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Showing posts with label Biblical Authority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biblical Authority. Show all posts

Monday, June 20, 2022

Faith For Our Times - Trusting Biblical Authority to Lead Us Through Troubled Times

Happy Father's Day!  I talked with my Dad recently about his challenges of living in the 60s when there was so much turmoil in our world with politics, the Vietnam war, civil rights, and the cultural revolution.  He was in the Army from 1962-1964, as soldiers were training and ramping up to go over to fight.  

I guess every generation faces challenging times in different ways.  We live in very challenging times today.  You can't help but see all the things happening in the news and be concerned.  Today, I want to share about how the Christian faith can help us through these dark days.  

Paul, a seasoned Christian leader, wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, to give him an important warning and advice to encourage and guide him through the difficulties of his day.  I believe Paul's words to Timothy can guide us too.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

[Having warned Timothy what he is facing, Paul now gives his son in the faith some important advice about how to navigate the treacherous dangers of an ungodly world.]

2 Timothy 3:14-17
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Our Times
Is there any doubt we live in crazy times?  On top of the hyperinflation, wars and civil unrest, we are seeing sweeping changes in societies morals and rampant mass shootings in schools, hospitals, and even churches.  What kind of world are we living in.  It sounds so much like the "difficult days" Paul described to Timothy, doesn't it?

As crazy as it may sound, we may not be living in times as crazy as what Paul and Timothy faced.  They were a tiny religious minority living in a overwhelmingly pagan world.  At least most people today (even if they aren't Christian) accept many of the universal values Christianity has instilled in our world over the last 2,000 years.  Paul and Timothy did not have that advantage.  Yet still, our times are crazy enough. How can we get through them?

I believe Paul's words to Timothy give us many clues.

Paul said, "Remain faithful to the things you were taught."
Timothy was raised in a spiritual home. He was taught the Holy Scriptures by trusted family members. Paul says, "You know what they taught you is true. You can trust those who taught you."

Perhaps you grew up in a Christian family.  Perhaps your father or mother or grandparents taught you some important lessons--maybe even the Christian faith.  Or maybe it wasn't your biological family, but a spiritual family.  (Remember, Paul was not Timothy’s biological father, but  a spiritual father to him.)  Have you had someone who was an important Christian mentor for you?  Can you trust what they said?

Our world today is blessed with 2,000 years of Christian heritage--Christians who faithfully followed Christ and helped transform our world for the better.  We have much Christian tradition to draw from to help guide us.  

The most reliable Christian tradition and teachings are firmly founded upon the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  

The Authority of the Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Scripture is inspired by God.  These aren’t merely human words.  God gave Scripture to His people and preserved them to guide us today.  Scripture corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  

However, to truly be guided by Scripture, we have to humble ourselves under Scripture.  There is a way we sometimes approach the Bible where we have already decided what we believe.  We may come to the Bible merely looking for texts that will prove what we already believe.  So we can say, "Look!  See!  The Bible says this!  That proves my argument!"  That will never do.

We must come to the Scriptures with humiliy, with a heart open to hear what God wants to say and not what we want it to say for us.  We must be willing to obey God’s Word in Scripture, even if it's not what we wanted to hear.  And we must be sure the Church's beliefs and actions are firmly founded upon the Bible.

The Bible Is An Anchor
Just because all faithful Christians base our beliefs and practices on the Bible, doesn't mean all Christians always interpret the Bible the same way.  Honest people can come to different conclusions about non-essential elements of the Christian faith.  That is why we have different denominations--Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians and Pentecostals, etc.

A good analogy of how Scripture works is a ship on the ocean attached to an anchor.  The Bible is an anchor that keeps the ship from floating away.  The Bible doesn't change.  It says what it says and God's Word in it hasn't changed in thousands of years.  However, the Bible allows room for different interpretations. The interpretations are the ship floating on the surface of the water.  The shift may drift this way or that way, but it doesn't drift off into oblivion.  It stays attached to the unmoving anchor even as it may move around a bit.

So, in terms of Biblical Christian churches, Methodists may interpret the Bible one way and Baptists another, but we are attached to the same Holy Book and we do not simply make up our beliefs to be whatever we want.  The Bible keeps us anchored.  And in humility, we recognizes our interpretation of Scripture could be wrong and another's could be right.  So we don't have to fight about it.  Let those who believe the Baptist interpretation be Baptist and let Methodists be Methodists.  There is freedom to allow different interpretations. 

