Monthly Archives: October 2014

Homosexuality, Our Culture, And The Church

Gap BeOne Gay billboard

Greetings Everyone,

 have been entranced with the situation which is taking place in Houston, TX…and in case you live in outer space or have absolutely no contact with social media…here’s an excerpt from The Texas Tribune:

A legal battle between the city of Houston and religious leaders has erupted into a national debate this week about religious liberty and freedom of speech, even as Mayor Annise Parker argued the controversy was based on a misunderstanding.

Conservative lawmakers and activists expressed outrage upon learning that lawyers acting on behalf of the city had sent subpoenas this month to pastors who had vocally supported a failed petition drive aimed at repealing Houston’s equal rights ordinance.

The ordinance, better known by its acronym, HERO, expanded the city’s ban on discrimination to include sexual orientation. It applies to businesses that serve the public, as well as city contractors and municipal workers. The City Council approved it in May after an intense public debate.

In August, city officials announced that an effort by conservative activists and pastors to put the ordinance’s repeal to voters failed to draw enough signatures. Opponents of the ordinance have since taken the issue to the courts, alleging in a lawsuit that the city inappropriately disqualified some of the signatures.

The subpoenas, sent to some outspoken pastors and religious leaders who had opposed the ordinance, had asked for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

It seems the kick back has caused Mayor Parker to disavow her association with the request…but that’s not what made me want to write this blog. At the same time this issue was being debated in Texas and now Nation wide…The Minister of Hillsong was paraded all over Facebook and Social Media about his stance…those who presented his stance did him no favors, because they took much of what he said out of context. Ironically his name is Brian Houston. Listen to his comments:

Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, has issued a statement re-affirming his traditional position on same-sex marriage.

Houston’s reaction follows his appearance Thursday at a news conference in New York City that gave rise to media reports suggesting Houston had a “shift in tone on gay marriage.”

The mega-church pastor was in New York for a Hillsong conference at Madison Square Garden.

“I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference. Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage,” Houston said in a statement published by the Christian Post.

“I challenge people to read what I actually said rather than what was reported that I said,” he continued. “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Hillsong Church operates 12 campuses around the world, including facilities in Los Angeles and New York City, where gay marriage is legal.

“I was asked a question on how the Church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality — no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ,” Houston said.

“I made the point that public statements condemning people will place a barrier between the Church and the world (and I note that Jesus came to save and not to condemn), which is why at Hillsong we don’t want to reduce the real issues in people’s lives to a sound bite.”

“This — like many other issues, is a conversation the Church needs to have and we are all on a journey as we grapple with the question of merging biblical truth with a changing world,” he concluded.

As I sit here at my desk thinking about people…people in the Church, people outside of the church a question came to my mind concerning this issue. That question is: “HOW DOES A CHRISTIAN STAND FOR WHAT HE BELIEVES WITHOUT ALIENATING HIMSELF FROM HIS MISSION AND PURPOSE?”

First of all let me share with you what I believe is to be the mission and purpose of every single Christian. It’s to share Christ Jesus and His truth with others in the hopes that the Holy Spirit will lead them to become disciples also. And when that happens, Christians are to share in relationship with those new disciples in a way that helps them grow…and want to do what has been done for them.”

