In a recent sermon I differentiated between divorce being allowed by God and homosexuality not being allowed because God “regulated” divorce with specific stipulations. A friend asked: “Can someone take that same line of reasoning and say that God “regulated” slavery (when he tells masters and slaves to treat each other with respect) and therefore slavery is acceptable?”

I don’t know the history of the debate well enough to point to specific examples, but I can imagine pro-slavery folks in the south arguing that way leading up to the Civil War: “God regulates slavery, so it’s obviously OK with him!”

However, the biblical rules for slaves and masters, both Old Testament and New Testament, were extremely counter-cultural in both the horizontal and the vertical dimensions. Horizontally, they required believers who owned slaves to treat them humanely – even as brothers in the New Testament – instead of like property, which is how the pagan world saw them. Vertically, the rules also held masters accountable to God for the way they treated their slaves, again, very counter cultural. So you could say, and I feel certain the abolitionists argued this way, that though the institution was regulated by scripture, the heart of the regulations was that the slave is our brother, a fellow creature made in the image of God. Thus, the question became not, “what are the rules?” but, “what is the order of creation? What is the original design?” And “are we honoring it in this institution or not?” Obviously, like yeast in the dough over a very long period of time, that attitude won the day in Western Civilization, albeit at the point of a bayonet in America’s case.

A similar thing happened with divorce. In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus took what had become a clever manipulation of the rules Moses laid down – the legalists, mimicking Roman culture, treated women as property and allowed just about any reason for a divorce – and reasserted the order of creation as the standard. This new standard set practicing Christians apart from the pagan world in many significant ways. Sexual intercourse was only acceptable and pleasing to God within marriage. Adultery was never allowed, nor was any sex outside of marriage. Married sex was sanctified and honored as the “one flesh” experience. Women had equal dignity with men and were allowed to divorce their husbands for adultery, something Roman women did not have the right to do. (A Roman husband could divorce his wife, but not vice versa). The upshot of it was that divorce, while never eradicated, became very rare in the Church.

The homosexual man is our brother. The homosexual woman is our sister. We are to love them and extend the dignity to them that we would extend to any other image bearer of God. But in the case of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and associated issues, there are no such regulations that accommodate a sinful cultural trend while drawing us back to the original design. There is only the call to repent and to live in purity, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God … For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor. 6:11 & 20 NASB.


As I rolled out of the church driveway last Wednesday something strange registered in my peripheral vision; what’s that in the ditch? I thought, holy smokes that’s a man! He was lying face down in the channel along the highway. I pulled over, hit the emergency flashers, threw the car in park and ran to him, punching 911 on my cellphone as I did so. I was too late. Other passersby stopped to help and the police and EMT’s showed up in record time, and the ER team at the hospital did their best, but the man was gone.

Just two days before that I had visited with a friend who attended our Alpha Course last year. One day he was cruising along, enjoying life and the next they were telling him he had stage four cancers all over his body with less than a year to live.

Some weeks are pretty bleak. The reality of the fall and the effects of the curse (See Genesis 3) are with us still and make their presence known in sometimes shocking ways. Those are the moments we most feel the need for someone to guide us, someone to sustain us, when the vicissitudes of life sap our strength. The Apostle Peter reminds us of who that someone is: “For you were like sheep going astray,” he said, “but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

How does our Shepherd Jesus sustain us? Last week we saw that, if we will listen, he leads us. He walks the path of life before us. If we find the way hard we know he has been there first.

He not only leads us, he also feeds us. Jesus wants our souls to be nurtured with good things.

“If your son asks you for bread,” he said, “you will not give him a stone will you? If he asks you for a fish, you will not give him a serpent. How much more will your Father give good things to those who ask Him?” Matt. 7:9-11

How does God feed us?

First, God feeds us with His word. When we read it and meditate on it through the day; when his servants teach us on the radio or in church; when we sing it or hear it sung we are feeding on God’s word. The Apostle Paul reminded us to keep “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” (Eph. 5:19 NAS). That’s feeding on God’s word.

Have you ever seen someone drinking a lot of bitterness? “Un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” They are poisoning their souls.

Have you ever seen someone feasting on the humility of forgiveness? “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.” You are witnessing someone who feeds on the best kind of soul food.

Second, God feeds us with His goodness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17. God feeds us with the goodness of the sun; the goodness of the rain; the goodness of the love of family; the goodness of the stars, beauty in the night sky; the goodness of the grass between our toes; the goodness of our friends; the goodness of a boat on the water and a fish on the hook; the goodness of laughter, of peace, of joy, and of music. Every good and perfect gift that we experience in this life is a gift from God.

With all these good things our Father feeds us. He leads us beside cool, still waters and with them restores our souls.