However, what happens if you cut the line to anchor?  If you cut the anchor, the ship will drift off wherever the wind and waves push it or wherever the captain drives the ship.  In terms of the Christian faith, if you cut away your reliance on the Bible then people will  make their religion whatever they want it to be--even if it has no real connection to Christ and His teachings at all.  And unfortunately, the human heart is such that it can and will justify anything it wants--especially without Scripture to restrain it.

Furthermore, there the winds and waves of cultural whims and  evil influences and dark spiritual forces constantly pushing people here and there.  Without the firm foundation of Holy Scripture, people are driven before the storms of their times and may easily have their faith shipwrecked.

The UMC in the News
At annual conference in Georgia this year, 70 United Methodist Churches disaffiliated from the UMC.  News outlets reported these churches disaffiliated over the issue of homosexuality. 
This is misleading and inaccurate.  Secular news doesn't understand or take the time to dig down to the real issues--nor is the general non-Christian, non-Methodist public capable of understanding the deeper roots of the disagreement.  

The real issue is not homosexuality.  The real issue is biblical authority.  Seventy churches broke away from the United Methodist Church because the UMC wants to disregard God’s clear teaching in the Bible.  Seventy churches in our annual conference do not want to be part of a denomination that has cut the anchor to Scripture.  I believe many more churches will disaffiliate from the UMC in the coming year because faithful Christians still believe the Bible is the essential, firm foundation of a true Christian Church.

Homosexuality only enters the current debate in the UMC because the Bible clearly teaches homosexuality is not God’s plan for His people.  The same Scriptures that forbid gay sex also forbid idolatry, stealing, greed, drunkenness, abuse, and cheating.  Progressives in The United Methodist Church have no problem calling out a long list of sins, but it is very unpopular in the world right now to say homosexuality a sin.  Many progressives in the UMC would rather follow the world than follow God’s Word.  So, they say, “Well, Scripture is wrong about homosexuality.” 

You need to understand the division in the UMC is not about homosexuality, it’s about the Bible.  Is the Bible still authoritative for Christians in the 21st century?  This is the real issue at hand.

If you abandon Scripture on the issue of homosexuality (as these progressives in the UMC want to do) then where do you stop?  Why not turn away from Scripture when it teaches Jesus is the Son of God?  That he died and rose again?  Or other essential Christian doctrines.

There are some progressive United Methodist clergy who now teach that Jesus was not really born of a virgin or that he literally rose from the grave.[i]  Other progressive United Methodist pastors are actively denying biblical truths such the reality of sin, the necessity of being born again, salvation through Christ alone, heaven and hell, or an afterlife.[ii]  If you are not anchored to Scripture, then you can drive off (or float off or be driven off) into an oblivion of teachings, beliefs, and actions that have no connection to Christ or the historic Christian faith whatsoever. 

The history of the Church shows again and again that the Church always makes the world a better place when it is faithful to God’s Word in the Bible.  So many of the important values our modern world cherishes as were not always universally appreciated--values even non-Christians see as essential.  For example almost everyone today believes in the sanctity of all human life.  Prior to Christianity, it was not so.  Children, handicapped adults, the elderly or infirm could be and were routinely discarded by society and even their families if they were deemed not valuable or productive.  Christians came along and challenged the pagan world on this issue.  Christians taught that every person is made in the image of God and of sacred worth regardless of their potential or abilities or productivity.  2,000 year ago a pagan world thought those Christians fight for the sanctity of all human life were crazy and their ideas were pure foolishness.  Yet those Christians saints stuck by their beliefs because of what the Bible says and they eventually won the pagan world over. That's why almost all people today agree that every human life is valuable.

The list of virtues and justices Christians brought to the world through their faithful Scriptural Christianity are long and include such things as women’s rights, the abolishment of slavery, civil right, equal opportunities for all people, hospitals, orphanages, etc.  

On the other hand, the church has also done terrible evil in our world whenever it has strayed from the clear teachings of Scripture.  For when you break free from the restraints of the Bible, you can make religion whatever you want and can justify anything.  Thus, unbiblical, counterfeit Christianity has justified the selling of indulgences, the oppressions of the poor, the inquisition, colonialism, and even the killing of Jews in Nazi German.  