Now with that being said, here’s the struggle for us as Christians…or at least those of us the world would consider evangelicals…Sin has to be dealt with in every single one of us…or we cannot be in a saving relationship with God. Because He is perfect in every aspect of His character…or at least we believe that, then He can’t just let some sin slide. So how do conservative Christian’s come up with their definition of what is sinful? Well, it’s everything I don’t do!!!! Just kidding. Although I think many of us do tend to judge other’s sin more harshly than we judge our own…Surgery is major when it’s on me and minor when it’s on you…but we view sin as the exact opposite…your sin’s major…mine’s minor. The issue of Homosexuality finds it’s difficulty between Christians and our culture because…either homosexuality is a sexual sin, clearly prohibited in scripture or as culture defines it presently, a lifestyle choice between individuals who had no choice or ability to change who they are. Not to oversimplify, but Christians would say, “I still look at life with a biblical world view. I use the basic truths of scripture to shape my daily life, and how I make decisions.” I would hope that individuals who live their lives allowing culture or society to determine what is right and wrong would at least try to see the struggle we Christians face. How do we honestly believe in a God who died for the forgiveness of all sin…and not say that sin matters…especially if we have some view that until sin is dealt with in Christ…there is an eternal punishment. I believe those are the horns of the cultural/spiritual dilemma Brian Houston from Hillsong was trying to address…(Although I have no right to speak for him or anyone else).

Let me clearly say that most conservative Christian’s believe that scripture teaches that Homosexuality is a sexual sin…It’s one of the issues that Paul addresses in Romans 1 and 2, as well as the Corinthian’s in First Corinthians chapter six verses nine through eleven. By the way, it’s not put into another category of sin…different in how major it is from other sin…just sin that needs to be washed, cleansed and forgiven…In fact Paul says to the Corinthians…”Such were some of you.” What’s my answer to the evangelical verses sensitivity issue? Well, I come from the starting place that there is no sin…NONE that cannot be forgiven through the blood of Christ. No sin has that much power…so I believe homosexuality is a sexual sin that can be forgiven..and needs to be…(this statement might get my blog subpoenaed …and my sermons, but I believe it because of scripture, nonetheless) And I also believe that there are individuals who have a tendency and strong sexual temptation to be with the same sex. Why? I cannot answer that question any better than I can answer the question, “Rick, why are you tempted to use medication or drugs to ease your life issues.” Being tempted to do something is not a sin, although Satan knows our weaknesses (or at least we conservative Christians believe that “He schemes” in that way) (EPH.6). One of the issues we Christians ought to be very aware of is that we are asking (for God we believe) for individuals who feel a strong attraction to create relationships with the same sex…for marriage, for intimacy to forgo that “strong attraction” for Christ. I can share with you three friends who I greatly respect in the Christian community who are sacrificially facing that struggle everyday to honor the commitment they’ve made to Christ. The world would say, “That’s not fair….that’s too much to ask…to choose to not act upon those desires.” And I would tell the Christian community…it is a lot to ask…it is something we should be compassionate and supportive of…instead of treating this temptation as the unforgivable sin. It isn’t!!! It isn’t anymore than lust, greed, covetousness, or gossip (slander) is!!!!

My goal, and I’ve got a long way to go, is to present Christ as the answer to all sin…mine and others. He is the one who can change lives and make them abundant…His truth can set us free…whether it’s the sin of Homosexuality, adultery, drugs, greed, or pride.

I just wanted to share my thoughts and ask that we in the church always present truth…but that truth would be presented humbly with love and grace…the same truth that changed us.

His servant and yours,

Rick Burdette

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The Modern Day Pharisee

soldier holding beer

Greetings from Gardenside,

I had someone ask me the other day what’s the most painful thing you’ve experienced in ministry? And I thought…”Man! That’s not an easy question to answer.” I’ve buried best friends, experienced A teenage daughter’s pregnancy, tried to help another son survive a divorce emotionally and spiritually, I watched as a student minister the Senior Minister and a church leader have a shoving match over a microphone during a congregational meeting, I’ve preached my Dad’s funeral, I’m currently trying to care for my Mother as she transitions from full clarity to forgotten memories, events, and people with some early dementia. (I’ve got an amazing brother and sister who help carry the load). I’ve dealt with mean people, selfish people, hateful people and greedy people. But if you asked me the most painful experience I’ve ever had in ministry it involved my second son Tyler…

