A monthly publication by the Klang Church of Christ, containing articles written by bro. Roger D. Campbell, to help educate, edify, encourage and equip the saints of God.


I S S U E   N U M B E R :


             June 2011



Return to Contents Page

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY? (PART 1)


The very mention of some topics seems to bring out strong reactions from people. Homosexuality is such a topic. Bringing up homosexuality or lesbianism is sure to create lively discussions in most circles. Few people are neutral when it comes to the matter of “gay relationships”: they either strongly favor them, or adamantly oppose them.

Homosexuality is constantly a hot news item, whether it is “same-sex marriages, “same-sex adoptions,” homosexuals serving as preachers, or simply the general theme of “gay rights.” Throughout the world, a number of well-known public figures are crying out for tolerance and open acceptance of all relationships, whether they be gay or otherwise. Other famous individuals have openly spoken out against homosexual and lesbian relationships. There are religious leaders that speak in favor of accepting homosexuality, while other religious spokespeople have condemned it.

The debate over homosexuality is not a new one. It is, though, a subject that receives much more attention and publicity than it did in former generations. Our concern is with this question: Is homosexuality something that the Lord of heaven endorses, or opposes? Or, could it be that He is totally unconcerned about the whole deal?

For some, this is an emotional topic. However, when it comes to determining right and wrong, emotions are not the standard by which we can make proper analysis. Those who discuss this issue need to “speak as the oracles of God,” that is, say what the Bible says (1 Peter 4:11).

What does the Bible teach about homosexuality? We read examples of it in the Old Testament. For instance, in the ancient city of Sodom some men of the city desired to have physical relations with other males (Genesis 19:4-7). Eventually the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Listen to what the Bible says about these two places: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). These cities were destroyed because their inhabitants went “after strange flesh.” This refers to their practice of homosexuality. Did God accept it then? No.

What was God’s original teaching about marriage? Jesus said: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4,5). Surely no one can miss these clear terms that Jesus used: “male and female,” plus “a man . . . and his wife.” It is plain that God’s plan for marriage involves a human male and a human female. That has always been the Lord’s arrangement.

The Old Testament law condemned homosexuality. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death . . .” (Leviticus 20:13). These Bible texts show that God counted homosexuality as an abomination and it was punishable by death among the Israelites.

The New Testament is now the teaching that the Lord wants all people to follow. What does it say about homosexual relations? First of all, the word “fornication” [Greek, πορνεία (porneia)] includes the concept of homosexuality. “Porneia” means all illicit sexual intercourse, that is, sexual relations between two human beings that are not united with one another in marriage as husband and wife in the sight of God. Sexual relations between two people of the same sex constitute one form of fornication. The Bible says that fornicators “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19,21). Since fornication keeps those who engage in it out of the kingdom of God, and since homosexuality is a type of fornication, then participating in homosexuality closes the door to the kingdom of the Lord. Simply put, God does not approve of homosexual behavior.

We deny that we have a “homophobia,” which is defined as “irrational hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality” [www.yourdictionary.com]. We do, however, intend to keep on telling people what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.

Look again at the title of this article. Actually, the first question that needs to be asked is, “How does God feel about homosexuality?” We have given the biblical answer to that inquiry. Now, with such knowledge in hand, how should you and I look at same-sex or gay relationships?
[To be continued...]




LESSONS FROM THE DEATH OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH


The divine record of the reign of Joash, a king of ancient Judah, is “mixed.” During the years that he was guided by Jehoiada, a faithful priest of God, Joash did some good things for the nation. However, following Jehoiada’s death, Joash led God’s people down the wrong path. That included the murder of a prophet by the name of Zechariah [not the same man who wrote the 38th book of the Old Testament].

Why was Zechariah killed, and what circumstances led up to that tragedy? Here is what the Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 24:17-22:

(17) Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. (18) Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. (19) Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (20) Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he also has forsaken you. (21) So they conspired against him, and at the commandment of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. (22) Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The LORD look on it, and repay!’

