Flesh vs the Spirit: An Allegorical Conversation

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

Flesh: Listen to your heart. Be true to yourself. Identify yourself with your sexual desires and do not let yourself be denied. Sex with the one you love even outside covenant boundaries shall bring you joy and intimacy. You shall not die but find sensual pleasure, visual delights, and personal fulfillment.

Spirit: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.

Spirit: You say, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.” With much seductive speech you persuade, and with your smooth talk you compel. Yet listen to wisdom and do not let the heart turn aside to your ways and do not let the heart stray into your path for your house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Flesh: Stop being so paternalistic. Have you not considered that I have been treated as a second-class citizen and that I deserve to be treated as well as those society has long normalized?

Spirit: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Flesh: You say that, but when my desires are denied, I as a person feel denied, and how can that be good for me? So-called conversion therapy is ineffective and/or harmful, and there have been studies that found links to depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy. And only one study concluded that sexual orientation change efforts could succeed albeit only in a minority of its participants, and the study has several limitations: its entire sample self-identified as religious and it is based on self-reports, which can be biased and unreliable.

Flesh: You might propose that I depress same-sex arousal through severe techniques but that will not translate into increased heterosexual arousal or ability to sustain a satisfying opposite-sex sexual relationship.
Overall, there is powerful evidence that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation can be extremely harmful. Do you not know that the overwhelming consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists who have studied conversion therapy or treated patients who are struggling with their sexual orientation is that therapeutic intervention cannot change sexual orientation, a position echoed by all major professional organizations in the field, including the American Psychological Association?

Spirit: Remember the words of your Lord Jesus who says, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Remember also that Jesus says, ” “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” It is not enough to simply deny yourself, but you must replace the idol you give up with the true joy of worshiping the One True God in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The opposite of homosexuality is not heteronormativity but holiness. Find your joy not in heterosexual relationships but in a vibrant abiding relationship with the Lord. It will not do you well to replace one sensual idol with another sensual idol. How can you fight the flesh with the flesh? You must fight by the immaterial Spirit, who points you to Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Consider how even heterosexual couples who live outside the boundaries of a marriage covenant are in the same danger as you and may still find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled. It is a great lie of the prevailing culture that sexual relations must lead to intimacy. Is it not possible to have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex? If it is possible to have intimacy without sex, it is possible to lead a fulfilling human life without sexual relations.

Spirit: Whether you carry same-sex attraction or heterosexual attraction, you have forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and have dug your own cistern, a broken cistern that cannot hold water.  I would redeem you, but they speak lies against me. You may say because you are an atheistic secular humanist, my words do not apply to you. To whom is God trying to teach? To whom is He explaining His message? To infants just weaned from milk? To babies removed from the breast? For they hear: “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there.” Indeed, with mocking lips and foreign tongues, He will speak to this people to whom He has said: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen.

Spirit: You are dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walk, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom you live in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and are by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. You spurn words that offer you life but this truth still remains and abides: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Flesh: How can I believe in the immaterial? All I see are facts, science, reason, and logic. Your words mean nothing to me.

Spirit: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” You are corrupt, you do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. You would dare set the body against the soul in such a rebellious idolatrous manner, not knowing your Creator has made the one as well as the other. Do you not know that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork? Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Spirit: The creation gives glory to the Creator, but even though you are made in His image, you do not give God the glory due His name. In prioritizing your body and the material to the neglect of your soul, you imperil your soul. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of Jesus and His words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion.”

Spirit: “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Flesh: Even so, these biblical words are throwing our communities into turmoil by promoting attitudes and ideas that are not helpful for us as a diverse, inclusive, cosmopolitan, egalitarian secular society to adopt or practice.

Spirit: Though people know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. And in this context of stubborn rebellion, Christ comes into the world, saying, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” as he entered into the midst of a world that lies in the power of the evil one.

Spirit: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Spirit: Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? You are a slave of sin, free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit are you getting at this time from the things of which you should be ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Flesh: No, I shall not die. I shall cast off restraint and pursue all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. Bend the knee to the secular sexual orthodoxy and residency doors shall open for you and society shall respect you as an equitable, compassionate and caring healthcare provider.

Spirit: Know that the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Choose to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Vanity Fair, and look to the reward.

Flesh: Again your words have no effect on me, I do not subscribe to the religious context of which you speak and my passions are too strong for me to deny.

Spirit: Is anything too hard for the LORD? Is not He who raised Lazarus from the grave able to raise unrepentant sinners up from their grave of sin into newness of life into Him who for their sake died and was raised? God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves you, even when you are dead in your trespasses, makes you alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raises you up with him and seats you with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Thanks be to God, that you who were once a slave of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you have committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. For when the Lord Jesus says “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” this command carries within it the power to carry out said command. And consider: Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Spirit: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Flesh: Even so I refuse to submit to the rule of the LORD. I would much rather do things my way, make a covenant with death, and with Sheol I have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to me, for I have made lies my refuge, and in falsehood I have taken shelter. I would rather make an idol of my own choosing even though it cannot deliver me and becomes a burden I must bear and carry.

