Ministry in Transition


Last week in my Sunday sermon, I announced that I would be stepping down as the pastor of Community Fellowship sometime in July, 2014. We have begun a search process for a new pastor and are prayerfully seeking God’s guidance and direction in the process. We have adopted Jeremiah 29:11 as our verse for the year and our theme is Present Calling/Future Hope. I am very excited about the future of this church. I am also looking forward to this year here; although it will be transitional, there are some very exciting ministry initiatives that will be taking place.

Many have asked what I will be doing next and whether we will be staying around the Chicago area or heading back to New England. I would say that the theme for our church year is also an appropriate theme for me—Present Calling/Future Hope. I have a present responsibility to shepherd a wonderful, vibrant congregation that I love. I also have confidence that God will continue to find me useful and to lead me to another ministry opportunity.

Since some of you are connected in high places and might be able to find a job for me somewhere, I thought I’d share with you some of my past experience. I worked as a lumberjack for a while, but just couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the axe. Then I moved to an inside job working in an orange juice factory, but got canned because I couldn’t concentrate; I was always thinking about theology. Next I tried working for Midas Muffler, but found the work too exhausting. I had read that DL Moody was converted in a Boston shoe store, so I worked in a shoe factory and found that I just didn’t fit with the job.  I was so desperate that I got a summer job working for a pool company, but even that job was too draining. I even considered working at Dunkin Donuts, but knew it would be a grind. Finally I went back to school to become a historian, but after the first semester I realized there was no future in it.

Then I became a pastor—ah, I love it! In spite of all my varied experience in the past, this was a place in the universe for me. All these jobs I got paid for; being a pastor was what I was made for. It is not the easiest job in the world, but neither is working in an orange juice or shoe factory. The issue is one of calling. I believe that the one whom God calls will be sustained. My life verse for ministry is 1 Thess 5:24; “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”

Many of my readers do not know me, but I would sincerely ask those who are praying people to pray for Community Fellowship Church in its pastoral search during this year of transition. I would also ask that you would pray for my wife and me as we seek direction for the next chapter in our lives. Thank-you.


Talking ‘Stralian

securedownloadGloria and I just returned from two wonderful weeks with our wonderful family in ‘Stralia—that’s Australian for Australia. My dear sister and her pastor husband went there just about 50 years ago to shepherd a few churches. They had three little boys with them and adopted a fourth while there; now there are four generations of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. While it is an English-speaking country, the Australian accent and expressions take a bit to get used to. However, I have been working on my ‘Stralian in preparation for going back someday. The ability to speak the language gives me a certain delight because it reminds me of the family I love. I thought you might be interested in some of the words on my vocabulary list:

Ankle biter: small child
Beaut / beauty: great, fantastic
Bogan : young, immature person
Brekkie: breakfast
Clucky : feeling broody or maternal
Cobber : friend
Dipstick : fool / idiot
Figjam : Someone who has a high opinion of themselves
Frog in a sock : sound angry
Good on ya’ mate: good for you buddy
Garbo, garbologist : municipal garbage collector
No-hoper : somebody who’ll never do well
Not the full quid : not bright intellectually
Perk : vomit (so don’t invite people over for perked coffee)
Standard long black with milk on top : a regular-size coffee with milk
Stickybeak : nosy person
I feel stuffed: I’m tired
Tall poppies : successful people
Under the weather : not feeling well or a hang-over
Vejjo : vegetarian
Whinge : to complain
Youse : you (plural)

As you prepare for your trip someday to Heaven, are you brushing up on its vocabulary? Did you know there is a language of heaven- and its not Chinese? If you read Revelation 4 and 5 you will notice one thing amid all the powerful imagery of worship. The entire scene is all about God – the Triune God. The language of heaven is praise, thanksgiving, and adoration given to the Creator, Redeemer, and Revealer. C. S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms asserts, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. . . . It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed” (p. 95). Are you practicing the language of heaven? Are you delighting in God and declaring His glory? Don’t be a dipstick; stop whinging and become a tall poppie at praise. G’day, mates!

Homosexuality and the Bible 5

bible-lightMany a Christian man or woman who has struggled in secret with their sexual identity has read a book or a pamphlet, or heard a pastor teach on a new understanding of God’s perspective affirming homosexuality. Understandably, this has brought great freedom and relief to many of these strugglers. This newfound freedom has led them to share their discovery with others in the evangelical community often finding a response that is interpreted as unwelcoming and unenlightened. Therefore, a proper understanding of what the Bible says is of utmost importance to how we live as followers of Jesus regardless of what our culture advocates.

Having just returned jet-lagged from a wonderful trip to Australia, I want to deal with the last two passages of Scripture which have been reinterpreted to claim the Bible’s support (lack of condemnation) of the homosexual lifestyle. Let’s look at the traditional interpretation, the reappraisal, and an appraisal of the reappraisal of these passages: 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10.

Traditional View: Paul was very clear that those who continued in a settled course of willful disobedience, as defined by various sinful activities, would not be accepted into the Kingdom of God. This includes homosexuals as well as heterosexual offenders, the idolatrous, thieves, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers. These passages also teach that such sins were represented in the backgrounds of some who were Christ-followers in the 1st century Church.