Stay Anchored to Jesus in the Bible
It is essential that we stay anchored to Jesus in the Bible.  We must make sure our congregation remains a church firmly faithful to the Scriptures.  As individuals, we must also listen to God’s Word in Scripture.  We must read and study and know our Bible.  We must humble ourselves before it.  We must let it correct us when we are wrong, teach us what is right, and change us to be more like Christ.  We must be faithful to what the Bible teaches—even if it conflicts with the prevailing views of our world.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris (a short, quick answer about divine inspiration)

Question:  Did divine inspiration stop with the writers of the Bible? Are there modern writers who are divinely inspired?

Answer:  The writers of the books of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the Word of God.  The Bible is God's magnificent message to us and the final authority for Christian doctrine and practice.  Divine inspiration also guided the compilation of the Bible.  God inspired Christians to use the various books that now makeup our Bible, scribes to copy them, and the leaders to authorize them.  Divine inspiration guided it all.

God continues to inspire writers today.  The difference between the Bible and other books is authority.  The books of the Bible are the "authorized" collection (or canon) of inspired books.  Divine inspiration is only one criterion that determined if a book was included in the Bible.  There are other important factors.  Such as:

·      Authenticity – Is the book generally accurate or a fabrication or forgery?  In the New Testament, authenticity also required the writing to be based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).

·      Timelessness – Is the book useful for people of all times and places (even if it was originally written for a particular time and place)?

·      Consistency – Is the book consistent with the overarching message of the Christian faith?

·      Acceptance – Is the book accepted by the majority of the Christian community? The books of the Bible were widely used and recognized by early Christian communities as inspired, authentic, and timeless over the first four centuries of our faith.  Their leaders gathered in a council to "authorize" the Bible.  They affirmed the books were given by God as an authoritative and timeless guide to Christian doctrine and practice.

Although there are inspired writers and books today, they do not have the authority of the Bible because they cannot match the authenticity, timelessness, consistency, and wide acceptance of the Bible.  The Bible is the only book authorized to serve as God's Holy Word.  It contains everything we need to find salvation and live a Christian life.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Living Christian in a Gay World, part 2 - What the Bible Says

Part 2 – What the Bible Says
2 Timothy 3:15-17

            Views about homosexuality have shifted tremendously in our society to the point that the Supreme Court has even ruled that all 50 states must recognize same sex marriages and cannot prevent homosexual couples from getting marriage licenses.  This message is the second in a series that seeks to understand how to live as Christians in a world that has changed the way it sees homosexuality. 
            Last week, I implored you to make love your highest aim as we consider this issue.  Love is the key and our time today will be productive only if you have an attitude of genuine love—regardless of what you believe about homosexuality.  Please listen today with an open mind and a humble heart. 
            Regardless of your opinions on the issue of homosexuality, it is vital that everyone understand that Christian teaching about homosexuality is not arbitrary.  How Christians live and what we teach is based upon the Bible.  Let’s begin this message with a passage that reveals the role of Scripture in our lives. 

2 Timothy 3:15-17
15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 

The Bible is the Foundation for What We Believe
            The Bible is an irreplaceable treasure that tells us everything we need to know to receive salvation through Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the inspired Word of God that speak to us, challenge us, inspire us, and guide us.  As verse 16 said, “…Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives…”
God speaks to us in a number of ways—through the traditions of the church, through our reason and understanding, and through our personal and communal experiences.  All of these are important and help guide us.  However, we always rely on the Bible as the firm, unchanging foundation of our faith because sometimes our traditions are flawed, our reason is limited, and our experience is too subjective to be reliable.  Scripture is the timeless and authoritative foundation that teaches us how to live Christian in a gay world.  

Jesus and Scripture
            Jesus is a perfect example of the authoritative role of Scripture to guide us.  Jesus founded his teaching and worldview on the Scriptures of the Old Testament (at the time, the New Testament had yet to be written).  Jesus directly referenced Scripture no less than 53 times in the four Gospels[i] saying such things as:
·       Matthew 9:13 – Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture…
·       Matthew 12:3 – Haven’t you read the Scriptures…
·       Matthew 21:13 – The Scriptures declare…
·       Mark 12:24 – Your mistake is you don’t know the Scriptures…
·       Luke 20:17 – Then what does this Scripture mean?
·       Luke 24:7 – Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
·       John 10:35 – And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered… 

Clearly, Jesus had a high view of Scripture and offered it to His followers as an authority to know and follow.  If the Son of God understood the authority of Scripture to guide the faithful, shouldn’t we also rely upon the timeless, unchanging Word of God to guide the way we think and live?  The teaching of the Christian Church for 2,000 years has been an emphatic yes.  And the view of the Methodist movement from the beginning has been:  [the Bible] “…is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”[ii]
If we want to understand the will of God concerning homosexuality (or anything else), we must understand what the Bible says about it. 