Spirit: Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because you have spoken this word, behold I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this person wood, and the fire shall consume you.” But why should you perish? You cry to your idol, yet it does not answer or save you from your trouble. Listen to me, you who are made in my image, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Spirit: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will pour his love into your heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you. He will make known to you the path of life; in his presence there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.





Moloch

“When the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to Moloch, did God instruct the priests and kings to create welfare programs to stop their parents from killing their babies?”

A provocative question I found.

The answer is no, but the context was different.

The ancient Israelites willingly entered into a covenant relationship with YHWH.

They agreed to not worship the LORD their God in the way of their pagan neighbors, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

Yet, the ancient Israelites violated their agreement with God and they sacrificed their children to Moloch in a religious attempt to bring fertility to their land or to themselves instead of looking to and relying upon God to provide.

It would not make sense for God to command the creation of welfare programs in this covenant context. For one thing, trying to gain the favor of fertility gods implies the land of Israel often experienced times of scarcity and famine and so welfare states would not be possible since there is no abundance to make welfare states out of.

Also God’s primary focus on calling out the sin of killing babies for Moloch was judicial. He was well within his rights to punish his covenant people for their blatant violation of the agreement they willingly entered. He often compares this covenant transgression to adultery, as his covenant people were effectively breaking the marriage covenant with other so-called gods.

How God related to his ancient covenant members is one thing. How professing Christians should relate to unrepentant sinners who are outside the covenant of Christ is another.

Ancient Israelites sacrificing their kids to get in favor with fertility gods is one thing. Low income unbelieving parents killing their kids to escape economic hardship is another.

The motivation and context between the two scenarios is different.

The ancient Israelites broke an agreement that they knew about and willingly entered. Perhaps if the land was more fertile, the parents would not have sacrificed their children to Moloch, since the incentive would be removed. Even so in light of their covenant relationship with YHWH, it was expected that the Israelites would look to YHWH to provide for them.

Unbelieving low income parents, on the other hand, do not have a covenant relationship with God in Christ Jesus, so we cannot quite hold them to the same standards and expectations as we do for the ancient Israelites.

Ideally, low income parents would recognize that killing their kids in the womb is wrong and that they should give the child up for adoption or seek assistance from private charities and churches.

But I question to what extent unbelieving parents would understand and agree with biblical ethical standards that they did not enter into of their own accord yet. They often do what seems best to them in an agnostically cold pragmatic manner.

When they fail to recognize their own evil, they must repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God the Father, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

They would have new hearts with new desires that seeks to bless the child. They would also ideally have access to communities that would help them raise the child up and learn to conform to biblical sexual standards such as saving themselves for marriage instead of engaging in risky sexual behavior.

But in the event that they reject the Gospel, there is hope that the next best thing would be having some welfare programs on hand that address the financial concerns of expecting parents, and rescue babies from those who often cite economic hardship as a reason for obtaining elective abortions.

Perhaps welfare recipients are substantially less likely to turn to abortion than are comparable low-income pregnant women especially in states where abortion policies, access to abortion providers, and public opinion reflect a pro-life orientation.

I personally have a preference for private charities and churches, but there may be room for having taxpayer-sponsored welfare programs provided that they are managed and used appropriately.


SCOTUS Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law

Image may contain: 3 people, meme, text that says 'HEDAILY TREVORNOA ANTI-CHOICE PEOPLE ARE NOT TRYING TO STOP ABORTION, THEY ARE το LEGISLATE WHO CAN AND CAN'T HAVE ABORTIONS. BECAUSE, CONSERVATIVE POLITICIANS THEIR THEIR WIVES AND MISTRESSES AND DAUGHTERS WILL ALWAYS ABLE TO GET ΑΝ ABORTION SOMEWHERE. ALL ANTI CHOICE RHETORIC DOES KEEP PEOPLE TRAPPED IN POVERTY FOR GENERATIONS. THAT'S THE GOAL AND IT WASN'T THE GOAL THEY WOULD SPEND THEIR TIME AND MONEY COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION, FREE BIRTH CONTROL, AND FREE CONTRACEPTION.'

Since people generally have short attention spans, quick sound bites like these pictures are effective marketing. Also the number of logical fallacies I detect in her arguments in this one picture is astounding. I miss nuanced reasoning and I wish I could bring that back into vogue.

Lindy says “Anti-choice people are not trying to stop abortion.” Framing the discussion this way does a great disservice to people who are fighting for the rights of pre-born humans to live.

It is true that people fighting against abortion are trying to legislate who can and can’t have abortions, because that is one way we can reduce the number of abortions that occur: writing laws that restrain or qualify the conditions in which an abortion should occur.

