Skip to content

Ask Father Paul – Unmarried Couples Living Together

2016 August 18
Comments Off on Ask Father Paul – Unmarried Couples Living Together

Paul MasseyDEAR FATHER PAUL:

Today it is commonly accepted that many couples live together and partake in a sexual relationship without being married. Will you comment on this? What does the Bible say?

-Anne

DEAR ANNE:

Thank you for your timely question. It is today, indeed, very common for unmarried couples to live together. Authorities report that in 1960, 10% of couples lived together without marriage. By 2012, the number had grown to a whopping 70%.

So what is going on? And, what does the Bible have to say on the subject?

Couples who live together justify it in several ways. The most common is that, “It is cheaper, and saves us a lot of money.” They also argue that, “We really love each other a lot and we want to spend all of our time together.” And, “We do plan to get married someday, but we feel that we need to live together for a period of time to ‘test’ whether or not we are compatible for the commitment that marriage requires.” And lastly, my personal favorite, “everybody else is doing it.”

These all sound like perfectly good arguments don’t they? Basically, the argument is,
“We think it is OK, and that’s all that really matters.”

This is the “relativistic” attitude of many in the present age. To these people, “It’s all about me. What I want to do, what I think is right and what will make me happy. Rules are ‘quaint’ and hopelessly out of date.” Basically, they say, “I believe that there is no such thing as ‘absolute and unchanging truth or absolute right and wrong’. There is ‘your truth’ and there is ‘my truth,’ everything else is relative.” Talk to them about God and the Bible, and they will often say something like, “I believe that God is a stern old man with a long gray beard, sitting up on a cloud, who has lots and lots of ‘rules’ the purpose of which is simply to spoil my fun.”

The Bible doesn’t talk about an unmarried couple living together per se. But it does talk a lot about unmarried couples having sexual relations before marriage, and, let’s be honest, sex goes with living together in 99.9% of cases. The Bible calls that act “fornication” and says that it is a serious sin against God.

The word “fornication” or a variation, like “fornicator” is used forty-four times in the Bible—God’s Holy Word. Its an “old-fashioned” word found first in the 1603 King James translation of the Bible. Today’s modern Bible translations still use the word, but sometimes translate the word as “sexual immorality, or sexual sin.” Either way, the meaning is clear—sexual intimacy outside of marriage.

All forty four Bible verses condemn fornication. One short example is I Thessalonians 4:3 (New Living Translation), “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from sexual sin (fornication).” 1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Acts 15:20; Acts 21:25; Colossians 3:5; and Ephesians 5:3 also warn us about fornication.

So is God really an old-fashioned, out of date, prude who is just trying to spoil our fun? Absolutely not! God is a kind and loving (heavenly) Father who, like any good father, has instituted “rules” to keep us, his children whom he loves, from getting badly hurt—and cohabitation can and does often hurt us.

Consider the very real risks of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the cost of eighteen years of child support, a statistically 33% higher divorce rate for those who later do marry each other, the fact that 40% of cohabiting couples break up and do not marry each other resulting in years-long painful fights over property ownership, much higher percentages of physical abuse. =The fact is that there are lots more good reasons NOT to cohabit than just the Biblical warnings.

We hear the argument, “Who on earth would buy a car without a test drive? Isn’t marriage more important than buying a car?” To which I answer, that argument makes sense if you are the “driver,” if you can just walk away if you aren’t happy with the car. But what if you are the “car” in that scenario? Then, you are just going to get dumped back on the dealer’s lot. So how is that gonna work for you? Think about it.

Do you have a question? Email your question to me at paulmassey@earthlink.net and I will try to answer your question in the paper.

Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit us at www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com and visit us in person this Sunday.

What’s Church For?

