“A Rational Perspective on Prayer!”

What a great insight the Psalmist had when he said:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty, yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away…so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom!” Psalm 90:10 & 11 (ESV)

His point seems to be that even thought we are such ephemeral creatures on this earth…that we are here less than a blink… we should keep the right perspective when we pray.  That is, even  though we are temporary in the flesh we may approach  the eternal God of all creation…the timeless ” IAM” knowing that  He is  passionately interested in us and what we have to say!  We must never pray with an attitude that says “Well, I’ll pray now but I doubt if God is interested in what I have to say! It’s only me!”  God would respond with  “Not so!  I listen to you because  you are my eternal child and it is my joy to hear your prayers.  By all means…PRAY!”

Blessings!  Pastor Alberta

 

 

 

 

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“Always Pray and Don’t Give Up!”

The Lord Jesus told the story of a persistent widow. She kept bothering an unjust judge asking him to give her justice. Finally, the judge yielded. We read:

Luke 18:4-5 (NIV) 4  “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'”

And how was this parable introduced? By Luke saying it was meant to teach that we “should always pray and not give up!”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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Pray in May! April 25, 2016

Pray in May!

I hope that you will sign up and sign on to our “Pray in May” initiative this year. Now, perhaps more than ever, God’s people need to spend time in His presence for our nation and His Church in this troubling age. These blog posts will offer a daily prayer reminder for those who are interested. And by all means…send me ideas and interactive suggestions that I might include on this topic. (No hurt feelings please if your idea does not make it to print :))

In short: EXTRA prayer time in May. If you are a Cornerstone-ite, or even if you are not, please consider going to our website www.cornerstoneforlife.com and sign up for a time slot(s) during May. The Sanctuary on Hilton Road in Brighton will be open at seven AM for those who would like to join in corporate prayer.

Today’s “profound thought” might come from an old Ray Charles song from the fifties in which he sang:

“My mother told me, before she passed away…she said son when I’m gone don’t forget to pray ‘Cause there’ll be hard times, hard times…’”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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Locker Rooms, Restrooms and Common Sense

April 19, 2016

A troubling wave of policy proposals and legislation is sweeping across America regarding access to rest rooms and locker rooms, especially in publicly funded schools.  At the far edge of the argument, more militant supporters of LGBTQ “rights” are insisting on the provision of unfettered use of bathrooms, locker rooms etc. The access in question would not be based upon any actual biologically identifiable factors but upon the student’s inner identity as to gender.  Hence, a physically mature boy of fifteen who feels as if he is really a girl must be allowed to use the same facilities as the girls in his school.  The same would be true of a young woman whose outward biological identity is incongruent with their inner view of their gender.

This entire preposition goes way beyond bizarre.  While concern for the well-being of trans-gender students is to be commended, the suggested remedies would be amusing if they were not clearly foolish. Instead of simply providing alternative facilities for the student with gender identity issues, thereby securing the dignity and privacy of all students, these proposals actually invite more not less tension between the groups.  Beyond that, allow me to suggest that most of the male legislators across the nation, now in their forties, fifties and sixties, might have been very pleased to visit the girl’s locker rooms when they were in high school.  Somehow I think most of them would have failed a lie detector test if they had to swear they actually identified as girls!  Anyway …once again we sense that God is allowing a measure of moral blindness to set in among those who do not respect His basic laws of propriety and decency. 

Below is a letter that I wrote to Ms. Kim Kovalchick at the Michigan Department of Education.  I hope that others will write to their local and state officials in the same manner.  Do be careful to be respectful and appreciative of the challenges inherent in the management of such an issue.  But it is certainly true that very often these kinds of proposals rise or fall based on public response!  