The rightness of fighting abortion does not depend on the character of conservative politicians. This is a red herring.

Are there conservative politicians who have wives, mistresses, and daughters who may get an abortion somewhere? Maybe. Their hypocrisy may undermine their credibility, but the moral rightness of protecting the lives of unborn children still stands.

People generally agree that honesty is a good thing to pursue. But people who promote this virtue may still lie. Does that negate the fact that honesty is a worthwhile virtue to pursue? By no means!

The apostle Paul made a similar argument: “What if some [Jews] were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.””(Romans 3:3-4)

Lindy continues: “All Anti-choice rhetoric does is keep people trapped in poverty for generations. That’s the goal…”

From a purely pragmatic perspective, yes, abortion prevents people from having to pay for childcare, diapers, baby food, milk, cribs, clothes, dental and healthcare, car, and college education.

But we would not counsel low-income families to kill their own children just to save money, and since pre-born humans are just as valuable as children in low-income families, their lives are worth protecting too. That’s the goal.

I vigorously disagree with how Lindy defines what the goal of “pro-lifers” is when she is making a straw-man argument.

Also, to make the goal of protecting viable pre-born humans from being killed through medical procedures contingent on spending time and money on comprehensive sex education, free birth control, and free contraception is terrible.

I basically hear this statement as “We will keep killing babies in the womb so long as we do not get comprehensive sex education, free birth control, and free contraception.”

Contraceptives are fine, birth control methods that are not abortifacient, are fine, but people should really pay for these things on their own if they wish. To make these things “free,” means using taxes, which are ultimately other people’s money. In a sense, we would be forcing other people to pick up the bill for your own sexual decisions.

Abstinence is still a viable option for people. You can say no to sex for any reason ranging from saving yourself for marriage to making a political statement against the patriarchy. We are not slaves to our sexual desires. We can exercise self-control to a degree. We are also not entitled to sex. We can find pleasure in romance and in life in other ways.

As for comprehensive sex education, if by this we mean teaching students basic human anatomy about our genitals, that’s a good start. If we start stretching the definition to include conversations revolving around our gender identity and sexual orientation, that’s a different story. There is a place for talking about them since we do have people who experience gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction, and the least we can do is acknowledge that these realities exist and to do what we can to protect people from experiencing bullying and harassment.

But while these options Lindy proposes are something to consider, the goal of protecting pre-born humans from being murdered in their mothers’ wombs in arbitrary fashion remains important independently of those options.

Jesus says, ““When evening comes, you say, ‘The weather will be fair, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3)

He spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees as if they have the capacity to understand His words as thinking, reasonable people, but that they do not apply their reasoning skills consistently.

That is what I am trying to do here.

People who are dead in their sins still have a moral compass, but they apply it inconsistently. More often than not, they call evil good and good evil. They know God’s righteous decree that those who kill humans in the womb deserve to die, but they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

From where I stand, both the left and the right would benefit from repenting and believing in the gospel. To get out of your respective echo chambers, see things with God-given grace-enabled Spirit-empowered eyes, and come closer to a common middle ground together as both sides stand united in Christ.

Gnostic Evangelicalism

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I feel in response to the agnostic Marxism that BLM represents, some people in American evangelicalism are pushing towards the other extreme, functionally Gnostic Christianity where faith is untouched by political debates.

But I find this position very untenable and inconsistent in so far as people in evangelicalism are also pushing to defund Planned Parenthood.

So the fact of the matter is, whether we are religious or secular, we almost inevitably engage in arguments and debate. The least we can do is be honest about this engagement and be honest about the convictions that we come from.

We are to pray for our leaders. This is true. Yet, from where I stand, whether you come from the right or the left, people can and will look to our political leaders to save our country, or change the course of history.

We have the great privilege of becoming educated in what our current laws codify, and participating in the decision-making process concerning them. If Americans never participated in the lawmaking process as some professing Christians seem to advocate, we may have never gotten rid of slavery as an institution, outlaw child labor, institute the FDA, fought in World War II, or institute seatbelt laws.

While political activism is not spoken of in the Bible, this relative silence should not mean Christianity is against political activism. Paul was a tentmaker, a Roman citizen, and a former Pharisee. Peter and John were fishermen. Their area of focus was to address the concerns of the local churches as they transitioned from Judaism to a Gentile-friendly Christianity. Paul’s letters helped establish rules for the churches to follow with regards to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ordaining elders and deacons, etc. In some ways, the apostles’ battle against Judaizers, false apostles, false prophets, and false disciples looks similar to political activism.

“Sola Scriptura” is a good conservative Reformed principle to follow. But the norms that we find in Scripture should not mean avoiding everything that Scripture does not explicitly or implicitly mention. It just means we need to appeal to biblically informed wisdom on things that Scripture seems silent about.

