Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Cross of Christ

I have been preaching through the Gospel of John for most of this year...I can't quite remember when I started, but I believe it was just before Easter. Tomorrow I am preaching on John chapter 19--the crucifixion of Christ.

As I have been studying, I have found this particular chapter to be quite sterile, or a factual, account of the crucifixion of Jesus. Christian hold this historical event quite high, but why?

The "why" of the cross is super important. I would suggest that it is the difference between eternity with God in heaven and eternity apart from God in hell.

It seems I was raised my whole life being taught Jesus' death as factual, but the "why" was never explained to me, or I didn't care, until I was about 22, or so, during a pretty volatile time in my life. When God opened my heart to the importance of the cross, my life was radically changed. I am so thankful for the work God has done in my life. No explanation is necessary for those of you who knew me then! But the simple fact is that I would not have the marriage or family that I have today apart from Christ.

Here are some points that I hope to cover tomorrow:

1. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who don't believe, but is the power of God to those who are believers. 1 Corinthians 1:18

2. Simply understanding the facts of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) will not make you right with God, you must place your trust in Jesus for your salvation. Let my give a brief, horrible, illustration. It is one thing to believe there is a chair in your house, it is an entirely different situation to believe that there is a chair, then to trust that the chair can hold you, and then to actually sit in the chair. We are told in the Bible that the process is something like this: 1) Hear the Gospel, 2) trust in Jesus, 3) you are saved and given the Holy Spirit as a promise. Ephesians 1:13

3. Through the cross the sinner becomes a new creation and is reconciled with God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

4. This love that the Christian has received then compels us to share this love in a sacrificial way with others. 2 Corinthians 5:14-16.

5. We, who believe, are ambassadors for Christ in this world to share this available reconciliation with those who are apart from Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

I would implore you to consider what God desires of you. Maybe it is time for you to surrender and give you life to Christ for salvation or service? I encourage you to go to a Bible believing church tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is a very special day! I must admit that this is one of my favorite holidays. I can't wait for tomorrows festivities of eating Turkey, Ham, and all the fixins! Not to mention the apple personal favorite!

I am so thankful to God for how He has blessed me tremendously. I wish all of you a wonderful thanksgiving day. May you be blessed!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Voted "Yes" on Prop 8

Yes, I know, the election is over. Although, the battle over Proposition 8 is not. I believe the next few years in our nation will prove to be very interesting. In light of this, I thought I would share my thoughts on this issue.

Quite frankly, I am not sure where to start. The intensity and passion on both sides is quite high thus making communication between two groups difficult. Shamefully, violence is on the rise and I may be subjecting myself to some attacks for posting on this issue.

A disclaimer. I do not hate gay people. In fact, I profoundly love a lesbian family member who is "married." I have had friends and neighbors who are committed gay couples. I cannot say that I have had an unpleasant, or un-cordial, encounter with a gay person.

It is unlikely, actually impossible, that I will fully cover my thoughts on this subject in this blog. My intent is to address a few talking points that are on my mind.

1. World View. We each have one. I attempt to develop my world view through the lens of Scripture as I believe firmly that this is God's revealed Word to humanity. I believe the Bible is the ultimate authority on every issue.

2. Biblical understanding of marriage. Marriage is first described in Genesis 1-2 with the creation of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes Adam's life as being incomplete without Eve and therefore God created woman and a helpmate for Adam. This was very good in the sight of God.

One primary purpose of this union was to multiply. Thus, marriage is the building block of family and ultimately society. Throughout the Scriptures marriage is affirmed as being between one man and one woman (please note that there are examples of all sorts of things within Scripture that are not affirmed by God). The issue of family (natural family that occurs between a man and woman following sexual relations) is the main reason why government is involved in this issue--to protect children and the building block of society: family.