Now, it is time to look at some lessons.

Godly preparation and godly action by godly men cannot guarantee the faithfulness of God’s people following the passing of those godly leaders. Jehoiada the priest was a good leavening influence in Judah (2 Chronicles 22:10-24:16). Yet, despite his righteous efforts, after his death Judah turned to idolatry (24:18). The same thing happened in Israel after Joshua died (Judges 2:7,10), and it was not Joshua’s fault. In our lifetime on earth, we make our best effort to teach the truth, live the truth, and defend the truth. After we die, though, the path taken by our offspring and the church will be out of our hands. They will have to make their own choices.

God’s does not exhibit wrath arbitrarily. In Joash and Zechariah’s day, why did wrath come upon Judah and Jerusalem? “. . . because of their trespass” (24:18). It was sin – sin of which the people refused to repent, that brought on the wrath of God. God does not become angry and carry out punishment in some random fashion. Instead, His wrath is poured out “upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). When God shows His wrath, it is always justified, in each case being caused by man’s transgressions.

Despite the rebellion of His people, God kept on sending prophets to testify against them. Why would God do that? Why not just leave them alone? His purpose in sending His messengers: “to bring them back to the LORD” (24:19). What about His motive for doing such? He did it “because he had compassion on his people” (36:15). Yes, He was (and is) a God of wrath, but let us not miss the truth that He was (and is) a God of compassion, too. God wants all to be saved.

God’s true prophets were guided by the Holy Spirit. Zechariah declared God’s message when “the Spirit of God came upon” him (24:20). As the Bible says, prophecy came about when “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). David declared, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).

Those who refuse to accept and walk in harmony with the commands of God cannot prosper. That is just what Zechariah told the people: “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?’” (24:20). Going back to Joshua, what did Jehovah tell him about prosperity and success? The way to obtain and maintain them is to think about, talk about, and follow the instructions of God’s law (Joshua 1:8). True, meaningful, lasting prosperity can be achieved in only one fashion: walking with the Creator. One who thinks he can find an equal or better form of prosperity is only deceiving himself!

The Lord forsakes those who forsake Him. Slowly read this historical fact again: “Because you have forsaken the LORD, he also has forsaken you” (24:20). Let us not argue with this truth nor be found asking God to forgive those apostates who refuse to abandon their rebellious state. God forsakes forsakers.

When people do not like the truth that is preached, they sometimes respond by attacking the messenger. When Zechariah rebuked the people for their rebellious ways, King Joash ordered the prophet’s death by stoning – in the courtyard of the temple, of all places! (24:21). As a prophet, Zechariah’s role/task was to speak the message that God wanted him to speak, not deliver a message that the people liked. Zechariah’s commitment to God’s will was costly for him – it cost him his life! (And we recall the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7, right?). When God’s faithful preachers proclaim his truth today, do not be surprised if some hearers, including weak members of the Lord’s church, turn against the messenger of truth. No, it should not happen, but it does.

King Joash “repaid” the kindness and help that Jehoiada showed to him by killing the latter’s son. (24:22). We are amazed at how ungrateful some people are. May we never become so self-centered, so cold, and so proud that we fail to express and manifest sincere gratitude for those who have helped us along the path of life. Let us learn all of these lessons well.




LET US SHOW RESPECT FOR GOD IN OUR WORSHIP ASSEMBLIES


Following the death of Abihu and Nadab, two sons of Aaron who were killed for offering fire which the Lord had not commanded them, God said, “By those who come near me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:1-3). That whole scenario convinces me that worshipping the God of heaven is a serious activity that requires each worshipper to be holy and prepared to glorify Him properly. Do you not agree?