After all, Scripture does not mention stem cell research, vaccination, marijuana, or domestic abuse, but that does not mean we ourselves should have no opinion at all on these important topics. It just means we need to exercise humility and wisdom in how we approach topics that are outside the purview of Scripture.

I strongly dislike professing believers who cast the debate as a “either-or” dichotomy. Those who say “Either we tell people the Gospel or we fight and debate them.” No.

We can do both.

Now granted, the two positions have different priorities. The soul needs to be saved from the wrath of God in Christ alone by the Spirit of God through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel being that God the Son became the Spirit-conceived, virgin born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord and Savior of all mankind. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to all those who come to Him by faith alone. The Spirit gives a new heart with new desires so that they learn to see the world through different lens.

Yet even sinners who are dead in their sins can come to some true conclusions by the common grace of God. Sinners and saints can look to common principles and seek reform, revolutions, and government to make life better for everyone. Even though these measures leave people in spiritual death without the Gospel, that does not mean we should avoid making use of them since we should do what we can to take care of the body as well.

The body and the soul are different entities. Biblically, the soul takes priority, but not so much that we end up treating the body as nothing or even immoral as the Gnostics of old did.

Making use of our privilege as American citizens to participate in the workings of government is not “putting more hope in man than God,” it’s putting checks on evil and reining in bad leaders when needed.

Everyone has sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Everyone needs to be reined in.

The President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Senators, House Reps, Supreme Court Justices, State governors, State judges, Public health officials, City Mayors, major news outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Google, public teacher unions, police officer unions, employers, employees, the general public, Republicans, and Democrats can all use their authority or autonomy in ways that violate the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All of us are capable of calling evil good and good evil. No matter what side of the aisle you find yourself on, we are all guilty of inconsistencies, name calling, straw man arguments, guilt by association, red herrings, and slippery slope arguments. Special interest groups distort American politics. Republicans generally protect gun industries and cops. Democrats generally protect teachers and minorities. Sometimes this protection goes so far that they excuse the bad and immoral behavior of bad cops or bad teachers by resisting reforms that would better promote transparency and accountability.

Ideally, everyone would repent and believe in Jesus and then bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We are naturally selfish and we naturally protect people who enrich us, whether they be the voters who keep us in office or whatnot. We can all benefit from seeking reforms and we need to seek these reforms through the proper channels and if we find this task difficult, it would be because we need the grace of God in Christ Jesus to overcome the indwelling resistance to die to our selves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.

Living with neighbors

I recently read a New York Times opinion article by Dr. Russell Moore: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/opinion/supreme-court-religious-freedom.html?fbclid=IwAR28o6dLh13KCBimIvQBbiN-YO_yKc_P1-FEsalInoF46jduHigMG-WzJ28

The Supreme Court recently decided that the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation and gender identity. Outcome-wise, our neighbors are free to seek federal protections from being fired from a job for identifying as lesbian, gay, or transgender. But means-wise, I do wish our Supreme Court justices kept to originalism per their jobs as guardian and interpreters of the Constitution.

Not all interpretations are created equal, and interpreting the word ‘sex’ to mean things outside the original scope of the legislation creates a useful but dangerous basis for legislation. If Supreme Court justices feel free to use their judicial authority to stretch the meaning of a word to satisfy the prevailing cultural opinion, this freedom carries the danger of rendering existing law almost meaningless. For the sake of rule of law, originalism is the best, conservative option for Supreme Court justices to adopt. Otherwise they act as teachers who suit the passions of people who do not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears (2 Tim 4:3).

Through a textualist lens, Supreme Court justices act as pseudo-legislators, passing a law through an unauthorized back-door instead of the established Constitutional means of passing a bill through both houses of Congress and having the POTUS sign the bill into law. It is through this latter authorized means that I wish our neighbors would have sought federal protections.

The court did not rule on religious institutions and their First Amendment freedoms. But I do hope the distinction can stay. The United States is a country of both sinners and saints. The books and letters of the New Testament establishes the church and the world as two distinct spheres of influence although they occupy the same space both temporally and spatially. Christian colleges and universities, faith-based nonprofits and other religious organizations seeking to serve their communities should be able to do so in accordance with their beliefs. They should be able to establish who gets to serve on their leadership teams and how they should best serve their communities in accordance with scriptural norms.

In similar manner, the world is free to serve their interests as they see fit. But they should learn to draw the line when it comes to using the force and power of government from federal to local to require religious institutions to abandon their views from wedding cakes to requirements for nuns to provide contraception.

On one hand, there is nothing new under the sun. In the city of Ephesus in the 1st century Roman Empire, there was a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, who brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” (Acts 19:24-27)

In our 21st century context, the rainbow flag and pride parades are meant to convince society that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nothing to be ashamed of. The issue is now so deeply tied to identity that it can feel like we are rejecting our friends and neighbors when we hold to our traditional biblical views.