Blessings!  Pastor Alberta

April 14, 2016

Ms. Kim Kovalchick, Supervisor Michigan Department of Education Coordinated School Health and Safety Programs unit P.O. Box 30008 Lansing, MI 48909

Cc: The Honorable Richard Snyder, Governor, State of Michigan

Cc: The Honorable Lana Theis, District 42 State Representative, State of Michigan

Re:  State Board of Education Statement and Guidance on

Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,

and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students

Dear Ms. Kovalchick,

Allow me to respectfully address my comments to those officials who have drafted and/or currently support the proposal referenced above. In my view, your contemplated policy reflects a thoughtful zeal for the feelings and experiences of students in the LGBTQ community. My sense is that your goal is to minimize any discomfort for a young person who identifies himself/herself in a manner contradictory to their biological make up. Such discomfort might arise if that young person is required to use facilities (rest rooms, locker rooms) with other students of the same outward biological identification but who do not share their contrary orientation. Hence, it is of the greatest importance, in your view, that the trans-gendered student never be made to feel conspicuous, uncomfortable, or compromised in any manner.

I am eager to ascribe the highest motives to your proposal. However, it is remarkable to me that you manifest a troubling indifference to the student, male or female, whose gender identification is consistent with their biological traits. That student, according to your policy proposal, has no right to redress for their own discomfort or loss of privacy. Your proposal simply marginalizes the rights of the non-LGBTQ student.  

As a father, a grandfather and a Presbyterian minister who has worked with thousands of people and families, I am stunned. Allow me to suggest that your proposal might be compelling if you were seeking a totally separated third option both in regard to restrooms and locker rooms. But the student not struggling with gender identity issues and who is comfortable with their biological identity should not be required to accept such an imbalanced and inconsiderate policy manifesting total indifference to their preferences.

I believe that your policy, if enacted,  may result in some cases of  increased harassment of LGBTQ students. My suggestion is simply this: if the goal is to protect the rights and dignity of LGBTQ students then enable them to use a designated facility consistent with their preferences. That would seem the simplest and most easily managed solution.

In short, I would ask the drafters of this proposal to explain why they do not demonstrate the same zeal, concern, compassion and respect for all students? If my seventeen year old granddaughter is embarrassed and deprived of her privacy in the cheerleader’s locker-room, why is that not a concern to you? What if she is uncomfortable being looked at or looking herself at fellow students of the opposite biological gender?

Incidentally, but not without importance, allow me to point out that as a professionally trained counsellor I have already encountered more than one student who changed their identity from one gender to another and then back again. This entire issue begs for much greater reflection and analysis.

Your attempts to preclude the abuse of students whose identifications fall outside of the norm are good and decent. But your solution strikes me as brutally condescending to those who have every right to expect protection for their own privacy and personal dignity. If enacted, this approach may cause more problems than it solves especially among students who will resent it and further lose respect for those who are paid to educate them in a sensible environment.

I appreciate the complexities of your task and commend your initiatives. However, I respectfully ask that my concerns be addressed. I am available for interaction at your convenience. Thank you for considering my views.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Richard J. Alberta

Senior Pastor

Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Brighton, Michigan 48114

 

 

 

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Test

Is anyone receiving is memo?  Thanks…please advise?  Pastor Alberta

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“Biblical Defenders of Gay Marriage…Sincerely Wrong”

 

“Biblical Defenders of Gay Marriage…Sincerely Wrong”

It’s a pleasant summer night in the Hudson Valley in New York. A handful of people are standing outside of a small church and talking about the gay rights movement. It’s getting a little testy as one very sincere gay man is insisting that “Bible-believing Christians” are not just unfair to gays but they don’t even understand their own Bibles!

A local Pastor is debating the gentleman but the two are talking right past each other. I’m a fairly new Christian so I am strictly a listener. Yet, it seems to me that this gay man is either VERY RIGHT or VERY WRONG. I am fascinated by the gay fellow’s arguments. They reduce to something like this: the Bible does not really condemn homosexuality and it’s time that Christians and others “get over it.” He then proceeds to assert that we must welcome active gays into the full fellowship of the church. He insists that God himself is pleased to see His children gaining deeper insight into the realities of human sexuality.

