Humbled by Victory

After a sleepless night, I can say with joy and relief: ‘gay marriage’ is no longer in CA.The people arose and went to the polls. They took back marriage from the Supreme Court and rightly defined it as one man pledged to one woman. For the sake of kids. For the good of all.

By a slim 4-point margin, the citizens of CA turned San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and an activist court on its ear. Now marriage as heterosexual is written in stone into the CA state constitution.

Thank you for your prayers. God roused His people to honor and defend what He loves.

The righteous in CA—both Christians and God-fearers—acted. And persevered. They endured vandalism—Prop. 8 signs and bumper-stickers were torn down throughout the campaign, political trickery—CA’s Attorney General deliberately worded Prop. 8 in a confusing and negative manner, and shame—opponents of Prop. 8 ridiculed those who honor marriage as racist, intolerant and hateful.

The good endured. The true image of God in humanity is honored. God is honored. “Just as there is a momentum to evil, so there is a momentum to repentance…”

And He is to be praised for hearing our prayers. I have cried out for this victory along with you since the Supreme Court decision last May. Yesterday, anxious in prayer, the Lord reminded me of this Word He gave me through my friend and associate Dean:

“Do not be anxious or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not yours, but Mine. Take up your positions, stand firm, and you will see the deliverance that I have given you. Do not fear or be discouraged, for I am with you.” (2Chron. 20: 16, 17)

He delivered CA from delusion, and the judgment it invites. He will have mercy! The people have acted justly and honored God’s image.

This is only the beginning. CA’s honoring of marriage must signal a further awakening of the church everywhere to arise in Christ, the true image, and live out what she preaches.

That means cherishing that image in one another, and making every effort to restore that image in its broken members.

That means taking the mercy of Jesus out beyond her walls to those bound by same-sex attraction. We have already given gays what they need: the clear witness of God’s intent for humanity in marriage. Now let’s love them into the Kingdom.

And we need to empower the nations who sooner than later will face the same decision that CA did concerning the true definition of marriage.

We must mobilize now to help them before sneaky courts or legislatures subject its citizens to ‘gay marriage.’

CA has spoken loudly to the world: Let the people decide how marriage will be defined. Thank God for democracy! By His grace, and though the power of truth tempered and channeled in prayer, let the people who honor God honor marriage everywhere.

Bless you dear friends for standing with us throughout these forty days. Together, we have honored marriage for the good of all.

“Delight yourself in the lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to Him; trust in Him, and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (PS 37:4-6)

The True Image

During these forty days, I had the privilege of battling for Proposition 8 in several churches in CA, including my home church, St. Gregory’s Episcopal of Long Beach. Seated before the altar, I observed with new eyes the 40-foot representation of Jesus emerging in stained glass above the cross. His image, composed of thousands of pieces of exquisitely colored glass, blazed like fire as the sun shone through it.

Alone in that church, I encountered the living Christ. His tenderness matched His power. “His robe reached down to his feet, with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white as wool, his eyes like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…His face was like the sun shining in all of its brilliance.”

“He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.”

(Rev. 1:13-16; 19:13)

It filled me with gratitude and awe. There I prayed, a cracked yet receptive bearer of that very image, now subject to Him in His stern splendor. Though I was once subject to gods that drove and derided me, greedy idols who wanted my blood, He won me through His blood so I could participate in the marvel of His design.

I prayed for that design. I asked that its glorious expression in marriage—one man for woman, committed to fidelity and permanence—would shine in this land as powerfully as the stained glass before me. I prayed that we would represent Him well in the land.

I prayed for my bride Annette, that Christ would strengthen me afresh that day to love her well. I considered her beauty and humility, her virtue, and my affections blazed in harmony with the glowing image before me.

I thanked God for the couples who have represented that image beautifully to me: my parents, Mike and Diane Nobrega, Kenn and Joannie Gulliksen, Christopher and Dorothy Greco, Morgan and Karen Davis, Bruce and Jan Babad, Dean and Chrystal Greer, Lloyd and Brenda Rindels, and others whose marital commitments have endured and surpassed any brokenness they have encountered along the way.

