Jeff Bartell

A "bottom line" kind of guy

The Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

scotus_rainbowOK so, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me state from the outset that I am a Christian.  Worse than that, I am one of those “born-again” Christians.  Worse yet I am a Baptist.  Even more polarizing, I am a Baptist pastor.  Ok, so the last straw … I am one of those born-again, Baptist Christian pastors that actually believes that the Bible is the absolute word of God without any mixture of error – regardless of centuries of translation!  So with that pigeonhole, it goes without saying that my personal belief and conviction concerning any sexual union of two people of the same sex is that it is sin.  Got it?  No surprises there.  I’m sorry if that personal conviction upsets any of you, but I am simply letting you know who I am as the author of this post.

That is not what I want to discuss today.  What I want to discuss is the “conversation” (or lack thereof) that is taking place on many social media sites in the last 4 days.  I use quotes around the word “conversation” because on social media you really never have a legitimate conversation.  You have a monologue not a dialogue – at least not the face-to-face type.  And while I understand that writing a blog post is certainly more monologue, I offer this as a seed for more thought.  I think that if intelligent, reasonable people representing opposite sides of an argument sit down together and calmly discuss a subject, much more can be accomplished.  At the end of the day, we may simply “agree to disagree” and each go our own way, but at least we will have attempted to respectfully consider the other side.  That is what mature adults do.  Everybody deserves a little dignity and respect.

The general misunderstanding in the majority of the posts has to do with the confusion over what is actually being said and what the opposition perceives.  I know that many anti-same-sex-marriage Christian types are frustrated, hurt, disgusted, angered, disappointed … at the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Many (certainly not all) are voicing their thoughts on the ruling and many (not all) from the opposing side are reading such posts as a personalized attack on individuals.  Many (not all) of the responses then to the Christians is to malign their lack of “love” and they are quick to remind us that God is love and Christ always showed love and we are not to judge one another, etc, etc, etc.  Ok, again I got it.

We Christians understand that each individual will stand before God in judgment one day.  We are willing to acquiesce to individual free will.  We even understand that while homosexual behavior (according to the Bible) is a sin, there are a LOT of other sins that we all struggle with and ALL sin will be dealt with eventually.  Of course.  All true.

I want to try to help bridge the gap by clarifying that many people who disagree with the ruling are angry with the Court, not individuals per se, and fear God’s judgment on our nation more than on any particular LGBT individual.  At least I can speak for myself when I say that my frustration is with a nation that was originally founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic and with the Bible as the foundational influence on our development of civil government.  When such a nation will legislate in favor of clearly anti-Biblical behavior, then we, as a nation, are in trouble.

I for one, along with many of my Christian friends, truly have no problem whatsoever caring for all the various types of people in the world.  We (again, not all of us) truly go out of our way to help people so completely different and entrenched in various kinds of sins and addictive behaviors that we willingly forsake personal pleasure, preference and freedom (of schedule and finance) to intentionally reach out to help the hurting.  I personally spent 14 years of my adult life in Albania, immediately after the fall from Communism, simply to offer them a better life – both now and forever.  In our local church here in the US, we have a growing outreach to the local jail and those recently released from the jail and struggling with various addictions.  It has been a long, slow and arduous road, but we continue because of the value that we understand God places on each and every human life.  That same courtesy extends to homosexuals, tax evaders, liars, fornicators of all kinds, slanderers, gossips and thieves.

The same God that will judge all the various sins of individuals also has a written history (ref: the Holy Bible) of judging nations based upon the official decisions of their political leaders.  Generally, God’s judgment on a nation comes in two forms:  War and Weather.  Every “little” bad decision that our government makes on a national level adds another “drop” in the proverbial “bucket” and when a “biggie” is decided (against the expressed will of God as found in the scriptures) – like the same-sex marriage decision – then, well, we should expect the faucet to be turned counter-clockwise a couple full turns.  I’ll be honest with you, that scares me a little.  It scares a lot of people and that is what many are commenting about – not personally attacking individuals.

I get it – everybody wants to be free to love whomever they want.  They want equal civil liberties to do so.  If human logic were our compass, then that might be more acceptable to the general public.  But like it or not, the United States of America has a ~240 year Christian heritage and a history of the Bible being freely and openly taught and preached.  Many of us “good ol’ boys” actually believe that there is a Higher Authority than human logic.  This affects popular opinion.

It is not the purpose of this post to discuss whether or not the real agenda of the LGBT community is to undermine that rich history and reestablish a new direction.  It is the purpose of this post to attempt to bring some rational balance to the otherwise obvious emotional exchanges that have been offered.  At the end of the day, I am ultimately responsible before God for only one person.  He is the person writing this post.  At the same time I find solace in knowing that each of you are also equally responsible before God for your personal choices and that even our wonderful nation is responsible before God for their official choices.  May God help us all.