Sound familiar? Does this not sound like a discussion that took place last week? Are we not seeing endless articles and hearing a tidal wave of apologetics for the gay movement in general and gay marriage in particular? Yes. Here’s the interesting part: this conversation took place shortly before my wife and I relocated to Massachusetts to begin seminary at Gordon-Conwell. It was the summer of 1977. It was nearly thirty eight years ago! As Solomon said “There is nothing new under the sun.” And the “new” assertions? The insistence that the Bible has been misunderstood regarding homosexuality is NOT NEW. It is very old and it is still very wrong. Let’s consider some of the common ideas put forth by those who argue that homosexual activity is NOT SINFUL.

But first…to my readers…hopefully we can dispense with the suggestion that anyone who opposes gay marriage or the moral legitimization of homosexual activity is necessarily homophobic and blinded by their own bigotry. That response is a conversation stopper on steroids. Sure. There are many nasty and cruel people out there who insist they are Christians. They march and carry hateful signs at funerals. We’ve all seen that. They are embarrassing and self-defiling. I‘d rather hang around with active gays anytime than those folks. And honestly, their attitudes and manners make me question their relationship with Christ. But…

I implore my gay friends [and yes I’ve had a few] to refrain from concluding that every Christian is filled with hate against gays. Everyone who does not agree with your view is not indifferent to your struggle. It’s just that the Bible has nothing good to say about homosexual activities. Even some of the most articulate gay writers have acknowledged this truth. So…allow me to respond to my gay neighbor of so many years ago and my gay neighbor of today. Without being accused of “Christian animus.” Thank you.

The man years ago said things like this:…things we are hearing again today:

ONE: JESUS NEVER CONDEMNED HOMOSEXUAL ORIENTATION OR HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY OR GAY MARRIAGE. THEREFORE IT MUST BE OK. That is a classic argument from silence. That is, anything not explicitly condemned must be acceptable. It’s one of those arguments that sounds good but is hopelessly weak. Jesus never condemned abortion or pedophilia. Why would he? The moral atmospherics of first century Judaism were rooted in Old Testament teachings. If Jesus had been asked about the gay issue and had answered “It’s time to lighten up on that” we’d be persuaded. But his lack of comment on it hardly suggests that in his mind it was acceptable. There were lots of things he did not condemn from poorly made sandals to bad base-running. Failure to speak to an issue cannot be construed as approval.

Please note: The principle of “Qui tacet concentire” is not germane to this point. [Latin spelling debatable: language scholars may jump in at any point here!] The idea that reticence denotes approval is only in play if a comment or idea is proposed. If I say “I think the President should redecorate the Oval Office” and you say nothing I can infer your approval or agreement. But my idea has to be stated for the inference to apply. Nowhere in the Gospels is any question offered about the gay issue and hence nowhere does Jesus comment. But that silence would not suggest affirmation.

One other thought. Modern readers must be cautious not to read into Biblical writings as if those writers were concerned about the same things we are concerned about. The best current example might be the age of the earth debate. Those who insist that the planet can only be a few thousand years old often resource their argument by a literal reading of Genesis. Almost as if the writer of the Pentateuch was eager to teach science. In fact, that question was clearly not on his mind in the first three chapters of the Bible. Thus, we must avoid the temptation to theologically hijack a text or an absent text to make our point. Anyway…homosexual activity was rampant in the Roman world and the Biblical distain for it was a given that would have been known to all. Considering the frequency with which Jesus called the Old Testament the very words of God, it would require a vigorous linguistic half-gainer to find his silence on the gay issue to be tantamount to approval.

One other other thought. Actually, Jesus did comment on marriage and gay marriage by implication. In response to a question about divorce, we read:

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV) 4  “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

What a great opportunity for Jesus to broaden the Divine plan for marriage. But he clearly did not do so. That posture on his part was totally consistent with the Old Testament…thus we move on:

TWO: THE OLD TESTAMENT SAYS SOME UNHAPPY THINGS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY BUT IT ALSO FORBIDS WEARING CERTAIN FABRICS AND CALLS FOR THE STONING DISOBEDIENT CHILDREN ETC.   SO WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT OLD TESTAMENT LAWS?