I need them; I need that witness of man for woman and woman for man. Our land needs that witness. Fatherless children need that witness. Those under the sway of sensual, greedy idols need that witness. The state does well to uphold that truth by insisting marriage retain its original meaning: man for woman, woman for man, pledged to permanence and fidelity. For the sake of their children. For the good of all.

I prayed that God would wake up the saints in CA to honor marriage by refusing its redefinition. Honor Marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

And I prayed: ‘Rouse us in this hour. Raise up a people who stand for righteousness in the land, who take seriously how You have chosen to manifest Yourself on earth, a people who honor marriage for the good of all.

Awaken the saints to stand for marriage and so restrain wickedness and judgment in the land. Through the passage of Proposition 8, show mercy and not judgment, O God.’

As I beheld the Risen Christ towering over me and yet lovingly beckoning to me in the church, I was reminded of the greater love story being played out in our midst: that of the Bridegroom King preparing for Himself a Bride. In a day when 7-year-olds in public schools are subject to tales of the marriage of two gay kings, we need to be reminded of this true love story–the divine drama of which human marriage is but a foretaste

“The Bible begins in Genesis with the marriage of the first man and woman, and ends in Revelation with another marriage, the marriage of Christ and His Church. The whole story of salvation is contained between the love initiated by the bridegroom and the response of the bride.” (Christopher West)

I prayed again: ‘Prepare a people for Yourself, O God. May we live what we advocate for the land. May Your mighty love empower us to love. Manifest who You are in how we love and honor one another. May we mirror with increasing clarity the greater love story You have designed for the whole of creation. As we love more nearly in harmony with You, the true image, make us ready for Your return. Prepare us for Yourself.’

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and the bride has made herself ready.

Find linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)

Rev. 19:6-8

Awakening the Church, Persuading Men

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

“Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2Cor. 5:11)

It is time for the Church to arise, humble in mercy, clear in truth—ready to act on behalf of righteousness. Paul continuously implores the church to lay aside the ‘darkness’ of the culture, referring to sexual immorality, and to arise in the light of God’s holiness. Paul urges us to shine on behalf of a people living in great darkness who will perish unless we take a stand for righteousness.

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now then when we first believed. The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11, 12)

“Wake up, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be careful how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:14-16)

Paul urges us to become “blameless and pure, children without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, so we can shine like lights in the universe as we hold out the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15, 16)

Honoring marriage is one such ‘word of life.’ In light of the ‘gay marriage’ crisis, God is rousing us as the body of Christ to act–to act humbly and persuasively on behalf of marriage. We must make the truth known to our neighbors and colleagues, to risk being seen as ‘intolerant’ in order to fortify the most important relationship on earth.

We must awaken to the truth: marriage in CA is in peril. And its precarious position puts at risk all who are impacted by marriage: every single one of us.

We must act today by imploring all in our midst to vote YES on Proposition 8 and to ensure that we do the same. God has given us one chance to define marriage in the CA constitution as one man pledged for one woman. This is our only and last chance to do so. We must act now.

Consider the stakes if we do not stop ‘gay marriage’:

Opens Doors to Radical Social Influence upon our Youth: Massachusetts initiated gay marriage in 2003 and their public schools began to instruct youth accordingly. That includes a story book read to 2nd graders on 2 princes who marry, kiss each other, and become ‘King and King.’ Recently, a public school in San Francisco escorted a first grade class on a field trip to City Hall in order to witness a lesbian wedding officiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Opens Doors to Other Types of Marriage: If gender becomes negotiable in the definition of marriage, then why not number of marital partners, or age of consent in marriage? Though we cannot imagine that now, could you have imagined gay marriage even ten years ago? Proponents of polygamy are currently battling for legal recognition using the exact same arguments employed by ‘gay marriage’ advocates.

Man has never been able to keep to one level of evil; the road goes down and down.

C.K. Chesterton

Opens Doors to ‘Gay Marriage’ throughout the USA: CA is arguably the most powerful state in the USA. Its Supreme Court decisions usually become standard decisions throughout the other states. If we allow the Court decision to stand, a flood of judicial and legislative activity on behalf of ‘gay marriage’ will drench the nation.

If we stop it, then we restrain that flood. The choice is ours.

