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What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
Paul ends the Book of Galatians with a “benediction.” In fact, he does this in most of his Letters. Here’s what I mean, Galatians 6:18 … “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen..” A benediction, a blessing, and perhaps even a prayer for their “good?” Yes, yes and yes! […]
The visible church of Christ is mixed; having both wheat and tares. It is the characteristic of God's people to persevere to the end because God preserves them (John 6:38-40, John 10:28-29, Romans 8:28-39). Those who fall away demonstrate that they had spurious faith. (See 1 John 2:19) The Holy Spirit quickens His people and since His seed abides in them He keeps them from falling away because they have been born again (1 John 3:19). He also preserves His own by disciplining us when we fail to judge ourselves, so that we won't be condemned along with the world (1 Cor 11:31-32). God also uses his word as a means of preserving us by calling us to persevere and giving us warnings of what will occur if we don't. The elect hear his voice in the word and take heed. The non-elect (tares) do not hear his voice and fall away."He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever." - Psalm 37:28-----Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the SaintsSection I.–They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.Section II.–This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own freewill, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
Paul mentions a “rule” in Galatians chapter 6, three verses from the end of the Epistle! And what “rule” would that be? Simply this … walking “by grace through faith” and not slavishly walking by “obedience to the Law of Moses” … at least not doing so as far as one’s salvation is concerned. “And […]
The results of an election can reveal the character and heart of a people. And this most recent election, at least in the state of California, didn't reveal a heart for God or loyalty to Christian values. Our newly-elected governor was, fourteen years ago, the first mayor to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California. This week, the opening sentence of an LA Times article quipped, “Gavin Newsom's election as governor of California is expected to shift state politics and policy even further to the left after eight years under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown.”Recent laws passed in our state have created increasing discomfort for Christians who believe in the sanctity of marriage, the life of the pre-born, and even the role of biblical values in society. Indeed, California and many other parts of America have more of a European flavor politically and religiously than ever before. But although this is a developing path for the United States, it is not new in world history. The psalmist talks about the depth of depravity to which those who are anti-God go. And if the intensity of vitriol that sometimes accompanies their insistence on a position seems disproportionate to the occasion, there is a reason. It often is not simply a single matter or viewpoint at hand, but a decision to rage against God Himself. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.—Psalm 2:1–3As Christians, during these times, we pray with the psalmist for deliverance from oppression, an opposition which I believe will only increase until the coming of the Lord: “Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:134).Although times like these can be discouraging for a Christian whose focus is solely on experiencing comfort in this life, this is a short-sighted viewpoint. When we are living as Spirit-filled Christians, these can be exciting times to see God work in unusual and significant ways.In fact, two of the great men of the Old Testament whose stories we remember often—Joseph and Daniel—were both surrounded by political and spiritual depravity of the worst sort. It was against that backdrop that their lives made such a profound difference. So, rather than being discouraged with the results of this past election, I choose to be grateful.I am thankful because…1. God Is Faithful in Every GenerationO give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.—Psalm 118:29Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.—Psalm 90:1–2The first-century Roman empire was far more corrupt and pagan than the United States today, yet the gospel flourished and spread through its entirety. 2. The Mission of God's People Never ChangesAnd he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15My goal as a pastor is not to be overly concerned about red states and blue states. My goal is to preach the crimson red blood atonement of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. When people are redeemed by His blood and inhabited by the Holy Spirit, their worldview will change. But until they know the Lord, the biblical worldview will not make sense anyway. While election results intrigue me, as a Christian, my task does not change from season to season. I need to be ready to share Christ with a spirit of love and compassion today.3. Our Mission Is ObviousNow while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.—Acts 17:16Rather than being surrounded by professing and often carnal Christians, we have masses of unconverted heathen people in our state. If you lived in a county that was surrounded by hundreds of Baptist churches, you might not even think you need to actively look for ways to witness. But here, you can't help but see the need. A mature believer in California does not view his life as one dedicated to aerospace advancements, a hospital, or a law enforcement agency. He sees these as a vocation and certainly does his best, but he knows his higher calling is to be a light for Jesus in those places. This is a time to consider whether we will respond with flight or fight to the challenges in California. Will we flee discomfort? Or will we, not combatively but with a soulwinner's heart, have a spirit to take the Sword of the Spirit and stand for truth? The opportunity to do so has never been greater. 