Tyler volunteered for the Army shortly after 9/11 and after the death of his Grandfather, who was awarded the purple heart during WWII. In the Battle of the Bulge he stepped on a landmine and lost his left leg (He firmly stated his whole life…he gave it). Tyler was a Calvary Scout, The Gunner in a fighting vehicle (The one that’s constantly exposed). Tyler spent 18 months in Iraq and did just shy of 4000 missions. He had his vehicle blown out from under him. Kari and I genuinely felt there was a very good chance he might not come back home to us alive. We had a daughter who was a Senior in HS during his deployment and we would get calls from The US Government Service Dept. trying to recruit her…but each time that identification came up on our caller ID it felt like we’d hear from the War Dept….news we dreaded…but let me get to the point. Tyler did come home, suffering with some TBI and PTSD. And one evening our Student Minister at church asked him if he would share his story with the youth group. He did…I was so proud of his courage and transparency…but I got a call from my church leaders that next week and they wanted to talk with me about my son Tyler. One of them had seen a picture or two with him holding a beer with his buddies on MySpace (Tyler was 23 and a War Veteran by the way)…and they wanted me to discipline my Son for his Social Media indiscretion…there was One particular leader who seemed very fervent about this issue. The same leader who treated people who had money differently than he treated others, the same leader who had never spoken to Tyler face to face in his life. A modern Day Pharisee to be sure. I asked this Leadership if they really were handling things in a scriptural manner, or in a manner that showed love and grace to a wounded soldier and family. Tyler and I talked about this issue and I’ll never forget what he said, “Dad, I don’t need them to say thank you to me for serving them and protecting them, but I sure don’t need them to come after me.”

Until my dying day this will be one of the hardest hurts I will ever work my way through…Brian Jones has an amazing book on forgiveness called “Getting Rid Of The Gorilla: Confessions of the struggle to forgive.” and it helped me deal with this Gorilla. Maybe it will help you get rid of your Gorilla. I recommend it highly. I would never again trust this Modern Day Pharisee, but I would get to the place where I stopped drinking the poison of unforgiveness hoping it would effect him. That’s what unforgiveness is….”Drinking Draino in hopes that it will poison your enemy.

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew chapter 13 called “The Weeds and Wheat.” In this “earthly story with a heavenly meaning” Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed, but while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away…” Because they existed together you could not separate them until harvest time. Jesus explains this story to his followers: “The One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age.”

Kari and I have ministered in many different places…big churches, small churches and some in-between. Every one of them filled with weeds and wheat. There are no perfect churches, because they are filled with imperfect people. People at different levels of maturity…different agendas and personalities…some who even masquerade as believers for evil or monetary reasons. But my experience has been, the grace and love that flows from the wheat…far outweighs the evil leaven of the Modern Day Pharisee.

I’ll never forget…nor will Kari the loving couple who showed up at our house with the entire youth group to wrap their arms around us and our daughter. I’ll never forget the Saint that allowed Tyler and I to go hunting with them so we could heal and recover. I’ll never forget those who were running into our pain and struggle, even while others threw rocks from outside the gates. Yes the church has it’s issues, it’s Modern Day Pharisees, but it also has Jesus filled and guided family who will never let you go…I’m good with that until harvest time.

All my love,

Rick Burdette

An Army Divided

suit of armor

Greetings to the family of God,

My brother, sister and I are so different…not just in looks, but in personality. If you stuck us in a room and asked someone to pick those who were related, almost immediately, you would match up Barby and Sam. Sam looks just like my Father, Barby has the same features as my Mother. I often tell people, “I look like the Orkin Man.” Mom hates it when I do that, but she use to always comment about how good looking he was, and he had a British accent…LOL. I’m really glad she isn’t technically savvy, and will never read these words. And even though we Burdette children look so different, and have distinctly different personalities…the same blood flows through our veins…there is a familial bond that goes beyond looks and creates a love that will not be broken. As my Dad use to say, “You can chose your friends, but you’re stuck with your family.” Because you’re family you don’t quit on each other. You might speak truth, but you forgive…you continue to hope. Yes my family has some of the same serious issues that yours does…but we still don’t give up…we hope for our children, our relatives, and pray God will continually invade our lives…and theirs!

