Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

2 Samuel 8:1-18
David’s Military Victories

In today’s passage, David is gaining in popularity among the people. They just loved him for all the military victories and acclaim that he was bringing to the nation of Israel. David’s following of God here was pretty easy. Doing God’s will is fun and easy when it gains you acclaim and popularity amidst the culture in which you live, right? It’s a sweet spot to be in, for sure! But was that acclaim, that acceptance what motivated David? Being accepted by the culture, was that what motivated David? Although David was a man occasionally susceptible to personal pride that led him to do things that hurt his kingship severely, for the most part, David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). After thinking about what motivated David throughout his days is a question that I think we must ask ourselves today as well. What motivates us to follow Jesus Christ? Is for the acclaim that it can bring us within Christian circles like David here who is gaining great popularity among his people? Or do we follow Jesus Christ even when it makes us unpopular and we are all alone as a result? What’s our motivation?

In this day in which we live it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stand on your Christian convictions. The biblical values upon which we stand are no longer the norm. In fact, biblical values often stand in direct opposition to the common values of society. We are certainly in opposition to the prevailing values of society today when it comes to sexual relationships. Our society today condones serial heterosexuality (having sex with as many partners as possible in one lifetime) and it condones homosexuality as right and normal and a brand of sexuality that should be supported and even encouraged. We are often in opposition to the prevailing values of society in other areas of life as well such as the common belief that all roads lead to heaven and as long as you believe in something as a guide to your life’s values that you will experience a nirvana-like afterlife. You name it, we as Christ followers are now more often than not seen as old-fashioned, restrictive, and closed-minded. We are seen as in opposition to all “the progress” that society is making toward an egalitarian society where everything is acceptable.

The Christian church and Christ followers are at a crossroads here in the first quarter of the 21st century. We must decide if we want to ride along with society or return to the days where persecution of Christians was a common thing in the centuries before Christianity became an institution condoned by the Roman Empire. Do we have the guts now to stand on biblical values when it is in direct opposition to the prevailing sentiments in society? How Christian will most of us be when it is no longer neutral or to our advantage to say, “I’m a Christ follower!”? How many of us will be willing to publicly attend church if we were to be arrested or lose our jobs if seen there? How far are you and I willing to take this Christ follower thing? Are you willing to die for Jesus Christ? Are you willing to be imprisoned because you believe in Jesus Christ? Are you willing to be tortured for not renouncing the name of Jesus Christ? We can say that it will never happen here, but right now if you think that you are like the frog in a pot of hot water where the heat is ever so slowly being turned up. The frog will stay in the water with the slow increase in temperature to the point that the water is boiling and he dies. Right now, we are seeing the beginnings of persecution in the United States for those who have values different from the political correctness of our age.

Just think of all the people that have lost their careers, have been publicly vilified in the press and social media, just because they came out in opposition to alternative sexual lifestyles. Just think of the firestorm that was created nationally and internationally when the State of North Carolina passed “bathroom bill” which was to counteract the ordinance passed by the City of Charlotte that said a person could use whatever public restroom that they identified with rather than what their anatomy indicated. North Carolina had concerts, conventions, and even businesses that pulled out of the state because of the firestorm over the prohibitive law passed at the state level to counteract a city level ordinance. The people of North Carolina were branded as backwards and homophobic for allowing such a law to be passed. The pressure was intense. It went as far as the Atlantic Coast Conference (a collegiate athletic conference) whose headquarters from its inception in 1953 has been in Greensboro, NC saying that it would pull all of its championship games and/or tournaments from the state until North Carolina buckled. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon to condemn North Carolina. Entertainers who had been to the state numerous times over their careers all of a sudden withdrew concerts. It was the classic case of joining the crowd regardless of whether you had any skin in the game or not. Now, of course, it led North Carolina to ultimately rescind the law and people think North Carolina is OK again.

What is the next thing that Christians will have to endure as the heat in the pot slowly rises? Are you and I going to be quiet and say when we gather with our fellow Christ followers that the world is no longer the place it once was for us, but as soon as we step into society, we get quiet or we ultimately conform our beliefs to that of society just so we won’t have to suffer the fate of the State of North Carolina over “the bathroom bill”. What’s the next thing? I see it coming now and it is illegal immigration. I see Facebook posts condemning Christians for supporting the position of the Trump Administration of enforcing immigration laws even if it means the separating of families. The issue is one that brings out emotions of the highest order just as the North Carolina “bathroom bill” did.