3. Biblical understanding of homosexuality. I wish there was a gentle way to address this topic. We live in such a "politically correct" society that is filled with all sorts of hypocrisy and inconsistency. Leviticus 18:22 is clear: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Within this context there are all kinds of commands given to humans concerning sexual conduct (i.e. a man shouldn't have sex with relatives, a woman and her daughter or granddaughters, during menstrual cycles, other people's wives, animals, etc, etc). God is pretty clear concerning the context by which sexual relations are blessed by God: within the committed relationship of marriage. Period.

4. Varying levels of sin--a word on hate. I do confess that many Christians have handled the sin issue of homosexuality in a very unbalanced manner. I don't necessarily think that homosexual relationships are more sinful than other ones that are more accepted (i.e. See Romans 1:26-32). However, I am prone to be more understanding of a child who is disobedient to his parents, or a man who is having sex out of wedlock, or a drunkard--manly becuase those are sins are more common to non-homosexual people. I am less comfortable in homosexual settings because that is not my background, but by no means do I believe they are worse on the "sin-scale."

That being said, I do believe homosexual intercourse is sinful and I believe God will bring judgment on all sin. I admit that Christians could do a better job of "hating the sin" and "loving the sinner." But in Christians defense, they are often perceived as being hateful simply because homosexual people generally find their identity in their particular choice of sin. Therefore, any criticism, or varying perspective, is perceived as an attack on them personally.

5. Homosexuality and Racism. I believe this is a horrible comparison. First, homosexuals and heterosexuals all have the same rights (i.e. freedom of speech, to bear arms, to vote, etc, etc). We all can marry one of the opposite gender, none of us can marry someone of the same gender. Second, homosexual couples do have many of the same benefits of married couples (i.e. they can buy property together and they can visit one another in the hospital, etc). Third, homosexual people are allowed to practice their lifestyle freely in our country. I actually find it quite offensive that proponents of homosexual marriage would compare this to the atrocities of the racial history of America.

6. Let's compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. I don't think this needs much explaining. One Man + One Woman does not equal One Man + One Man or One Woman + One Woman. None of these three things are the same thing. The NFL is the NFL, MLB is MLB, NHL is the NHL...they are what they are. Marriage is man and woman...nothing else. Man and man or woman and woman are in essence something else.

7. Where does the logic take us? I had a conversation in recent months when I pressed the logic of my homosexual friend. Should we then also allow for people to marry their cats, dogs, horses, cars, planes, you fill in the blank. He was appalled and quickly offended that I could compare his relationship to these other examples! Quite frankly, I felt his response was a bit hypocritical and ironic. The homosexual position for wanting to be included within the definition of marriage is linked to emotional reasoning (i.e. their love for one another, etc). I don't know about you, but I know a number of people who have far superior relationships with their animals and possessions than they do other people. Quite frankly, I don't know why, or how, those pushing for homosexual marriage can oppose marriage to other items? Please be logically consistent in your argument.

8. What about my freedoms? If Proposition 8 is shot down, how long do you think it will be before a discrimination suit is filed against me or another pastor in California who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman alone and refuses services to a gay couple? A nano-second? There are already lawsuits being filed against fertility doctors who refuse to artificially inseminate gay couples etc... What about their rights?

9. The state of traditional marriage today. All this being said, I believe the worst attack on marriage has been the total lack of respect for this union between man and woman before God. People today burn through marriages faster than I burn through my socks. I know this is sad, but I don't buy socks that often... For those of you who are pro traditional marriage, I encourage you to esteem and cherish your marriage! I cannot control society as a whole (although I try to influence it for good), I can cultivate a marriage and family that God desires within my own boundaries.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thomas E. Retzer

Today was Veteran's Day. I was able to participate in a small community ceremony at the Valley Center Cemetery. Today I was the Rev. Hanson my new identity in life. A different twist in the road after 12 years as a Navy SEAL.

People often confuse Veteran's Day with Memorial Day. There are probably a few reasons, but today it struck me in a new way. Two Veterans shared their story and it was apparent that their memories of their time in the service (one still active duty) were related to their friends--especially the ones who have given all.

