and Silas, beaten, chained and singing hymns and thanking God.  They were not singing, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”  They were singing praises, possibly even the words of Psalm 100.  They didn’t miss their chance to give thanks and paved the way for the manifestation of God’s presence.  The result was that the prison was shaken, the doors fell open, and the chains fell off!

Do you need to be unshackled from a bad attitude?  Do you need doors of opportunity opened to you?  Get thankful where you are and see what the Lord will do!

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Scriptures for Study on Spiritual Warfare

These scriptures are not a complete list on the subject, but are passages we are examining in our study. Read, pray, and meditate.

Psalm 18:34, psalm 144:1, Ephesians 6:12 through end of chapter, psalm 8, James 4:6-7, Psalm 61:2, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, 1 Timothy 1:18,Isaiah 40:1-2 & 8-11, 1Samuel 17:47, 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, Matthew 12:11, John 10.

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Worship and Warfare Wednesdays

For the rest of July we will be having extended times of praise and worship to lead us into spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not about getting angry and breaking a sweat! It is about entering the Presence of God and finding peace and joy and an anointing that breaks yokes. Join us at 7 pm starting on Wednesday July 16.

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Support the Ministry!

We have recently added an option to make secure online donations.  Please visit the “Support the Ministry” page for more information.  

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On Obsessions and the Church

A friend recently shared an article making a theological-ish argument for full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle by the church.  It began by stating that the American church is obsessed with the subject.  I would suggest that this “obsession” was a response to a similar obsession on the part of the homosexual community.  If adulterers were to begin having “cheater’s pride rallies”, displaying bumper stickers advertising their lifestyle, and lobbying congress to legislate economic advantages for their snuggle buddies, I would expect the church to be equally “obsessed” with the subject of adultery.  Lest I be accused of being obsessed with the subject, let me point out that this is the first time I have written about it.

The article advocates loving acceptance of “gay Christians.”  I agree.  God loves homosexuals.  And adulterers.  And gluttons, and liars, and hypocrites and kleptomaniacs and prostitutes and murderers and rude people and mean people and cowards and gossips and backstabbers and idolaters and tax cheats and tax collectors and me.  And you.  He even loves the French!  According to Jesus, He is, “kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35)

What a church that believes in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture cannot do is approve homosexual behavior or accept theological arguments that suggest God now approves same-sex marriage.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality point to a passage in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus, now much maligned, and argue that it does not mean to us what it meant to the Jews.  The article I read suggested that we go back and look at the original meanings in Hebrew, and that we consider the context and to whom the text was written.  I respond thus:  the chapter in question also prohibits incest, adultery, and bestiality, yet there is no cultural movement suggesting we celebrate these behaviors as an “alternative lifestyle”.  If this chapter is no longer relevant to human life then pluck the pages from your Bible!  But be careful when you start plucking, for the basis of your healing, peace, and salvation may be next to go.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality argue that “they were born this way,” or that “God made me this way.”  Without doubt there are those who are born with a genetic tendency toward certain behaviors (alcoholism springs to mind).  That does not mean that God made them that way.  Every man, woman, and child on the planet was born in sin.  That was not God’s doing, but was the result of Adam’s sin.  God brought the antidote in the person of Jesus.  I will agree with the homosexual who insists he was born that way.  However, I will also agree with Jesus who says, “You must be born again.”  The same David who wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” also wrote, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  (Psalm 51:5)  In other words, David says he came out of the womb a sinner, just like his mother.  I do not believe God sowed the seeds of my own destruction in me when I was born; but even if He did, it was not so that I would celebrate those bitter seeds.  If He Himself placed in me the genetic predisposition for alcoholism, and He made me that way, it was so that I might come to Him and be born again.  The wonderful thing about sin and self-destruction is that it can spur a sinner’s heart to pursue a loving and gracious God.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality assert that scripture approves same-sex marriage for those who cannot otherwise contain their sexual lust.  Where to begin?  Firstly, we identify the root of the issue — sexual lust.  The refrain, “I should be able to love whoever I want,” is in reality, “I should be able to have sex with whoever I want.”  A life-long platonic relationship between two men (Abbot & Costello, Tonto & the Lone Ranger, Batman & Robin) is not what advocates want; it is a sexual relationship.  Thus the pro-homosexual affirms that they are speaking of the lust of the flesh.  Next, we note the pattern for marriage identified from the beginning of the race in Genesis:  “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh.”  One man, one woman, one flesh with the capacity to procreate.  No other marriage can be affirmed by the church.  Finally, we point out that scripture calls us to walk in the spirit rather than fulfilling the lusts of our flesh.  Every disciple of Jesus who ever lived has dealt with lusts (plural) of the flesh.  We are to put them to death by the Spirit, not justify them.  (Side n0te:  finding a spouse is easier said than done, and marriage does not ensure that you will not “burn with lust.”)

Finally, advocates for accepting homosexuality say that the church should openly welcome and include “gay Christians”.  We allow other sorts of sinners to participate in the life of our church, including gluttons — why not practicing homosexuals?  Recognizing that we are all flawed, and that there is no good thing in us except Jesus, we preach the good news of Jesus trusting that the Holy Spirit will liberate those in bondage to sin.  God does not deal with us according to our sin (see II Corinthians 5 and Hebrews 10 for starters).  However, if we flaunt unacceptable behavior it becomes a stumbling block to those who wish to be free.  Paul, in the fourth chapter of his first epistle to the church at Corinth, directs the church to discipline a person for bragging about sexual conduct specifically prohibited in Leviticus 18.

For those who have sought the Scriptures and prayed and concluded that they are gay and God is fine with that, I say fine.  Let us walk in love toward one another, accepting that we will never come to agreement about this issue.  Let us stand together and condemn the treatment of homosexuals in Iran and other Muslim countries.  Let us pray together and serve those who are dealing with AIDS.  Let us accept at face value the person who says they are loving and following Jesus to the best of their ability, even though we disagree on this subject.

The pathway to heaven is not to stop sinning, but to start trusting and following Jesus.  Imagine if that were the obsession of the whole church in America!



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