So, what does the Bible say about those who enter a country illegally? What should be the Christian response to illegal aliens or illegal immigrants and toward those who condone illegal immigration? What about the kids of immigrants who entered this country in a manner that is against the long-established laws of the land? Should they have to pay for the illegal activities of their parents just as with any other crime committed in our country? Do we want to be seen as being OK with separating families (even though it happens daily with social services departments around the country)? This is the next hot-button issue for the culture. What is your position? Have you consulted God’s Word or would you rather just not be one of the people being vilified in the press and just go along with the prevailing sentiment of the culture?

Christians are struggling with this issue and we must consult God’s Word on it before we join the crowd or stand against it. We must understand what God’s Word says about the laws of the lands in which we live. We must understand what God’s Word says about when we can deviate from the law of the land. We must understand what God’s Word says about compassion and mercy and land in the place that is fully biblical in our response. It is the next battlefield where we must choose.

It is the next battlefield where we must study God’s Word and respond in the way that God desires for us even if that position might well be in opposition to the culture. We must study God’s Word now and pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as to what our proper response might be to this 21st century American issue. What will you and I do this time if the Holy Spirit leads us to a conclusion that is in opposition to the prevailing sentiment of society. Will we be the frog in the pot of water where the temporary is rising ever so slowly and just go along, say nothing, and just try to get along? Or will we act on the conclusion that the Holy Spirit leads us toward even if it means that we are publicly vilified for having an opposing opinion to the culture’s desires?

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning – how the days are coming when we must decide to honor God or honor society. In this passage, we see that David was becoming increasingly popular with the people of Israel. However, they were enamored with his success. David was not doing things to be popular with the people though. He was doing what he did to satisfy and please God. That’s the point of my blog this morning – will we have what it takes when we have to decide whether to please God or please the culture? Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 8:1-18, now:

Chapter 8

1After this, David defeated and subdued the Philistines by conquering Gath, their largest town.[a] 2 David also conquered the land of Moab. He made the people lie down on the ground in a row, and he measured them off in groups with a length of rope. He measured off two groups to be executed for every one group to be spared. The Moabites who were spared became David’s subjects and paid him tribute money.

3 David also destroyed the forces of Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when Hadadezer marched out to strengthen his control along the Euphrates River. 4 David captured 1,000 chariots, 7,000 charioteers,[b] and 20,000 foot soldiers. He crippled all the chariot horses except enough for 100 chariots.

5 When Arameans from Damascus arrived to help King Hadadezer, David killed 22,000 of them. 6 Then he placed several army garrisons in Damascus, the Aramean capital, and the Arameans became David’s subjects and paid him tribute money. So the Lord made David victorious wherever he went.

7 David brought the gold shields of Hadadezer’s officers to Jerusalem, 8 along with a large amount of bronze from Hadadezer’s towns of Tebah[c] and Berothai.

9 When King Toi of Hamath heard that David had destroyed the entire army of Hadadezer, 10 he sent his son Joram to congratulate King David for his successful campaign. Hadadezer and Toi had been enemies and were often at war. Joram presented David with many gifts of silver, gold, and bronze.

11 King David dedicated all these gifts to the Lord, as he did with the silver and gold from the other nations he had defeated— 12 from Edom,[d] Moab, Ammon, Philistia, and Amalek—and from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah.

13 So David became even more famous when he returned from destroying 18,000 Edomites[e] in the Valley of Salt. 14 He placed army garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s subjects. In fact, the Lord made David victorious wherever he went.

15 So David reigned over all Israel and did what was just and right for all his people. 16 Joab son of Zeruiah was commander of the army. Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian. 17 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were the priests. Seraiah was the court secretary. 18 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was captain of the king’s bodyguard.[f] And David’s sons served as priestly leaders.[g]

In this passage, David pleased the people not because he tried to please them. They were enamored with the results of his military campaigns. However, David’s purpose was not necessarily to please the people but rather pleasing God. Often, those who try hardest to become popular never make it. From David, we learn that we should never devise ways to become accepted and popular in the public eye. Instead, we should strive to do what is right and what is honoring to God.