Yet, with respect to marriage and sexuality, the government should stay out either way. We are not the Byzantine empire and we are not Oceania. We do not compel outsiders to come to the faith, and neither should outsiders compel believers to abandon their faith because they conflict with the fluctuating norms of secular sexual orthodoxy. Given that the issues involved are not as severe temporally as the issue of abortion is, the government should generally stay out. Instead of using the raw power of whoever has more votes at the moment, we need to engage in arguments and conversation with one another.

As Moore stated, “We need to argue about such matters in the arena of persuasion, not state coercion. Yes, sometimes those debates will spill into legislatures and court rooms. But it would be tragic if secularists believed that they can somehow “win” through blunt political force untethered from the American principles of religious freedom and liberty of conscience.”

On other related issues such as transgender bathrooms and participation in athletics, we should seek healthy nuanced dialogue with one another, instead of resorting to the power of law to bulldoze over one another’s convictions.

More than that, people need to hear and understand the gospel. All of us can be guilty of idolizing our sexuality, wrapping our hopes and identities up in our sexual freedom and we all need to repent of this sin. We have to find our identity in Jesus. All the approval, fame, and recognition of this world is nothing, less than nothing, compared to knowing Christ. The gain is this relationship with God through Christ. Eternal life.

Analysis of communication

I miss the days when disagreement was not treated as evil. Many in Twitter and on the left attribute the worst motives to those who disagree with them on complex issues.

The Trump administration rolls back Obama era transgender health care protections. Section 1557 of the ACA “prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.” A rule enacted in 2016 interpreted the ban on sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity, building on similar interpretations in other federal civil rights laws and court rulings, and termination of pregnancy.

But the US Department of HHS said in a statement Friday that it was eliminating “certain provisions of the 2016 Rule that exceeded the scope of the authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557. HHS will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Mt. 12:36)

There is definitely a place for reining in bad interpretative principles. There is a right and wrong way for providing health care protections for our neighbors. Stretching or redefining the meaning of a word from its authors’ original intent would be wrong. This method is part of what exceeding the scope of authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557 looks like.

If we want to provide healthcare protections for our neighbors, we have to do it the right way: draft a bill with the explicit words involved, pass it through both parts of Congress and have the president sign it.

As for the Juneteenth controversy, senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said in a statement Thursday, “as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth.” I wish people would assume innocence until proven guilty, and not be so quick to assume malice in the intentions of our political leaders. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/06/12/president-donald-trump-tulsa-oklahoma-rally-juneteenth/3181145001/

We should hold everyone accountable for their words. If I see contrary opinions on the same subject with respect to intentions, the burden of proof is generally on the people assuming malice. Sure political leaders can feign innocence in their words, intentions, and actions, but critics can also be guilty of assuming the guilt of someone with poor, little to no evidence available.

Yet in our right desire for justice, we should also recognize our need for grace, forgiveness, and repentance.

If God lived by “eye for an eye,” He could have ended the story of humanity with our original parents after they committed divine treason against Him.
Instead, He has been restraining His righteous anger against us out of great love for us.

For He so loved a world that hated and rejected Him that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Systems vs Personal Responsibility

I’ve been seeing posts like “Racism isn’t a bad habit. It isn’t a mistake. It is sin. The answer is not sociology, it’s theology.”

This quote is true. The gospel is the only way that the evil in all of our hearts gets destroyed by the Spirit who is given to all those who receive Jesus as the Spirit-conceived, virgin-born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord and Savior.

Both Democrats and Republicans take a systems-based approach to things:
-Environmental justice; regulating oil companies, gas tax
-Regulating abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood
-Taxpayer funded access to contraceptives
-Gun control/gun safety
-Border control/immigration/ICE
-Police use of excessive force/war on drugs
-Government lockdown/infectious disease/economy
-Same sex marriage/wedding and private businesses

People in the black community who say they are victims of racial disparities are right and others in the same community say they can overcome the victimhood mentality and rise above their circumstances are also right.

There will always be a place to call people to repent and believe in the gospel, to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

But there is also a place to fight bad laws. William Wilberforce fought against the slave trade in the UK. Activists fought against institutionalized slavery, against child labor, against poor business practices in the meat industry which led to the FDA, and against lack of seatbelts in cars.

If Christians always said to “live quietly and preach the gospel,” virtually none of these legislation would have been passed unless people, whether a professing Christian or not, fought for them.

We need to balance the fatalism that says people will always sin and abuse their power with the realization that there are tangible steps we can take to better take care of the material needs of our neighbors, even through legislation, always efforts towards abolition were meaningless.

We have to balance the soul with the body.

We also need to balance the optimism of pragmatism that says we can eliminate systemic violence with better laws with the fact that there is evil in our hearts that no law can reach, but only the Spirit when one repents and believes in the gospel of Christ.

We have to balance the body with the soul.

We are embodied souls, so let us take care of both.

