Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Morning in Court

          On Thursday, August 3, 2017, I answered a subpoena to appear in General Sessions Court, in the Birch Building in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.  Back in June there was a one-driver, two-car collision in front of our home, and I was a witness to it. 
          As it turned out, the morning was pretty much wasted, had to pay for parking, and the case was continued until November.
          The time spent was interesting, however, sitting amongst a large group of people who had made stupid mistakes and now praying to God they don't go to jail.  You slice through the tension.  That was in the observers’ gallery.  While up front the DA, various legal official and lawyers came and went, everyone smile, slapping each other on the back, punch their should, laughing, smiling, getting on with another day at work.
          Judge Dianne Turner began by saying, "We're going to call your name, stand up. If you don't stand and tell us who your lawyer is we'll assume you aren't here and issue a warrant for your arrest.”  One young man came in late, was told by the judge, "You were supposed to be here at 8:30 a.m., it's now 9:20, go through that door to your left and see the Sheriff; he's looking for you."
          Throughout the morning the judge did a lot of pre-trial diversion, with fines and community service, and if you stayed out of trouble for x-number of months you don't go to jail. These were the "stupid mistake" type arrests.
          It was also interesting to note the look of most of those who came before the judge. Pants that had to be pulled up constantly -- there was a big sign on the entry door to the courtroom stating what attire was not permissible in her courtroom -- colorful threads and streaks tied throughout the hair, bizarre tattoos everywhere, rings and things in the ears, nose and lips. One young lady almost had a very short, tight, colorful dress on, bare from just above her nipples up, sleeveless, so short you did not want to see her sit down. Her attorney brought her up while the judge was looking down signing pages, and positioned her directly behind a tall podium so the judge saw her only from the neck up. Her case was continued until later in the year.  I wondered if her lawyer was buying time to share a “court room attire” lecture with her.
          Just seemed like a lot of folks who wanted to be noticed, who wanted to be seen as "bucking the system," but someone crossed that line a little too far and slipped into the "illegal" pool.  But their “look” set them apart from others in the court room and left no surprise that they were there before the judge.
          There were also several cases of people without driver's licenses who were sent away to get a license and return later in the year or go to jail. One young woman was there for a traffic accident, case continued, but the accident caused no injuries, only property damage, so the fact she had seven previous accidents on her driving record (I saw this, the court did not) would not be brought up in court. Well, whatever. We have to leave room in our jails for the crime-wave thieves, rapists, child molesters and murderers. And the jails across the nation are full up. Makes you wonder what goes on at the family level that so many people have no empathy for others, and seek only to serve themselves. Reminds me of a brief conversation from my Marine Corps days: "But sir...! " "But sir hell, get in that cell!"
          There was one humorous aspect to the morning’s adventure.  I was there only as a witness, and had mercy on my mind.  But I showed up in shirt and tie, suit coat and trousers, with my pastor's cross around my neck.  Normal attire for a court room appearance … for me.  This garnered a quizzical look at one time or another from just about everyone in the courtroom (even the lady judge kept looking my way), and you could see the question on their faces: "Holy crap! What did he do?!"

          It’s been said that all the world’s a stage, but it occurred to me that while all the good actors may be on that stage, all the clowns are in General Sessions Court.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Biblical Sexual Ethics are Confusing Many

Sunday Sermon: Biblical Sexual Ethics are Confusing Many
By Pastor Ed Evans
Scripture: Romans 8:28
”And we know that God works all things together for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purposes.”

Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “This present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Savior he is a fanatic and if he hates the powers of evil, he is a bigot.”
No doubt about it, there are many things in this present age that are confusing. But it has been that way in every age. Yet men and women of God need not be confused, for they are given explicit and direct guidance in the word of God regarding how to conduct themselves.
Nevertheless, the number of professing Christians who reject the traditional Biblical sexual ethic has been steadily increasing over the last few years as men and women succumb to the societal pressures of “political correctness.” Except that such deliberate ignorance of God’s word is neither politic nor correct.
Many of those once submitting to the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual behavior now propose that theologians have long been off base in their interpretation of the texts addressing this issue. They don’t believe the Scriptures speak ill of loving, monogamous same-sex relationships, but only homosexual activity in the context of rape, child molestation, and idol worship. They may believe that all they wish, but none of it is supported by scripture.
The word of God is very clear – “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Lev. 18:22 & Lev. 20:13). And since this is neither a civil nor a ceremonial law but a moral law in Leviticus, there is no expiration date. It still stands today. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Now, no one should misunderstand this as a demand that we judge and ostracize those who disagree with God. The Almighty gives each of us free will, and we are free to hate God if we so choose. And some of us do exactly that in order to serve ourselves, and not God. God will do the judging, although some of us think that’s our job.
However, there is a big difference between judging someone, and discerning evil. The two are not the same at all. In the Bible, the word "judge" is often a poor translation of the Greek word "katakrino." This word literally means "to judge against." In other words, it really means "to condemn." But there is another Greek word, "krino," which is often translated "to discern." "Krino" literally means "to separate." Or, to put it more clearly, it means "to separate the good from the bad."
The word of God calls for us to have a fine balance between head and heart. Biblical Christianity means loving God and others fervently, from the heart; but also, such love is in line with God’s truth as revealed in His Word. Exercising such love is what leads us to Christian maturity. Love for God or others that is not based on truth is just deluded emotionalism. But truth devoid of love leads to arrogance.
The signpost we are looking for leading to the true love of God is true knowledge. Since God cannot be known except as He has revealed Himself, such true knowledge of God can only be obtained through His Word. Since God Himself is love, to grow in the true knowledge of God is to grow to understand what true love is.
Now, this true knowledge of God as revealed in His Word is essential if you want to grow in love. We can’t know love by looking at our society, our culture. We can only know what love looks like by studying the character of God, especially as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, God in human flesh. And as we study Him, we see in Matthew 23 where He lashed into the Pharisees, we may even be a bit shocked as He takes whip in hand to clear the filth from His Father’s temple. And yet our Jesus is the epitome of love. Not a clay mask that one puts on to please others, or to get what our free will desires, but a love that loves even the unlovely, that wades into the mud to pull a sinner free, or empties his own pockets so an unregenerate shyster can eat this day. The love of Christ applies itself to the person, to the situation. The need does not twist itself around to fit the requirements of our version of tough love. That’s the short-sighted love of political correctness.
It seems as though today if you criticize someone else’s doctrine or personal life, no matter how unbiblical either might be, you are not loving, you are a “hater”, and you are arrogant to be judging that person. The well-known words of Jesus, “Judge not, lest you be judged” from Matthew 7:1 are twisted out of context and misapplied. But if you keep reading, Jesus goes on to say, in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine”. And yet, how do you determine if someone is that dog or that swine if you don’t make discerning judgments? Later on in Matthew 7:15 Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. If we are discerning we see this isn’t a fellow-sheep before us whom we need to embrace, but a ravenous wolf we need to avoid!
So we see that Biblical love cannot be divorced from the true knowledge of God and from the discernment between truth and error, between right and wrong that comes from a careful knowledge of Scripture, that Biblical love is inextricably bound up with discernment, not with the judgment of men, but with God-given discernment.
I leave you with the wisdom of Philippians 1:9-11: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Closing Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we find strength and boldness in the knowledge that You have not abandoned us to the machinations of this world, but continue to teach us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, ensuring we have the knowledge of scripture available to us with which to employ the wisdom of discernment in dealing with others, and through our knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ. Thank You, Father, that as Your own we are able to draw others to You, by the blessed and incomparable love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.