What the Bible Says About Homosexuality
Therefore, I want to share what the Bible says about homosexuality.  There are five primary passages in the Bible that deal directly with homosexuality.  The fact that there are only five reveals two important clues about homosexuality:
1.     The status of homosexuality was not debated as often in societies during biblical times as it has been in our times.  If it were a topic people debated regularly, there would be more references to homosexuality in the Bible—whether it be stories about homosexual persons, rulings about it or prophecies from God on the issue, commandments concerning homosexuality, etc.  This doesn’t necessarily mean homosexuality was not as present in the past as it is now, but it may mean that the acceptability homosexuality was not in question as much in biblical times as it has been over the past few decades in the western world.  It would seem the matter was general settled for almost everyone in biblical times.

2.     Secondly, the small number of references to homosexuality in the Bible also reveals that although homosexuality has become a very big issue for our society over the past 50 years, it was not considered nearly as important a topic in biblical times.  The Bible devotes far more time to teaching about love, helping the needy, seeking God, etc. than it does to homosexuality.  Furthermore, Scripture spends much more time speaking against sinful behaviors like dishonesty, lack of compassion, and idolatry than it does speaking against homosexuality.  This would lead me to believe these were (and are) more important issues than homosexuality.  The way I see it, homosexuality has become disproportionally important for us in the 21st century.  It was not as important historically.  Furthermore, I don’t think it is as big of a deal to God as people today have made it out to be. 

Even so, people want and need to know what the Bible says about homosexuality.  So, let me briefly outline the five passages that deal directly with homosexuality. 

Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah
            The first direct reference to homosexuality is found in a fascinating and also disturbing story in Genesis chapter 19.  The story says God sent two angels to investigate two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, to determine if they were so wicked they must be destroyed.  While the angels are staying in Sodom with a man named Lot, Genesis 19:4-5 says, “…all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”  God determines the cities are so wicked He must destroy them.  Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed just because the men practiced homosexuality; however, their attempt to rape the angels visiting Lot (who they thought were men) revealed the depths of Sodom and Gomorrah’s depravity.  Every last person in the cities was wicked to the core and deserved only judgment and destruction.  So, although the passage is about general wickedness and judgment (and not specifically about homosexuality), the story does reveal a very negative view of homosexuality.   

Leviticus 18 and 20
            The next references we find concerning homosexuality are in the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus.  Leviticus is a book of law that reveals how God expected His holy people to live in Old Testament times.  Leviticus 18 lists forbidden sexual practices.  Among the sexual practices forbidden are: adultery, sex with close relatives, and sex with animals.  Leviticus 18:22 specifically deals with homosexuality.  It says, “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.”  Leviticus 20:13 repeats the prohibition adding in the punishment for homosexuality at that time.  It says, “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.” 
            We should reject the idea of capital punishment for the practice of homosexuality.  Any form of violence, intimidation, persecution, or bullying of homosexual persons is abhorrent to God and to rightly-guided Christians.  However, these verses from Leviticus specifically show that homosexuality was considered a very serious sin in Old Testament times.  People often observe that religion in the Old Testament was much harsher than the religion Jesus revealed in the New Testament.  So, let’s look at the next three scriptural references about homosexuality that are all found in the New Testament. 

Romans 1:18-32
            The next reference is from Romans 1:18-32.  In this passage, the Apostle Paul argues how sinful the world is and how our sin blinds us to truths about God that should be obvious.  As an example, he points to homosexuality, which Paul says is obviously contrary to nature.  Since people have turned their back on God, Paul argues God has let people reap the shameful rewards of their sins.  Romans 1:26-27 says:

26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

            So here in the New Testament as in the Old, we again see homosexuality regarded as sin contrary to God’s plan for humanity. 