Feel free to reply with your comments.  Thanks for listening!

 

 

 

The Imprint of the Godhead

universeWhile studying Romans 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:… in my latest sermon titled “Why God must judge man” (you can listen to that sermon here), I mentioned how the Trinity, or “Godhead” is evident in all of creation.  The list of examples is as follows:

 

Man:  Body, Soul, Spirit

Family:  Man, Woman, Child

Problems:  Mental, Emotional, Physical

Reality:  Space, Matter, Time

Space:  Length, Width, Depth

Matter:  Liquid, Gas, Solid

Time:  Past, Present Future

Atoms:  Protons, Neutrons, Electrons

Electricity:  Positive, Negative, Neutral

Kingdoms:  Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Location:  Land, Air, Sea

Astronomy:  Sun, Moon, Stars

Answers:  Yes, No, Maybe

Atmosphere:  Ionosphere, Stratosphere, Exosphere

Music:  Melody, Rhythm, Harmony

Music (notes):  Volume, Pitch, Duration

Races of man (from):  Shem, Ham, Japheth

Bible writers:  Fathers, Prophets, Apostles

OT:  Law, Prophets, Writings

NT:  Gospels, Acts, Epistles

The ONLY way to miss it is to get an EDUCATION!

Now get outside and let God teach you through His amazing creation!

 

Proud of my guys

learn leadIn our church we have a path for training men for ministry.  It includes personal discipleship, which is a one-on-one mentoring system to learn the fundamentals of the faith.  Then we offer 6 classroom sessions over a two-year time frame to equip them with practical tools and training for ministry.  Upon completion of that, we offer leadership training through our local Leadership Training Institute.  We have just finished our class on homiletics, the study of how to preach a sermon.

We emphasize expository preaching, which is the process of “exposing” what the Bible says.  Typically this is a direct study of a particular passage of scripture, although that could be based on a given topic of study.  It has been a great semester and the guys have learned a lot.

After instruction on how to diagram and outline a passage of scripture, we learned how to outline a sermon and then actually spent several weeks practicing sermon delivery.  For the past several weeks it’s been fun watching the guys practice, learn and grow.  They are getting better every week and as they get more opportunities they will continue to improve.  This is exciting!  These guys are now able to prepare a biblically accurate message in an interesting, relevant way.

This is also one more significant step toward preparation for ministry leadership and one day (possibly) being sent out from our church to begin new churches around the world.  This is hard work and the guys that do it sacrifice a lot of their time to learn, but this is all necessary to participate in God’s mission to reach the world with the gospel.  ”No pain, no gain.”  So I am really proud of these guys for their desire, dedication to the work and vision to see the bigger picture – all which drive them to continue to sacrifice, study and prepare to be the most effective communicators of the most important message in the world!

 

 

What could be greater?

missionsAs I sit and ponder the close of our annual world missions conference here at FBC, my focus is sharper than ever concerning what is really important.  While we enjoyed the fellowship and encouragement from our missionary guests (see http://reachmissions.net/) and challenged our church to give sacrificially to support missions, I am most excited about the ever-growing number of young adults that are seeing their lives in the light of God’s mission.  The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there is no greater thing that a person can throw his life at.  What could be greater?

Think about it – what job could be more important than that of a missionary?  A politician?  (Forget the modern, self-serving variety if you can and consider the old school “serve the people” variety.)  Even if you work to reform some corrupt government and establish a new society that will help millions of people live a peaceful life, that realization still only lasts a generation or two.  If you help people know Jesus as Lord, you help them for EVER!  Ditto every other interesting, challenging, self-fulfilling job on the market.

As I reflect on the opportunities God has given me to serve in Albania, despite all the challenges of fighting the world, the flesh and the devil, I would sign up all over again for another round.  No problem.  Today, my joy comes from helping other young men and women realize their potential and take the gospel to many new places that I may never go.  In this stage of my life, I hope that I have gained a little wisdom in exchange for the decreased level of energy.  (An unavoidable consequence of mid-life!)  When I hear from missionaries about new places and people getting saved – my heart speeds up and my eyes widen just a little.

As a result, I am ever more committed to developing Biblical training for those who see what I see – the greatest possible cause and opportunity in the world:  world evangelism.  I was greatly encouraged by one of the missionaries who visited our conference and commented that he could see that we were right on the brink of seeing God do some great things here!  My prayer is that the Lord Jesus Christ would raise up an army of courageous men and women who have the vision and do the hard work to prepare themselves and go to the world that is waiting…

Maybe you would like to be on the list?