Opens Doors to ‘Gay Marriage’ throughout the Globe: As I travel abroad, I am keenly aware that a host of other nations have ‘gay marriage’ legislation in the works. They are looking to CA. Especially Christians who may feel less powerful politically than we do in the USA. Given a chance to act, will CA act on behalf of God’s will for marriage?

The question other nations raise is this: can a faith-filled nation like the USA counter the radical gay agenda? If we will not do it, what hope do they have of countering forces over which they may have less power?

What will CA do? Will we the people arise and refuse ‘gay marriage?’ Doing so sets a precedent for our nation and for the nations of the earth. By honoring marriage, we set a precedent that honors God and His creation. By not refusing ‘gay marriage’, we set a precedent for perversion.

Honor Marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Father, the state of marriage, the state of CA, the United States, and the nations of the earth hang in the balance. Rouse Your saints, O God. Awaken the righteous from their sleep. As we fear You, O God, let us also persuade men in this critical hour. Shine on us as we arise in righteousness on behalf of marriage. Be glorified in our prayers and actions. May we demonstrate mercy mixed with godly fear through upholding marriage in the state of CA.”

Repenting unto Mercy

In the battle for marriage, I am inclined toward the sin of the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7). Working hard, persevering, identifying falsehood (the church’s strengths; vs.2, 3) mean little if one loses his first love.

And that has been my challenge in this battle. In fighting for God’s honor in defending marriage as one man for one woman, have I lost touch with God? The other day, I felt that familiar conviction: ‘Are my works for Him overtaking my devotion to Him? Is a political battle with all of its complexities and strife superseding the one true thing: Christ alone, the true image of God in humanity from which marriage draws its meaning?’

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (v.4) I must return to that place at His feet, even and especially as the battle for marriage intensifies. The ‘Martha’ in me, ‘worried and anxious about many things’, must become more like her sister ‘Mary’ who seated at His feet and listening to Jesus found the one true thing ‘that would not be taken from her’. (Luke 10:38-42)

“Remember the height from which you have fallen!” (v. 5a) To me, that height is mercy: how God in Christ bridged the gap between my native perversion and His design for my life. That height is pure mercy. Nothing else sets us free from the debt, the gap, those inexplicable distortions of humanity that distance us from His purposes for our humanity.

Only mercy sets us free to know Him and those purposes. I must return to that place where He first met me, and where He calls me to live—that place at His feet where I receive mercy afresh. There I marvel and devote myself afresh to Him out of gratitude.

I agree with the Psalmist when he says: “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call upon Him as long as I live…The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (PS 116: 1, 2, 5-7)

I was in great need; I am in great need, and through mercy, my soul can rest, even and especially in battle. I remember the height from which I have fallen. I remember mercy, and my soul is restored.

“Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev.3:5b) Mercy received becomes the basis for giving mercy away. I pray that I will be true to the call to make a way for all broken image-bearers who seek healing in Jesus’ name. I pray that they would find it in Christ’s body—to discover mercy in the church instead of judgment.

I pray through the ‘gay marriage’ crisis that churches throughout the land would wake up to their responsibility to offer transformation to broken ones, especially to those with same-sex attraction.

I pray for the truthful fundamentalists who tend to conceal their own need for mercy. May they confess their own sins boldly and receive a double portion of mercy in turn! May they then give it away generously to the broken in their midst. And for the tentative ‘emergent’ church, may she wake up to her need to give a clear and forthright answer to those struggling with homosexuality. May she see the mercilessness of not giving an answer and so placing souls at risk of further destruction!

Let mercy have its perfect way in our churches. Let us repent and do the first things—welcoming broken ones with the truth that makes mercy pure and powerful, able to save and restore lives.

Then let mercy restore us for such a time as this. A time to battle for marriage. We battle in mercy for the upholding of marriage as one man pledged to one woman. We do this on behalf of generations to come.

Fighting for marriage in our land is an act of mercy for them. Protecting marriage helps ensure the stability and dignity of children now and to come.