I know this is true for me today. I will never be able to hear the Star Spangled Banner the way I did before my naiveness concerning freedom was lost. Before June 23, 2003 it was fairly cheap. Yes, I knew that people had sacrificed all for this great country of ours, but none that I have ever known. This all changed on that dreadful day.

It was on this tragic day that I received one of the worst calls of my life. I had just come off my 12-8am shift of working Hellweek and had hit the rack when Jake called. He fought to insure that I was awake, "Gunnar, wake up. This is serious." I replied, "Jake, cut to the chase I am tired and I have to work again tonight." He stated with a trembling voice, "Tommy was shot and killed last night in Afghanistan."

I don't know that I have processed those words yet. I was at the funeral, I have visited his grave, yet it is hard to believe that this man who was so full of life is gone. I know he has no regrets and wouldn't change a thing. I am honored to have known and served by this man--a true hero.

Thanks for the memories Tommy. I am thankful for your sacrifice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Are You Pro-Choice?

I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree. I attended a seminar last summer that rocked my world. The issue was abortion. During the seminar, we met the founder and director of an organization that is fighting to repeal the misinformation that people have concerning abortion.

The majority of Americans seem quite content living under an allusion that abortion is all about a women's rights and claim many reasons to justify the act of abortion. You may be included, I know I was. If this is you, I implore you to watch the posted video so that you gain understanding concerning the truth of abortion.

God used this seminar to shake me to my core. It culminated January 2008, as I found myself pastor of Valley Baptist Church and preaching every Sunday. The Sanctity of Human Life Sunday was fast approaching and I had to decide would I comment on the issue. Many factors seemed to be at play. First I stumbled across a chapter in John Pipers books, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals" that challenged pastors on this topic. I felt like such a coward. Then, I realized that I was finishing First Timothy the Sunday before Sanctity of Human Life Sunday...what would I do? I had no excuses. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to take a stand. I would preach on the topic from a biblical vantage point. This was the hardest sermon I have ever preached. I came with great personal pain, anger, and sorrow.

In my heart I don't think that someone can remain "pro-choice" after viewing this posted video, yet I know that I am wrong because many people are involved in this "medical procedure" day in and day out and are not moved by their actions. Our conscience's truly are seared concerning this subject.

To you apathetic Christian I implore you to watch the video and ask yourself, "What does God think about this?" Do you say, "Personally, I would never do it. But, I could never tell someone else what to do." Really? Watch the video, then tell me that!

There are a few things that I want to say specifically on this matter:

1. If you have been involved in abortion (both female and male), Jesus has paid the penalty for you sin. Forgiveness is available to you if you ask Him. Forgiveness and consequence are two separate matters. Once forgiven, I believe it can take many years to sort through the guilt, shame, and scars.

2. I believe aborted children are resting in the arms of God. They are safe with Him.

3. Concerning abortion to day. This is murder. We must act to defend the lives of the innocent. I am not suggesting that we murder abortionist, but we must rise up and help the helpless somehow.

Please people, watch this video. Let it hurt. Let the tears flow. Be ignorant no more!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 was, without question, a historic day for the United States of America.

I am happy for President-elect Obama and what he has accomplished and my heart goes out to him as I imagine this is bitter sweet with the passing of his grandmother.

My prayer for our country is that we can finally close the door on racism and move forward. Clearly, there is no limit to what a man or woman can achieve in this fine country because of the color of their skin. We cannot change the past, but we can choose to let it remain there and move forward.

There is no doubt that I wish this monumental event would have occurred with a conservative African American, but there is no reason to wish in hind-sight!

To my conservative Christian friends, I would like to point out a couple words of encouragement and instruction from the Bible.

First, God appoints leaders--both good and bad (Romans 13:1). We can trust in His sovereignty and control over world events. We long for the day when He ultimately restores creation according to His standard. There is nothing out of, or beyond, God's control.

Second, we are to pray "on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The bottom line is the presidency is a difficult job. Period. If there was ever a time for us to be praying for our president and national leaders, today is the day. Why don't we commit to pray for our leaders on a regular basis?