2016 August 13
Comments Off on What’s Church For?
by Admin

Bishop David EppsWhat is church for? I mean, really, why does church exist? After all, Jesus said, “…I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That’s a pretty serious declaration. The word “church” comes from a Greek word which means “those who are called out to gather together.” So, the church is not a building. Which is a good thing since the church basically did not own a building for some 300 years after its founding. The Church is people. People who have been called out from wherever they were in life but called out to gather together, primarily for worship. Not for fellowship, not to have a variety of ministries, not primarily for education, not to build a facility, and certainly not for recreation. For worship.

So, perhaps a better question should be “Who is the Church for?” Most of us think it is for us, but it is not. Some contend that the Church exists for the “lost” who need to be evangelized. But that is not correct either. The Church exists for God. Throughout the Old and New testaments, the story of God could well be described as “God in search of a people.” In the creation story, the perfect parent creates the perfect environment and places in it two individuals who, by the way, are made in the image of God. Given the power of choice, they make bad decisions and the story of humankind becomes a sad and desperate drama.

Jumping ahead several millennia, the Apostle Paul writes to the “called out ones who are gathered together” in a place called Corinth and states that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them.” Through Jesus, God reaches out to a people who the Apostle Peter calls “a chosen generation” and the Church is born. That’s a simple statement, but the full story is too long to give full explanation here. In any event, God has His people and He calls them The Church.

When the Church gathers together, they gather for the primary (though not the sole) purpose of worshipping the One who has “called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.” They celebrate the reality that “in times past you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” And, so, the response is worship.

The songs are sung to Him, for Him. The actions of worship are to be addressed to the audience of One. We are the performers, He is the audience. We have become so narcissistic and self-absorbed that we have come to the belief that the Church, if it is about anything, is about us—our desires, our needs, our demands, our whims, our goals, and our plans. But it is not. It is not about me and it is not about you. It is about Him.

Church divisions or splits, as a retired Baptist pastor once wrote (because he dared not write it while he still served as a pastor) “…are not about morals, theology, or any such things. Most are about ‘who shall rule in this place.'” In other words, people are more interested in getting what they want and couldn’t care less about what God wants.

I sat in a church service many years and thought, “If God never showed up in this place, we would still have a good time because the service is so exciting.” And by exciting, I meant entertaining. Nothing about the service was about God that day. It was all about giving the people what they thought they wanted—about keeping the children entertained, providing music that excited people, about a sermon that would wow the congregants. Who am I to make such a judgment? I was the pastor and it was my church.

We were about us and we claimed we were about what God wanted. But we deceived ourselves.
It is a constant struggle and requires vigilance to try to keep things God-focused and Christ-centered. It is far too easy to compromise or to slip back into old, familiar patterns. It is far easier to give the people entertainment than it is to give a Holy and Awesome God the worship and the glory due His name.

The hard part is not God showing up. He tells His Church that if even two or three of the called out ones gather in His name, He will be present with them, in their very midst. No, the hard part is coming to the realization that Church is about God and God alone. It is the called out ones gathering together to worship the only One who has ever been worthy of worship. Everything else that the Church may legitimately do flows from that beginning point. It is not a step that may be skipped. If it is not about God, then it is not the Church. At least it is not the Church that God Himself envisioned.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

The Pilgrimage to Oak Hill

2016 August 12
Comments Off on The Pilgrimage to Oak Hill
by Admin

Bishop David EppsIt was a fairly long drive for so simple a task. It was approximately 360 miles from my house to Oak Hill Memorial Park in the Lynn Garden area of Kingsport, Tennessee. I was there to visit the graves of my parents. My father’s headstone revealed his name as William E. Epps, Jr. and that he was born in 1927 and died in 1996. It further announced that he was a World War II veteran of the United States Navy with the rank of S1. He dropped out of high school to enlist, finishing later.

On his left was his wife, my mother. Thelma Kathleen Luster Epps was born in 1926 and passed from this life in 2003. She worked until I was born and then became a homemaker for the rest of her life. My parents were married a bit shy of 50 years and had two sons, myself and my younger brother, Robert Wayne Epps.