This is a fairly good argument in some ways. It’s true. We do not follow many Old Testament laws so why follow those that touch on homosexuality…the most often cited might be:

Leviticus 18:22 (NIV) 22  “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” 

The word translated “detestable” is the Hebrew “toy-ah-bah” meaning abhorrent, disgusting and abominable. None too delicate. But, again, if we don’t follow all of the laws why follow this one? But wait…it turns out that we DO follow SOME of the Old Testament laws. We all agree that the Ten Commandments are to be taken seriously. Things like “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal” are still in effect in nearly every culture today. So, the real question is: how do we discern if a Biblical law or prohibition should be embraced in our time and culture? Really. That’s the great question!

Here’s a suggestion. Is the particular law or teaching “trans-culturally normative?” [What a terrific phrase, huh?”] Is the law found either directly or by implication throughout the Bible or can it be located to only a certain time and place? For example, the law given to the Jews not to mix the threads in their garments [Leviticus 19:19] would be absurd to modern Christians. It was probably meant to illustrate the importance of God’s people not mixing in with the darkened nations all around themselves. It is nowhere found in the continuing written revelation of God that we call the New Testament. We can rightly cite it as an example of something “culturally bound” and therefore not in effect in our lives.

The condemnation of homosexuality is found implicitly in the Genesis design for marriage. And of course in the condemnation of Sodom, despite attempts to explain away the offense as a function of war. [Some argued that the real offense was  same sex rape used as an instrument of humiliation, not homosexual activity per se. That suggestion falters quickly when we read Genesis 18:20 ff.]

The prohibition against homosexual behavior  is found throughout the Old Testament laws and re-affirmed in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul and into the Book of Revelation. Homosexual activity is condemned throughout the body of Scripture and is never presented in an affirming manner or context. But that begs a question about laws and cultures…so we move to the New Testament…

THE NEW TESTAMENT CONDEMNS HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE BUT IT ALSO CONDEMNS WOMEN TALKING IN CHURCH. SO, AGAIN…WHO CARES?

We are back to that key question about “trans-cultural normativity.” Namely, was the prohibition against women talking and other rules found from the beginning of the creation? No. In fact, her original role was to rule and subdue “with him.” [Genesis 1:28]. It was only after the entrance of sin that she became boundaried by prohibitions. These rules were carried into the New Testament church by Paul because he was advocating first century synagogue rules that would have no relevance to us today. Some argue that those prohibitions should still be in effect but, as a Pastor, I find that amusing. I say that because almost always the men who say that have wives who dress fashionably and speak in church etc. Common sense suggests that some of Paul’s prohibitions were culturally bound.

Not so with prohibitions against sexual sin including homosexual activity. The New Testament is totally consistent with the previous revelation starting in Genesis. Yet…it is also true that many men in the Old Testament had many wives. But that reality hardly endorses the practice. In fact, its outworkings in the historical narratives prove the point. [Just ask Solomon.] What God allows God does not necessarily approve. Indeed, the ideal before the entrance of sin was one man and one woman in a faithful relationship within the covenant of marriage.

Before leaving the New Testament, I wish to address one particularly puzzling and pernicious argument that we often hear. It goes something like this: “The original language of the New Testament actually refers to male prostitution, molestation or promiscuity…not committed same sex relationships.” One hardly knows how to respond in the face of such “eisegesis” [i.e. reading one’s own interpretation into a written text.]

I’ve never read any expert in the New Testament language say such a thing. There is absolutely no suggestion that “committed same-sex relationships” would enjoy God’s approval because they are…well…nice. Not in there. This kind of treatment of the Biblical text would be like saying the Second Amendment only seems to be giving guidelines regarding weaponry. It is actually about the value of shooting ranges in North America. One might say “Huh? Where do you see that part?” The reply would have to be “Well, it’s in there or…it should have been.” Leading to one last thought….