Surely no child of God doubts the fact that He is worthy to be praised. The throne-scene in Revelation 4 shows elders praising God Almighty with these words: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created” (4:11). In the Book of Psalms, we also read, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

In this article, we want to offer some practical observations and reminders about our worship assemblies. God wants us to be true worshippers, that is, those who offer true worship to Him (John 4:23). One aspect of God-pleasing worship is that it is offered “in spirit” (John 4:23,24). When worship is offered “in spirit,” it is presented with a proper attitude, a proper focus, a proper motive, and comes sincerely from the heart. The Master spoke of those who honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Mark 7:6). If you and I have proper reverence for God, then when we praise Him with spiritual songs, speak to Him in prayers, or take part in any other act of worship, we focus on what we are thinking, saying, and doing – it comes from the heart.

Another manner in which we show our respect for God in a worship gathering is by showing respect for His word. Show me a person that does not respect what God says, and I’ll show you a person (that same one!) that really does not respect God (Luke 6:46). How is reverence for God’s word connected with worship? Number one, we must have respect for the Bible’s instructions about worship itself. Since true worship is offered “in truth,” it is in harmony with what God’s truth says (John 4:24; 17:17). That means that I ought to care about what the Bible says about worship. Only that which is authorized by the Lord is allowed in worship (Colossians 3:17). Making additions to the God-designated worship revealed in the New Testament brings condemnation on those who do the adding. Second, we also need to show respect for God’s word by listening reverently when it is proclaimed faithfully. When Ezra opened and read from God’s word, the Jews that were assembled with him stood up and remained standing and listening for hours (Ezra 8:1-9:3). What respect!

Furthermore, we must show reverence for God in worship by trying to maintain a serious, reverent atmosphere. I do not mean that we ought to refrain from smiling or act like lifeless robots. But, we should care about proper “worship decorum.” Such calls on each member of the Lord’s body to help create and maintain an atmosphere in which every single one of us can focus on the worship that we are offering. We must do everything within our power to keep distractions at a minimum. Why? Because they hinder us from keeping our attention on praising, honoring, and glorifying Jehovah.

What sort of distractions commonly plague modern-day assemblies? One is playing with or making faces at babies or small children that are seated close to us. Those who do that are certainly not focused on the One on the throne in heaven, and their immature gesturing adversely affects others that observe them. A second form of distraction is carrying on conversations with those sitting near to us. Brothers and sisters, this has to cease! From the first words spoken in a worship assembly to the end of the closing prayer, there is no place for you or me to “chat” with another person in the assembly. Those who do so are coming before the throne of the Almighty with a flippant, irreverent attitude. How can a brother in the Lord be joking around with others during the sermon or singing, then afterwards come forward to lead the Lord’s Supper or a prayer?! Before God it must be an abomination.

Now we come to a 21st-century distraction in worship that our brethren of past generations did not have to face. What is it? It is the “all-important” hand phone. You know, the device that even a 13- year old cannot seem to do without for two hours of Bible class and worship! I would like to go through at least one Bible class or worship assembly this year without having some Christian’s hand phone ring. Can we accomplish that this year, brethren? Is it asking too much to be focused on the God of heaven?! Know this: if your phone rings during an assembly, it is not the Lord calling you! Because God does not call on hand phones, then whoever wants to contact me can just wait until after services are over. I recall one worship assembly in which I watched in horror as the teenage child of a deacon played on her hand phone and sent messages on it. Where were her proud parents? Sitting right beside her. Please, leave the thing outside the building or else turn it to a setting where it makes no noise.

As for me and my house, when we go to worship, we plan to be there and ready to praise God before the first word of the assembly is spoken. And, we intend to stay through the final “Amen.” At our house we call that respect for God – giving Him our heart for the whole assembly and not just part of it.




Acts 4:13 – WHAT THE SANHEDRIN SAW IN JOHN AND PETER


After John and Peter healed a lame man and Peter preached to the Jews who came together after that marvelous miracle, the Jewish leaders took the two apostles into custody and interrogated them (Acts 3:1-4:12). When the members of the Sanhedrin council watched and listened to them, what did they observe? “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). This text shows three things that the opposers of Jesus’ Cause saw in two of His most well-known followers.