A Man of Unclean Lips

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

(Isaiah 6:5)

The United States and many other Western societies has become a permissive, skeptical society very quickly since the 1960s. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech have been used to promote sexual immorality in the guise of protecting sexual and gender equality.

Some of my peers seem to have no filter when openly talking about sexual topics. They may be quick to denounce any attempts to restrain them for the sake of propriety as “puritanical,” but there is a thing as dangerous sexual freedom. Such looseness in speech is especially unbecoming of those who profess to be part of God’s kingdom, but are especially apt for those who still belong to the domain of darkness.

They generally subscribe to critical theory in which the narratives of power and conflict are rewritten such that the most oppressed groups should be given power over the oppressors. The oppressors being “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” and “cis-genderism.”

These ideologies are commonly taught in California university systems such as the University of California colleges and the California State University.

But I am thankful that at least people are being honest with themselves and just showing the darkness and indifference of an unregenerate human heart. Peter says false prophets promise their audience freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Biblical sexual ethics is often ridiculed, as people begin to exercise their wills in ways that openly defy the LORD and espouse a new sexual ethics of their own.

Planned Parenthood, abortion on demand, same sex marriage, and transgender participation in sports are but a few examples of the way sexual sins have entrenched themselves in the culture, especially in New York and California. Hollywood stars and left-leaning media and politicians also add their voices to the chorus.

Some people advocate outlawing these things, but for myself, these organizations and policies are but symptoms of a deeper problem: a heart that is in open defiant rebellion against God. It does not always seem best to outlaw idols when it is the heart that manufactures these idols in the first place. The heart is so sick that though it knows God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They know the truth, but it does not register as truth to them because they deceive themselves and their peers. They call abortion “healthcare”, they call same sex marriage “marriage equality,” and they call transgenderism “my truth.” They have a moral compass, but they call evil good and good evil. They cloak their evils in moral language and these evils become the new norm, and so they do not cause moral outrage as they should.

Still, out of love, God graciously sends messengers who tell people to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn to Him in Christ by the Spirit and be healed.

He would redeem us, but we speak lies against Him. More than that, we often twist His words to justify our evil against Him as we carry out the desires of our stubborn rebellious hearts.

He calls us to repent. We must sow for ourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up our fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon us.

Sexual sinners have given bitter provocation, so the Lord will leave their bloodguilt on them and will repay them for their disgraceful deeds.

But in the midst of this sentence of death, God will heal the apostasy of some and love them freely. He will be like the dew to them, and those who repent and return to Him in Christ will blossom like the lily and take root like the trees of Lebanon.

Jesus is the Spirit-conceived, virgin-born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, and ascended Lord who lived the life we failed to live, died the death and suffered the wrath we deserved, and who conquered the grave to show his victory over sin and death.

All those who come to Him as their crucified and risen Lord and Savior shall have rest for their souls. The Spirit changes the heart of stone into a heart of flesh with new desires to grow in the grace and knowledge of Lord Jesus.

The Father sends the Spirit to dwell within His new covenant people so that they can continue to enjoy the presence of God within them as they live to kill indwelling sin, and become more like Christ along with all those who are also called to live like Him.

They gather together as local congregations under the authority of deacons and pastors as they encourage one another, pray for one another, and minister to one another as they also anticipate the day when Jesus will return to judge all evil and fully usher in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.

YHWH longs to love us but we must give up our acts of treason and be reconciled to Him in Christ by the Spirit as our Lord and Savior.

“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.”

(Hosea 14:8)

Staying Close to Christ While Away from Your Home Church

Post graduate life in the present day sees a lot of transitions. It is not uncommon for my classmates in medical school and me to move around the United States in search of a school, rotations, and residency interviews. It can feel difficult to feel rooted in any one particular place because of the way the American medical educational system seems to structure itself around positional flexibility. Also being a minority in post Christian America can add further challenges in forming healthy social relationships with local peers.

Having grown up close to the San Gabriel Valley, I took for granted the large Asian American community. Having at my disposal many Hawaiian poke bowls, Vietnamese pho, Taiwanese hot pot, Korean BBQ, Japanese ramen and sushi, Chinese dimsum, boba milk tea, and many other Asian supermarkets and restaurants felt normative. In moving to other states, I found that I lived in areas that do not have as many Asian American restaurants available, or if they are, they are relatively out of the way for me to go on a consistent basis.

However you can still usually rely on some common American companies being present: Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Starbucks, Panera Bread, McDonalds, etc. Yet I also find that many states have their own regional specific restaurants and supermarkets such as In n out and Stater Bros in California, Culver’s and Publix in Florida, Tim Horton’s and Wegman’s in Pennsylvania. Thus you get the feel that even within the same country, each state has their own personality.

The Bible sees Christians as “sojourners and exiles in the world.” (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Peter 2:11)

The LORD called Abram out of his country and his kindred and his father’s house to the land that He would show him. He would be the vehicle of blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-2). The LORD later tells Abram his offspring would be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13).