FOUR: OTHER DIVERSE ELEMENTS OF AGENDIZING FIND THEIR WAY INTO THE DEBATE.

Some of the more curious advocates of gay marriage point out that marriage between same sex partners will help with the population problem. With all respect to Alvin Toffler and his “Future Shock” thesis of 1970, the world’s population could still fit inside of Texas. Population control hardly seems to need assistance in an era when thousands of unborn children are aborted daily. Different discussion.

Other “gay is ok” writers suggest that heterosexual marriage hasn’t had the best track record either. Divorce. Abuse. All true. But one searches in vain for the point of this idea. Are they saying because “normal marriage” has so often proven dysfunctional that the culture should give gay marriage a chance? That view will only be compelling if divorce is unheard-of in the gay marriage future. That is already statistically untrue. Even if gay marriage proves to be less burdened with divorce [a VERY doubtful thing to contemplate] it will not disprove the Biblical teachings.

In the end, I find it impossible be persuaded by passionate and sincerely wrong people on this issue. Perhaps we will see a further manifestation of the words of Yeats written nearly a century ago:

“The Second Coming”

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are filled with passionate intensity

The real tragedy here is not the argument itself but the need for rational argumentation. But I’ve yet to find a defender of gay marriage and homosexuality who uses the Word of God properly. They have conviction and passionate intensity. But the center of their argument cannot hold. That gay man so long ago? I’m convinced that he was VERY WRONG.

In closing…a Pastoral word to evangelical Christians and active gays. Christians, it is fine and good to hold to the Word of God. But the gay life is not easy and I’ve not met anyone who decided to be gay in orientation. When it wears thin and despair arrives are they welcome to seek our help in the journey towards celibacy? Is a person struggling to live within God’s sexual boundaries free to ask for help in your church? Can a gay person ask for prayer in an adult class because they are trying to be celibate? Would that person be looked at as a leper? Would his or her struggle be welcomed in your church? Not welcomed ultimately if they insist that their lifestyle is to be accepted [see First Corinthians Five] …but welcome in their struggle against sin? I pray for you. And for myself.

Gays…this will hurt your hearts and I am sorry for that. But homosexual activities are as condemned in the Bible as adultery and murder and drunkenness. The reason many conservatives, especially Bible-believing Christians, take offense at the gay rights movement is this: no other group whose lifestyle is distained in Scripture is trying to make everyone else say it is fine and acceptable. There is no national movement of alcoholics or adulterers constantly trying to get the rest of us to say it is acceptable. What your movement is demanding will never be sincerely embraced by the majority of the culture…even if they say it is. I pray for you. And myself.

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Matthew Challenge- FIVE

What was meant by Jesus when he spoke of “EYES AND DARKNESS” ????v   Consider:

Matthew 6:22-23 (NIV)
22  “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.

23  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 

This is a great example of the need to study the Word of God in CONTEXT!  In verse 19 Jesus warns against storing up treasures on earth; then in verse 25 he reminds them that no one can serve two masters.  Right between these teachings is this matter of the eyes.  Here is my sense of the passage: if we place our eyes and energy upon our treasures and if we serve the false god of wealth…we will be filled with a type of darkness that will be VERY dark indeed!  It helps to understand that the word “bad” in verse 23 is actually the Greek word “poneros” meaning evil.  So my eye is evil if it is filled with the darkness that comes from putting the world and success and possessions first.  Ironically, the person doing that may rejoice in success but grow darker all the time.

Did Jesus not say…? Mark 10:23 (NIV) 23  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 

Thus, the eye passage is about  WHERE WE PLACE OUR EYES [MEANING OUR PASSIONS]…and we are reminded that many people who think they see clearly are actually in the dark because they are serving the flesh….with focus on treasures and wealth. But if the Kingdom of God is real…and it is….they are actually in TOTAL DARKNESS!

 

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