4. The Sovereignty of God Is Over AllThe LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.—Psalm 113:4Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.—Isaiah 40:15, 17I don't have to wring my hands in apprehension over the future because I know the King of kings and Lord of lords. No, we aren't promised a life of ease and comfort, free of persecution. But we are promised God's peace and comfort, and we can rest in knowing that He isn't surprised or disabled by an election.5. Revival Is an Ever-present PotentialWherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.—Psalm 115:2–3Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?—Psalm 85:6Frankly, for states like California and New York, as well as a growing number of other places across our land, revival may seem completely impossible. But it may be the complacency of Christians that is to blame. Perhaps now Christians will ponder the need for prayer, seeking the Lord, and humbling ourselves. These are the choices to which God responds with His grace. 6. The Natural Beauty of God's Creation Surrounds UsLet the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.—Psalm 96:11–12From the giant sequoias to the redwoods to the expansive deserts to the sandy beaches and cliff-lined coasts to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California is breathtakingly beautiful. And it all points to God as the creator and sustainer who is worthy of our honor and praise. 7. The Lord Is on Our SideI called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?—Psalm 118:5–6When you're involved in politics, you always want the most persuasive, influential, or powerful person on your side. And when “the other side” has such a person, you cringe. As Christians, we have the Lord on our side. Sometimes we forget it, and sometimes we forget the significance of it. But He is always there, and we have no need to fear.8. The Local Church Will ContinueAnd I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—Matthew 16:18I'm thankful for the local church. In particular, I'm thankful for Lancaster Baptist Church—a place where God has allowed me to pastor for over thirty-two years and where I joyfully serve to this day. The assembly of believers is to be a place where we focus on the Lord, have a haven of rest, and pray and prepare to reach the lost with the gospel. As our culture becomes increasingly hostile toward God and biblical truths, the church should mean more to us today than ever. 9. Our Weather Is TerrificIn every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18I'm thankful I will not shovel snow to get to work this winter. And I'm thankful that I will enjoy an average of 284 sunny days out of the 365 this year. (There are several reasons California is the most populated state in the nation, and weather is definitely one of them.) 10. Laborers Are Being Trained to Take the Gospel to CaliforniaTherefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.—Luke 10:2Jesus had one prayer request—gospel laborers for the harvest. And here in northern Los Angeles county, of all places, I get to be involved in training some of these laborers at West Coast Baptist College. Not only are there WCBC graduates planting churches in dozens of countries around the world, but there are thirty who are currently pastoring in California, many of which are church planters. Everywhere I preach outside of California, people criticize our state—its policies, media, political agenda, legislation, and even the way churches do ministry. I would remind our friends across the country, you'll never see a monument to a critic. Rather than pointing out our challenges, why not come help us and be part of the solution? Pray for us, come share the gospel with us, and come plant more churches. In fact, I invite any student or recent graduate from another Bible-believing Baptist college or any pastor serving in an area that is surrounded by other churches to call my office regarding opportunities for church planting here in California, as well as the opportunity for Lancaster Baptist to support you in planting a church here.11. Our Citizenship Is in HeavenFor our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:—Philippians 3:20These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.—Hebrews 11:13We can get so focused on local, state, and national government that we forget who our King is. Although I believe that we as Americans should take advantage of the extraordinary privilege we have to be engaged in our government and its processes, we must guard against thinking of this world as our home. We are but strangers and pilgrims here, and we have a better Home coming. Back in the 1700s, there were a group of people who were known for the fact that, not just a few but all of the church considered themselves missionaries. Laymen surrendered themselves by the hundreds to go to far away places, including the Caribbean, North and South America, the Arctic, Africa, and the Far East to carry the gospel. If we today would have the godly depth and maturity of these Moravian missionaries, we who live in California would see the opportunities around us for the gospel as nothing more than a privilege. We would see what a great blessing it is to be living in the midst of millions of people needing a Saviour. If, however, we begrudge living in California (or wherever you may be living today), we should apologize to the missionaries we send to China, where it is illegal to hand out a gospel tract. We should apologize to the churches in Malaysia, where to simply give out a printed copy of the gospel would mean your hand would be cut off; and Iran, where a Christian would be imprisoned for the same offense. May we instead, as mature Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, serve God graciously and witness for Christ passionately where we are in the days ahead.