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
            The next passage is from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which list the types of sinful behavior that could keep a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God.  It reads:
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.” 
            It is important to note here that homosexuality is listed alongside some other sinful behaviors that don’t seem as big a deal to people today as homosexuality—for homosexuality is listed right alongside greed and drunkenness and cheating.  So while we might make a big deal about a gay person and how we should treat them in the church, why don’t we make as big a fuss about these other sins that are far more prevalent and just as important to God?  Is this not a double standard we should recognize and expel from our way of thinking? 

1 Timothy 1:8-10
            The last direct reference to homosexuality is 1 Timothy 1:10.  This passage also lumps homosexuality in with a list of sins the writer assumes everyone in his audience knows are sinful.

"The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching…"

            Here again, we see homosexuality (something many people today consider a serious sin) listed with other sins people don’t seem to mind as much like lying or breaking promises.  None-the-less, homosexuality is clearly considered unacceptable behavior that is contrary to God’s plan for humanity in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. 

            Jesus did not say anything directly about the issue of homosexuality in Scripture.  Some people point this out as a justification for the acceptance of homosexuality among Christians.  However, that’s not really a reasonable position if one sincerely considers the life of Christ. 
Jesus was very accepting of people traditionally considered outcasts and sinners of society.  His detractors maligned him for eating with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes.  However, Jesus never condoned sinful behavior and always looked to forgive and lift people out of their sinful lives.  Furthermore, we have already seen how Jesus stood upon the teachings of the Old Testament—referring to Scripture over 53 times in the Gospels to support his teachings.  Since we see what the Old Testament teaches regarding homosexuality, it doesn’t make much sense to assume Jesus disagreed simply because he didn’t explicitly restate the Old Testament’s teaching on the issue.  Jesus’ audience would have already assumed homosexuality was a sin.  There is no record or reason to believe this was even a question Jesus needed to address.  His silence on the issue supports the idea that Jesus saw homosexuality as a sin as did most people of his time.
In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus said, “21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”  Given Jesus grounding in the Old Testament understanding of sin and righteousness, Jesus must have understood "sexual immorality" to be defined by Leviticus 18–which includes all the things we’ve already mentioned including homosexuality.
There is a more obvious reason to believe Jesus saw homosexuality as contrary to God plan because of what he did say about human sexuality.  Jesus explicitly states God’s plan for human sexuality to be within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.  4“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
So we see that Jesus taught the traditional view of heterosexual marriage handed down from the beginning in Genesis and that never changed all throughout Scripture.  The only alternative to heterosexual marriage Jesus offers comes a few verses later in Matthew 20:12 when he says, “…some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, you can enjoy God’s gift of sexual union within heterosexual marriage or you can remain unmarried and refrain from sexual relations.  These are the only two valid options offered in the Bible or by Jesus. 

            I know this post was longer than usual.  We had a lot of material to cover, but I felt it was important for everyone to actually see what Scripture says about homosexuality to show why the Church teaches that homosexuality is a sin outside of God’s will for humanity.  It’s because the Bible teaches it—and not just in one place or in one era.  The Bible is clear about homosexuality from the beginning to the end.  And as 1 Timothy 3:16 say, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives."
Some congregations have changed their opinion about homosexuality, just as have many in our society.  Many in the United Methodist Church wish to change our official stance (and this will be debated at our next General Conference this May).  However, such a drastic change departs from our Scriptural foundation.
The truth is, society’s opinions on various topics change as easily as our taste in clothing—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  (Do you remember jelly shoes?) The beauty of the Bible (and the challenge also) is that is does not change.  It is an anchor that holds us to the Truth while the changing tides of public opinions swirl around us.  Scripture connects us to the timeless principles of God.
I understand that it is very difficult to maintain a biblical view of homosexuality given the unpopularity of that opinion in our times.  It is even more difficult because we all have friends, family, or loved ones who struggle with homosexuality.  You may personally struggle with homosexuality.  It can be very tempting to just set the scriptural witness aside and say, “There’s nothing wrong with homosexuality.”  And this is what some people have done.
I would encourage everyone—whether the issue is homosexuality or something else—to allow the Word of God to change you instead of trying to change the Word of God.  It is not an easy path to follow, but it is the best path and one that Love calls us to pursue.  Therefore, I urge you to pray fervently that God would give you courage to stand up for the Truth and a love that never gives up.    Jesus said, if anyone wants to follow me he must die to himself, take up his cross and follow me…

[i] 17 times in Matthew, 10 times in Mark, 14 times in Luke, 12 times in John
[ii] Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, Article IV –