First, the Sanhedrin saw the apostles’ BOLDNESS. In the face of opposition and danger, these men proclaimed the way of salvation that comes only through Jesus. The courage of the firstcentury followers of the Christ was one of their outstanding characteristics. A later team, Paul and Barnabas, also had the habit of “speaking boldly in the Lord” (Acts 14:3). Other references to disciples’ boldness are found in Acts 4:31; 19:8; 28:31.

In the church today, we need members who will speak boldly to the lost about God’s word. We must not sit back and try to analyze whether or not people will like the truth that we present. Our task is to sow the seed – teach the gospel to all who will listen, regardless of their response to it. Sure, it is easier to teach the truth when we are confident that people who hear it will respond favorably, but our job is to tell the good news to every person without fearing their reaction (Mark 16:15). It requires commitment and courage to open our mouths and do that.

The church needs gospel preachers who will courageously preach the word, like Stephen did (Acts 7), both “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul understood the need to preach boldly, so he asked other saints to pray for him to do that: “. . . that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18,19).

We need courageous Christians in our homes. We need parents who will have the wisdom and courage to train and discipline their children and set a godly example for them to imitate. Saints of God need to act boldly in their place of study or work. It takes courage to refuse to lie when pressured to do so. It takes courage not to listen when others are telling and laughing at dirty jokes. It takes courage to put God first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). Such boldness comes from trusting in the Lord and having complete confidence that He will help us and bless us as we do His will. Now, back to John and Peter.

Second, the Jewish leaders observed the apostles’ LACK OF FORMAL TRAINING. They referred to those two as “uneducated and untrained men.” “Uneducated” [“unlearned,” KJV] points to them being illiterate [Thayer, word no. 62], that is, not having received a formal education in the Jewish schools in which Rabbis were trained. The word “untrained” [“ignorant,” KJV] comes from a very interesting sounding Greek word – ι􀀀διώτης, read as “idiōtēs,” which is defined as “in the N.T., an unlearned, illiterate, man as opposed to the learned and educated: one who is unskilled in any art” [Thayer, word no. 2399]. So, the leaders of the Jews counted the apostles as untrained, illiterate idiots.

Do you lack special, advanced educational training? If so, do not feel badly. Some of Jesus’ apostles were in the same category. That sounds like good company to me. On the other hand, perhaps you have been blessed to be given the opportunity to study in educational institutions. Be thankful for the privilege (many are just as intelligent as you are, but for various reasons were never given a chance to pursue such an education), but do not be lifted up with pride because of it. A person’s character and faithfulness to God have nothing to do with the level of formal education which he has or has not received.

Here is another thought. The apostles whom the Master chose included fishermen and uneducated people. Surely not many individuals or companies that desire to have a maximum influence on the world would start with a core group of people like those whom Jesus selected. Obviously, our Lord looks at matters much differently than mere humans do (Isaiah 55:8,9). Members of the church who approach materially rich and well-educated people with kindness, but in turn treat the poor and uneducated with rudeness, totally lack the spirit of the Christ and sin in so doing (James 2:1-9).

Finally, the council members also saw the apostles’ WALK WITH JESUS. Our text says “they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Do you and I walk with the Master? Are we with Jesus? I mean, of course, do we abide in Him (John 15:5) by abiding in His teaching? (2 John 9). Do you and I act as the light of the world? (Matthew 5:14-16). Can others see the Christ living in us? (Galatians 2:20). Do our friends and others in our lives even know that we are soldiers in the Lord’s army?

We know what the Jewish leaders saw in John and Peter. What does the modern world see in us?


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


Copyright © Jurong Church of Christ. All Rights Reserved. 120 Boon Lay Drive, Singapore 649924.                 Mandarin website