LGBT activists are pushing for an end to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)—the various forms of voluntary religious or secular counseling or therapy (referred to by critics and the media as “conversion therapy”) intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome those feelings or not act upon them. That campaign suffered a setback in August 2018 when an extreme version of a SOCE therapy ban, AB 2943, was withdrawn by its sponsor after strong resistance, especially from the religious community.However, critics of SOCE are now hoping for a boost from the release of a new movie, Boy Erased, intended to dramatize the problems they associate with “conversion therapy.” The movie, starring Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as the parents of the college student sent to counseling, premiered in limited release on November 1, and is gradually being rolled out around the country.The movie is based on a 2016 memoir with the same title by Garrard Conley. Conley was a 19-year-old Arkansas college student in 2004, when he attended one-on-one counseling and then an intensive two-week group program offered by Love in Action (LIA), a Memphis ex-gay ministry run by John Smid, a man who had testified to his own transformation from gay to ex-gay.In anticipation of the movie’s release, I recently read the book on which it is based. On November 8, the first day the film was screened in the D.C. area, I went to see it. The first screening in downtown Washington was sold out, but I was able to catch a later screening in a nearly empty theatre in Bethesda, Maryland. What follows will address both the book and the movie, but I will focus primarily on the book.Conley and Love in ActionI will say one thing in the book’s favor—it does not appear to be a complete fabrication. That is more than I can say for some testimony given in favor of state therapy bans—accounts which have either been proven false or are highly suspect. Love in Action was a real organization, and the approach Conley describes in the book is roughly consistent with group therapy used by some (not all) such ministries. According to Conley, his personal memories were augmented by LIA’s 274-page handbook—which he still has.This means that in Conley’s account, there is no electric shock therapy; no application of heat or ice to create an aversion to homosexual stimuli; no deliberate exposure to heterosexual or homosexual pornography; in short, none of the horror stories one usually hears about outdated treatments that were abandoned 40 or 50 years ago. Although often raised in critiques of SOCE, no one has been able to prove that any of these methods have been used in this century.Another common charge is that minors are coerced into therapy by their parents. Therefore, it’s important to note that Conley was not a minor when he went to LIA, and he states explicitly, “I was here by my own choice.” Despite its short term of two weeks, Conley’s program was not even a residential one—he spent evenings in a motel room with his mother. This was no “conversion therapy camp” as they are sometimes depicted.What the book, and at least the first part of the movie, feature instead is lots of talking and lots of writing. This makes the book and first half of the movie, frankly, rather boring.Smid (depicted in the film as “Victor Sykes”) and LIA approached homosexuality using an addiction model, and many of their techniques were borrowed directly from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Different programs and different therapists use different methodologies—what unites SOCE is only the goal, not any particular technique. While AA and other twelve-step programs have their critics, as far as I know no one has ever tried to outlaw them.For example, one exercise drawn directly from AA was the “Moral Inventory”—an effort to account in writing for as many past sins as the participant could recall. Another exercise was drawing a “genogram”—essentially a family tree noting patterns of sinful behavior by various forebears and relatives. These techniques may be questioned by some—but hardly constitute “torture,” or even stirring drama.The Real TraumaThat’s not to say there are no traumatic events in Boy Erased—it’s just that most of them predate or are unrelated to the LIA program. In the book, Conley admits that in early puberty, he was so addicted to video games he would urinate on his bedroom carpet, rather than walk to the bathroom. (Later, in college, he would urinate in empty water bottles in his dorm, putting them under his bed to be discovered later.) In high school, he would “crouch on the toilet seat to hide from overcrowded lunch tables.” Conley, a runner, admits that in the summer before he started college, “my weight loss took an angry, masochistic turn that verged on anorexic”—something even a gay-friendly family doctor would call him on. Conley also admits several times to having suicidal thoughts. Note that almost all of these things happened before he went to LIA—and all were omitted from the movie.If Conley had chosen to re-frame his story, it could