And it restrains the hand of God who must respond to our rebellion if ‘gay marriage’ is allowed to continue. God desires to have mercy and not judgment. But He must act if His image is perverted by any state or nation. ‘Gay marriage’ fundamentally assaults the highest expression of God’s creation: humanity as male and female. To battle for the end of ‘gay marriage’ in CA invites God’s mercy; to concede to it incites trouble.

Let us together do what we did at first. Let us receive mercy afresh, and let us offer it generously to all in need. Right now CA is in need of mercy: mercy to fight for what is right in order that God would have mercy on the land.

Honor Marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Let marriage in its true definition prevail O God; let marriage in its true form provide for generations to come. May our good battle on behalf of marriage ‘defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless, and maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.’ May it ‘rescue the weak and the needy, and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ (Ps 82: 3, 4)”

Cheap versus Costly Grace

It would be wrong to assume that all if not most churches overreact to homosexuality as if it were a landmine, ready to explode. In truth, the churches most influential in our land today seem to have detonated the issue altogether. How? By avoiding it.

Rick Warren, arguably one if not the most powerful Christian leaders in the USA, was recently described in a Time magazine cover story as avoiding ‘sin issues’ like homosexuality for less controversial ones like poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Perhaps the strength of ‘seeker-sensitive’ churches is also its weakness. Gather people on the basis of what is inoffensive, and lay aside the topics that rouse and challenge the Christian consumer. Certainly homosexuality is one, especially if preaching a transformational view for individuals and a cautionary one for those in a culture intent on normalizing homosexuality.

But in the age of ‘gay marriage’, how much longer can churches cease to give a clear and redemptive answer to the question of homosexuality?

A muddled response permeates ‘emergent’ churches—a loose coalition of youthful post-modern believers. In their amazing book, Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be: Moody, 2008)), Kluck and De Young expose the persistently ambiguous response of emergent thinkers to homosexuality.

For example, Brian McClaren all but mimics liberal Protestants of the seventies who initiated the still raging battles for same-sex blessings and gay ordination when he says about gay unions: “We are not sure if or where lines are to be drawn…” Another thinker in this arena, Tony Jones, mused: “The very nature of theology is conversation and dialogue, not safeguards and boundaries for historic orthodoxy…”

In the emergent world, an open-ended, ‘who knows?’ approach to those with same-sex attraction symbolize a new generation so committed to tolerance in sexual matters that they have nearly lost the capacity to know and apply biblical truth to them.

Is this not the wrong kind of tolerance for which Jesus judged the Church of Thyatira? Her sin was not out and out blessing of sexual immorality, but rather a tolerance of those in her midst who did, namely Jezebel, ‘who by her teaching misleads my servants into sexual immorality…” (Rev. 2:20). She incurred death upon herself and her children.

Perhaps ‘emergents’ are still reacting to the fundamentalism of their youth in which sex, especially homosexuality, seemed a scapegoat for smug hardliners. To be sure, we have much to repent of. But in our awakening, we read the paper, counsel our friends, look within and discover that the image of God is in shambles. We need help; our gender and sexual selves need fortifying and defense from good Christian theologians.

The gates protecting humanity have been burned in the fire of addiction and perversion. In that mess, none of us are innocents, or solely victims of heavy-handed religion. We are damaged and we do damage simply by being members of an idolatrous culture.

In that way, seeker sensitive, emergent churches are right in drawing people with kindness; they are wrong if they will not answer a culture so messed up it is unsure whether gays should marry.

Grace has meaning only to the degree that we know the truth—the truth that defines God’s intent and boundaries for our broken sexual humanity. We Christian consumers need to hear again the words of Bonhoeffer when he says:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and Incarnate…

We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard. What happened to the church whose teaching watched so carefully over the boundary between the church and the world, over costly grace? What happened to Luther’s warnings against a proclamation of the Gospel which made people secure in their godless lives? Cheap grace was very unmerciful to our Protestant church…

Costly grace is the grace that must be sought again and again. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs us our life, and it is grace because it gives us the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and it is grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son.” A Testament of Freedom

Honor Marriage for the Good of All. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“O God, forgive us for cheapening grace. Make it costly for us once more. May we Your church awaken to the damage done and dare to offend those who refuse the grace that calls them to arise out of the chaos.”