Cancer, specifically lung cancer that, after two surgeries and a boatload of treatment, spread to the brain, took my dad. My mom suffered for years from emphysema until, all at once, in an eight day period, her bodily systems shut down one after another. Their lasting legacy is, so far, two sons, three grandsons and a granddaughter, and 13 grandchildren, four boys and nine girls. Another grandchild, a girl, has joined them in Heaven.

Part of the reason I periodically make this pilgrimage is to prove my mother wrong. She often said, “When I die, no one will ever visit my grave.” Sometimes, I will walk up to her marker and say, “Wrong again, Mom.” But there is a deeper, more serious reason.

One of the Commandments is to “Honor thy father and mother.” I think that, sometimes, I didn’t do nearly enough of that when they were alive. Loved them. Respected them. Tried to honor them. But, for a few years, I was in the Marine Corps and, even when I came home, I was interested in being with the girlfriend du jour. Later, I was married and building a career and raising a family. Part of that time, we lived in Colorado for a few years and much of those later years, we lived in Georgia—360 miles away.

I wrote them, sent them photographs, and even sent newspaper clippings and sermon tapes. In fact, I mailed them something every day that the mail ran from 1981 until my Mom died in 2003. But, does honoring one’s parents end with the event of their death? I think not. And so, the journey.

I went to the cemetery and noted that the artificial flowers were out of season. So, I went to a department store and bought summer flowers. I returned to Oak Hill and threw away the old flowers and added the new. Then, I went to the car and took out two items that I had brought with me—an American flag and a flag of the United States Navy. It’s part of my ritual. Part of my efforts to honor this man, my father, who was willing to leave Hawkins County, Tennessee and to put his life on the line before he ever married or had children.

There was an older flag which was a bit weather-worn that I had placed on my last visit. I removed it, looked around, and found a neglected and bare headstone of a World War II soldier. I put that flag on his grave. I placed the new Stars and Stripes on my father’s grave, added the Navy flag, stood at attention and saluted him.

I lingered awhile and paid respects to my grandparents and a few others and then headed back to the hotel. The next morning, I drove the 360 miles back home.

Someone said to me once, “You don’t need to do that for them.” I know that. I do this for me. I do this because there is something in me that still compels me to honor them, to respect them, to say, by my presence, that I miss them still. I will go back in the Fall when it’s time to change the flowers and replace the flags. And to tell my mother that she’s wrong yet again.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Congratulations!

2016 August 11
Comments Off on Congratulations!
by Admin

Levi Hamish GardnerCongratulations to Andrew and Jennifer Gardner on the birth of their new baby boy! Levi Hamish Gardner came in on 21 July at 8 lbs 3 oz and 20 in. Congrats also to grandparents, The Rev’d Deacon Jim and Christine Gardner.

The Conventions are Over

2016 August 10
Comments Off on The Conventions are Over

Bishop David EppsThe Republican and Democratic conventions are, for better or for worse, over. The only two candidates that have any chance of being elected are now Hilary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Barring an asteroid hitting the planet, one of these two will be sworn in to the highest office in the land on 20 January, 2017. Other minor candidates from minor parties have emerged, but they will be but footnotes in the history of the 2016 campaign.

For me, there are issues that transcend party affiliation. In the interests of full disclosure, I voted Democratic early on in my life and held a minor office in a local Republican organization later in life. A few years ago, I became an Independent Fiscal Conservative and Social Moderate. In local elections, I vote for the man or the woman, not the party. In State and national elections, I vote for the platform, not the Party, that I believe best fits my ideology and principles.

These are some of the issues that are significant for me:

The Sanctity of Life from conception to natural death

Reasonable social safety nets that are temporary for families who need a hand up

Pell Grants and the like, including the Hope Scholarship, for students who are needy and worthy—I believe that this investment will more than pay for itself in the increased future tax contributions from these future college graduates.

A revitalized and strong national defence that will, by its very strength, serve as a deterrent

Policies that are favorable toward businesses, especially small businesses

A Commander-in-Chief that is capable and is respected by those in uniform

A President that will adhere to and enforce the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the founders intended

Appointment of Supreme Court judges that will do the same

Term limits (a fantasy, I know) for ALL members of Congress—twelve years would be plenty.