have put an important male twist on the #MeToo movement. The worst thing that happened to Conley, and to the lead character in the film (renamed “Jared”), was that he was raped by a fellow male college student in a dorm room. (The under-a-blanket rape scene, as well as some strong language, are the main reasons for the film’s R rating.) The rapist then confessed to having done the same thing to a younger teen in the youth group at his church.Conley told a pastor at his Presbyterian college about the latter crime—and was told “to stay quiet” because “there was nothing to be done.” However, he told no one—not the pastor, his parents, nor Love in Action counselors—about the assault he had suffered. He remained silent on this point even after the rapist was the one who “outed” him as “gay” to his parents. One is left to wonder whether his counseling might have had a different outcome if he had been more honest with the people who wanted to help him.Family DynamicsFamily dynamics play an important role in Boy Erased—but this is one of several areas in which Conley appears to have misunderstood the theory behind some SOCE. It is true that many counselors have identified a pattern which is common (but not universal) among men with same-sex attractions, in which these men had strained relations with their fathers and male peers and unusually close relationships with their mothers.This is the exact pattern evident in Conley’s description of his own life. With his father, a Christian car dealer who experienced a mid-life call to pastoral ministry, Conley had “moments of misunderstanding” that were “often damaging.” Sports is a common way for a boy to bond with his father or peers, but Conley admits, “It’s true that I was never any good at sports. . . I never liked to toss the ball with my father in the front yard.” (The film, however, makes “Jared” a high school basketball player.) With his mother, a glamorous Southern belle who married “in her sixteenth year,” he would go “to Memphis for weekends of shopping and movie binging.” In fact, when client Conley tells a counselor, “Yes, my mother and I were too close,” author Conley calls it his “first ex-gay utterance.”The climax of both the book and the movie—and the incident that led to Conley walking out of LIA before the program was over—was an exercise called “the Lie Chair” (the name is puzzling, since it involves telling the truth). Conley was instructed to sit across from an empty chair “and imagine your father sitting across from you and you saying everything you’ve always wanted to tell him but couldn’t.” Conley says, “I tried working myself up into an angry fit,” but finally declared, “I’m not angry”—and walked out, never to return.Conley seems convinced that the family dynamics theory did not apply to him, because his parents were not actually abusive—just once, “my father had raised his fist to strike me,” but thought better of it—and because he loves them. He does not seem to understand that there can be a deficit in meeting the developmental need for warm, non-sexual affection from the same-sex parent, even in the absence of any overt abuse.Distorted TheologyConley also seems to have a distorted view of Christian theology. For one thing, he (like many LGBT activists) seems obsessed with “Hell”—far more than any Christians I know, or any pastors I’ve ever heard preach. Even after having his horizons broadened by going to college, Conley declares, “I still believed that I would feel its fire licking my skin for all eternity if I continued on this path.” As an evangelical Christian myself, I also believe in hell (capitalizing the word, as Conley does, is unnecessary). Yet I’ve never believed—and know no one who teaches—that merely being (or becoming) straight is the key to avoiding it.Critics of SOCE, including Conley, are also obsessed with “shame,” and a belief that such counseling operates by instilling a sense of shame over the client’s homosexuality. Yet every sexual reorientation therapist I have met has said the exact opposite—that one of the primary goals of such therapy is to overcome the shame that clients already feel when they begin therapy.In fact, despite Conley repeatedly associating LIA and its teachings with terms like “self-loathing” and even “self-annihilation,” the actual quotations from LIA’s handbook and other materials express the opposite:“I believed many lies that I was worthless, hopeless, and had no future.”“I’ve learned that I am loved and accepted even though I have been involved in sexual addiction.”