Reinterpretation: The issue here is the translation of two Greek words used by Paul. In NKJV Bible, the first word is homosexuals (KJV- effeminate, NIV-male prostitutes, catamites) and the second is sodomites (KJV- abusers of themselves with mankind, NIV-homosexual offenders). In the Greek we have malakos and arsenokoites. The literal meaning of malakos is soft or effeminate and arseno (male) koites (coitus) is a male who goes to bed with a male. Paul coined this last phrase, it is never used anywhere else in Greek literature, so if he had meant homosexuality as we know it today he would have used an already existing word for it. Instead he created a word that most likely refers to male prostitution. Therefore, this word describes lustful, unloving, uncommitted sexual relationships not the permanent, loving, same sex relationships that we know especially among Christians.

Thus the Bible is silent about homosexual orientation and only speaks about perverted heterosexual activity; people who go against their nature engaging either as active or passive partners in abusive or idolatrous same sex activities. Thus Paul’s statement in 1 Cor.6:11 that there were some in the church who had been saved out of this lifestyle should not be construed as a proof text that a homosexual orientation can be healed or given the power of abstinence. This would be placing people back under the law and not under grace. Instead, we should understand this verse to mean that the homosexual convert “must certainly learn to cease from unloving abuses of sexuality, as heterosexuals must; and all of us must struggle against idolatry and the other manifestations of the ego nature” (Scanzoni, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? p, 71).

Appraisal: Paul coined 179 terms in the NT in order to communicate God’s truth to a pagan culture. However, this term arsenokoites is derived from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Note the two passages that we already discussed from Leviticus: meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gyniakos– do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman (Leviticus 18:22); hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos– if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman (Leviticus 20:13). Therefore, when Paul used the word he did in 1 Tim. 1:10 and 1 Cor.6:10, he took it right from a passage in the Old Testament that forbids homosexual behavior in any form, whether idolatrous or otherwise.

In 1 Tim. 1:10 we also see an application of the Ten Commandments to the Christian life and places homosexual behavior next to the general term for immortality (porneia) as offending the 7th commandment— “you shall not commit adultery.” The hope that Paul holds out in 1 Cor.6:11 must also be understood from this perspective. Some of the saints in Corinth had been saved out of various sinful conditions. Certainly homosexuality was not at the top of the list as if it were the biggest sin, nor was it at the end of the list as though it were the smallest. The most reasonable implication is that there were some former homosexuals represented in that congregation. So there is hope! (Note that in the next chapter Paul writes that in view of the immanent persecution of the Church, it was better to remain celibate. However, if one could not avoid fornication then marriage was recommended. He does not mention the homosexual alternative as an option.)

This is the end of my 5-part series. If you have questions, let me know and I will try to address them (anonymously) in a later blog. If any of you are church leaders and would like a copy of our church’s pastoral position paper on Homosexuality and the Church, email me ( and I will send you an electronic copy.

Homosexuality and the Bible 4

bible-light G’day Mate! Greetings from “Down Under.” The next text that has been reinterpreted by those who claim the Bible does not forbid homosexuality is ROMANS 1:26, 27. This is a key passage to a New Testament understanding. Let us see how it has been traditionally interpreted, how it has been reinterpreted, and then appraise the reinterpretation.

Traditional View: Paul is describing the pagan world in their refusal to acknowledge the being and character of the invisible God. In judgment, God lets them go, which means He turns them over to the futility of their minds and hearts. When a culture’s view of God is distorted this is reflected in the perversion of that culture’s sexuality. Thus Paul portrays homosexuality as a symptom of a fallen culture and an example of the abandonment of natural sexual relations between males and females created by God.

Reinterpretation: The main argument here is not that Paul is describing true homosexuals (inversion) but rather heterosexuals who act in a homosexual way and therefore against their nature (perversion). I quote one Christian author, “What Paul seems to be emphasizing here is that persons who are heterosexual by nature have not only exchanged the true God for a false one, but have also exchanged their ability to relate to the opposite sex by indulging in homosexual behavior that is not natural to them” (Ramey and Mollenkott pp.65, 66). By comparison, then, this passage is not speaking about “true” homosexuals who act according to their nature and therefore cannot be used to condemn “true” homosexuality.

Appraisal: There is nothing in the text or in the cultural background of his day that would suggest that Paul even recognized such a distinction between a “true” and a “false” homosexual, between exploitive homosexual relations (such as pederasty) and loving ones (between consenting adults). In fact, among the Greeks there was a distinction made between pederasty and adult homosexual relationships. The former was looked down upon and the latter accepted. But in the Roman world of Paul, both were considered scandalous and severely criticized.

Paul uses words for men and women that emphasize gender (arsenes, theleias) and shows he is not talking about a sexual orientation, but rather that which is biologically natural. So Paul’s statement that homosexual practice is against nature doesn’t mean against one’s natural orientation, but rather against the intention of the Creator. After all, the context speaks of creation and God’s invisible attributes being revealed in what He has made. As Emil Brunner said in his Commentary to the Romans (Westminster Press, pp. 18, 19), “The most natural and basic relationship among men is that of the sexes for in this way God gives life to everyone.”

{An aside: could the sinful practices listed in v. 29, 30 be justified if those who did them naturally committed them? Some think that “against nature” means contrary to the world of nature and they cite the fact that there is homosexuality found among the animal kingdom. But Scripture teaches that nature is distorted and in turmoil because of sin. Also, what animals do should not be a template for human behavior since we have been created in God’s image.}

Next week: 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:9, 10