Lord, help us to be a people that takes the pulse of the Bible as our guide to respond to the world around us rather than taking the pulse of culture. Let us seek your approval and your smile toward us rather than trying to fit in to the culture. May we try to please you only. May we be a people that will take pleasing you as our main priority even if what we do in that regard is in opposition to the culture. Help us not to cave into the culture even if it means that we will be vilified, persecuted or even killed for it.

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 22:5

Sexual Identity

Recently, in a podcast interview with World Radio, an Asheville, NC evangelical Christian news website, former North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, said that the backlash against him personally for having signed the North Carolina legislature’s “bathroom bill” continues to this day. He is finding it difficult to find work as a result of him becoming the lightning rod, or poster boy, for bigotry again the LBGT community. The history of the situation is, of course, that Charlotte’s city council passed an ordinance that would allow a person to use whichever bathroom with which they personally sexually identified. Within just a few days, the legislature of the state of North Carolina passed a law stating that all persons in state owned or run facilities must use the bathroom that corresponds with the person’s natural biological gender. It became famously known as “the Bathroom Bill” and it was signed into law by then governor, Pat McCrory. As with any state, the states are the sovereign power and the cities within its borders operate under the auspices and pleasure of the sovereign powers of the state. Incorporation charters for cities are granted by the state and so on. Thus, when a city law (called ordinances) is in conflict with a state law, the sovereignty of the state supersedes that of the municipality. As a result, the state law against gender identity bathroom use superseded and invalidated the ordinance passed by the City of Charlotte.

 

The amazing thing was how swiftly North Carolina was condemned for bigotry by the generally urban dwelling liberal intelligencia of our country. The backlash was swift. Companies like Paypal and Google refused to go further with plans to either establish operations in the state or expand already existing facilities. Entertainers boycotted the state and still do. The NCAA, the governing body of college sports, withdrew championship sites for national tournaments that had been awarded to cities in North Carolina. Even the home-grown Atlantic Coast Conference (the ACC), headquartered in Greensboro, NC, withdrew the ACC’s conference football championship game from Charlotte, where it had been played for six years running (and was considered the long-term home of the football championship). Media outlets around the country summarily condemned North Carolina for its action. However, the irony of it all is that it was the city of Charlotte that caused the state to do with it did. Nothing would have been done at the state level had it not been done at the city level. What happened in North Carolina is indicative of what is happening around the country. In Charlotte, North Carolina has one the largest cities in America. There are other hot urban areas in the state as well. The Greensboro-Raleigh-Durham area is a progressive, fast growing area as well. Asheville has become a mecca for artists and all things liberal. However, North Carolina is a large state and most of it is rural. There is a great divide in the political leanings of rural/suburban North Carolina and these North Carolina urban centers.

 

The whole situation points out the great divide that has been developing in our country between urban centers and rural/suburban communities in America. The divide, though always there to a certain degree, was its most highly visible in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton won virtually all the urban centers of the US (she won 88 of the 100 largest cities in America). In general, that means rural areas are becoming more conservative, and cities more liberal. Even the reddest states contain liberal cities: Half of the U.S. metro areas with the biggest recent population gains are in the South, and they are Democratic. Texas alone is home to four such cities; Clinton carried each of them. Increasingly, the most important political and cultural divisions are not between red and blue states but between red states and the blue cities within. Within urban areas, the transgender movement has gained great traction as it is seen as the enlightened cause de jour. And it is vociferously supported by major media in this country, which of course, are headquartered in liberal, urban centers. However, rural and suburban America have been gathering momentum and have become more vocal about their distrust of the liberal agenda of the urban centers of the United States. A recent poll last month by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 60% of Americans are opposed to this whole transgender bathroom issue. Rural America is opposed, it seems to the leftward leanings of urban America. Samantha Bee and her nightly liberal rants on TBS gives her great voice, but rural and suburban America have expressed at the ballot box that enough is enough. The drift of liberalism has gone too far, according to rural and suburban voters. They spoke with one voice for once in the 2016 elections and defeated the liberal agenda espoused by urban centers.