Joseph, the son of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was sent to Egypt after his brothers sold him into slavery by Midianite traders (Genesis 37:28). Jacob and his family move to Egypt to survive a famine (Genesis 45:9-11). God sent Joseph to Egypt and in his stay there he blessed the house of Potiphar, blessed the house of Pharaoh, and provided for his formerly estranged brothers, and reunited with his father.

Even the plagues that God inflicted upon Egypt for Pharaoh’s enslavement of His covenant people was meant to have an evangelistic purpose. After the 10th plague, the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked (Exodus 12:36). Also a mixed multitude went up with the people of Israel (Exodus 12:38).

Then many centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to those in Babylonian exile: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Daniel is a great example of this instruction. He stayed true to his Jewish heritage, resolving that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank (Daniel 1:8). Even so, Daniel and his three friends sought to bless the Babylonians and submitted to their educational system: to learn the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:4). His steadfast loyalty to YHWH led Nebuchadnezzar to praise his God as the King of heaven and the Most High (Daniel 4:34, 37).

Throughout the Scriptures, God has a number of ways of sending His people to the nations to bless them: calling them out of their homes with Abraham, letting them be sold into slavery like Joseph, drawing them into Egypt through a famine, sending them out after great plagues of judgment on Pharaoh, exiling them into Babylonian captivity.

In the modern era, people still move around for similar reasons: war and famine. For others, we could move around places because of jobs and education. But no matter the reason, for Christians, our purpose is to hold fast to the LORD and bless the people to whom God sends us.

Abraham, Joseph, the people of Israel before the Exodus, and Daniel did not have the temple to which they can travel to offer up sacrifices and worship God. But they held fast to their faith and submitted and interacted as best they could to the local authorities without compromising their faith.

Jesus is the ultimate example of a sojourner. He enjoyed the worship of thousands of angels, but left His throne in heaven to tabernacle among the people He made in His image. Even though He was the God who created the heavens and the earth, He submitted to the Sanhedrin and the Roman government insofar as it was obedient to the Father’s will. He did so to bring many people to glory with Him.

Likewise, in light of all this biblical insight, I need to embrace my identity as a sojourner and exile in this world. I do my best to find a local church who hold a high view of Scripture and desire to stay faithful and obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. The local culture of the places I find myself in may be quite different than the one I was born and raised in, but I learn to adapt to them.

I can be flexible in my external circumstances because I have God is my rock, refuge and strength. In other words, you can deal with variables when you have a constant you can fall back on. Thankfully, Bible reading and prayer are portable actions, so I can do these things wherever I go, and these two means of grace should inform and shape the actions and decisions I make. In addition, social and communication technologies such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, phone calls, and emails help compress the world, so distance is not always an obstacle to staying close to home, but the priority should be placed on focusing on the local people.

Since the United States is a multiethnic, multifaith, and multigenerational country, there are quite a different number of cultures and backgrounds that we will interact with. It definitely helps to be confident in your own culture enough that you know how to engage with the cultures of others.

Every now and then, I would have some colleagues or patients ask what is my heritage. Sometimes the way the question is asked makes me feel like I’m an alien in a foreign land, even though I was born and raised in the States, but other times, I can hear that the question is just a curious inquiry to help make conversation. I cannot control how other people think of me, but I can control the way that I react and converse with them. The attitude I strive to maintain is to seek the good of others, even when they may not always reciprocate that kindness, knowingly or not.

I have met people in the LGBT community in my medical school, and I have met people who are Zoroastrian and Muslim. I always welcome hearing their stories and their struggles, and I do my best to model the gospel through these relational channels. I build relationships with my peers as best I can, but if the activities involve alcohol or drugs, I am more reluctant to participate. Sometimes it is difficult to show peers that rejecting these activities is not rejecting them as friends, but they can still take the rejection personally.

In the Christian walk, it is difficult to maintain that balance between faithfulness to Christ and building friendships with others. Many times, you can be as friendly and as welcoming to others as you can be but your faithfulness to Christ can and will drive others away while it also draws others in.

Staying close to Christ while being away from home is difficult, but possible. It involves knowing your faith well enough that you can stand on your own. Joseph and Daniel are two examples of this. They were relatively separated from like-minded peers in a community that was alien to their faith, yet they held fast to YHWH and blessed their peers. The Spirit should be reshaping your desires such that you want to please and honor Christ in all that you say, think, and do. He does this through Bible reading, prayer, and the local church. The primary purposes of these is to relocate your local experiences in the context of a covenantal relationship with YHWH. Christians live under His reign and seek to proclaim the glory of His name to our neighbors. I can stay close to Christ wherever I go, because He is with me wherever I go. I can face the variables of life because He is my constant.