“I have worth. I am intelligent, funny, caring and strong.”Film FabricationsBecause “moral inventories” and “genograms” don’t exactly make for compelling cinema, the filmmakers spiced up the last half of the film—by adding scenes that didn’t actually happen. The most dramatic—and most outrageous for its absurdity—is one in which an uncooperative LIA client is literally, physically beaten with a Bible (by family members including, apparently, his own little sister). Perhaps this is meant to be a metaphor for spiritual abuse, but some gullible viewers are likely to take it literally.The character Jared’s “escape” from LIA is exaggerated in the film. Apart from having to ask a second time before his cell phone was returned, the book recounts no effort to physically prevent him from leaving or his mother from reaching him, the way the movie does. And the film’s biggest emotional gut punch is when we learn that the fictional victim of the fictional “Bible-beating” has committed suicide. (In his book, Conley reports no such event, but writes, “Various bloggers” have estimated that “twenty to thirty” suicides resulted from LIA, “though figures like these are impossible to pin down.” That’s probably because they are made up.)One thing the film does somewhat better than the book is address the character Jared’s nuanced relationship with his parents after he left Love in Action. However, we have no way of knowing if the portrayal is a truthful one reflecting Conley’s actual experience, or merely a dramatic one serving Hollywood’s purposes. In the book, Conley addresses the decade after his LIA experience only cryptically, and somewhat confusingly. His father never followed through, apparently, on a threat to withdraw funding for his college education. Yet describing visits to his parents’ home, he declares, “I will refuse to even look at my father.” He concludes the Acknowledgments, though, by saying, “Thank you, most of all, to my mother and father, whose love has made all the difference.”Love in Action—The Rest of the StoryIn 2005, a year after Conley left Love in Action, the ministry was subjected to a storm of controversy after a teenager named Zach Stark complained on social media that his parents had sent him to LIA’s residential program for adolescents, called “Refuge.” (The Boy Erased film conflates this program with the adult-focused one, “The Source,” that Conley attended—a staffer in the film says, “Welcome to Refuge,” but the notebooks say “Source” on the cover.) This sparked a round of protests by LGBT activists, and investigations by Tennessee state officials.State officials said LIA required a license because they were providing mental health treatment; LIA insisted it offered discipleship programs, which are exempt from state regulation. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a federal lawsuit to protect LIA, and ultimately prevailed, with the state dropping its efforts to regulate the LIA ministry.The controversy about the short-lived Refuge program seems to be the source of the mythology that there is a network of “conversion therapy camps” across the country holding teens against their will. The trailer on the film’s official website ends with the dramatic and absurd declaration, “77,000 people are currently being held in conversion therapy across America.” Yet the Refuge program—then already defunct—was the only such program identified in a 2009 American Psychological Association report on sexual orientation change efforts. Indeed, a 2015 Ph.D. dissertation agreed that “it is likely the media frenzy surrounding the story of 16-year-old Stark being forced into a conversion therapy residential program by his parents in 2005 led to these bans” on such therapy for minors.The controversy took a toll on Smid, however, and on the ministry. In 2008, Smid resigned; he has since returned to living as a homosexual and married a man in 2014. Smid now has a gay-affirming ministry called Grace Rivers, and has apologized for the work he did with Love in Action. (LIA, under new leadership and with a completely new ministry model, changed its name to “Restoration Path” in 2012.)ConclusionThe therapy bans enacted in fourteen states so far apply only to licensed mental health providers and only to clients who are minors. Since Garrard Conley was not a minor and Love in Action was not licensed by the state, his experience would not have been affected by such a law, even if one had been in place in Tennessee. Ironically, the passage of such laws, cutting off access to care consistent with their values from licensed providers, might only have the effect of driving desperate parents and clients into the hands of unlicensed religious programs such as Love in Action. For SOCE skeptics who see this as undesirable, therefore, such laws may actually be counter-productive.California’s AB 2943, on the other hand, would have applied to any SOCE provider or program that charges a fee, even religious and unlicensed ones. This type of approach, however, raises constitutional questions even beyond those raised by the license restrictions.Regardless of what one thinks of Conley’s story, its fictionalized film version, John Smid’s story, or the techniques of Love in Action, they all represent only anecdotes about a particular instance of sexual orientation change efforts. They cannot be taken as representative of all SOCE. The claim that SOCE in general has been shown to be ineffective and harmful is not supported by the scientific research.Boy Erased is not particularly entertaining; and not at all informative for making policy regarding sexual orientation change efforts.
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