 

This great divide is all in the political arena and it was what I thought of immediately when I read today’s passage/verse, Deuteronomy 22:5 which reads as follows:

 

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.

 

In this verse which is part of a greater collection of laws that God is giving on miscellaneous issues in Deuteronomy 22, this law forbids cross-dressing, which confuses the created categories of sexuality. The God-created differences between women and men are not to be disregarded. Transvestitism may have been derived from the Canaanite practice of cross-dressing in context of pagan religious idol worship. This law reflects the value of not crossing boundaries that God has ordained and established. Creational categories are to kept separate according to God’s Word. The symbolism is clear that we are not to blur the boundaries that God has established.

 

The following from gotquestions.org says it better than I could ever think to write:

 

The closest the Bible comes to mentioning transgenderism is in its condemnations of homosexuality (Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5). The Greek word often translated “homosexual offenders” or “male prostitutes” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible does not directly mention transgenderism, when it mentions other instances of gender “confusion,” it clearly and explicitly identifies them as sin.

 

No matter if the gender distortion has a genetic, hormonal, physiological, psychological, or spiritual cause, it can be overcome and healed through faith in Christ and continued reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit. Healing can be received, sin can be overcome, and lives can be changed through the salvation that Jesus provides, even if there are biological/physiological factors. The Corinthian believers are an example of such a change: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). There is hope for everyone, transsexuals, transgenders, those with gender identity disorder, and transvestites included, because of God’s forgiveness available in Jesus Christ.

 

What then do we do as Christians? We know from God’s Word that it is consistent in its views on homosexuality and by extension any gender confusing practices. In our society today, particularly in our cities, these practices are not only tolerated but glorified. Due to media centers being in these large urban centers, our culture is bombarded with glorifying portrayals of that which is considered sin by the Bible (unless you just plain out ignore what it says and try to develop some convoluted logic about how it is not really talking about gender confusing practices). Most reasonable academicians and biblical scholars and most reasonable men and women who read God’s Word regularly will tell you, it is clear that the Bible does not support gender confusing practices. Therefore, how to we respond to people who are flaunting and reveling in their gender confusing practices and refuse to see their practices as sins. In refusing to see these practices as sin, repentance will never come.

Do we give up? Do we write them off? Do we accept gender confusing practices as OK? The answer to all three questions is no. We do not give up on our transgenders and others who confuse gender roles. We do not write them off. Yet, at the same time, we cannot say that God’s Word is changeable and what was once sin is now not sin. Similarly, just because sexual freedom says that adultery is not a big deal anymore does not make God’s command against it any less valid today than it was 100 years ago, 1000 years, 6000 years ago. God’s truth is unchangeable and no matter how hard we try to spin it, His Word is eternal and will mean the same thing always in all centuries.

 

Thus, we still must engage the culture of transgender and gender confusion acceptance. We cannot walk away from this moment in time. We cannot withdraw. Jesus dined with sinners and died for them. We are called to carry the gospel to all peoples and all nations. Jesus never said it was going to be easy. We cannot write off those who are blatantly and willingly disobeying God. We cannot buy into the divide between rural and urban America. We must be the difference makers who bridge the divide between liberal and conservative America. We must one-on-one engage those who espouse gender confusion acceptance and develop relationships with them. We must engage them with the raw truth of the Scriptures. Scripture is clear, both in the Old Testament and the New, on God’s position on gender confusion acceptance. But we do so in love. We do not create battle lines and fight wars as we see happening in America now – rural/suburban values vs. urban values. We must be willing to meet people where they are at and tear down the walls of distrust and encounter them with the gospel.

 

That is our calling. Go and make disciples. Jesus did not qualify that to making disciples of people who have the same opinions as me. His calling is to do the hard work of opening the scaled eyes of those who do not know Jesus Christ. It’s not going to be easy but we must do it. Do you really want your worst enemy to suffer the fires of eternal damnation in hell just because you were afraid to share the gospel truth with them in love. Being a Christian should be like the Marines slogan, “the toughest job you will ever love!”

 

Amen and Amen.