A commitment to not engage in warfare except as a final resort. Once engaged, a commitment to a victorious outcome for United States and coalition forces. No more Vietnams. No more Afghanistans.

A commitment to reform the Veteran’s Administration and fire those who are incompetent or incapable. Our wounded warriors deserve better than they’ve been getting.

The realization by national leaders that certain forces and ideologies in the world are at war with us. The threat is real and the danger is present.

There are other issues and concerns I have but space is limited so I will stop here. Here is my encouragement to all eligible citizens: Vote. Vote for someone who has a chance to win. Vote for a platform that you can support, whoever is at the head of the ticket. Don’t stay home and don’t waste your vote. If you want to vote for a hopeless cause, fine, but please vote.

Make your own list of concerns and then see which platform you can best live with. I had a friend once who always complained about the situation but never voted. Finally, someone said to that person, “You didn’t vote. You have nothing to say, so just shut up.” A bit harsh but my sentiments exactly. Vote.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.

Musket Demonstration at Christ the King

2016 August 10
Comments Off on Musket Demonstration at Christ the King

CTK Musket DemonstrationDon Furlong, Fayetteville, presented a demonstration involving several types of muskets following morning services at Christ the King Church, Sharpsburg, recently. Furlong, an expert and competitor with the musket, demonstrated how weapons of the 18th and 19th centuries were cared for, loaded, and fired.

One musket was a “straight bore” which only was accurate to about 50 yards. Another, which had a grooved barrel, was accurate up to 200 yards. Most people who are proficient with the weapon could, he explained, fire “about three rounds a minute.” After the demonstration, Furlong offered to allow spectators fire the musket and quite a number accepted the invitation.

All safety protocols were followed and immediate neighbors and local law enforcement were made aware of the demonstration.

American Traitors

2016 August 9
Comments Off on American Traitors

Bishop David EppsWhat do the following men have in common? Nidal Hasan, Micah Johnson, Gavin Long, Timothy McVeigh. The first answer is that they were all veterans of the United States armed forces. Nidal Hasan was a soldier and a psychiatrist serving with the United States Army. Micah Johnson and Timothy McVeigh also served with the United States Army. Gavin Long was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

The second answer is that they were all murderous domestic terrorists. In November 2009, Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at Ft. Hood. Micah Johnson recently ambushed and killed five Dallas police officers and wounded nine other officers and two civilians. A few days ago, Gavin Long ambushed and shot six Baton Rouge police officers, killing three with one other hanging on to life. In 1995, Timothy, using a truck bomb, destroyed most of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 men women and children and injured more than 680 others. Of the four, McVeigh was executed, Johnson and Long were killed by police, and Hasan was sentenced to death.

The third answer is that all four men took an oath. The oath of enlistment reads:

“I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God (optional).”

Officers take a similar oath. While the duration of enlistment is defined, the duration of the oath is not. Many, perhaps most, veterans believe that the oath is binding until death. In any event, the four murderers took an oath—an oath which they betrayed. All these men became domestic enemies. They are American traitors.

During the American War of Independence, one of the revolution’s most respected and capable generals decided to betray the war effort by handing over West Point to the British. He did so because he felt slighted by General Washington, he could obtain a payoff by the British, and he could secure a position in the British military. The plan was thwarted and the general fled. Benedict Arnold was willing to permit the killing of Americans for his own purposes. He is forever remembered as a turn coat—a traitor. And so it is with these four killers.

They betrayed their oath, their fellow citizens, and their country. They also betrayed every veteran who has ever served and/or died for the United States of America. There is nothing honorable about any of them. Any good they may have accomplished in their lives will never be remembered.

Their friends and especially their families are now shackled with the burden that their loved one became a murderer, a criminal, and a traitor to his country. If they are ever remembered by anyone, this will be their lasting legacy. They were American traitors.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.