The question is: Are we drinking? Are we feasting on the good things he has given us? Don’t let the poisonous stuff; the stressful stuff, the disappointing and disillusioning stuff that comes to every life make you miss the goodness of God. Keep following the Shepherd and he will feed you.


Most of us are aware of the severe suffering and persecution that our brothers and sisters in Christ, along with many others, are experiencing in the Middle East. I thank God that I am not a believer living in that part of the world, and I pray for them daily. But we don’t have to live in Iraq or be facing violent persecution to experience suffering. Suffering comes in many different forms.

Sometimes it comes into our lives simply as a result of living in a fallen world with fallible people, like the injured drivers who lost control of their cars when the throttle stuck open.

Other times suffering comes as a result of our own or a family member’s wandering. We are “like sheep going astray” says Peter, and when we do, or when a loved one does, we suffer for it. Like the friend who walked into my office twenty years ago and told me his wife had left him. “I was never at home. I was always at work,” he said. “But she was supposed to stick with me.” He was heartbroken. Another friend pushed his body to the breaking point because he financed his business venture with $70,000 of credit card debt. When his health failed, so did his business. Then there was the woman, suffering through her second divorce, who married her second husband on the rebound from her first marriage; and the guy who couldn’t keep his job because he couldn’t keep his temper.

The emotional torment of things like this can’t be measured. Bottle all the tears shed in the anguish of our souls and they would not begin to balance the scales of our sorrow.

Many of us know what that sorrow is like. But what we don’t know, or sometimes forget, is that there is Someone who cares very deeply about us. There is Someone whose compassion is as measureless as our sorrows, and whose mercy is deeper than our deepest fears. Peter calls him The Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. His name is Jesus.

The word “Shepherd” has a backpack full of meaning for us. I want to unpack some of that over the next couple of weeks, beginning today with the shepherd as leader.

The shepherd of our souls leads us. (See John 10:2-4). He goes out in front. He knows where the good pasture is. He knows where the best path is. He knows where our souls need to go in order to grow strong and healthy and prepared for the future. He leads us there. That means He goes ahead of us. If we find the way hard, we know he’s been there first.
Peter wrote, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23).

Following Jesus doesn’t mean the way is always easy. Sometimes it’s very difficult. But when He is leading we know that the pain has meaning and leads to victory. We understand the purpose of the trial and have less trouble staying on task because we’re not worrying, “why is this happening to me?” Our Shepherd has gone before us, suffered this path ahead of us, and will continue to lead us no matter what.

Do you know the Shepherd of your soul? Can you hear his voice? Follow him, for he cares for you.

Q&A ON: IF I HAVE GAY CHILDREN Part 2 What’s the Loving Thing to Do?

A twenty-something college friend sent a link to a blog by a pastor in the Raleigh, North Carolina area titled IF I HAVE GAY CHILDREN: Four Promises From a Christian Pastor, by John Pavlovitz. The post has now gone viral. Part one of my reply spoke to his fourth promise, “If I have gay children, most likely I have gay children,” or the nature of human personality development and where “gayness” comes from.

Part two speaks to his other three promises:
1. If I have gay children, you’ll all know about it … I won’t hide it.
2. If I have gay children, I’ll pray for them … but not to change.
3. If I have gay children, I’ll love them … because they’re mine.

I’m a pastor. I have gay friends. I have church friends with gay children. All of us would agree with the gist of Pavlovitz’s promises. We understand his love for his children, and how he does not want to damage them. We understand his disgust and disappointment with those in evangelical and fundamentalist Christian circles who act like the Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8. But we also agree with Jesus command to the woman at the end of that story: “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” We cannot in good conscience condone a path of life for our loved ones that God condemns. Those of us who are committed to the authority of Scripture and who call Christ Lord are called to a higher, more difficult standard of love. “Brothers” instructed the Apostle Paul, “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Mr. Pavlovitz also mentions that, if his children turn out gay, he will not pray for them to change. But what is life in Christ if not the power to change, to overcome the destructive force of sin in our fallen human nature? When the Apostle Paul condemned a whole list of sins, including homosexuality, he concluded by saying, “And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Notice the three points of restoration: “You were washed,” – the sin, along with its power to destroy, was taken away; “you were sanctified,” – set apart, you are no longer part of that world, the boundaries have been re-established and you are now part of God’s holy family; “you were justified,” – your guilt is taken away. All of this is accomplished not by the force of our will, but by the Spirit of the living God given to us as a result of Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection.

We make our choices and then our choices make us. But the good news is that the Spirit has the power to help us overcome and repair the damage done by our sinful reaction to the broken parts of our personalities and the choices we make. This is the gospel. Anything less, isn’t.

Those of us who hold this view and say it publicly, no matter how gently or compassionately we say it, are called bigots and homophobes. It just goes with the territory. But anything less isn’t really loving our children and it is disobedient to our Lord.