I don’t believe it’s an accident that scripture often refers to the Church (big C, not little c) as “The family of God.” “Consequently you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are members of God’s family>” (Eph. 2:19) Many of Paul’s writings, as well as John and James address believers as “Brothers and Sisters and Children.” I remember with great fondness when someone was baptized into Christ when I was growing up at Southland Christian Church everyone would sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God, born of His Spirit washed in His blood. Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod…I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!”

So here’s my question…why do many within the family of God spend much of their efforts and energies in family squabbles? Both inside local churches and between believers of other denominations. I’m not so naive that I don’t realize there are some essentials when it comes to our salvation…(the problems usually occur when we drift from scripture and start inserting our opinions). Baptism, Grace, The Sinner’s Prayer, Once saved always saved, predestination, eschatology (end time arguments)…and a myriad of other “fighting words.” But when Jesus says in Mark 3:25 “That a house divided against itself cannot stand.” He’s emphasizing the unity essential for Kingdom victory. In the Lord’s Prayer…not the model prayer of Matthew 6, but Jesus’ prayer right before He goes to the cross in John 17 He’s aching for this unity…storming the gates of heaven in prayer for it to be granted…”Father, may they be One, even as you and I are One!!!!”

If that is the heart of our Savior and Lord…”Why do so many within the army of God spend all their time polishing their armor, or using it to fight with other believers?”

Just some thought from my desk as I think about Jesus prayer for unity and Oneness:

1) Start with Jesus…if He is diminished in any way…made smaller than God in the flesh, who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, fulfilled God’s plan by dying for our sins, was buried, rose again, ascended to the Father and promised to return again…this isn’t a family discussion…it’s a discussion between outsiders and blood connected brothers and sisters.

2) Be aware of individuals who will parse the Word of God. Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever. Either we believe that the Almighty Creator of the Universe can provide, plan and protect His Word for us…or He can’t.

3) Start with an attitude of grace and humility. Any belief system that puts another person at a place of more value than another person is flawed from the start. The Older brother in Luke 15 needed the forgiveness and grace of the father, just as deeply as the prodigal brother in the pig sty…yet pride and arrogance made it’s acceptance almost impossible. James says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Why would we expect unbelievers to understand deep spiritual concepts of faith…we didn’t. Starting at a place where you love your brother or sister in the family of God will help you not use your sword as a weapon to destroy..

4) When something is clearly a preference…”DON’T MAKE IT A BLOOD LETTING BATTLEGROUND OF DESTRUCTION.” Christianity at it’s very core is “Unselfish.” Baby’s fight over their toys…mature believers don’t.

5) Pray, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Most of our family squabbles and fights occur when we are trying to fix something on our own, and then we get mad and stop hearing the voice of God. (James 4:1-3)

6) Remember Love is the most distinguishing characteristic of Jesus’ family

“In his book, “Great Church Fights,” Leslie B. Flynn tells of two unmarried sisters, who lived together, but because of an unresolved disagreement, over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking to each other–one of the inescapable results of refusing to forgive.

Since they were either unable or unwilling to move out of their small house, they continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table, use the same appliances, and sleep in the same room–all separately, without one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into two halves, separating doorways as well as the fireplace. Each would come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without ever stepping over into her sister’s territory.

Through the black of night, each could hear the deep breathing of the other, but because both were unwilling to take the first step toward forgiving and forgetting, they coexisted for years in grinding silence.”

There is an enemy…but it is not us. Maybe if the world would be invaded by Jesus loving, truth speaking, Grace offering brothers and sisters in Christ it would be converted in it’s belief system. But who would want to be part of a family that refuses to forgive and forget…or any army divided?

God bless you all,

Rick Burdette