The Gospel and Hate Speech

Lord Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The apostle Paul says something similar, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

The prophet Jeremiah, on telling his neighbors to repent, says to God, “Remember how I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them.” (Jeremiah 18:20)

One of the ways Christians seek the good of their neighbors is to look to their eternal well-being and thus help them be saved from the wrath of God against unrighteousness.  

We are unrighteous when we exercise our sexuality and express our gender identity in ways that go against God’s design for them, because we would be insulting His authority and creativity.  God has a right to punish us for sexual sins, just as He does with other sins, because they all oppose His glory.  All sins are considered rebellion against Him.  However, He gave us an opportunity to amend our ways and return to Him so we could instead enjoy the blessings of His presence. 

Hate speech is broadly defined as “speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Homophobia is defined as a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Preaching the gospel could be seen as speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The gospel could also be seen as generating negative attitudes and feelings towards the LBGTQIA community.  But this broad definition is unhelpful because it is not placed in a proper and specific biblical context.  It gives the impression that the gospel is just meant to make people feel bad instead of helping them enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator.  

In other words, even though hate speech and the gospel both attack a person and group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they have very different purposes and goals in mind. 
-hate speech seeks evil and destruction against its audience
-the gospel seeks the eternal good of its audience

The Bible sees adopting certain sexual orientations and gender identities as rebellion against God, who then sets His wrath against these things among many other things that are done against Him.   However, He sent Lord Jesus to be our substitionary atonement.  Jesus took the death penalty and absorbed God’s wrath on behalf of everyone who would trust in Him to be their personal Lord and Savior.  When we covenant ourselves to Him, God sends the Holy Spirit who then regenerates our souls and works upon our disordered desires so we begin to enjoy Jesus as our treasure.  Instead of looking to our broken sexuality for satisfaction, we look to King Jesus. 

All of us are born sick, born with disordered desires and emotions.  We have a choice to either allow our desires free reign or to regulate them for the good of ourselves and others.  We have a choice to either follow the desires of our heart into sin or to submit them under God’s authority for our good and for His glory.    

Loving someone as yourself does not mean never making them feel bad, it means helping them understand the danger that they are in, so they could find joy in salvation. 

Hate speech just leaves people feeling bad and unwanted, but the gospel ultimately helps people find true joy and acceptance in God. Hate speech is a sharpened knife that kills you, but the gospel is a sharpened knife that saves you. 

Calling same-sex attraction and transgenderism a sin is not hate speech.  To say otherwise would be misleading our neighbors into trusting a lie, and preaching rebellion against God.  Calling a sin a sin is part of a process by which we seek to speak good for our neighbors, where we can turn away God’s wrath from them. As unpleasant as the topic of God’s wrath is, it is a reality that can be seen in the way God punished His covenant people with Babylon for their sins in 586 B.C.

Not only do we seek to turn away God’s wrath from our neighbors, we want them to know and enjoy His love and joy.  If His well-deserved wrath is so terrible, think of how grand and amazing His love and joy can be for those who seek forgiveness from Him.  When we preach the gospel, we do it so we can share with our neighbors in its blessings that come from a reconciled relationship with God.

Now even though the Bible calls certain sexual orientations and gender identities sin, God does not expect people to punish them on His behalf.  Sins are things done against God, and so God has the right and authority to forgive and punish them as He sees fit.  Thankfully, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so those who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior would not have to face punishment.  But punishment is still reserved for those who fail to amend their ways and return to Him.  Yet, before that Day of Judgment comes, God does not expect anyone to punish transgressors on His behalf as He once did under the Mosaic covenant.

Anyone who do so would be acting as a vigilante, and would be punished for exercising an authority that is not theirs to exercise. 

 Therefore States/governments should decriminalize homosexuality, and should no longer punish, imprison, or execute individuals who are charged with this.  Lynching, a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group, would also be wrong.  Both judicial and extrajudicial punishment would be usurping God’s authority on a sin that He will punish Himself.  In the meantime, Jesus appointed evangelists who would save men from God’s wrath, without any coercive power, by the management of His powerful word upon their consciences. 

To look at the matter another way:
-God states the conviction of homosexuality and transgenderism as sin.
-He sentenced the death penalty for these sins. 
-The enforcement of the death penalty lies in His hands, not in governments. 
-He offered Jesus as the substitute for rebels who ask for forgiveness from Him.
-He gives people a chance to know of this means of forgiveness because He wants us to live
-He will punish everyone who still fails to surrender to Him.

As a Judge, God has to punish sin because that is what justice mandates, but His love as a Father motivates Him to seek our reconciliation more than our punishment. 

Calling homosexuality and transgenderism a sin, while true, is one thing.  Throwing LGBT kids out on the streets and abandoning them is quite another and contrary to what God desires.  Instead, we should be kind, forbearing, and patient, hoping that our kindness will lead them to repentance, so they can fully enjoy the blessings that God provides.